16. September, 2020

9+ Questions That Help Managers Think Strategically About SEO

Author avatar
Martin Petrov
Marketing @ Morningscore.io

Being a marketing manager or coordinator, you’ve probably already realized some of the challenges that we face when it comes to SEO.

All of thins knowledge however, serves you little to no purpose if you don’t put it into practice.

Sure, some of us might consider SEO not a viable option for now – and that’s understandable. That’s exactly why you need to think strategically about it – because sometimes it turns out that it’s just not the right time for it.

But for all of us who consider that it is the right time to start SEO, here’s some concrete tips on how you make this channel work for you – instead of you slaving over it with little to no results.

While by now you probably have a good idea of whether SEO is for you and it is the right time to do it now, some of you might still have some questions and need more information to make that decision / justification. So to aid you with that, we’ve also included questions and what to deduct from their answers on how to decide whether SEO is for you.

What Is Strategical Thinking In SEO Context?

First of all, what do i mean by thinking strategically about SEO. While I don’t want you to be an expert in it, the goal of this post is to clarify HOW to think about SEO – and therefore understand what’s being done and WHY.

That is, when a question comes up, you can make a decision – and more importantly justify it accordingly. Once again, I want to leave you knowing where to refer to for what information rather than turning you into an SEO expert.

By now you might be wondering – how much time do i need to spend on “justifying my decision” – and the good news are that you don’t need a lot. Most of us have worked long enough to know the state of the marketing in our current companies. You know how decisions are being made and the priorities considered both from an organizational point of view and from a resource availability point of view.

Prerequisites

First, let’s get this out of the way – there are predominantly 2 ways of looking at SEO that we need to clarify so that we’re as objective as possible.

A) SEO is super SIMPLE

Yes, at its core, SEO can be summarized to doing the bulk of the basics to get ahead – which includes making a keyword strategy, writing content, building links, writing alt tags, optimizing your website and so on. Now, without raising a lot of doubt in you, we NEED to say that it also CAN BE more than that. So while you shouldn’t

B) SEO is super HARD

Yes, this can definitely be the case in extreme scenarios – but don’t let the so called experts online convince you that you can’t do it on your own – or at least get to the point where you can understand the inputs and the reasoning behind them.

C) SEO is somewhere in the middle

So while you shouldn’t stress over how hard it is, you shouldn’t overlook simple things either. That is, because it takes so much time to work, you need to make sure you’re starting off the right foot – that is, at least slightly plan around what you want to achieve and where this will get you. This way, you can literally avoid wasting your time – if it turns out that for example the keywords you targeted are not the right ones and they don’t bring you relevant traffic.

So as per usual, the answer to most typical black-and-white fallacies, we can conclude that SEO is somewhere in the middle – neither too hard nor too easy IN MOST CASES.

Actual representation of the SEO Difficulty Scale

Previous Post: “7 Problems Marketing Managers Face With SEO”

Learn More: “How Morningscore Helps Managers With SEO” 

How To Think Strategically About SEO

Without further ado, let’s look at what the specific questions you can and should answer to determine whether investing at SEO (at this time) is for you.

1. Are people searching for my products?

Q: Can I pull people in towards my product or do I have to push my message onto them? Can I even find search terms that customers use when searching for my product?

A: Marketing is like a toolbox – and like in any toolbox you need to understand the purpose and place for each tool. That is, if your product is brand new and unique, people don’t yet know how to search for it – which means the search demand for it is very little, if none at all. This means that some products out there are best sold when they are “pushed” to an audience first rather than expecting to “pull” people in through search marketing.

There are more details that come into play in this equation so read on.

But in general, the first question you need to answer is whether your product has the potential to be found through search.

can i pull people in towards my product or do i have to push my message onto them
or do i have a novelty product that no one is aware exists

Example: Custom cat portraits have low search demand so it might not be viable to spend your time to do SEO. On the other hand, however, selling running shoes through SEO is a great idea (with a little caveat, do read on).

Tip: Use a simple tool to find and quickly determine whether those keywords are being searched for.

2. Can I compete on the “search market”?

Q: Is the competition already too strong? How do I know I even stand a chance here?

A: Here’s the caveat to Question #1. This is a question with which you will hit two rabbits with one bullet [proper comparison here]. Essentially, what you’re asking yourself here and what you’re looking to answer is “Are there strong websites that rank for my keywords and can I outcompete them?” This also correlates and builds upon the first question – it’s not enough to only look at it as if it’s possible but whether it’s also doable to even begin with SEO. Here’s a classic meme that comes to mind:
[Jurassic Park meme your scientist were so focused]

Example & Tip:
To understand your competition, you need two things:
– Your judgment – that is, typing your keyword in Google and manually going through the pages to get a feel of how developed your competitors are. Do they have tons of content? Do they have great websites? Are they very structured in what they do?
– Link Data – using tools to see how strong both their websites in general are AND how strong the individual pages that appear for your keyword are. That is, if you search for “CRM”, you will see that Salesforce has both a very strong website (aka domain) and a very strong page that is optimized around the word CRM.

Previous Post: “7 Problems Marketing Managers Face With SEO”

Learn More: “How Morningscore Helps Managers With SEO” 

3. Do we need sales now or can we “safely” do SEO?

Q: Can we afford to not get sales through SEO in the next 3-6 months?

A: This is a very important question to answer. I notice that most SMBs usually (especially those that are ran by people with no previous marketing experience*) turn to SEO when several other things have failed. It is usually fueled by an underlying fear or uncertainty that they will not generate enough revenue in the near future (or already aren’t). It’s important to consider that SEO takes time to develop its full potential – so even if you do everything absolutely correct from the get go and you spend $100,000 on it today, it will still take 3-6 months at the very least for you to see the results.

On the other hand you might be working with startup founders who are overly optimistic about the results. Yes, SEO can be great, but again, if the startup is in “survival mode”, it’s best you focus on short- to mid-term sales rather than long-term SEO inputs until the company can safely dedicate time and resources for SEO.

Tip: Again, Google Ads (AdWords) can be the perfect channel for you if your product is a great fit for search engines. It’s actually sometimes used to test the effect of SEO for certain products before the actual investment in SEO is made. That is, it can give you the quick short-term inputs you’re looking for while still offering knowledge / providing you with the opportunity to learn whether SEO will be good for you.

*You know, as they say, “First time founders are focused on product. Second time founders are focused on distribution.”

[picture here first time founders quote]

4. In what timeframe will this pay off?

Q: When can I expect to already see results? When will the site start ranking? When should we see some potential customers come in?

A: That’s a great segway from our previous question since we’re already in the mindspace about how long results can take. This is a very tough question to answer purely from SEO point of view because the answer is very much ingrained in what you sell and how long it takes to sell that product.

Tip: Considering you do everything right from the start, the best answer I can give you here from a technical perspective is this:

– You will start seeing some changes in 2-3 months – your pages will start fluctuating and climb a few positions
– You will start seeing some results in ~6 months from when you start – by now you should start seeing some traffic
– You will see the full effects if you regularly work on it will come in ~12-18 months.

5. How long do I need to do SEO for?

Q: Can I do SEO for just a few months and then let it go on autopilot? Or do I need to constantly invest the time and money to be better?

A: Another great segway from the last question. Unfortunately, the answer is again yes and no. In theory, you could do SEO for a little while and then let it run on its own. In practice, however, Google is much more demanding and you will generally need to be better as time goes. That is, not only does Google evolve their algorithms and change how pages are ranked, but also on average, your competitors are getting stronger with time as well.

6. Where in the funnel would SEO come into play?

Q:

A: Now, not being able to compete for your high-value target purchase keywords does not mean you cant get any traffic at all. That is, you could still be able to pull people that are in different parts of the funnel through SEO – such as informational SEO – where they are not necessarily ready to buy – but with a little persuasion you could succeed.

Most of you are already familiar with what a funnel is, but I find it’s very appropriate to showcase it here again.
[image of AIDA funnel with keywords next to each (A = what is X; I= is X important X; D=how to do X; A=buy X online;]

Tip: Essentially, you can see that you should think about keywords with an extra layer – which can be summed up as the “searcher intent” behind them. When they search for “What is something” their intent is “I’ve just become aware of this, or want to become aware of this” and when they search for “How to do something”, their intent is to learn meaning they are interested.

So you can see that the lower we get in the funnel, the more concrete we get about the sale – and the more willing other companies are to compete for those keywords. This means that if your niche is overcrowded and you can’t find an opening for purchase-ready keywords, you could take it a step further and drive traffic and interest from keywords that fall higher in the funnel.

bottom-of-funnel purchase-ready keywords are harder to rank for; middle-of-funnel

Previous Post: “7 Problems Marketing Managers Face With SEO”

Learn More: “How Morningscore Helps Managers With SEO” 

7. How long is my sales cycle?

Q: Can I actually track and showcase results on the short-term as well?

A: Sure, long-term SEO effects are great. But how do you make that tangible for your boss or the board on the short term – to be able to explain as to why you’re spending 5-10 hours a week on writing posts?

Usually, it’s harder to measure the results from SEO if your B2B sales cycle is very long. This builds upon the previous points that you need to understand what the data in front of you means and how much you can trust it. A very effective solution to work with here that most agencies will go for is to pick a “soft” conversion that you can measure on the short term.

Example: Here are some ways of tracking short-term conversions:

– Signs up for a newsletter / makes an inquiry
– Stays on a page for longer than X minutes (e.g. 2 minutes) – they are more engaged than the average readers
– Has read posts in series (part of your funnel) – e.g. Post #1 where they become aware and post #2 where you spark their interest

Now, again, looking at it from a holistic point of view, you shouldn’t look at SEO as its own channel. That is, SEO works great in combination of other channels as well. For example, if you can’t track short term conversions — or your customers drop off without taking any actions on the site that are valuable, you can fire custom Facebook events (ask a developer) to show regretting ads to those people — and ultimately get them to a “soft” conversion.

8. How can I set goals in SEO?

Q: What are the goals? How much SEO should I do? When do I know I’ve done enough?

A: This seems harder than it actually is. The idea here is for you to put a $ value behind each activity your customers do on your site. Here, let me show you how:

Write down all the types of conversion your users have on your site. For example, signs up to your email list, buys an entry product, watches one of your videos.

From there, you can divide the $ by the total number of people that complete that conversion = if you earn $1000 a month, divide that by the 2500 customers in your email list. What you get is $0.4 per customer. And here’s your KPI!

Now, do the same for your traffic / visitors – what are they worth.

The idea here is clearly that, the lower we go in the funnel, that is, the more demanding a task is to complete, the fewer people will complete it – and therefore each following KPI / number will on average be higher than the one above.

9. How much ROI can I expect

Q: What am I going to get out of SEO? Can I expect sales directly from it? Will it be profitable to do SEO?

A: This is a tough question to answer without using some tools. To help you, here’s a calculator I made in excel that does exactly that. As a side note, this is “literally” what our product does (of course, much more simplified). If that sounds cool, check it out by clicking here (opens a Google Sheets document).

Here’s the bread and butter of this exercise – you basically want to see how much potential for traffic you have – and then multiply that by the average order value (total revenue / # of order). That would mean, you should figure out:

  • which keywords you want to rank for
  • how much monthly search volume these keywords have
  • which SERP position you can expect to rank on (different positions bring different % of the traffic)

From these three points, you can figure out the potential traffic number you will get, once you rank for those keywords. For the next step, you need:

  • conversion rate
  • product price

Now, take the traffic number and multiply it by your conversion rate. This will give you how many sales you should expect. The last step is to multiply the number of sales with the product price so that you can see how much revenue you can generate from just those keywords.

Tip: If you’ve followed the steps above, you would have calculated how much return you will gain compared to your revenue. To figure out what profit that relates to, all you need to do is multiply that revenue number by your profit margin in %.

Previous Post: “7 Problems Marketing Managers Face With SEO”

Learn More: “How Morningscore Helps Managers With SEO” 

Other common Q&A that can be helpful:

– How much time a week can I spend on SEO?

It’s important to get clear about how much input you can generate because that directly correlates with how much output you will get out of SEO. As we mentioned just above, SEO is something you do regularly and not a one-time project – but it’s best that you devote more time upfront.

Here’s the best kept secret in the world that agencies don’t want you to know. A few years ago when I had just started as a consultant in online marketing, I had a discussion with my boss at the time where he told me something along the lines of “expensive agencies are not worth it in terms of SEO.” And I believe that still holds true, considering we discussed it “back when things were simpler.” The reason for that – and how that can help you think about managing your time when doing SEO – is that SEO itself is much more about putting in the hours rather than having an extreme level of knowledge and understanding. Regardless of small factors, a good article cannot take less than 1-2-3 hours to be fully done. So the bottom line is, when it comes to SEO, the nitty gritty is what makes the difference – and those inputs take time to produce.

– Can I outsource anything?

To build up on the point above, now you understand that you can do just fine with a smaller agency or consultant and you don’t need the Best-In-Town™ optimization experts. Now, I’m definitely not saying you should get a collage student to do the time-consuming part for you, especially if you have absolutely no experience in SEO whatsoever since that’s like shooting yourself in the leg. At the very minimum, you need someone who has a good idea of you need to go and how you can get there.

Now, one thing I would probably advise you to outsource is Link Building. This part REALLY takes time and effort to get done (not to mention to get done in the right way) so the ROI on that is absolutely present from the start. If have no idea what we’re talking about and you’re interested in that, I strongly advise you to have a consultation call with an agency to understand more.

– Do I have access to a developer and/or designer?

Usually, when business come around to work with SEO, they realize there are some (often minor) changes they want on the website. Hopefully, that’s not the case for you

Tip: Having been on both sides of the table, that is having both agency and SMB experience, if you’re really just starting out with SEO, my best advise is to get an SEO analysis from an agency upfront. This way you will A) Save time; B) Understand better how they think about SEO; C) See what they would focus on when they HAVE TO deliver results for you; D) Find any gaps in your knowledge – which are all factors that will help you succeed

Do I have access to a developer?

In general, don’t worry about big tech issues – usually your website is “good enough” out-of-the-box as every web developer understands what needs to be done to ensure it shows up in Google. However, considering you’re about to get your hands dirty with some more technical things, it’s good to at least consider who you can turn to if bigger and more complex problems appear.

Tip: If you have an in-house developer who is easy to reach, you could also discuss SEO with them as web developers are nowadays usually required to have some knowledge about this from their educations.

– Do I have access to a designer?

If you need images done for your blogs, and creating such is not your strong side, it’s often best to find a way to source that from somewhere else. Whether you have a designer internally / externally or you use free stock photo websites, it’s best to have an idea of how you will approach this, since it can be a roadblock later down the line – which will only slow you down – and possibly discourage you from working with SEO.

Tip: Please don’t think about images as “masterpieces.” If you’re a marketing manager in an SMB, there’s plenty of other important things to consider – so it’s perfectly fine if the quality of those images is not 100%.

– Do I have access to a content writer?

In the beginning, I usually recommend you do that yourself since you will get a very good idea about what is required. However, it’s also realistic to think about potentially outsourcing that to someone who is more familiar with the process.

Takeaways

So now you have the main Q&A when it comes to thinking strategically about SEO as a Marketing Manager.

It’s important to mention that while this is not a comprehensive list of all the things to consider, it’s good enough for someone who doesn’t actively work in SEO. If you’re more experienced up to the advanced or expert level, you will consider other important (more technical) aspects of ranking a page. But for now, we don’t need to focus on those because the goal for us is to justify whether we will get the results we expect (and how to estimate what results to expect).

The last thing I want to leave you with is that SEO seems like a “multivariate equation” (which it technically is), but the bulk of this equation, the main factors that affect the output can be summed up to 3-4 points:

– Keywords (Onpage)

– Website Health (Onpage)

– Technical SEO (Onpage)

– Links (Off-page)

Once you understand that and can answer the questions above, you’ll be prepared to tackle it heads on.

If you missed the first post in this series, the “7 Problems Marketing Managers Face With SEO” you can find it by clicking on the link.

Don’t want to do all this? Sure, click here to see exactly how Morningscore does that for you.

GET A 14-DAY FREE TRIAL

Just enter your site in the field and you're good to go!