SEO in 2023 - Channel Observations

As we all know one of the key difficulties between the two search channels is the visibility of cause and effect. With Google's ‘secret sauce’ for web rankings being a closely guarded secret for years and only small cryptic clues denoting greater or less than values SEO remains hard to quantify. 

Adversely comparing this with PPC where actions, results, spending and a host of other useful metrics are updated live and can be easily measured over business or calendar periods, the results often speak for themselves. However, here in lies the dichotomy of search. Without heading down the capitalist interrogation of why Google would qualify financial spending in such a meticulous and robust way and time invested into the site would not be, leaves a number of thoughts to ponder on the present and future. Around that polymorphic of disciplines; SEO.

  1. 1. SEO results have been well documented as improving many key metrics for sites ranging from Ecommerce to B2B and everything in between. However, with limited ‘upfront’ results SEO strategy is a twofold operation; first convincing the stakeholders that your efforts are the best opportunities to increase their core metrics. Second is actually convincing them that the long-term benefits of a robust organic structure will pay dividends in the long run.. in other words, SEO actually works with limited relevant evidence. SEO then becomes an exercise in credibility and confidence earned through experience, for at least 3-6 months, then ya better start getting results Chuck.
  2. 2. ‘If you get it right and robust once is there a lot more to do?’ This is the question I am not often asked but is occasionally floated by an efficiency-driven digital marketer or project manager. There is an element of truth in this. If, in an ideal world a stakeholder or client was migrating a site and involved SEO from the start of the project (a bugbear of mine is being whistled in at halftime), and the CMS and tech stack had been chosen with SEO in mind. Add to this working to a realistic timeline and SEO traffic retention and growth was communicated as an equal, if not exceeding priority to digital experience, then maybe ongoing work would be limited. 

    However, as I rounded the corner on my 25th migration (silver anniversary) none of these have ever, all been perfect. It would be unrealistic to expect this. Not to mention that Google changes the rules, not as often as the Penguin, Pirate, Panda era (if you know you know) but still enough to keep the game fresh. However, given the opportunity a migration/replatorm represents, I believe that it would be prudent to give more power to SEO to plan and execute more robust solutions within the development cycles to reduce ongoing work, until the next major overhaul… looking at you AI SERPs.
  4. 3. Omnichannel is the way. *insert nodding Mandolorian GIF*. Whilst this term often has digital marketers recoiling and hissing, starting with the basics, PPC has the ability to brand bid on SEO terms. SEO does not have an innate opportunity to ‘steal’ traffic from the other channels. However, at a very basic level great SEO campaigns feed SEO campaigns with considerations for negative keywords and identify areas where they just cannot get traction, for whatever reason. Similarly top performing PPC data can be used to focus keyword development and structural efforts and reduce reliance on paid rankings for then terms as well as giving unique competitive insights. 
  5. There are lots more ways the channels can work harmoniously but keyword sharing is a foundation and one you definitely shouldn’t pass on if you can bear the smugness of the PPC wherever you are.
  7. 4. SEO is far easier to say than to do. Far too many people have sharpened their verbal arsenal when it comes to SEO, with eloquent analogies, polished case studies, and verbose explanations of risks vs rewards. But really SEO is about execution, putting the work in and getting your hands dirty, or managing dirty hands at the very least. 
  8. To constantly create audits, make observations and share insights without an execution plan is the equivalent of banging the table, telling your mates at the pub what you would have told your boss if you weren’t a big old wuss.