By Andrew Tonks, COO at Red Blue Blur Ideas
In today's competitive digital environment, businesses continually vie for visibility and engagement via Google and other search engines. Appearing prominently in search results pages can make all the difference in the survival and success of most online businesses. According to Moz, an industry-leading search engine optimization (SEO) software company, organic search is responsible for driving 53% of all website traffic. However, the vast majority of search engine users do not scroll past the first page of search results. A study by the industry blog Search Engine Journal reveals that over 75% of users never venture beyond the first page of search results. These trends underscore the importance of a successful SEO strategy in ensuring that any business remains visible and able to engage with users.
Despite this trend, SEO is often misunderstood, undervalued, and takes a backseat to other marketing channels like paid search and social media due to their immediate visibility and engagement capabilities. However, research by the industry blog Search Engine Land reveals that 31% of consumers begin their product research using a search engine, while only 2% start on social media. This stark contrast emphasizes the importance of SEO in capturing the attention of potential customers and its potential to outperform paid channels in terms of long-term effectiveness.
So why does SEO not command the same level of respect as other marketing channels? Well, for one, SEO exists within a world of ever-changing algorithms that determine the rankings of web pages within search engine results pages (SERP). Google continually updates its algorithm to provide users with more relevant and user-friendly search results and to ensure that its SERPs are not filled with overly optimized sites with little to no value to the end user. Realizing ongoing returns requires constant adaptation to align marketing strategies with these algorithmic shifts, which in turn demands long-term investments.
The intangible nature of SEO also makes it challenging to quantify its true value. A survey conducted by HubSpot reveals that 29% of marketers struggle to demonstrate the ROI of their SEO efforts. Unlike paid advertising, where each dollar spent can be directly attributed to clicks or conversions, SEO is more nuanced and long-term. Results may not manifest
immediately but build gradually, laying a strong foundation for sustained success. Sadly, this delayed gratification often obscures the benefits of SEO, especially for marketers with a short-term outlook or pressure to meet short-term targets.
The undervaluation of SEO can also be attributed to a lack of awareness about its true potential and worth. Research by BrightEdge, a leading SEO platform, shows that SEO leads have a 14.6% close rate, whereas outbound leads like direct mail or print advertising only have a 1.7% close rate. These findings clearly demonstrate the tangible benefits of SEO in driving qualified traffic, leads, and conversions.
Many marketers also fail to recognize that SEO extends beyond mere rankings and should be encompassed within an overall approach to digital marketing. Delivering an effective strategy to gain visibility, however, requires integrating development and technical optimization with content creation and user experience enhancement, which can be costly and impractical for many marketers with smaller budgets or short-term targets.
The power of SEO often lies in its ability to align businesses with their target audience. Through in-depth keyword research, marketing professionals gain valuable insights into what potential customers are searching for in search engines. This, in turn, enables businesses to create content and optimize their websites accordingly. According to a study by Search Engine Watch, long-tail keywords, which are more specific and targeted, account for 70% of all search traffic. Achieving visibility for these long-tail keywords often requires significant investments in development and content creation, pushing marketers toward shorter-term investments in channels such as paid search or social media.
The cost-effectiveness of SEO, however, deserves special attention. While paid campaigns can quickly deplete marketing budgets, SEO offers a sustainable and economical approach to driving traffic and visibility. This is because organic visibility is not dependent on an advertising budget. Organic search results are also more likely to drive traffic than paid search results, as demonstrated by research conducted by Forrester Consulting, which reveals that organic search results are 8.5 times more likely to be clicked on than paid advertisements.
The undervaluation of SEO as the cornerstone of digital marketing is, therefore, a prevalent yet misguided perspective. Its pivotal role in driving traffic, securing top search engine
rankings, and establishing long-term visibility cannot be overstated. Marketers should recognize the value of SEO and invest accordingly with a longer-term outlook for their marketing strate