How much is SEO worth?
SEO has become the most fashionable word, or rather acronym, amongst those who want a website: SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, together with SEM – Search Engine Marketing offers website optimization and marketing for search engines, where Google is almost always the main search engine.
There is a lot of discussion about just how much organic SEO should actually cost, organic SEO is the one done without paying for Google Adwords and similar.
Paid SEO (or artificial SEO) is done paying for ads on Google (so the site will never appear in a top position for 24 hours a day as those are shared spaces), but it will often not be clicked by users who prefer the “central “results, and can cost quite a lot and often see sites penalized in the event that the site owner decides to stop paying.
Many customers do not recognize the futility of campaigns that cost 100 Euro per year, perhaps with the promise of 100% results (this is virtually impossible as it only takes a change in Google algorithms to cause disruption), so at the end of the day they often spend an awful lot of money over a period of several years for the wrong SEO and Google ads, only to obtain results that are often fleeting or even non-existent.
Serious SEO often has very demanding costs and can never offer 100% guarantees (remember though that it takes CONSTANT effort and for best results must be done MANUALLY), so what are the benefits?
Let’s think about the costs that many companies incur to ensure their presence in the traditional media (leaflets, newspapers, local or national TV, yellow pages and the like).
What do you get for your money? Visibility on a local level, but without the opportunity to show your portfolio to potential customers, no direct communication and so on.
So what does SEO/SEM offer?
Advantageous positioning in search engines, the use of which has by far exceeded the use of printed directories, the opportunity to operate at national or global level and the possibility of being found by proactive individuals or companies, i.e. those that are actually looking for THAT product or THAT service. All this is very different from mass advertising in the press and via other media, which is “fired out” indiscriminately to all.
One of our customers experienced the following: maintenance of the company in the online yellow pages listings, no renewal of the space “on paper”, targeted SEO – although some search terms were rather generic (“office furniture” and the like).
Result: savings of around 6,000 Euro, placing achieved for 6 keywords on the first page (15 if including page 2) of Google, 50 additional requests for quotations in 12 months from all over the country, which resulted in about two dozen new customers. At the end of the 12 month service, the site maintained a good position and, indeed, still does, more than a year later (ok, this last factor may also be down to luck and the fact that competitors have not moved).
Of course, the game has to be worth the candle, spending 100 a year for SEO to earn just 80 more than the previous year may not be the wisest decision, but in most cases the benefits, especially in the medium and long term, justify the costs.
Whenever we talk about SEM (Search Engine Marketing) and SEO (Search Engine Optimization) to position a site on Google, the first thoughts of those who deal with these issues turn to the legendarywebsite classification algorithms.
It is these algorithms, and the level of understanding by those that are involved in marketing, that count. As explained in a previous post, anyone who promises 100% results for an SEM campaign is promising their client the moon, with the risk of getting burnt.
Just a change in algorithms will generate a plague of websites and disrupt placements, at least until the new mechanisms begin to be understood.
Well…change is here!
The long wave of change began in 2011, when Google presented the first Panda upgrade, which decimated sites that were promoted using back links of little value. In March 2012 Google then presented a new release of the Panda algorithm that wreaked havoc on the blogging network, another tool that had been created at the time to generate back links.
These networks of blogs, as well as being conceived with the aim of generating back links had, and have, one main shortcoming: dreadful content!
In April of this year, Google released the Penguin update, aimed at discovering the improper back link techniques used within the actual sites, so not just affecting blogs. The effects can already be seen.
So what do you need to do to be pushed to the top by Google and be found by potential clients?
In theory, the answer is very simple and is what should always be done. All the releases of Panda and Penguin that Google has already brought in or will create in the near future are all designed for one single purpose: to reward those sites that have good content and are kept up to date.
It goes without saying that right now, the most precious asset for a company that wants to have its own space online are good quality contents. Something which….is easier said than done!
This can be seen when browsing sites with old content, spelling and grammar mistakes, with types of font and colour combinations that are quite unrealistic, translations in English that you can’t make neither head nor tail of.
Outsourcing the management of websites, especially where content is concerned, will become an ever increasing reality, especially for those small and medium companies that do not have their own staff to manage the site in a strategic manner.
One question that is often put to us: why does traditional marketing fail?
As time goes by, the means used for traditional marketing seem to be dying out, one after the other.
As reported by the prestigious Harvard Business Review in its article of 9 August 2012, entitled “Marketing is dead”, tools such as advertising, branding, PR etc, are failing miserably in their main task.
Consumers have evolved with the evolution of internet, and have gone from being passively subjected to various forms of marketing, to being active consumers, who seek information and look for and compare offers online linked to a certain product.
It can be said that traditional marketing methods no longer make sense in a world of social networks, where digital word of mouth becomes a very powerful means on a human scale. In actual fact, we are not talking about salesmen who are trying to sell the latest product, but of people who are in the same position, often with the same interests, who are talking about products that they’d like to buy with other people who have already purchased them or that have more expertise in the field.
What will be the answer in the future?
Foreseeing what will become of marketing is not so easy, but one particular guideline is emerging, and is set to establish itself further in the near future. The company’s “capital”, seen as the network of clients who in turn have a network of friends and so on, will become increasingly important as competition grows. Companies will not only have to worry about selling, but also about keeping their online communities active and lively, so that they can contribute with honest feedback to improving the services or products offered by the actual company. What is more, companies must also bear in mind those users that we refer to as “hubs” (concentrators), those individuals that are inclined to have a wide range of social networks that they participate in with enthusiasm.
So, when you are developing the idea for your website, always look beyond simple appearances, spend time on interacting with your clients and taking care of your content to capture and hold the interest of those clients.
One of the main reasons why the results of digital marketing start to dry up after a while is, in most cases, the lack of perseverance and planning.
Online marketing campaigns often achieve their aim in just a few months: good positioning in the major search engines, increases in sales, band penetration and so on. This is seen by the company that commissioned the job as a point of arrival, yet it is actually a point of departure!
In actual fact, unless the job is outsourced, it is the responsibility of the company to perform the difficult but important task of maintaining the good level of visibility achieved, not to mention the level of sales, and to increase them, step by step.
You need to sit down and carefully plan your strategy, set some short term goals (achievable in about 3 months) which using a trial and error approach, and observing the response of users/clients, will help you to determine the best strategy to use. Obviously we are talking about flexible strategies, suitable for a market that is constantly evolving, so what may well work for the first six months might just not work from the seventh month.
The following is an outline of some of the main aspects to be taken into consideration when planning a successful digital marketing strategy.
Knowing your business is essential, as is recognising new trends and the competition, both old and new. This can also mean taking the time to visit the various forums that discuss the product that you sell (or your competitors), or participating in real time or recorded webinars, so that you can anticipate your clients’ demands.
- Non-conventional marketing tools
Although it is difficult to define them as such nowadays, given their widespread use (which is often misuse) by many companies, tools such as Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, Pinterest, YouTube etc, are extremely powerful vehicles for your messages and brand. Always try to only use those tools that you intend to maintain! It is not very encouraging to see a company profile on Twitter with a new post every 6 months, it gives the impression that little thought is given to communication.
You should be precise and concise in your messages, the attention span of readers is quite low so try to make the most of it.
- Recognise your limits
It may seem strange, but recognising that your product, even if excellent, may not be the answer to all a client’s problems or desires, generates more trust in the brand. But if we really think about it, when we visit a site where 100% of the opinions about a product say “exceptional” and where all the descriptions use hyperbolic phrases to describe how miraculous this product is, should we not be thinking that perhaps the reviews aren’t true and that something doesn’t quite add up?
- Accessibility, interaction, usability, etc.
Avoid hiding information about your company. Don’t use PO boxes instead of a real address for correspondence. Don’t hide your VAT number (if you have one), company registration number or the like. Although you may be doing it for reasons of privacy, it doesn’t give the impression of a reliable company. If possible create a blog where you can give advice on how to best use your products. Provide answers to users, even those who criticise or ask awkward questions: it is better to admit to a failure in the product and try to solve the problem than ignore criticism and allow it to become widespread! Never sacrifice the usability of a site, and by usability we don’t just mean the ease of browsing it on a PC, but also the fact that it can be viewed just as easily on a mobile device such as a smartphone or tablet.
These are just a few simple guidelines but they are essential if you are to take control of your company’s marketing and get the very best from the net.
Dicono di noi
Un articolo de il Sole 24 ore del 2010 (sì, c’eravamo già!)