As any marketer will tell you, SEO marketing is one of most written about topics in the digital marketing sphere. Yet only a small handful of these articles are addressed to the key decision maker at every company — the CEO.
Instead, most articles are addressed to the webmasters, digital marketers, and developers that deal with the nuts and bolts of how to implement a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. But a C-Suite executive reading these articles is likely to get lost. We find that CEOs are left wondering what SEO is, exactly, and why a CEO should be getting involved in what may seem to them like some mid-level marketing detail. And with the way it’s usually presented, who could blame them?
Of course, we marketers know that SEO plays a crucial role for all online businesses. Deciding to develop and implement an SEO strategy is a big decision that can’t be done without engaging the head of the company.
With this important-but-neglected C-Suite audience in mind, here’s our most direct and high-level explanation of what SEO is, what it does, and why an SEO strategy is crucial in 2017 and beyond.
What SEO Is and What It Does
SEO stands for search engine optimization. What are search engines? Google, Bing, and Yahoo are search engines — software products that scan the content of your website, index it, and serve it up to search engine users looking for information that matches what’s on your website.
The “optimization” piece of SEO? That’s about tweaking the way your website’s content is organized and communicated to search engines — which gets your website content shown to more search engine users, which means more website traffic, more leads, more customers, and ultimately more sales growth. Thus, SEO is all about maximizing what your website does for your company.
Search Engines Are Computers, Not People
At this point, your CEO may stop you and ask why is it necessary to “optimize” a website they’ve already spent good money to design and build? It’s a good question. In short, that’s because search engines are computer programs, not people. It might be helpful to show your exec what your website looks like in the Lynx text browser — this is how Google’s computer algorithms see your website and its contents.
In short, Google can’t see your great web design directly, but that design does still matter because statistical traffic and user data tell Google that you’ve got a great, usable web design. Thus optimizing a website is more about pleasing the computers which send customers to your website, less about pleasing the customers directly (that falls to your customer-facing marketing, sales, and customer service folks).
Good SEO Has a Huge Impact on Your Bottom Line
Why does this matter? For CEOs looking to solve a problem or innovate a process, SEO can be used to fix flagging sales, poor brand recognition, or low lead volume. SEO can also innovate your lead generation, marketing, sales, or customer acquisition processes.
Here’s one real world example. Say you have a website with about a dozen pages. When web users do a Google search for, say, any one of about 20 keyword phrases, your site shows up in the search results. Depending on the search phrase and that web page’s current optimization, you could show up on page one or page 100.
Some phrases can return tens of thousands of results. And guess what? 61% of all clicks go to the first three Google search results. 91% go to the ten results on page one. If your web page is showing up on page two, you’re only getting seen by 9% of search engine users. But an SEO strategy could turn that around, more than tripling your visibility. Or, say you’re already the fourth search result on page one. By using SEO to increase your rank by just one spot on the search engine results page (SERP), you could go from 30% chance of a click to 61%.
Doubling or tripling your chance of website traffic through organic search could have a big impact on your bottom line. Because again, more traffic means more leads, more customers, and ultimately more growth for your business.
Why SEO Still Matters in 2017 and Beyond
But let’s say there are no big problems to fix, no rush to innovate the well-oiled machine of your business, plus your website redesign a few years ago took your current SEO needs into consideration. Does an SEO strategy still matter to your business in 2017? The answer is yes, and the reason is threefold.
Search Engines Refine Their Product
Nothing stays the same for long in the business world, and the same is true of the SEO marketing world. Of primary concern for business websites — search engines refine their software product frequently. There are tiny tweaks made to Google’s algorithms “every day,” according to the search giant, and bigger changes happen at least quarterly if not more often. This matters to CEOs because those changes can alter your website’s visibility. Google, in essence, moves the goalposts, and businesses and their marketing teams must make adjustments to maintain their search rankings (and their customer web traffic).
The Amount of Content Is Increasing
The amount of web content increases every day, but the audience for that web content doesn’t. Neither does the money in those customers’ pockets. Every new blog post, product page, and lead magnet have the potential of pushing your high-ranking Google search result further down the page, meaning potentially fewer clicks, less traffic, fewer customers, and ultimately flagging sales. As more businesses invest in content marketing, an SEO strategy might meet this challenge by adding new, optimized content to your site, improving the existing content, social media, or other tactics, as needed.
Competitors Are Using SEO
One of the reasons there’s so much talk of SEO is that more businesses realize its importance for staying competitive. At least some of your business competitors are likely using SEO to maximize the impact of their websites. Even without tweaks by the search engines themselves, an improved optimization of a competitor’s web content may mean their search result displaces your own. In short, an ongoing SEO strategy helps your business maintain its current favorable position, in addition to improving as you move forward.
For a CEO audience, the nuts and bolts of SEO aren’t as important — you’ve got talented people for that! But what we hope comes across in this article is that investing in an SEO marketing strategy in 2017 is going to make your business better.
If you have a problem or are looking for a way to innovate your online business, SEO could be a good option. Even if business is great today, CEOs will do well to keep SEO in mind. The constant updates to search engines, increasing amount of web content and pressure from competitors may mean a new SEO strategy is in your future.