This column is a chat with Vertical Leap’s head of SEO, Dave Colgate, about the state of the SEO industry at the moment, how the pandemic has affected SEO investment and his advice to companies who want to get ahead in 2021.
What is the state of the SEO industry at the moment?
Combining both the internal sentiment at our agency and external sentiment of the industry overall, I feel like we have recovered from being in resilience mode and are now seeing companies starting to really push forward.
Different industries are in different states when it comes to SEO. For example, hospitality is almost in a state of hibernation – keeping the lights on while we wait for winter to pass – whereas other industries are flourishing. The past year has pushed SEO as a discipline higher up the marketing budget food chain because in some ways, certainly in B2C, the channel has been forced into the marketing light by demand. In other ways it feels like SEO is being explored as a previously untapped method of driving revenue and is perhaps in a phase of ‘discovery’ by some brands, again driven by changing customer behaviours. The SEO industry certainly does not have it easy, but our position is a unique one and positive overall.
How have different industries reacted through the pandemic with their SEO investments?
Many industries have been impacted by the pandemic in terms of their investment in SEO, particularly hospitality. We have also seen the retail industry negatively impacted with walk-in trade dramatically decreasing. However, the online aspects of many of these businesses have been growing. Therefore, their need to invest in channels which have arguably more demand than ever due to changing consumer behaviours has increased alongside that. Engineering, energy, insurance, real estate and technology industries have all demonstrated healthy signs of investment in SEO with their need to capture online traffic remaining steady or growing.
What advice would you give to companies thinking about investing in SEO but feeling nervous about spending money given the pandemic is not yet over?
An investment in SEO has more long-term benefits than short term. It helps set the foundations for growth in your organic channel allowing you to take advantage of growing online demand for your products and services. This allows your business to be more digitally robust and capable of being resilient to change and faster to adapt.
Regardless of what the pandemic has in store for us over the coming year, an investment in SEO is well placed. For examples, if your business is currently flourishing but as the pandemic ends your demand may decrease, investing in SEO will mean you take advantage of the current strong trading conditions but also position yourself ahead of the game to capture the lion’s share when demand does decrease.
If you are a business that is suffering from much lower-than-normal demand, investing in SEO now will help you widen that net of traffic helping you achieve a larger bite of the pie. Once trading conditions do return to a more normal level, you will be well positioned to continue moving forward at a more advantaged pace due to the effort you have already invested.
What new SEO trends should marketers keep an eye on in 2021?
There are some significant technical considerations heading our way as SEO specialists (particularly the new page experience ranking signal)) and there are two things in particular you need to be thinking about:
- Is my content good enough for my customers and better than my competitors?
- Is the page experience I am offering my customers the best it can be and better than my competitors across all devices?
As always, your customers are interested in accessing useful information that helps them make a decision as quickly as possible and being treated to a pleasant experience when accessing that information. My advice would be to focus on these two areas as a priority.
What is your top piece of SEO advice in general for companies?
If you want to grow traffic, grow your content. Content is what brings people to your website, whatever way you look at it. If you have products, services or anything in between, content about those products, about those services, about your business and industry is what enables customers to find you and buy from you. Ensure that every aspect of that content is the absolute best it can be.
Dave Colgate is head of SEO at Vertical Leap.