In my last article, “The New Schools of Thought in SEO: Algorithm Chasers vs. Audience Pleasers,” I introduced the concept of Search Experience Optimization as an alternative to the classic search engine optimization. However, there was a subtle point that I glossed over that I feel I should discuss a little more, because it can be vital for online success – democratizing SEO.
Many companies think that if they just hire enough SEO experts for their online marketing team, they’ll be assured of success. There is a nasty, pervasive belief in many companies that SEO is an activity that resides with one team or one department, and that all organic search success is derived exclusively from that team. Many companies that follow that philosophy still measure their online success with the classic three metrics: keyword ranking, organic traffic and revenue.
It makes sense in the classical model of SEO. Better keyword rankings lead to more traffic, which leads to revenue. The problem with this classic model is that it assumes online users are merely automatons that do what they’re expected to do. It’s just a matter of percentages. Keyword A receives an average of X searches per month. Position 1 in organic ranking receives N% click-through rate, which results in Z visits. From that, we can expect C conversions with an average order value of $P, resulting in $R revenue per month for Keyword A.
The human element is removed from the equation. It assumes that the only controllable variable is keyword ranking and this isn’t the only flaw with this model.
Here are just a few problems with the Classical Model of SEO Metrics:
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When you understand how the classic model of SEO metrics is broken, you begin to realize that online success is affected by more than just one team or department in an organization. As a result, you may realize that SEO isn’t the siloed practice that we thought it was.
Let’s take apart the classic model and show how different teams within an organization, outside of the SEO team, affect the search experience.
You may be thinking, “There’s no way we can affect the search volume for our keywords.” You may be right when it comes to generic head terms. However, you’d also be forgetting about brand-related terms as well as terms for which your company has cornered the market.
I imagine that the search volume for “Twitter” was close to nil prior to that company’s launch in 2006 or their official announcement at the 2007 South-by-Southwest Interactive (SXSWi) event. I would also guess that the terms “tweet” and “microblogging” had a much lower search volume prior to that as well. Since they created a compelling brand and cornered the market on micro-blogging, they affected the total search volume of those related keywords.
So, who affects search volume?
There’s more to ranking well in the search engines than just the activities your SEO team can undertake. Rank can be affected by the overall domain strength of your site, which can channel valuable link equity down to your deepest pages. Content relevance and user engagement can also greatly affect and improve your rankings. Great page titles and meta-descriptions are not enough.
Who in your organization can affect rankings?
As I mentioned before, there are several external factors involved with click-through rate percentages on organic listings, from user search-intent, brand-vs.-non-brand terms, and search engine result page (SERP) configurations, and many of these factors are out of your control. However, there are ways you can try to improve CTR outside of the standard modifications to page titles and meta-descriptions.
Here are the teams that can help improve CTR:
There are other metrics to consider before the conversion, such as dwell time and bounce rate, which show your pages’ stickiness factor. However, conversion rates are a great reflection of the search experience. It answers the questions: did the user find what they were looking for? Did the content on the page answer the promise made at the search engine level to the user’s query? But there are several other factors that add up to a solid conversion rate.
Here are how your non-SEO teams affect conversion rate:
The touchpoints listed above are just a few of the areas in the search experience where you’ll need the efforts of more than just a seasoned SEO team for solid online success. Some of the most successful companies are the ones that involve SEO methodologies and practices at all levels of their organizations.
Each team in a democratized organization can understand the impact they have on the search experience, leaving the SEO team free to focus on site audits, reporting, strategy, continuing education and disseminating any new information to the rest of the organization. This is shown in the diagram below.
This approach is vital to the philosophy of Search Experience Optimization. SEO that isn’t scalable can be doomed to failure. In order to scale, a company can keep hiring more and more SEO experts, or they can adopt the search experience optimization mindset organizationally. If you have unlimited funds, by all means, choose the former. SEOs are usually happy to have more opportunities. However, if you’d like to minimize operating expenditures while improving your success online, democratizing SEO can steadily move you in that direction.
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