Blue pushpin in word "SEO" at center of a targetDoes your audience know what you want them to do?

By Becky Livingston
The Accountant’s Social Media Handbook

If you desire to have your website, product or services found online via organic search, search engine optimization (SEO) is your tool.

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SEO is website optimization with “no dough.” One way to remember SEO versus search engine marketing (SEM) is the “O” is for organic, optimized and for no dough. The alliteration alone should help you to remember it.

Technically, however, SEO isn’t free. You need to spend time, energy and resources to ensure you’re doing all you can on your website, behind the scenes, to increase search rankings naturally, both on your site and on search engine crawlers.

Over the years, I have heard arguments that a marketing team should focus its effort on SEO versus SEM, and vice versa. Here, I’ll share the benefits of each. And, how you can leverage the power of one or both to influence your branding and overall search rankings.

SEO = Website optimization for no dough!

Well, sort of.

Commonalities

In either case, you must define the overall goal. For example, with an SEO goal, it may be to be on the front page of a major search engine for a specific phrase or keyword. In an SEM campaign, it may be to increase subscriptions to your newsletter, or online registrations for a conference.

Both methods use a heavy emphasis on keywords. The difference is, with SEO you do not pay for the keywords. With SEM, you do pay for keywords. In both cases, you may use the same keywords to help drive traffic to landing pages or brand-related pages, such as about us, services or downloadable content, like whitepapers.

Another similarity is the quality of the content. In either case, you want to drive your target market toward good content that sits on your site. The better the content, the more likely your audience is to share it. Plus, the more influence it will have over a brand’s organic search results and quality click-thru rates on paid advertising.

Differences

An SEO approach is more of a long-term strategy, which could take months to determine the return on investment (ROI). You must create really good content that is written for your target market.

Consistent social media posts and efforts toward driving your target audience to your content are required. Create a solid, lead-magnet flow using this method. Understanding the keywords your target market is using is crucial to the success of this effort.

An SEM approach could provide a faster return on investment. However, you pay for speed. What’s needed here is a solid understanding of the search terms and websites – those outside of your own called ad placements – where you want to feature your content.

Also, doing research to know what the budget amount should be to get your content on the top search pages is very important. Lastly, the landing page is critical. You must develop a solid strategy to ensure the user experience is good, because the experience impacts the price you pay for ads.

Example

Aurelie wrote, “I ran SEM campaigns … to try to get leads; but, didn’t have much success with it. The best keywords just cost a lot of money and in the end, it didn’t make much sense for us to keep running the campaigns.

“We’re now focusing on improving our SEO reach starting with long-tail keywords where it’s easier to rank,” she continued.

“I think putting a constant effort into building a presence through SEO is a must for every business looking to build a customer base on the long term. SEM can be amazing to gather quick leads (if you have a more short-term goal).”

SEO Strategy Tips

For an SEO strategy, conduct a keyword audit either on your own or with someone who specializes in keyword audits. You may know some of the keywords your audience may look for, but you may not know the best ones or some of the more well known terms that are currently being used.

Further, developing quality content can be time-consuming. Do you have the in-house staff to create the content needed to attract the audience you want? If not, consider the budget to get the content you need.

Additionally, take a consistent, meticulous approach to sharing that content. It’s about demonstrating your expertise among your audience to help drive engagement, including commenting, sharing and liking. This is not a set-it-and-forget-it approach, using the assumption if you create it, they will come. You must plan at least a few hours each month to share, comment on and create content.

Plus, you now need to think of the call to action you want people to take when they consume the content. Should they share it, like it, download it, subscribe to it, post it, etc.? Giving your audience content direction will help them know what they should do with it. If you don’t provide this element, they may simply read it and close the page.

Finally, revisiting your keywords at least annually is an often-overlooked element of this strategy. Take for example the word “kale.” It was pretty innocuous before the food industry put a spotlight on it. If you had any type of product or service for which you could leverage that word, it was important to update your SEO to reflect the new term. In addition, you’d want to adjust the online ad budget to pay for the keyword as it would have increased in cost because of its popularity.

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