Webinar Recap: SEO Perception vs. Reality Unpacking the truth to successful SEO

When two of the finest Americaneagle.com experts join forces to host a webinar on search engine optimization (SEO), you know you’ll be walking away with valuable insights and tips. 

Courtney McKeown, Digital Marketing Director, and Tony Stehn, Head of Digital Marketing Sales, captivated our clients with their recent presentation on the misconceptions surrounding SEO. They also set out to answer common SEO questions including how long does it take to see results and how to calculate your return on investment (ROI).

With expertise spanning over 25+ years, Americaneagle.com has helped customers create a cohesive and creative long-term strategy to drive traffic and conversions through multiple channels, including SEO. We also constantly try to educate our audiences on digital marketing best practices, particularly through our webinar series.

This article is a recap of the lessons that Courtney and Tony recently shared with our audience, focusing on practical advice that will help you get a better grasp of SEO and its capabilities. 

What Exactly is SEO?

Before we dive into the webinar’s main takeaways, let’s revisit the definition of SEO.

SEO is the process of optimizing a website’s visibility in search engines with the goal of boosting its organic traffic. The logic is simple: if customers can’t find you when they search, your company is missing out on a lot of sales opportunities.

However, a handful of false perceptions tend to hold people back from capitalizing on the power of SEO. Our digital marketing experts made sure to help the webinar attendees understand just how much truth lies behind these widespread SEO beliefs:

Perception #1: SEO No Longer Works

Organic traffic might look different now than it did two decades ago, but it is still the top channel for the majority of businesses, explained Courtney and Tony. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • 68% of online experiences begin with a search engine and 53% of all website traffic comes from organic search, according to BrightEdge.
  • $79.27 billion is the estimated amount brands invested in SEO services in 2020 in the USA, discovered Borell Associates.
  • $5k+ per month is the average monthly amount that most businesses are spending on SEO, showed Moz.

The organic traffic channel is stronger than ever and there’s nothing better than a trip down memory lane to reflect on how SEO has evolved. Imagine it’s 1998 and Google looks rather simplistic. Internet users are barely noticing because they are more familiar with other search engines such as Yahoo and Ask Jeeves. Google came to be the search engine powerhouse that we all know thanks to Yahoo, whose search engine results said: “powered by Google.” As Google’s popularity skyrocketed, web developers started decoding the algorithm to rank their sites higher in the results.

People played the system using what we now know as “blackhat SEO”: keyword stuffing, spinning content, blog comment spam, buying thin, low-quality links, building link farms, private blog networks, and more. It worked; the traffic came flooding in. The user experience, on the other hand, was less than ideal and Internet users started losing trust in the search results content.

To fix this situation, Google fine-tuned its algorithm and began penalizing mischievous tactics and promoting site owners with high-quality content.

This is what works today, Courtney emphasized. Google’s priority is to create a satisfactory browsing experience and it employs over 200 ranking signals to separate good websites from poor ones. Modern ranking factors can be broken into three categories:

  1. Technical Signals
  2. Content Signals
  3. User Experience Signals

All signals are important, but some are crucial for conversion, including quality content, mobile usability, enjoyable user experience, fast-loading site, on-page optimization, strong domain authority, and more.

Perception #2: SEO Is a One-Time Update and Then Works on Its Own

From market to competition and SEO rules, everything is constantly changing, said Tony. To keep delivering outstanding user experiences and turn site visitors into repeat customers, you need an ongoing maintenance strategy that relies on the successful trifecta of technical, on-page, and off-page SEO.

Some market shifts worth mentioning include a spike in mobile users and voice search. Google took notice and started rewarding mobile-optimized pages and web content around questions and topics that people might ask their voice assistant devices.

Algorithm updates are another reason why what works today might not work tomorrow.

The 2018 Medic Update, for instance, significantly hit the medical, health, fitness, and healthy lifestyles industries. While some websites lost between 30-70% of traffic in one week alone, others gained 75% more traffic in the same amount of time.

Now, your load speed could impact which group you end up in -- an expected result of an algorithm update beginning mid-June of 2021.

Even so, with every passing day, you’re up against increased competition. Not only are there more companies and products to choose from, but the number of businesses investing in SEO is growing at a steady pace.

“Like the stock market,” explained Tony, “Invest while times are bad and end up on top when things turn around.”

Perception #3: SEO Takes FOREVER To See Results

While you might have to wait longer before you can bear the fruits of SEO efforts, especially if you’re operating in a highly competitive industry, there are several immediate improvements that could positively influence your performance. 

For instance, adjustments in how Google is crawling/indexing your website can lead to immediate traffic gains. Courtney shared some practical advice on how to start ranking now on the first page of Google for a specific keyword:

Onsite:

  • Confirm Crawl/Index Status
  • Fix broken links
  • Implement SSL certificate (HTTPS)
  • Optimize large images / Increase site speed
  • Update SEO elements (titles, H1s)
  • Add quality images
  • Add internal links
  • Optimize existing content
  • Write quality content

Offsite

  • Claim & optimize business listings
  • Increase online reviews
  • Respond to online reviews
  • Post to social profiles (include links to website)

Significant website changes related to quality may take months to yield noteworthy results, said Courtney, quoting John Mueller, the Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google.

Perception #4: There’s No Way to Measure Performance When It Comes to SEO

Our experts described how contrary to popular belief, SEO can be measured in five simple steps:

  • Understand current state vs. desirable state
  • Set goals and benchmarks
  • Define and implement lead attribution strategy - (first click vs. last click)
  • Measure keyword performance
  • Measure organic traffic performance 

Keywords ranking in position #1 receive over 30% of the clicks, while those in position #2 decrease to under 15% of clicks.

Increasing organic visibility for important keywords, in particular, can directly impact the number of leads you receive. The projects Americaneagle.com worked on perfectly demonstrate this theory.

To help a client rank for relevant “hospital relocations” terms, Americaneagle.com developed a “Hospital Relocations Checklist” blog post along with an infographic. The results? The client is now ranking #1 with a featured snippet for “hospital relocations checklist,” ranking on page 1 for “hospital relocations” terms, and the infographic ranks #1 in Google Images as well.

Conclusion

Achieve SEO success by partnering with Americaneagle.com. Even if you’re a current Americaneagle.com customer, we still want to help you tip the SEO balance in your favor and offer a SEO consultation. Contact us today to start a collaboration.

To watch the full recording of the SEO Perceptions vs. Reality webinar, click here.


About Author

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Andreea is part of Americaneagle.com's talented team of digital writers. Previously, she was a Lifestyle reporter for the Chicago Tribune and a digital content creator for a marketing agency, assisting a number of Fortune 500 companies with their content and marketing strategy. When she's off the clock, Andreea can be found either on her exercise mat, riding her bike, or soaking up the sun in one of the city's parks and nature preserves.


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