Search engine optimization (SEO) and search engine marketing (SEM) are foundational tools used by organizations to bring visibility to their digital efforts.
They’re also inexact sciences.
To help marketers hone their strategies, Globe Content Studio hosted a panel of experts on Oct. 24, 2018, at its monthly MarTech Mornings series. The participants provided tactical insights into how businesses should be using SEO and SEM in their digital marketing strategies and what marketers can expect in the future.
1 Dev Basu– Chief experience officer at Powered by Search, a digital agency whose DNA is understanding consumer intent and in turn, helping its clients be the answer when consumers ask questions on Google.
2 Sean Power –President of Resonant Change Communications, a company that partners digital marketing teams with social impact and non-profit companies. He’s also an SEO/SEM instructor for Camp Tech.
3 Sean Cunningham– Automotive partner lead at Google Canada, helping clients build their businesses online.
The panel was moderated by the head of Globe Content Studio, Sean Stanleigh. Download an audio version of the discussion or read the highlights below.
Dev outlined the difference between SEO and SEM: 80 per cent of search is SEO, which is all about knowing something, doing something or going somewhere to do something. People love to buy, but they don’t like a hard sell, and that’s why SEO gets a ton of clicks. SEM is an auction-based market, bidding for sets of keywords or key phrases, and those keywords have certain commercial intent that ends up impacting purchasing decisions. Marketers are dealing with those intent keywords, and also dealing with certain ‘signals’ based on who you are and what your behaviours have been, which might lead you to a purchase. The process also considers what you’re typing in and which websites you visit. Search engines such as Google can now lead consumers along journeys, leading them toward the best and/or your product.
Sean C. says Google’s search algorithm is not just about who has the biggest budget: Google’s first priority is user interest, search behaviour and intent. The search algorithm considers things such as auction bids, load time of a website, mobile website responsiveness and, of course, the content.
Sean P. stressed that understanding your objectives is the most important piece of the puzzle when developing sustainable strategies, as SEO has a stigma of being a discipline that just focuses on getting clicks. Once someone gets to your website, what do you want them to do? Do you want them to make a purchase? Do you want them to stay and engage with the content? Do you want them to sign up for a newsletter? Also, measurement needs to be optimized for your objective. Do you have an analytics tool implemented, whether you’re optimizing for clicks or for a conversion goal?
Sean C. and Sean P. agreed that data comes first, not last. Have a clear idea of what success looks like. Data strategy doesn’t stop at collecting website clicks, but focuses on the actions users are taking after they land on your website. Think about what your analytics tool is set up to measure and everything should be compared with actions taken on your site. Consider industry benchmarks so you can work backward from your budget and targets.
Echoing what Sean P. said, Dev reiterated marketers need to have a good grasp on their objectives and intentions of customers to build trust. Attract the attention by getting in front of the right people, build connections by creating content, which shows you understand their wants and frustrations, and then ask for conversion. Do what’s right for the audience and you will be rewarded, by consumers and the likes of Google, since users engage with your product and your content. Optimize for people, not for keywords.
As 20 per cent of searches on Android devices in Canada are now done by voice search, how do you optimize for it? Sean P. suggested basic and fundamental rules for text search are the same for voice. Sean C. agreed. The biggest difference is humanizing searching with keywords better suited to voice search. Marketers need to do more than just use keywords and key phrases when it comes to voice search. They should describing their websites the same way they talk to their friends. The old metadata methods won’t win the voice search game.
The next MarTech Mornings takes place in Toronto, at The Globe and Mail Centre on King Street East, on Nov. 28. Keep an eye on our events page for details.