Adopting a Search-First Mindset for Digital Marketing Success
With digital adoption already well-established worldwide (and continuing to grow at a rapid rate during the pandemic), many marketers have found themselves spending more than ever on paid digital marketing channels. Meanwhile, consumers and legislators alike have been demanding more privacy from the major players in the digital advertising space, making it harder for marketers to accurately target audiences through paid channels – and harder for them to measure the performance of their paid campaigns.
As a counterbalance to this, marketers are also becoming increasingly aware of the growing opportunities that exist for organic channels to play a larger (and often more cost-effective) role within their marketing strategies.
In research Deepcrawl conducted with Econsultancy, we found that 89% of marketing leaders agree that organic search will drive more revenue in the future. It’s no surprise then, that marketers are taking a deeper look at SEO as a key driver in their efforts to both raise awareness for their brands and, ultimately, boost online revenue from avenues that don’t involve the same degree of fluctuating costs, fluctuating ROI, and rapidly changing availability of performance metrics. Enter: The search-first age in marketing.
Why a Search-First Mindset Is Now Imperative for Digital Marketing Success
Adopting a search-first mindset as a marketer or business leader has never been more important. More than ever, consumers turn to search engines as their first step toward discovery for just about any question they may have. And with the major increase in eCommerce activity during the pandemic, consumers have become accustomed to starting their purchasing journeys with a Google search as well.
But according to Hubspot research, 75% of people who carry out Google searches never reach the second results page. Ensuring your website is optimized to rank at the top of search engine results is an essential step for growth and, as such, should be a prioritized endeavor for all manner of businesses.
The SEO community has long sung the praises of organic search as a marketing channel—and has long lamented the frequent lack of prioritization that search engine optimization receives from brands’ senior leadership. For marketers who have grown accustomed to the instant gratification and immediate metrics associated with paid campaigns, SEO can seem complex, slow, and inaccessible. But as digital paid channels become more flooded with competition, more expensive, and less transparent with their metrics, it’s time that brands re-evaluated SEO’s role in the marketing mix. SEO, when done correctly, has the potential to reduce customer acquisition costs, increase awareness, and provide a solid ROI where conversions and online revenue are concerned.
Search-First vs. Paid-First
While clearly I’m an advocate for organic search taking a leading role within a brand’s overall marketing strategy, I’m not suggesting that businesses leave behind their paid strategies entirely. A savvy digital marketer will perform well at both. But paid channels have frequently been given a larger slice of the pie, both in terms of attention and investment, and, as marketers face increased challenges in their paid campaigns, it’s time that business leaders understand the benefits that can be realized by realigning their mindsets to a search-first approach.
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Paid channels (both paid search and advertising) are inherently limited in the results they can deliver due to their nature as limited-term campaigns. While businesses may see short bursts of activity when running paid campaigns, that activity usually stops once the campaign is over. SEO, on the other hand, is a layered and organic discipline, with efforts taken today feeding into a long-term pathway for success. The benefits of search optimization aren’t switched off when your team finishes an SEO-related project sprint. They build on your website’s foundations and are built on further by every next step you take. While organic search results can appear slower to materialize compared to a quick-hit performance metric tied to a particular paid campaign, the benefits of organic search are more evergreen and cumulative than those of paid campaigns.
The switch to a search-first approach shouldn’t mean that paid methods are abandoned altogether, but used in conjunction with organic methods as a multi-channel approach that bolsters your overall marketing and commercial goals. However, realigning your approach to ensure organic search is prioritized can enable brands to decrease their paid search expenditure, decrease their customer acquisition costs, and benefit from ongoing increases in their traffic and conversions.
It’s not enough for teams to work toward perfecting on- and off-site SEO in a silo. If your organization does not already have a team or structures in place to support a search-first approach, you’ll need to make some changes to your business operations as part of this prioritization of SEO. SEO often sits in a ‘grey zone’ between marketing and engineers, and without support from both teams (and from senior leadership), it’s likely to fail at receiving the attention and investment it deserves.
To really excel at SEO, you’ll need the people, platforms, and tools in place to monitor and implement website improvements on an ongoing basis. Getting those elements in place will of course require buy-in from key stakeholders across the business. Often, this starts with having some clear, data-driven discussions with senior leadership. When the C-suite understands how SEO can influence a whole range of business KPIs – from reducing CAC to boosting awareness and driving revenue, just to name a few – they’re more likely to provide the support required to integrate organic search efforts into broader business strategies and operations.
Search-First Alignment in Digital Marketing Is a Marathon, Not a Sprint.
I like to think of SEO as the tortoise to paid channels’ hare—it requires gradual improvements and quite a bit of time to get right, but in the long-term, it can deliver some stunning results. With the correct priorities, people, processes, and tools in place to support a search-first approach, SEO can help drive improvements across several key business goals; reducing CAC, increasing organic traffic and conversions, boosting awareness and consideration for your brand, and ultimately helping to drive online revenue.
Increased competition and decreased performance relating to recent developments amongst paid channels like social media advertising means that achieving adequate results with an acceptable ROI is unlikely to come from investing in paid approaches alone. Bolstering your overall marketing strategies and brand objectives with a renewed focus on organic search and SEO can be used to great effect, particularly in today’s search-first age.
Luckily, there are many excellent professional SEOs out there and a bevy of SEO tools and SaaS platforms that can help your team succeed in organic search. Adopting the structures to support this search-first approach may involve a learning curve and a willingness to experiment to yield the best results, but the past few years of developments in the digital marketing space suggest that search is more important than ever. Businesses looking to truly make their search efforts a priority will need to understand the benefits of SEO, keep track of related metrics, bring on the right people and tools, and invest the necessary time and resources to succeed.
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