On any given list of tasks that people should master as part of their overall marketing strategy, search engine optimization is likely to fall near last place. This isn’t to say that people generally disregard its role in marketing, but rather that they tend to think of it as an afterthought – something that needs to be applied to a website after it has already established its brand identity and started cultivating an audience.
We think that’s wrong. Although we don’t wish to overcompensate by loudly celebrating the marketing potential of search engine optimization, we do think it behooves us to emphasize that it can actually play a significant role in building your brand, from a very early stage.
SEO/Marketing Order of Operations
To the extent that search engine optimization is about selecting the right keywords to focus on, there are two ways of approaching it. On one hand, you can direct your web services providers to do rigorous competitive research and figure out which keywords play best as part of your existing marketing strategy. But on the other hand, you can explore and fine-tune your marketing strategy in real time while playing around with keywords and letting both of these activities build off of each other in real time.
Neither one of these strategies is strictly right or wrong. If you’re starting out your online venture with a very clear sense of your brand identity, then it’s very likely you’ll want to go with the first option. If you maintain too much flexibility with search engine optimization, you might end up having to sacrifice aspects of your brand identity. And it’s understandable if that’s not something that you want to do unless setbacks in your marketing strategy make it clear that you have no other option.
If your brand identity is less well-established, however, a gradual approach to search engine optimization can help you to shape that identity over time. By prioritizing certain keywords over others, you may end up attracting certain audiences more than others. And as that happens, you may also find that audience expectations for your website also change.
It’s perfectly valid to start with a clear sense of who you are as a business and then try to attract the right audience after the fact. It’s just as valid to start attracting an audience first and then learn how to best cater to its needs and wants. Of course, this may involve changing your website’s design, altering your social media content, rescheduling posts, and developing different online partnerships.
With all that in mind, the potential marketing role of search engine optimization is yet another in our long list of reasons why a site’s web services provider should be able to handle a wide range of tasks, including web development, content management, formal advertising, and even SEO. However much that last item might trend toward the bottom of ranked lists of important web services, it cannot be left by the wayside if a site owner has any sense that their brand identity might change over time to accommodate new keywords and new audiences.
The process of adaptation can be dramatically sped up if the same team of professionals are applying new keywords, analyzing their effectiveness, and making those keywords fully mesh with the client’s website layout, social media content, ad placement, and so on. If SEO is either placed into a different set of hands or entrusted to a team that has relatively little experience in that area, there’s a strong potential for coordination to break down, taking brand identity along with it.
Subtle Insights, Subtle Changes
Even if you’re fully committed to your brand identity, a high degree of focus on search engine optimization is still justified, if not required. You may think that you have a strong intuitive sense of what your target audience is searching for, but there is probably a lot that can still be revealed to you by an SEO professional.
A multi-faceted web services provider should be able to run detailed analyses of your existing keywords as well as potential alternate or supplementary keywords, matching each of them to relevant demographics and also to other searches being conducted by the same users. Without altering the demographics you’re targeting, you can use the results of this analysis to better understand those demographics and what they want out of the product or service you’re selling.
As with a brand identity in flux, a firmly-established brand identity benefits from partnership with a web services provider who can take those insights and use them to shape and reshape a client’s website and social media profile. In that case, the changes are sure to be more subtle, so as to not risk the continuity of the brand. But when well-founded on SEO analysis, subtle changes to user interface can go a long way toward preserving and expanding customer relationships.
As Important a Task as Ever
We understand that many business owners start a venture with a clear sense of what they wish to accomplish, both financially and personally. We encourage that, but we also advice against allowing that strong sense of self to translate into excessive confidence in the tactics you plan to apply to your marketing.
In an era when search engine optimization is mostly a matter of creating good content and promoting it to the right people, it’s far too easy to write it off as something that is unimportant by virtue of being automatic. We’d advise against that, as well. Selecting and implementing the right keywords is still a nuanced process that is best entrusted to true professionals. As with many other professional services, its importance often becomes apparent only after someone has seen the consequences of its failure.
That failure can easily be avoided if you make search engine optimization a part of your marketing strategy from day one. By all means, make it known to your service provider what you think are the best keyword sets, but don’t tether yourself to any one phrase, audience, or strategy until you’ve seen the results of an analysis that takes all those things into account at once.