Competition continues to tighten in search as brands compete for organic space and results. It’s not surprising that 80% of search-engine optimization (SEO) experts say the changes Google has made in recent years have impacted how they execute strategies this year
BrightEdge recently surveyed more than 500 marketers and found that 75% of organizations said SEO will play a broader role in their marketing plans, according to Jim Yu, CEO at BrightEdge.
Organic and paid search combined still dominate website traffic. Some 68% of all online experiences begin with a search, and 53% of consumers conduct a search before making a purchase.
Search & Performance Marketing Daily caught up with Yu to learn more about the relationship between Google and SEO, how marketers should approach SEO in these economic times, and what are the best uses for automation.
S&PMD: How do you see the relationship between Google and SEO developing?
Yu: Google will always align search to the human customer journey, and we have found that it is rewarding better experiences. We did a study that shows improvements in pages that win rankings. From quarter to quarter, we see retail results featuring faster pages, software results have more concise URLs, higher education results include more rich media, and banking results feature less keyword dense content.
S&PMD: How should SEOs grow their programs, starting with the holidays?
Yu: It starts with education internally, especially when we think about scaling SEO. This means ensuring stakeholders understand how their work contributes to positive SEO growth.
From there, it's how you activate and deploy the right tactics at the right time across different groups to achieve optimal results quickly. Make sure you measure, quantify, and discern between what is working and what needs improvement. It's all about proving what strategies are sound. Make sure you coordinate and connect different workflows between groups to deliver positive SEO growth
S&PMD: How are customers and organizations responding?
Yu: Over the past couple of years, we've seen value in SEO grow, but that growth requires teams to prove their strategies are sound.
SEO is slightly different from some of the other digital channels that our customers leverage. The most obvious one is that there are no media involved.
Nearly all the investments that need to be made include resources or more time commitments. So, getting value out of SEO usually requires actions, developing quality content, and so forth.
The other thing I have seen happening more is that more organizations are using SEO insights in new and unique ways.
It's not just about driving revenue out of the channel but also learning more about the market and what the customer wants. How consumers search and what content resonates with them is something I see more organizations use to help with product strategies and positioning and even make other channels work harder.
That's fantastic for the SEO teams because their organizations place so much value on them. But it also requires them to be methodical in how they approach their work. They must become extremely efficient. The processes and how they engage with other groups must be orchestrated thoughtfully to ensure things are executed quickly.
Yu: Create clear goals. Teams must make it clear to leadership and all the internal stakeholders what the expected outcomes of their projects are.
Focus on what will drive the most impact. For large organizations, there are always a hundred things they could do, but you only have the capabilities to do a handful of those things. So, deliberate execution and prioritization must be done to get the most out of the SEO work.
If you're going to do more and spend less time doing it, you need to reduce the amount of manual work it takes to get the job done. Automation helps eliminate repetitive tasks so teams can spend their time on more strategy and higher-value work.
S&PMD: When it comes to AI and automation, and given Google’s Helpful Content Update, how do you view the role of AI for SEO and content
Yu: Marketers are thinking and talking about that right now. I am seeing more and more leaders focusing on evolving how they use technology and automation to do more with less. As I mentioned earlier, a critical aspect of scaling SEO is eliminating repetitive work so you can focus on strategy and innovation.
When we talk about automation, we don't mean automating things like content creation. I firmly believe that humans should create content.
The best use of AI in SEO is for automated insights from data. Data-driven insights offer a whole new level of business insights to our organizations. This helps them to react quickly to market shifts and identify customer intent. It helps them with topic selections for content writers. It can even help with optimization recommendations.
Writing tools that fully automate content creation are not suitable for SEO. It's simply not human, and users need to see human thoughtfulness, empathy, and expertise in what they read.
S&PMD: We should probably take a set back and let you define automation?
Yu: Technology helps give marketers automated, fast content insights on intent and helps optimize and distribute content. BrightEdge has an AI layer that can surface insights in your data, which we see customers use to minimize manual combing through data.
Another example is there is a lot of repetitive work in SEO that can be automated. This can range from technical site audits and fixes to linking and error detection. Auto-scheduling dashboards and scorecards are easy ways to ensure SEO is top of mind.
AI and automation in SEO should be used for data-driven insights at the front end of the content-creation process.
Humans should write the content, especially long-form content. AI and automation can help with repetitive SEO tasks.
At the end of the process, AI can help with optimization recommendations and scaling through web page error detection and quick technical site fixes.