A look at why SEO should come first from a chronological, priority, and budgeting perspective.
Marketers now have a dizzying array of options in online tactics and channels from which to create their plans. They have choices to fit each budget, audience segment, and goal with variations for almost every conceivable situation. But it is a rare situation when the merits of search engine optimization (SEO) don't logically push it to the front of the line for timelines, budgets, and resources – well ahead of paid media options and other programs. The only possible contenders to SEO's priority status would be customer service or CRM (define) activities, because taking care of customers and growing customers is so critical to any business. It's a bit of a stretch, but you could almost consider SEO (define) a type of customer service in making the content and information that interested parties seek easily accessible.
If you think of SEO more generally as a mechanism to absorb online demand already in existence, either by virtue of brand strength, or created by current effort exerted in all channels online and off, then the prospect of an effective, integrated program without SEO becomes absurd. Why would you jump through hoops and expend precious resources to create demand and then neglect the primary mechanism online to benefit from that effort?
SEO First From a Chronological Perspective
SEO should be one of your first considerations as part of the building process for any online destination. Websites, social sites, microsites, blogs, video or mobile sites, apps, and other online destinations all exist to inform, entertain, or connect, but in order to do that they have to be found.
Addressing SEO goals early in the process requires some valuable internal dialog to produce consensus on goals. SEO is about meeting audience content needs; answering their implied or typed questions. If you think through your SEO objectives in the very early stages of your build then the right technology choices will be made to ensure visibility, the right content will get created, and the right keywords will find their way into your site navigation and copy, making the project visible to search spiders and valuable to your visitors.
Building sufficient organic traffic as an early priority also allows you to better analyze site usage, audience patterns, and other important data points. You can then use that knowledge to better target all efforts to build better and more effective programs for your business goals.
SEO First From a Priority Perspective
Regularly paying attention to SEO means that your site is current; that content reflects the needs and wants of your audience. There is a penalty for stale and stagnant content in SEO that gives us an artificial push to do the right thing and prioritize the needs of our audience. There is also a credibility bonus from consumers for a natural listing that again incents us to use effective techniques in building online properties and to create relevant content.
SEO First From a Budgeting Perspective
Budgeting for a complex integrated online program has to weigh many factors, but SEO is foundational to the success of both brand building and direct marketing efforts. So many online sessions start at a search engine and so many people still type URLs into search boxes because they are conditioned to use search engines as a starting point. Allocating the budget to make sure you become part of the considered set should be a priority over other competing needs.
While SEO is not truly free (it takes time, expertise, and resources), the unpaid traffic flow is a continuing investment in the long-term value of an online property and contributes to the success of all your other efforts by amplifying their results. Print ads with a landing page listed, radio shout outs, TV commercials, online videos, even banner ads that go by in the blink of an eye and are almost never clicked directly all result in consumers performing searches later to further investigate whatever peaked their interest. If you do not cover your SEO bases, then your other marketing programs' effectiveness will be compromised, your budgets ill-utilized, and future efforts jeopardized.
"SEO first" should be a mantra that we all chant whenever the latest online programs come across our desks. Taking care of the basics has to come first and that approach will return multifold to the diligent optimizers out there.
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Robin is the CEO and cofounder of NetPlus Marketing Inc., a top 50 interactive agency established in 1996 to focus exclusively on online marketing and advertising best practices. Robin brings innovative strategy and a depth and breadth of marketing experience to the agency's practice and management. As one of the industry's pioneers, she is a driving force behind NetPlus Marketing's ongoing success with a diverse and discerning client base that considers online results critical to their business success.
Robin is a frequent speaker at national industry events, including ClickZ, internet.com, OMMA, Ad:Tech, SES, Online Marketing Summit, and Thunder Lizard conferences and is a sought-after resource for industry and business publications for her insight and advice on such topics as digital strategy, social media marketing, and behavioral targeting.
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