How well integrated is your organic search?

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To help prompt you to consider your approach to organic search integration, Dr. Dave Chaffey gives some practical tests you can apply to review your approach to SEO in a series of questions. 

How well integrated is your organic search?

I think organic search is unique amongst digital channels for its complexity, since to succeed it requires so many different disciplines to be integrated. In my experience, businesses that compete using organic search have succeeded in managing this complexity and integrating the different disciplines needed for success.

To help prompt you to consider your approach to organic search integration, in this article I’ll give some practical tests you can apply to review your approach to SEO in a series of questions.

Throughout the time I have been working with ClickThrough Marketing we have followed an integrated approach to search marketing for our clients which has helped deliver consistent results. To learn about our current approach in the current media climate check out our upcoming webinar 'Why integrated organic search is crucial to your strategy in 2023'.

Q. Do you have a broad scope for managing SEO activities?

Traditionally Search Engine Optimisation was seen by many as a technical discipline with a technical audit often the starting point for projects to improve SEO. While this shouldn’t be neglected, and naturally we still perform these audits, today most larger business sites are set up in Google Search Console so it's clear which pages are;

  • crawled,
  • in the index,
  • pass Google’s Core Web Vitals
  • and are contributing visits or conversions via mobile or desktop platforms.

For me, technical SEO is a more foundational factor in organic search, not a direct success factor or performance driver, which we will talk about later. It's essential for it to be there, and should be seen as the first block in terms of driving organic performance in an overall organic strategy.

With many businesses now talking about managing ‘organic search’ rather than SEO there is naturally less focus on the technical side. Instead, there is more focus on the true success factors which are building a reputation based on your content and PR.

As our webinar will show, Clickthrough improve organic search for our clients, by integrating SEO with content strategy and PR in order to create more effective content that achieves engagement and attracts links.

Q. Is organic search a collaborative activity across teams and agencies?

Integration can become more of a challenge in larger organisations with multiple teams or multiple agencies. It’s possible that there may be different teams or different people working on organic search, paid search, website content and usability. If processes aren’t integrated, then performance will be sub-optimal. A capable organisation will seek to integrate teams through:

  • Agreeing overall goals for organic search based on KPIs for Volume, Quality, Value and Cost of visits, not just Volume

  • Defining specific targets for different people and teams, e.g. around volume and quality of content, links and the impact this delivers

  • Reviewing performance and corrective action regularly as a team

  • Ensuring organic search is given the priority and investment it requires in each team

Q. Do you obsess over E-E-A-T?

If you manage search, doubtless you will know about E-A-T which summarises Google’s recommendations for producing quality content based on Expertise, Authority and Trust. When Google launched (yes, I remember this from 1998, exciting times!), citations or links from other sites were the algorithmic basis for assessing this. A more recent innovation is thought to be evaluation of the dwell time or engagement on a site, which is based on the quality of content itself.

Google’s published Quality Raters guidelines have emphasised these factors for many years now and if you take a look at them it shows the importance of both quality content and experiences, authoritative writers. This highlights the importance of considering who you partner with in your communications since working with publishers and acknowledged writers with an established reputation will help you boost your authority through a ‘halo effect’.

For completeness, note that a new, somewhat ugly, E has been introduced to the acronym as Google announced in this December 2022 blog about E-E-A-T — or “Double-E-A-T,” as they call it.

Does your business have a content marketing strategy?

This is a good, simple test of whether you have an integrated approach to content and media. Of course, content fuels all digital marketing channels, but you need quality content to compete. Unless you have a strategy, it’s likely that there is a piecemeal approach to content creation and the content quality probably isn’t sufficient to compete.

The Content Marketing Institute regularly reviews the state of content marketing practice for B2C and B2B brands. This table from their latest research is useful for benchmarking your approach against the most successful companies who:

  • Have a documented content marketing strategy
  • Invest sufficiently in content marketing (though, in the spirit of fully integrated marketing, I don’t advocate more than 50% of your overall budget, unless that includes ‘content distribution’)
  • Measures content performance accurately

Do you have keyword-level reporting combining organic and paid search?

Most businesses proactively managing digital marketing will have top-level monthly goals for organic search showing the amount of traffic and conversions which they can report against. These should generally exclude brand or navigational search terms since there is no skill in ranking for these, but tracking these separately is still important to maintain visibility on rankings (for brands struggling to secure position 1) and ensure a good view on paid versus organic search performance, so media budget can be used most effectively. To have an integrated strategy requires that you know how different groups of keywords or clusters reflecting users’ search behaviour perform between organic and paid. Completing a search gap analysis can help adjust the balance between investment in paid and organic search.

How did you score against these questions? If the answer to the majority was yes then kudos to you, you have an integrated organic strategy using these criteria at least. If not, I hope some of the pointers and what you’ll discover in the webinar will help you improve your integration.

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