Businesses often under-leverage SEO. Companies spend significant money on paid search while balking at investing significantly in organic search. This is in spite of studies that show four out of five users click on organic listings because users consider them to be more credible.
This situation often frustrates SEOs. Based on our conversations with business folks as well as personal experiences in managing businesses in large companies, we’ve uncovered a number of reasons why businesses struggle to use SEO teams well.
Here are the three main causes — and what you and your SEO team can do about it.
1. Misaligned goals.
SEO teams often focus on keywords and ranks. But the business world cares about actual revenues.
In theory, these should be aligned. If you rank higher, you should get more traffic and therefore attract more customers, sales and revenue. In reality, this doesn’t always happen. Google doesn’t pass the keyword parameter with organic search. It makes SEO efforts somewhat blind. And not all keywords have equal impact, a fact not taken into account by most keyword-tracking and rankings systems.
You get what you measure for: When SEO teams focus on number of keywords ranked on page one, they might get quite a few to pop in the results even if those words don’t have a business impact.
SEO teams would do well to make downstream metrics a primary objective. Eventually, conversions and sales should be the primary metric. If SEO teams track themselves against those metrics and hold themselves to sales goals, they’ll be much more relevant in their results for the organization.
2. Customer vs. search-engine speak.
Search often is at the center when SEOs ask for website changes. But just as often, these changes don’t align with the customer experience. Over time, businesspeople develop a misconception that user experience and SEO cannot be optimized together. They begin to believe SEO is about somehow fixing your page for search engines — sadly, to the detriment of customer experience.
Nothing could be further from truth. Search engines also focus on delivering a great customer experience. SEOs must understand the user experience and place that interaction at the center of their website recommendations. Even so, search engines can struggle to read the signals on the page. This is precisely when SEO expertise is needed to translate user intent in a way that search engines can recognize.
Here’s one example: Suppose your website features a powerful image that communicates your product’s value proposition. Because search engines can’t read the image, your page won’t be ranked for product-related terms. SEOs can help ensure the “tag” embedded in the image’s metadata describes the value proposition.
Explained this way to a business owner, SEO becomes much more valid as a means to interpet the page for search engines. SEO professionals who take this approach will find leaders more receptive to their ideas because customer experience and SEO no longer are pitted as trade-offs. Even better, SEO experts can use analytics from Google to illustrate how rankings for particular terms have a real business impact.
3. Internal competition.
On the enterprise website, multiple pages often compete for the same keywords. It’s not uncommon for these pages to “belong” to different divisions within a company.
SEO teams need to bridge the gap to ensure keyword overlaps work with each other, not at cross-purposes. To accomplish this, SEOs must understand the holistic business strategy. They’ll pose and answer questions such as, “Which of our company’s products is the best fit for this keyword?”
Keep in mind that two, competing webpages can split the SEO impact and return a net ranking of zero. It’s important to clarify which pages best serve the user’s intent when he or she enters a particular keyword.
Resources exist for businesses to leverage search engine optimization much more significantly. To meet the challenge, SEOs must transform themselves into team leaders who develop a deeper understanding of business, align business goals and translate for search engines the individual and collective intent of the company’s web pages. The result is a win for SEOs, the business and its customers.