There over one billion searches performed on Google every day with organic searches delivering higher click-through rates than paid searches. The path to clearer insight into organic search efforts, results, and ROI is to also know that those are some of the same challenges faced by Search Engine Optimization (SEO). The challenge to overcome is that it is hard, if not impossible to predict the time and money required to improve keyword search positioning, and sustain it short or long term.

Ultimately, in order to be found in organic search by visitors you first need to determine the resources required to improve your web presence and SEO rankings. Then understand that the contributing influencers that affect the possible SEO outcomes are all external factors that your marketing team has no control over. These include: Competitors, Search Engines, Customers, Alternatives, and Keyword Rivalry. Having a clear understanding of these influencers can help effectively shape an SEO strategy and provide predictable ROI.

Let’s examine those influencers:

COMPETITORS – Any unbranded SEO keywords you use are under constant jeopardy from new competitors wanting to rank for the same keyword phrases… making ongoing keyword research and competitive intelligence vitally important to your SEO strategy. Competition can come from; a new competitor that is placing a priority on SEO, an existing competitor that may not currently be investing in SEO starts an active organic search and content marketing campaign, or an existing competitor that has been investing in SEO suddenly increases their budget and effort with content marketing, SEO and social media.

Forming obstacles for these competitors is a good way to fend them off. Deliberately making it difficult for competitors to outrank you for your unbranded keywords is a way to battle them… but it takes commitment and consistency. Everbearing has found these actions to be effective:

  • Develop and engage a content-driven marketing plan
  • Differentiate your company by targeting unique, long-tail keywords which define you
  • Focus on keywords that drive traffic and conversions
  • Use those keywords throughout your web presence – website, social media, etc.

SEARCH ENGINES – Keyword positions are constantly revaluated by the search engines’ ever-changing algorithms. Ones web presence can be negatively affected by the algorithm updates, but your competitors’ may not have been, so they may have started outranking you for your previously top ranking keywords. With new search engines entering the SEO landscape, pure search engines and social search engines both, you may find your competitors outranking you on Facebook and Google+.

CUSTOMERS – The potential impact of customers on industry keywords can affect your keyword ranking. Their social signals (Facebook Likes and Shares; Twitter activity such as number of Followers, Tweets, reTweets; and now Google+), social engagements, and reviews are contributing factors. In fact, social signals currently account for 8 to 10% of both Google and Bing’s search algorithms.

These signals give visitors the ability to engage with and produce social signals from your blogs, press releases, web pages and social networks… positively impacting your organic rankings. Likewise, if your competitors are currently out social signaling you, you will have to increase the ability for your visitors and customers to generate social signals from your web presence.

With the increasing importance of local search, think about how your competitors may be out-reviewing you. Also, within customer reviews, the actual keywords used in the review can impact organic rank.

ALTERNATIVES – The threat of competitor’s alternative actions to your SEO strategy is about them finding a more productive ways to be found by visitors and generate a higher ROI compared to the ROI of your SEO strategy. In this context, think about alternative marketing tactics such as paid search, search retargeting, tradeshows, email marketing, etc.

While you likely want to dominate in Google for the keywords your visitors are using to try to find your products and services, it is never wise to put all your eggs in one basket. Your marketing strategy should support your visitors throughout their entire buying process. Meaning you need to:

  • Understand how to engage them in the buying process
  • Communicate with them throughout the process
  • Help them complete their research through alternative solutions
  • Provide the content and resources to make a final decision

KEYWORD RIVALRY – The competitive rivalry for a keyword will constantly change and impact (positively or negatively) your SEO strategy, outcomes, and ROI. You can count on rivalry arising on certain keyword phrases you’ve been dominating. When you focus on unique, long-tail, conversion driving keyword phrases and you are committed to producing fresh, relevant content, your competitors will have to increase their investment to outrank and out-dominate you on page one of organic search engine results.

Hopefully by realizing and grasping the above SEO influencers your company will think differently about:

  • The constantly evolving outside forces and factors affecting keywords
  • Having more realistic expectations about resources required to improve organic rank
  • Understanding the likelihood of maintaining that rank in the long term

This process is a constant battle but by staying on top of it and ahead of the curve you can enjoy success in the form of improved ranking and keyword domination… and then increased conversions.

My next blog will be part 2 of this story as I share more advanced SEO/Keyword strategies… Landing Pages and A/B Testing.