By Scott Sadeghian-Tehrani, Media Strategy Director, 26
SEO is often relegated to the confines of the marketing team, but in fact it permeates everything a business has to offer. It influences everyone, from grads to the C-suite. In short – it’s everyone’s business.
This is probably in no small part due to the fact that SEO is only 10-15 years old as a practice. It was very much viewed as a ‘black box’: a subjective bag of secrets with very little best practice information out there. Development and improvements relied on speculation and word of mouth – “I tried this, this worked”.
In many organisations (particularly SMEs from my experience) this mindset still stands. The lack of understanding of the core discipline, which is also an ever-changing beast, constantly evolving in line with Google’s algorithm, means that SEO is viewed as inaccessible and confined to the responsibility of the SEO manager.
That’s one person in charge of SEO on behalf of the entire company.
CMOs might therefore think their only action is to hire someone who understands SEO, but that isn’t going to cut it. SEO impacts every aspect of your business, so you need every aspect of your business to buy into your SEO ‘culture’.
How does SEO impact every aspect of businesses?
SEO plays a pivotal role in shaping the digital presence and success of every business in today’s online world. It directly influences a company’s visibility on Google, impacting the likelihood of potential customers discovering your products or services.
In essence, it impacts every business. But this can be in different ways.
For smaller companies, great SEO can lead to huge benefits by increasing online visibility and attracting relevant local customers. But efforts can be frustrating, with Google’s algorithm favouring larger brands. There’s very little turbulence in the top rankings; if you search for something, chances are the top answers will reflect the high street.
Meanwhile, for larger brands, while your position on the front page may seem like a certainty, there’s less room for error with your SEO strategy. A rogue command in your robots text file on your website could see your site be taken off Google, losing your market position.
This is only further complicated by Google rebuilding its index every quarter to rescore every page, based on a number of results like user behaviour, technical, links and site speed.
Therefore, it’s important to realise that SEO isn’t a quick fix, it’s a long-term build. Chances are you may work for six months with little to no results because at the end of the day, you are essentially chasing one of the most sophisticated algorithms to ever exist.
More recently, Google has developed to become a more user-centric search engine, focussed upon user experience. It now looks at more data points than ever, such as the number of products per category and even what you call your products – ‘does your product taxonomy match user intent’?
This is why you need to incorporate every aspect of your business into your SEO strategy. SEO has flipped from being a pure web discipline to incorporating buyers, marketers, designers, copywriters… the list goes on. And as Google continues to take more data points and develop its algorithm, the list of roles that SEO impacts will only grow.
How can companies instill SEO culture?
An SEO ‘culture’ is the mindset and practices your company embraces to prioritise and embrace SEO principles. By integrating SEO tactics into the greater company culture, you align the work of teams across the company, encouraging collaboration across marketing channels to break down silos and take your SEO to new levels of success.
It’s vital to think holistically about SEO as while just using the traditional core three pillars – technical, content and authority – may bring you to the table, it won’t give you a competitive advantage. Because it’s all marginal gains with no silver bullet, if you can ingrain SEO into the DNA of your marketing strategy there are lots of things that can complement it, such as brand, TV and paid media.
Your SEO strategy and culture is only good if your people buy into it. Once you educate your employees and they know what they are doing, they can get on board with the strategy and start hitting those objectives. As the old adage goes, teach a man to fish…
Without a doubt, SEO can be a complicated subject. That’s why when starting out it’s vital to set out a defined SEO strategy with achievable KPIs. This ensures that the strategy is accessible, not just full of jargon and your employees can understand their role within the strategy.
From there you can begin to look at organisational change that isn’t hierarchical and discipline led. This could be in the form of scrums that encompass a wide range of disciplines across the business – designers, developers, SEO managers – to get that cross pollination and collaboration that so often leads to great ideas.
Breaking down organisational silos and having repeatable processes in place for a smooth, understandable process for employees will only become more important as SEO continues to grow and develop.
Critics have been saying SEO is going to die for the past ten years, but it’s evolved and matured to become a conductor of digital strategy – not just an add on.
Google now has competitors outside of other search engines. Content discovery doesn’t just start on search anymore: younger generations are increasingly looking to social media sites like TikTok to answer queries and find products. We may quickly find ourselves in a world where search engine optimisation turns into just “search optimisation”.
Consequently, now’s the time to stop confining your SEO to one team. Embrace an SEO culture to align your teams, encourage collaboration and ensure your organisation isn’t left behind.