No, the CEO is not responsible for day-to-day marketing tasks. They delegate this duty to the Director of Marketing and their team. However, in their own right, every CEO acts as a brand marketer each and every day. They are responsible for being the face of the business, guiding business strategy and vision, and fully understanding how each department functions. This is why it is essential for CEOs to have a comprehensive understanding of the background of their marketing strategy. This knowledge also empowers them to effectively measure the successes and failures of various marketing projects.
Currently, the lifeblood of marketing is search engine optimization or SEO. With the rapid changes that technology is bringing to business today, especially in the marketing arena, staying informed is key to a holistic business approach. At RedShift, we know marketing right side up and inside-out. Every member of our team, from our content specialist to our project manager, eats, sleeps, and breathes marketing. Our expertise is deep and our niche experience is broad. Therefore, in order to help CEOs build their brand and strengthen business strategy, the following our guide of SEO for CEOs.
Search Engine Basics
While SEO can be a complicated discipline, the basis for it relies on a few simple ideas. Once understood, the bigger picture of SEO, its benefits, and its ideal strategies are much more straightforward. Here is a look at what SEO is, what it does, and how it fits into the world of search engines.
1. What Is SEO?
Search engine optimization is the process of understanding and utilizing organic search engine results to bring more and better traffic to an organization’s website. By organic search engine results, we mean traffic from search engine queries that don’t come from paid advertising. By more and better website traffic, we mean attracting more site visitors that are strong leads—the type of leads who can quickly be converted into customers.
2. How Do Search Engines Work?
Search engines are a complex technology that rely on an algorithm that continuously changes and transforms to better meet the needs of the individuals who use it to access information.
To accomplish this task of answering search users’ queries with the most relevant results, search engines rely on two main functions:
Search engines use automated bots, or crawlers, to move around interconnected websites and documents on the web.
When the crawlers find a new document or webpage, via a link, they index the content to the search engine’s database, which is stored in multiple data centers across the globe. The indexed information is fed through the search engine’s algorithm to identify which information is most relevant to a query and which websites have the most authority.
When a user makes a query, powerful processing machines in the datacenters provide instantaneous results. The results that the search engine provides are based on two factors, relevance, and popularity.
3. How Does SEO Work?
When you understand how search engines work and what their query results are based on, you can begin to see that optimizing your website content will make it appear as a top query result more often. In other words, the more relevant it is to the information search users are looking for, the more traffic will be directed to it.
Optimization, however, is not about just filling a webpage with valuable information. It is about helping search engines to easily understand what is on the webpage and helping visiting users to easily find what they are looking for. The specific methods for accomplishing this will be discussed in detail later, but they include everything from adding section headers to integrating internal links across a website.
In the end, a strong SEO strategy will prioritize staying abreast of algorithm changes. The marketing department should then have the resources to quickly react and make adjustments that will allow the company’s website and social channels to continue ranking high in search engine queries.
How People Interact With Search Engines
When learning about SEO and identifying ways it could and should fit into the overall business strategy, it is important for CEOs to look beyond just the technicalities of search engine optimization. While it is necessary to understand the basics of optimization functions, it is essential to understand how people interact with search engines. This understanding allows companies to most effectively design SEO projects because they are able to get into the minds of their target audience and see how and why they use search engines.
1. What Is The Purpose Of A Search Engine?
The short answer to this question is that it provides search users with the information they are looking for. When this is broken down and further inspected, there are three categories that describe search engine using:
The primary purpose of any given search engine is to provide information for research. In fact, it is often queries that are driven by research that get the best results. This is because most search engine algorithms rank research-based websites as the most relevant for the average query—which is why Wikipedia is always at the top of any search engine results page. However, this provides two important lessons. First, when websites contain research-based information, search engines will see them as more relevant. Second, notoriety and perceived expertise are more important to a search engine’s algorithm than information accuracy (i.e. Wikipedia is an open-source project and therefore can’t guarantee accuracy).
Search engines, in recent years, have become a popular tool for shopping. And while many shoppers initially make search engine queries to find out more about products and services that they are interested in, once they gain enough information they are ready to make a purchase. It is for this reason that businesses’ websites should address this mentality in their SEO. Web pages that optimize for queries that include terms such as ‘free shipping’ or ‘discount’ will see an increase in their traffic. However, it is important to remember that they need to strike a balance between researching shoppers and buying shoppers. The best SEO strategy is to provide enough information to draw traffic from search users who are looking to find out more about a product or service, as well as addressing the user traffic that is looking to make a purchase. The latter is most successfully accomplished by having a specific SEO strategy for shopping search engines, such as Google Product Search and Yahoo! Shopping.
And then there’s the entertainment that search engines offer. It is the entertainment options that the internet provides that have caused users’ screen time to skyrocket over the last decade. Search engines have become a driving force that enables internet users to find the entertainment that they want. Whether this entertainment comes in the form of text, video, audio, or image, all of these forms of media can be optimized for search engines. This means that brands of every shape and size can harness the power of any of these to draw in potential customers. It also provides a strong argument for companies to invest in developing strong forms of entertainment that provide them with the opportunity to ‘go viral’ and be seen by consumers around the globe—or at least create a stronger and more loyal customer base.
2. How Do Search Engines Affect Business?
The science behind SEO is not solely about how consumers interact with search engines. It also includes the relationship between search engines and businesses. This relationship can be a contentious one or a lucrative one—it all depends on SEO. When companies fail to pursue a smart SEO strategy, they will not see their company site show up in queries that should send customers their way. The reason for this is that the search engine’s algorithm likely has a difficult time indexing the website and understanding its purpose/what it is offering.
However, when an organization’s marketing department embraces the strength of SEO and how it can benefit the business, there will be a significant increase in website visitors, leads, and sales. The main reason for this is that search engines receive more visitors every day than businesses will see in a year. Additionally, search engines are able to convert 10 times more leads than social media and companies that appear in search results gain a 30% bump in brand perception.
It is for these reasons that more than four-fifths of marketers believe that the effectiveness of SEO is only increasing and that nearly two-thirds of marketers are prioritizing SEO in their marketing strategy. And the businesses behind these marketers are adjusting their budgets to address this.
Why Is Search Engine Marketing Necessary?
The simplest answer to this question is: Because your competition is doing it.
As shown by the previous statistics, search engine marketing is quickly becoming the main form of marketing for businesses in every sector and of every size. Companies that fail to pursue this marketing strategy will see their competition sprint ahead, both in terms of identifying new leads and in terms of overall sales.
1. Content Visibility
SEO allows organizations to bring their content to the forefront. It enables them to stand out against all of the other companies, products, and white noise that are attempting to compete for new customers. There are four main reasons that SEO makes content more visible:
A. Content Uniqueness
Pursuing SEO means embracing content creation–on search engines, content is king. The key, though, is content creation rather than replication. Google’s algorithm, as well as site visitors, can quickly see if the information on a webpage is exclusive to a brand or is just a reworded version of information that exists on ten other websites. So while any quality content will help SEO, content that is distinct, useful, and long-form will knock SEO out of the park every time. It is this type of content that transforms a brand from being just another company in an industry to being a trusted industry thought-leader—both on search engines and to the general public.
B. Sound Site Structure
A strong website structure is arguably just as important as quality content in any SEO strategy. This structure is not necessarily about what individual pages look like, but rather how all of a website’s pages are connected and ordered (i.e. how the navigation bar is structured and the URLs of various pages and subpages). The reason this structure is so important is that it strongly impacts the ease-of-use for visiting traffic and how well search engine crawlers can move around the site and index the website’s content.
C. On-Page And Technical SEO
As SEO moves from content to site structure, it becomes more specific and technical. This trend continues when it moves into on-page SEO and technical SEO. Technical SEO is optimization that is targeted at search engine crawlers and the indexing phase. It is all about making the site more welcoming to crawlers and easier to index—in a similar way to site structure. Other optimization techniques include ensuring that the website speed is as fast as possible and making it mobile-friendly.
On-page SEO is SEO techniques that are used to optimize each individual page of a website. This SEO is dedicated to tooling the page content, as well as its HTML source code. The end goal of this type of SEO is to make the page as relevant to the end-use as possible, which will encourage search engines to rank it higher in search results. The specific tools that are used include everything from keywords, which has become a buzzword in the SEO community and will be discussed more further down, to internally linking to other pages on the website.
D. Off-Page SEO
This aspect of SEO, which is sometimes referred to as link building, is the most straightforward of all the techniques. It involves finding other websites that will mention the company’s website and directing individuals there with a website link. Initially, link building must be actively accomplished. Companies can partner with other brands, such as their vendors or B2B customers, or reach out to news outlets and blogs, requesting to be featured. As the company grows the amount and quality of content on its website, link building will become more passive—others in the industry will view the company as an industry thought-leader. In short, off-page SEO is the best way to build trust with search engines’ algorithms.
2. SEO Is Evolving
SEO is a continuously changing science. One reason for this is that marketers and analysts are quickly finding more effective methods and procedures, as well as developing stronger and smarter SEO tools. The second reason is that search engines’ algorithms are updated and adjusted often.
3. The Effect Of Usability, Experience, And Content On Rankings
When it comes down to it, SEO is all about enhancing usability, experience, and content. When these three factors are improved in the right way, a website will see a significant rise in search engine rankings.
Search engines gauge usability and user experience based on user engagement visits—how many individuals visit the site and how long they stay on various pages. This is because when site visitors find a site helpful, they will engage with it over and over and for longer periods of time. Content is gauged both by user engagement, as well as by using machine learning, which is now advanced enough to judge content quality. Google was able to accomplish this through the Panda update. Additionally, algorithms analyze linking patterns—as previously stated, when a website is linked to more, it is likely higher quality.
What Are The SEO Myths?
As with any technology, there are myths. Understanding these and the truth surrounding them helps to create clarity when designing an SEO strategy.
1. Search Engine Submission
When search engines were initially developed, websites had to submit themselves to each search engine in order to be recognized. This is no longer necessary. The most effective way for search engines to recognize a new URL is when it earns links from other pages.
2. Keyword Stuffing
Keywords, as previously mentioned, are one of the SEO methods that is most well-known. They are words or strings of words that help describe what an organization does or offers. When these words are used in website content they help signal search engines to send queries that contain those keywords to the site.
However, one of the biggest myths in SEO is that if a website stuffs a web page full of keywords, using them over and over again, then search engines will see that page as more relevant. The truth is that keyword density is not a factor in search engine ranking. Instead, sites that use keywords intelligently will get the best results.
3. Paid Search Boosting Organic Results
Paid search is advertising that organizations can pay for on search engines. Unfortunately, there is a big misconception around it. The myth is that companies that pay for search engine advertising will have a higher search engine ranking. There is no evidence to support this. In fact, many search engines have specifically designed separations between their departments to prevent this.
How Does Tracking And Analytics Come Into Play?
As with every other aspect of business and marketing, SEO needs to be tracked and analyzed. The following are some key methods for achieving this.
1. Google Analytics
More than half of websites on the internet use this free analytics tool. For many organizations, it is the only analytics tool they use. The tracking and measurements it offers allow CEOs to gain insight into how effective their marketing department’s SEO strategy is. The following are a few of the best metrics to look at.
A. Organic Sessions, Users, And Conversions
These three metrics can show a business the difference between their website traffic before and after SEO, as well as over the course of any SEO adjustments. Sessions are visits. However, Google Analytics differentiates sessions as multiple interactions that a user makes within 30 minutes of visiting the site. This allows for companies to see who is visiting their website and interacting versus those who passively visit the site and then switch to another tab.
The ‘users’ metric shows how many unique visitors a website receives in any given period of time. Google Analytics provides richer information by differentiating between return users and first-time users. This will allow companies to see just how much more traffic their SEO efforts are bringing in.
A conversion happens when a site visitor takes an action that the company is interested in. This might include filling in a form, visiting multiple pages, or making a purchase. Tracking these numbers can help a business to identify how effective their content is.
B. Potential Drop Visibility
With Google Analytics, companies can quickly identify if their traffic from search engines drops significantly. There are two different types of drops. If all engines show an equal amount of traffic reduction, the website is likely struggling with accessibility issues, which will be discussed further below. If, however, one engine drops off, while the others remain at a steady level, this likely means that the company’s SEO efforts have been devalued or penalized by that one search engine.
C. Understand Contributions Of Different Search Engines
Google Analytics offers a metric that provides a comparison of which search engines contribute the most to a website’s search traffic. This helps companies identify if they need to adjust their SEO for a specific algorithm.
D. See Accessibility Issues
Google Analytics also allows companies to see when their website is struggling with accessibility issues. This means that all or part of the website is not loading properly for visitors. When these issues are identified, they can more quickly be remedied and help the brand avoid reputation damage or customer annoyance.
2. The Benefits Of Google Tag Manager
Google Tag Manager is another free tool from Google that helps websites to manage and deploy marketing tags across their site. Tags are small pieces of code that accomplish something on a website—marketing tags often collect information about site visitors and their site activity. The problem with tags is that they require a deep understanding of coding. This is where the benefit of Google Tag Manager comes in. It doesn’t require code modification. This means tags can easily be inserted and removed at a moment’s notice. GTM also enables many more features, such as tracking outbound links, downloads, and submissions.
SEO is a convoluted science that is changing just as rapidly as any other technology. However, this doesn’t mean that CEOs should leave it completely up to their marketing department. On the contrary, CEOs should have a comprehensive understanding of SEO so they can work with marketing to guide their efforts and overall business strategy. For more information, please contact us.