Most organizations approach digital marketing like a prospector exploring a cave with nothing but a candle:
They can see a little bit of what’s around them. They spot a promising keyword–like a glimmer of gold off in the dark–and head that way. Once that pans out–or doesn’t–they take another look around, spot a new shiny opportunity, and head for that.
Are they headed out of the cave? Deeper into the bowels of the earth? Are they on the verge of striking the mother lode–or about to stumble straight over the edge of a pit?
Let’s be honest: They really have no clue.
It’s an incremental, piecemeal approach. It seems responsible and “safe”; after all, you are “moving cautiously,” just a little at a time. After all: “Slow and steady wins the race.”
But this “incremental” approach usually ends up being costly in the long term–even if it doesn’t send you plummeting into a pit.
In this Golden Age of Digital Marketing, You Shouldn’t Be Groping Around in the Dark
To be fair, wandering around in the dark was once the norm in marketing. Advertising agencies did their best to gauge the success of a campaign, but the simple truth was that the tools were extremely crude: No one could really know how many people saw a print ad, sat through a TV commercial, read a billboard, or listened to a radio spot. Some of their assumptions were pretty fanciful.
(For example, for the purposes of selling ads, print publications once regularly claimed that their actual readership was 2.5 times the number of copies they shipped to subscribers. As late as the 1990s, some magazines claimed “pass-along rates” as high as 15 readers per copy sold. In case it can’t go without saying, there was very little data to substantiate any of this.)
Over time, marketing has obviously evolved, developing better tools and practices for planning campaigns and measuring success. Digital marketing is practically in a Golden Age: we can often trace a customer’s journey from the first time they saw one of your Google Ads, through the various pages of their visit to your website, to the exact page they were looking at when they decided to call one of your sales reps. We can delve into what your audience needs, the language they use to search for it, and the sort of content you need in order to distinguish yourself from the crowd.
Nonetheless, so many organizations and industries still choose to incrementally grope around in the dark.
Shining Light into the SEO Shadows
An “incremental” approach can seem cheaper–after all, you aren’t hiring anyone to do much of anything. But it’s usually extremely expensive in the long term, because you wind up building an extremely inefficient website–piecemeal and lacking in a strong guiding strategy. When you build a site in the dark, it’ll typically lack the right structure and content, and will be riddled with missed opportunities.
Thoughtful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is the key to a website that performs. Done well, it’s the bright light that throws everything in that cave into sharp contrast, letting you really see the “Landscape of Language” that surrounds your business. Then you can build a thoroughly optimized site–one that is organized around your customer’s journey as well as the key themes and topics surrounding your business.
A site built in this fashion will communicate to users and search engines alike that “we are experts in this space, and deserve your attention!” As a result, your website will rank higher–for more topics and keywords–and drive more visitors. Equally important, when those potential clients arrive, they aren’t showing up to some dim, cobbled-together warren of vague ideas. Instead, they find a clean, well lit place they are able to easily navigate–and thus appreciate what you have to offer them.
You simply do not get a well-optimized website by “chasing keywords” in the dark.