Is SEO valuable? Are leads & sales valuable? Is targeted website traffic valuable? Let's get real now...
I've always believed the SEO value proposition to be so clear and obvious that if a person couldn't intuitively "get it" themselves, nothing I could tell them would help them understand. When I worked at an agency and had to face this particular question, my answers had a very strong "Duh" quality to them because I lacked the necessary oratory skills that would enable me to preach the gospel of search effectively enough to take my listeners out of the darkness into the light.
I no longer work in an agency setting BTW:.)
Therefore, I asked my fellow SEMpdx members to successfully answer the question that I could never answer well...
Heather Lloyd-Martin (SuccessWorks):
Imagine printing a beautiful brochure that showcases your services. But instead of mailing your brochures, using them as leave-behinds or providing them to prospects, you simply hide them away in your office. Sure, you'd give them away if someone knew to come into your office and ask for them. But no one else would even know that your brochure existed.
Your Website is like an expanded version of that brochure. Spending money on an eye-catching design and a good user experience is important, yes. But for folks to appreciate your site (and buy from you) they need to find your Website first .
The value proposition for SEO is simple. If you want to position well in the search engines - whether your target audience is local, national or international - optimization is a must. Otherwise, your site is all but invisible - the online version of hiding your brochure in your office.
Search engine optimization is a marketing channel that allows you access to a larger target audience. It drives people to your site during all phases of the buying cycle. It allows your brand to be top-of-mind (and top of the search results) when your target audience is ready to buy. And it draws in new customers from down the street and across the globe. Customers who need the products and services you offer. Right now.
Starting an optimization campaign (which may include some technical tweaking, link building and content) may seem overwhelming. The good news is that an excellent SEO company (or a savvy in-house department) can transform your site from "invisible" to "highly profitable." And there's no better value proposition than that.
Kent Schnepp (EngineWorks): The most compelling value proposition that we put in front of prospective clients here at EngineWorks is, "A site isn't worth the code it is written in, if nobody can find it". This, of course, refers to the fact spending thousands of dollars on a slick Web site is essentially wasting money, if customers are not aware it exists within the billions of Web pages across the Internet. To put in succinctly . . . it doesn't make sense to pay for a billboard in the forest.
Search engine optimization (SEO) enables online businesses to incorporate multitudes of relevancy elements into their sites, so that search engine algorithms (a.k.a. "spiders") will prominently position their listings within relevant search results. Given that more than three-quarters of all Internet users discover Web sites through search engines, it is paramount that our client's search listings be prominently ranked within the world's most important engines and directories.
In addition to offering the most cost-effective means of getting in front of prospective customers, SEO delivers a tremendous strategic competitive advantage. A positive psychological impact can be established through highly ranked, highly relevant Natural search listings. Search listings are more than just placeholders within the indexes. They can also be call-to-action messages used to attract qualified visitors and eager customers to a Web site.
Lisa Williams (Media Forte Marketing): As a search marketer, I believe the SEO value proposition is our ability to find our clients truly qualified leads and meet business goals. Only a handful of other media get as close to customer intention as we do as search marketers when we deliver search ranking based on a search query.
When engaging a new client, inevitably the question is "How long before I rank page one on Google?" At which point I ask two questions.
1) Why do you believe you should rank page one on Google (or any engine)?
2) Once you do rank page one and visitors come to your site, what do you want visitors to do when they get there?
These questions are the beginning of understanding what your SEO value proposition is.
To truly unlock the SEO value proposition, don't skip the groundwork of understanding what your business goals are. I have a new client who came to me with a not-so-unique problem. They had good Page Rank and search placement, but no business goal performance. This is where the SEO Value Proposition gets fun. Whether you're a search marketer or business owner, do this exercise. Make a list of 20 things that would happen if you achieved your business goals. Thinking about what you want to achieve, is the best way for your SEO marketing team to help you reach your business goals. Start your SEO/SEM campaign with solid thinking and planning, then get ready to unleash the SEO value proposition, whatever that means to you.
Benjamin Lloyd (Amplify Interactive): I feel that good SEO creates a value proposition that touches on virtually every aspect of on online marketing program. At the top of that list lies content. Good SEO focuses on good content, not technical wizardry or stuffing keywords into product / service pages. As the foundation for any search marketing effort, the process of keyword research provides an opportunity for businesses to understand how to connect with potential customers. Developing content that aligns with those concepts improves conversion rates, can be leveraged for viral marketing efforts, improves paid search & landing pages and enhances your credibility.
I explain it to clients like this - "Expedia, Travelocity, etc are NOT in the content business, they're in the business of selling airline tickets, hotel rooms, rental cars, etc. But, what they understand is that they need to provide destination information, travel guides, etc in order to gain search engine rankings and sell those things. We need to think about your business the same way."
Scott Hendison (Search Commander): My own "SEO value proposition" has always been to"Maximize your online visibility and revenue generation, while evaluating your competition and minimizing expenses".
By their very nature, the front page of the search engine results are adversarial. Once all of the structural issues and SEO-101 factors are addressed, some would say that it's all about content and inbound links you have, while I believe it's just as important, (if not more important) to evaluate the content and links of your competitors and react appropriately.
A targeted competitive research effort among front page SERP placeholders in any industry can give site owners more bang for their buck, by identify untapped areas of opportunity. By analyzing how much and on what phrases their competition is spending in pay per click advertising, and by identifying competitors inbound linking strategies, valuable competitive advantages can be gained.
Kent Lewis (Anvil Media): While the discipline of search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved over the years, the fundamental value proposition remains unchanged: SEO is one of the most cost-effective methods of generating brand awareness, qualified leads or sales for a business. SEO is highly measurable and incremental adjustments can be made in real-time. The downside to SEO, like many other marketing disciplines, is that it requires a meaningful commitment of time and resources to be successful. While SEO is seen as a "dark art" by some, the proof is in the pudding as far as delivering meaningful results is concerned. Most companies serious about building their businesses have evaluated, if not embraced SEO.
Sean Dreilinger (interactivate, inc.): Marketing managers, communication strategists, and business owners who invest in search marketing derive one primary benefit:
Increased search-referred leads
Search-referred guests are coveted because visitors arriving via web search are qualitatively different than audience arriving via other means…
Search leads are better-qualified than other visitors. Search-referred users are actively seeking your product, service, or content in the moments when they formulate a web search query and click through to your website. ComScore research [sponsored by Google] finds that search-referred leads convert very well.
Lowest cost-per-lead. Search marketing often provides the lowest cost-per-lead relative to other advertising methods employed in the same campaign. (answer excerpted from here).
Colleen Wright (Search Engine Academy of Oregon): The SEO Value Proposition is receiving increased visitors, leads and sales or some other measurement of success in the most cost efficient manner available in both the online and offline marketing space.
Business can easily measure results including the return on investment (ROI) through evaluation of website log files. There is no other medium where analyzing results is as straight forward as in SEO. Creating a baseline report prior to optimizing a site will allow you to measure month over month and year over year the results of a properly optimized website.
Based on SEO analytics, one can easily chart a course to online marketing success.
Discuss this article in the Small Business Ideas forum.
Todd Mintz is the Director of Internet Marketing & Information Systems for S.R. Clarke Inc., a Real Estate Development and Residential / Commercial Construction Executive Search / Recruiting Firm headquartered in Fairfax, VA with offices nationwide. He is also a Director & Founding Member of SEMpdx: Portland, Oregon's Search Engine Marketing Association.
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