The rich and complex opportunities of the online world make life easier and harder at the same time. With so many channels, platforms, devices, and content formats, there’s a level of creative flexibility that we could barely have imagined just ten years ago. That’s great. The problem is the inevitable analysis paralysis — when you’re free to do anything, how can you pick something?
You could put all your chips in the PPC basket, flooding the digital landscape with ads spanning Google, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat. You could run advanced email marketing to build up customer loyalty. You could even take the influencer marketing route to gather referrals from top social media figures — but if you want to succeed in the long run, SEO is your way forward.
Yes, it’s true that SEO isn’t flashy or fast-acting, and it’s often frustrating (just look at how keywords have changed in recent years), but it’s the foundation of any long-term online sales strategy. Here’s how you can use it as a sales channel:
Write content featuring actionable keywords
Looking into keywords for other forms of marketing is a short-term activity. Take PPC, for instance — it scales incredibly quickly, but it needs to, because ad value fluctuates massively and keyword work that’s valuable today might be worthless tomorrow.
The same goes for influencer marketing or email marketing. Each influencer will have an ever-shifting field of influence that can come crashing down at any time, and every email marketing campaign uses a mailing list of customers that can reconsider in a second.
With these methods, whenever you start a new campaign, you must forget about what came before and start from scratch. Organic SEO, however, is stable enough to be a meaningful investment for specific terms. This is because you’re not dealing with specific pools of people — you’re dealing with everyone.
People will always search the internet extensively, and semantic matching ensures that relevant topics will be linked. All that is changing as time goes by is how they search (with the rise of mobile technology and voice searching, for instance) and in what circumstances.
And since search methods, all function fairly similarly, writing content that touches upon specific keywords in your niche should continue to reap benefits for years to come. Think about what content your prospective customers will want to see, and what will drive them to convert, then produce content that meets both criteria.
Focus on authority and consistency
I mentioned viewing organic traffic as an investment, and that isn’t simply because it’s stable — it’s also because steady and unshowy work can actually flourish in the organic traffic world. This is particularly the case if you operate in a field that demands a lot of trust from the searcher, and e-commerce is one such field (others are the legal and healthcare industries).
Social media platforms can be good for selling if you have the right kind of copy and presentation style, but decent isn’t good enough, because the second most prominent product ad on a page is unlikely to get many clicks at all. Because organic search is slower-paced, searchers can take a little more time to think about what they’re looking for and look past the most eye-catching titles and images to find quality.
As such, if you don’t think you can beat your competitors when it comes to showmanship, you might be able to surpass their consistency. Blog regularly, update regularly, and keep your website in good technical SEO condition for a long time, and Google may well come to see you as a better choice for the average consumer.
You must also ensure that your landing pages come across as authoritative. Include reviews, guarantees, testimonials, and endorsements from trustworthy companies. This will have a two-fold effect: helping your site rank better in Google, and making visitors more likely to trust it enough to place an order through it.
Use search information to learn user intent
In the other channels we’ve looked at, you are required to cede some control over what’s happening. For PPC, you set your PPC ads, choose your parameters, and leave the system to serve them as requested: all you can do is trust that it will do so. For influencer marketing, you don’t get to consider the context: viewer intent is unknown and unknowable.
And for email marketing, you do get to carefully anticipate intent and do some interesting things with customisation, but you’re dealing with a pool of contacts collected through other means, so the results are limited. With organic traffic, though, you have the chance to carefully consider searcher intent, write content to match, and see how it ranks for specific terms.
You then get to dig into your analytics and on-site search to match terms and find missed opportunities — which searches were actionable? At which points did you have chances to impress the searchers? You don’t get to 100% control how your products come across in SERPs, but you have more than enough to thrive.
And if you can see that people are reaching your site with the willingness to buy but not seeing what they’re looking for, you simply need to update your site to cater to their needs. Focus on matching what they find to what they want, and you’ll see a significant uptick in conversions.
Aim high, because you actually have a chance
The PPC field is a rough one for companies hoping to somehow compete with big businesses while lacking their massive budgets. It’s true that winning the top spot isn’t everything (especially given how much of a SERP now tends to go to ads), but you’ll often find that you’re priced out of gaining any traction on a halfway-common keyword, unable to get close to the front page.
Organic rankings, though, don’t rapidly shift: they’re tested and adjusted slowly to see how searchers react to different pages. If you can reach a point of having a solid position for a relevant keyword, that’s something that even a huge brand can’t simply take from you overnight — a sign of value that you can rely on.
Imagine your site being compared to the countless ecommerce stores up for grabs through online marketplaces, and put all the traffic charts in context. Most of those stores are driven by bursts of PPC activity — an approach that works really well for models such as dropshipping, but won’t create lasting value. Businesses with established search rankings will always be more valuable since they essentially get free traffic.
So perhaps the biggest thing to remember when you’re looking at SEO as a sales channel is that you shouldn’t settle for second place. When it comes to organic traffic, creativity and effort can get you where money can’t. And remember that it isn’t today’s sales that matter the most: it’s the sales you’ll get next year, and the year after that. Invest in the future through SEO and watch that investment pay off.
Because organic traffic allows you to reach pretty much anyone (whether they’ve bought from you before or never heard of you) with carefully-catered content, and benefit from that content indefinitely for free, it has the highest ROI by far of all these channels.
And though Google has the habit of changing things up, it remains the search avenue of choice for the most of the world, and that’s unlikely to change in the near future. Commit time and money to attracting organic traffic now, and you’ll continue to see positive results long after you’ve optimised your last title tag.