Ascend2, a research-based demand generation company, recently conducted a survey on how marketers are optimizing websites to improve search engine rankings. Participants in the survey included 286 sales and business professionals from a range of company sizes, and 84% of respondents had a C-level designation, the job title of marketing vp/director/manager, or identified as marketing or sales staff. Seventy-one percent of respondents identified their main business as B2B.
When asked about the top priority behind search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, not surprisingly respondents reported that improving search rankings (66%) was the key goal, followed closely by increasing website traffic (58%) and increasing lead generation (55%.)
Content takes the lead
With the top two SEO priorities based around overall performance -- better position on the search engine response page (SERP) and increased website traffic -- it’s not surprising that the most effective SEO tactic by a wide margin was creating relevant content.
Todd Lebo, partner and Chief Marketing Officer, Ascend2, said, “Content is also front and center when examining effectiveness versus difficulty of SEO tactics. Creating relevant content is not only the most effective tactic (72%) used for SEO purposes, it’s also one of the most difficult to execute.”
Content marketing can be difficult to execute because it requires a great deal of dedication to continually produce effective and relevant content for your target audience. And unlike some marketing channels, content marketing shows its value in a cumulative fashion, slowly building over time, rather than providing an immediate impact on marketing goals, such as search engine rankings.
The Content Marketing Institute recently published its annual, “State of Enterprise Content Marketing,” with insights gained from the forum at its Executive Forum in March as well as observations from its 2014 Content Marketing World event. This report highlights some of the challenges with effective content marketing. One piece of advice CMI offers is to physically separate the content marketing team from the rest of the marketing department to help avoid a “culture clash” with teams focused on persuasive marketing.
Roadblocks to SEO success
The Ascend2 survey also asked respondents about their most challenging obstacles to SEO success and found a fairly even spread of issues. Dealing with the shifting sands of search engine algorithms led the list at 40%.
Lebo said, “There are many obstacles to SEO success. Ranked first is the technical challenge of keeping up with changing search algorithms. Others relate to corporate limitations like budget constraints. And a growing challenge that impacts a variety of marketing tactics is the lack of quality content.”
Further down that list was measuring the ROI of SEO at 29%. Although tracking the results and return on a content marketing strategy wasn’t seen as a key obstacle to success, gaining metrics on all marketing activities in general is important to marketers today.
“The metrics used to measure SEO performance is very interesting,” Lebo said. “SEO marketers find that website visitor tracking is the most useful metric for measuring performance. Tracking visitor behavior enables the improvement of visitor conversion rates that will increase the number of leads generated, the third and second most useful metrics respectively. Leads generated is a favorite of B2B marketers.”
The survey found that content was the most effective SEO tactic, but it was also found to be the most difficult tactic (46%), topped only by relevant link building (52%). Other SEO tactics respondents reported as being difficult include the frequency of publishing blog posts and updating the website (both 28%), optimizing for mobile (25%) and integrating with social media (22%).
Comparing the survey results for SEO tactics' effectiveness versus difficulty, two tactics stood out as being very effective compared to their relative difficulty -- relevant content creation and keyword/keyphrase research. On the other end of the spectrum, relevant link building was singled out for being difficult without a lot of SEO improvement payout.
Like with any survey, this report is just a snapshot of how some business professional see SEO right now, but it does offer some insight for marketers looking to implement an SEO strategy. Even though there are challenges in executing and measuring content marketing, content isn’t going away as a key marketing channel anytime soon.
And, if you’re working hard to get relevant backlinks to your website, you might want to rethink that use of your time.