SEO can be hard to sell as a core business unit–but that shouldn’t be the case. Why? Because data-driven SEO draws from and contributes to resources that are necessary to a smoothly-functioning business.
SEO Resources are Business Resources
SEO draws from a broad range of talents in a diverse selection of fields. When there’s no dedicated SEO team in place in-house, SEO draws from these abilities elsewhere, whether they’re in different departments or outsourced to agencies:
- Outreach and public relations
- Content strategy and content relations
- Data analysis
- Web development
- UX and graphics design
- Marketing strategy
This spans the whole range from technical to outreach skills, from coding skills to strategy. SEO, like a company itself, needs and benefits from this diversity of skills, work habits, and personalities. And when it’s not present in a company, SEO can bring it to the table.
SEO draws on data that can help a company better understand performance–and not just on search engines. In many cases, this data becomes available when SEOs insist on getting access to it, whether through SEO-oriented solutions or through other means.
Data-oriented SEO uses quantifiable metrics to understand performance and discover correlations that can be exploited through SEO projects to improve website performance on search engines. But as search engine algorithms become more complex and user behavior factors into the mix, these quantifiable metrics need to be broad enough to give a global picture of the company, its brand, and its customers.
This raw data can include:
- IT data: How often is the site down? Are there spam attacks? Do we have peaks that slow delivery down? How do we know when we need to scale our website services? Does the server block bots or visitors who need to have access to the website?
- Analytics data: Who is interested in us, and how do they interact with us, both on our site and in other locations online?
- Market/niche data: Who are our competitors, and what are they doing? Who are the influencers, and where are they active? Who are the personas we’re selling to, what are they searching for, and why?
- Sales funnel data: Who converts? After how long? How, where, why?
SEO Data is Business Data
In order to justify projects and project the impact of SEO operations, SEOs carry out analyses and studies. Like the data sources we just looked at, the results of SEO data handling are also extremely valuable to a company.
Through competitor ranking studies, competitor keyword research, and competitor content benchmarking, SEO often has a good idea of what competitors are targeting and how–as well as the results of their efforts.
This is information that benefits the entire company, not just SEO.
Understanding the Market
Looking at search user intent, keyword studies and types of search features on pages where your company ranks is part of SEO optimization. It’s also a look into market behavior.
A successful company needs a picture of its potential clients: their problems, their profiles, and their current means of addressing their needs. If market research isn’t already carried out regularly, SEO’s contribution is invaluable in aligning a product or service to changes in the market.
Understanding Customer Behavior
SEO also seeks to understand customer behavior from the first interaction with the brand through conversion. While there are additional ways of looking at customer behavior, the insights established though SEO should not be overlooked.
This starts with the first contact with customers on search results pages: A/B studies can attempt to craft better brand attractiveness through more appealing titles and descriptions. Tests with Schema markup to gain rich results can indicate whether a stronger presence is required.
Click-through rate optimization helps establish whether or not what your brand offers matches what searchers are looking for. Behavioral studies help determine whether paid advertising will help or hinder your brand’s ability to draw “clicks” from potential customers among search users.
Website UX and the brand’s customer journey are interwoven with SEO and can be benchmarked using SEO data such as bounce and exit rates, or by monitoring and improving goal and conversion objectives.
SEO as Part of the Business Pipeline
It might not look like it on the surface, but SEO plays a decisive role in customer recruitment and retention.
Even the major SEO KPIs tend towards this idea. While the number and position of ranking pages have little direct impact on the business pipeline, the same cannot be said for sessions, leads generated, and conversions. Remember that the goal of SEO is digital inbound marketing: automating, as much as possible, lead generation through visibility on search engine results pages.
If your company relies even in part on inbound marketing, then SEO matters. Google and Google-owned products such as YouTube cover over 90% of the search market in North American and Europe. Even more tellingly, as Jumpstart found last year, Google is still the leading single provider of traffic to most sites.
Searchers are your company’s current and future clients.
SEO as Key Company Players
And here’s the one that surprises many executives: of almost all company positions, SEOs are themselves an extremely valuable resource to a company and are best positioned to climb the corporate ladder.
To be good at SEO means being great at seeing the big picture in marketing strategy, product development, search engine optimization, customer behavior, market analysis, and business development, among others. Without a good grasp of the company, its objectives, its competition, and its customers, an SEO strategy might rank, but it can’t draw leads.
Working with others makes SEOs good at the things company leaders and strategists need to dominate. The diversity of contributions to SEO projects promotes inter-departmental cooperation on transversal projects. An SEO needs to know how to draw people–both decision-makers and collaborators–on board SEO projects and to manage heterogeneous teams.
And SEO thrives on clear communication, both horizontally and vertically in an organization. A successful SEO is a great communicator, no matter who’s sitting across the table from them. SEOs present project pitches and audit reports succinctly, speak to developers, promote teamwork, and sell outreach. These communication skills are a hallmark of the type of leaders and team-builders that every company wants.
Finally, SEOs are often self-taught and ambitious thinkers. The ability to learn on the fly and to dig deep into complex topics when necessary–from patents to coding to behavioral psychology–is required to succeed in a constantly evolving environment like SEO today. The number of SEOs who take the leap to become self-sufficient freelancers and successful entrepreneurs is a good indicator of the business acumen lurking behind the skills of a good SEO.