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    As a C-Suite executive, you’re busy. You’ve spent all week considering the costs and benefits of potential actions within your organization to identify the best solutions for your business. Your inbox is full of unread emails, your phone’s voicemail is full, and there are fires to put out throughout the office. Being busy is expected, as you’re responsible for directing your organization’s financial activities and increasing efficiency. No biggie. So, what is search engine optimization (SEO), and why should you care?

    What Is SEO?

    SEO is important to your organization and can help it grow. Investing time in optimizing your site and its content so people can find it online through organic search results can help your organization increase leads, sales, and audience. On average, 71% of the clicks on search result pages happen in the organic search results on page 1, making organic search the leader for traffic to your website. About 46% of those clicks are on result positions 1 and 2.

    But what is traffic if it doesn’t convert? Just a vanity metric. Organic traffic does convert, though, and at a high percentage. The overall conversion rate for organic traffic is 16%, and it varies depending on your industry, ranging from 10%–20%.

    SEO is multifaceted, so there isn’t just one way to the top. It’s an ongoing effort that has its highs and lows and is constantly changing. Here are a few key things you should know about SEO.

    Ranking for Targeted Keywords Is Outdated

    Search engines are constantly evolving, and search result pages are ever-changing. The same search by two different people can deliver different search results. This is because many search engines, especially Google, are including localized search results that may be different depending on the device or the user’s search history.

    With the boost in mobile searches, users are now using more naturally spoken searches such as “what is the best digital marketing reporting tool for my mid-size company,” instead of just “digital marketing reporting tool.” With these naturally spoken, long-tail keyword searches, a user may be seeking more opinion articles than product pages.

    Don’t concern yourself so much with rankings for all keywords, and don’t measure success or failures by rankings. Measure success on metrics that matter, such as the number of leads and the leads to sales.

    SEO Still Requires Link Building…But Not Like It Used To

    Links are still important for SEO, but search engines have learned that not all links are equal. In the past, it was OK to get as many links from as many different websites as possible. Then, by having those links, you would be likely to rank higher in search engines.

    Now Google requires high-quality links from industry-related web pages, meaning links for Joe Bob’s Hamburger Joint won’t help your digital marketing tool.

    Additionally, you aren’t able to build links as you were before. The best links are earned from high-quality and industry-related websites by creating content that they would like to link to.

    SEO Is Now More Work Than Ever

    Modern day SEO includes researching, creating, marketing, and analyzing in many different ways. If your SEO firm is just generating a report of rankings and traffic for you, then you aren’t spending your money wisely. Instead, your team should be spending their time:

    • researching different audiences, keywords, and content,
    • creating content that would interest that audience and target that keyword group,
    • promoting that content through owned media channels and possibly paid media, and
    • analyzing performance and improving on it next time.

    This isn’t a one-and-done kind of effort either. There may be times when the results aren’t as impressive as predicted, but a good SEO firm would review the campaign and identify what went wrong, and improve on it for next time.

    SEO Is Not a Short-Term Effort

    Try thinking of SEO as a semi truck. It takes a while for it to pick up speed, but once it does, it’s tough to slow down. There may be small, immediate upticks in analytics on some sites, but the real difference comes months down the line. If you want to see immediate results, try paid ads for quick wins. Where SEO really pays off, however, is in the long run.

    SEO Yields Data

    SEO has data behind it. But if your team or SEO firm are talking to you about canonical tags or on-page optimization, they just don’t know what language you speak—they’re talking about data but it’s not applicable to your bottomline. If this happens, it may be enough reason to let them go, especially if they aren’t producing the results you are looking for.

    SEO can increase leads with on-page optimization, as this can increase the click-through-rate and generate more traffic. When your site generates more traffic from its audience, it converts more leads, which then become sales. Plus, SEO has long-term benefits, so it can eventually decrease paid advertising spend while still increasing leads.

    It isn’t your job to remember what data comes from SEO, but know that if the company isn’t speaking your language, it probably isn’t as skilled or as seasoned as you need.

    SEO Benefits from Marketing Automation

    SEO benefits from marketing automation by taking SEO-generated leads and marketing directly to them. This is done by sending automated emails and responses to them, potentially with other content that may interest them. Based on the lead’s engagement, they will be scored so your sales team can target qualified leads.

    With organizations moving their digital marketing efforts more toward creating content, optimizing website performance, and developing new features, don’t let SEO be an afterthought. Organic traffic is still valuable, and SEO can help by increasing rankings, traffic, and leads from your website.