It’s 2019 and I am still amazed at the number of organizations that are not leveraging one of the most important channels of Digital Marketing, Organic Search (sometimes referred to as SEO). Furthermore, what is even more head scratching is the fact that many (most organizations) are not placing much effort in terms of ongoing optimization or maintenance of their websites. The fact is SEO is a continuous effort, rather than a one-off task.
Why do we need ongoing site maintenance?
When I previously worked in the marketing agency world, part of my portfolio was to actually create a suite of SEO products. So I developed a series of products for our Enterprise clients that were designed to help optimize the digital experience of their customers with end goals of driving more traffic, more leads and ultimately more revenue to their web properties. One of the products that I was able to develop and map was what I referred to as Organic Management. Organic management was essentially the ongoing maintenance of the site from an optimization perspective. It was the regular, and sometimes repetitive, tasks that were required to keep the website relevant to both the user and to the search engines. There were really three goals of the Organic Management product:
- To ensure that the website was relevant (through optimization) for the client’s audience.
- To ensure that the website(s) would keep up with the changing nature of the web and search engine algorithm changes. It was less about the algorithm and more about being technically sound.
- To prevent technical issues from hindering the site’s performance in Search.
The Internet is an always-on environment. The Internet never sleeps, so the need to regularly fine tune your website just seemed like a natural act. Organic Search is all about visibility and in order to be visible you have to work at it. Just because you create a page of content does not may that you automatically float to the top of the search results for a given phrase or keyword. You have to work at it. This in itself is reason enough for ongoing site maintenance.
Keeping your site up-to-date and Search friendly is even more important for organizations that are highly competitive. Factor in that you probably have more online competitors than you may have know and you can see how the world of Search is a highly competitive environment. Just because you have top visibility for a topic today does not mean that you will tomorrow. Organic visibility (or ranking) is earned and not paid for (as it is for SEM, aka paid search, aka Pay-Per-Click, aka pay for performance). Even more so in 2019, search engines such as Google are trying to present the highest quality content that they can. Mobile optimization aside, a more in-depth piece of content may still obtain greater visibility than a piece of what Google identifies as low-quality content.
The Web changes by the minute, and while more competition can depreciate your site’s rankings, technology can also have an impact on your site’s visibility. More common nowadays is the ever changing Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Elements such as the Knowledge panel, Featured Snippets or Google Ads can impact the visibility of your website when it comes to a Google search results page.
I will say it again, SEO is a continuous effort, rather than a one-off task.
I love the fact that people who tend to be averse to Organic Search as a marketing channel, carelessly through resources and funds at other less effective marketing channels. Fact is every single one of you who do this are missing an opportunity that your competitors are taking advantage of. Your competitors are continuing to look for ways to gain visibility both online and offline. Technology makes it easier than ever to product content whether it is a web page, a video, a tweet, a news release or whatever form of content your audience is thirsting for. Then of course there is this little entity called Google that constantly changes their algorithms and search experience for everyone on the Web. Failure to not execute ongoing site maintenance and optimization will result in loss of visibility in the digital space. You will lose your organic visibility in the search results without ongoing efforts to optimize your website.
The Importance of On-Going SEO
I hope that I don’t need to educate you on the importance of SEO, but as a quick refresher, here are some cold hard facts about one of the most effective digital marketing channels that you can leverage:
- Organic Search is often the leading driver of your primary traffic to your website. If you are not seeing 40-70% of your website traffic come from organic search, you might want to look into your traffic reports. Google is probably driving the majority of your traffic and you might not even know that. Google is one of the most visited websites in the world. People don’t go to Google to take a nap…. Or maybe they do? Ongoing SEO allows you to revisit your web pages and optimize your content for a great visibility presence in Google.
- People still click (and thus prefer) organic search results. Our old studies back in 2004/2005 suggested that over 80% of users clicked on organic results compared to paid listings. While click through rates have fluctuated mainly as a result of Google’s ever-changing results page, people still click on organic results more than any other format. If you’ve not optimized your website for organic search you are missing out on a ton of traffic and potentially a ton of customers. Even if you have optimized your website in the past, you cannot rest on your laurels, you need to ensure that your website is mobile friendly, free of errors and an authority on key topics specific to your business. The need for ongoing maintenance and ongoing SEO optimization is still critical for digital success as we enter the twenties.
- Better SEO means a better user experience. No one hits the ball out of the park every time they come to the plate. Organic Search efforts have changed, what worked twenty years ago, ten years ago, two years ago, six months ago may no longer be a preferred practice when it comes to optimizing your website and gaining authority and visibility in Search. What was relevant previously might not be relevant today or tomorrow. As a result your may need to refine your content, or even server it up in an entirely different manner such as a Tweet or in a video. People use Search because they are looking for something. In case you haven’t noticed, Google has become more of an answer engine and the best way to provide the best user experience is to make it easy for users to find the information that they are looking for. Organic Search marketing does that. It makes it easier to find information and thereby generates a better user experience (providing that your information is accurate and relevant). If you can match the user’s intent in fewer clicks, quickly and easier than other websites then you will always drive a better user experience. Ongoing SEO is required to ensure that you continue to deliver the ultimate user experience through ease of findability.
- Continuous Improvement is always a good thing. Life is about improvement. It’s not meant to regress, life is about moving forward. SEO is no different. Search Engine Optimization best practices are always changing. The beauty of ongoing site maintenance and SEO is that you can improve upon what you have done before. You can enhance your content, make your content more easy to digest via mobile, change the look and feel. If you have only invested in SEO as a one-time initiative, at some point it becomes an act of diminishing return. Whether as result of technical limitations, CMS limitations or stale content, your website will plateau. Search has evolved and so must your optimization efforts. Where do you see SEO as part of your continuous improvements for your digital efforts in 2019?
- Organic Search works best as a long-term play. I always say that SEO takes time, and it does, but strong organic search practices can net you return within two months although more typically within 3-9 months depending on the size of your website. What’s even more impressive is that many of the initial actions will have an impact that can last for years. Just because you’ve optimized all of your pages for Search once, does not mean that you don’t need to revisit them again. Yes even elements such as your page title tags and meta descriptions can become dated and irrelevant. Each and every month you should be looking at ways to improve things such as your titles and descriptions. If you are lucky enough to have an SEO Roadmap, there should be recurring monthly items that get attention each and every month. You want your site to be an authority in Search? Thing long-term and not just about manipulating the Search results with questionable tactics. Monitor the landscape, what are other websites doing to succeed in Digital? Organic Search / SEO is not a one and done. You have to evolve and improve upon to remain relevant.
SEO is no longer some “shiny new” marketing initiative. So long as there is an information superhighway (Internet), no matter the format (web page, app, video, picture, social media action, A.I. initiative) there will always be a need to optimize for Search. I don’t see people’s curiosity or thirst for knowledge going away anytime soon. Voice Search and newer forms of Search are emerging, but even then we will need to refine the way we communicate our information and our brands to our audience.
Why do we need ongoing SEO? Well because people need to find information. They need to find information in a variety of formats and they need information as quick as possible so that they can make a more informed decision. Nobody wants to visit a stale old site. Why do you think so many brands conduct website redesigns all of the time? We’ve become a very plugged in planet and while there is a lot of “noise” in cyber space, you owe it to your audience to provide the best digital experience to them that you can. That cannot be accomplished without some form on ongoing maintenance and optimization of your web properties.