Daniel Benton, GM of GroupM’s Performance agency New Media World.
The risk of missing out on capitalising on a significant online growth opportunity is a very real possibility for brands that don’t give SEO the focus it deserves.
It’s well known that organic search is one of the top sources of inbound traffic for most brands websites; however, COVID-19 has driven significant behaviour changes online in Australia. When we add in the rapid adoption of web development frameworks that can unwittingly erode a brands organic share of search, Australian Marketers should be concerned.
The risk of missing out on capitalising on a significant online growth opportunity is a very real possibility for brands that don’t give SEO the focus it deserves.Below are 3 reasons why your brand should be reviewing its organic search strategy.
The acceleration of ecommerce adoption
As Australia adapted to the rapid shift to COVID-19 lock downs in 2020, ecommerce adoption boomed. This resulted in monthly ecommerce sales growing by a staggering +67%  between April and December 2020.
Search engine traffic volumes during the same period showed a similar trend revealing Australians were increasingly turning to search. Analysis of visits to leading search engines by Australians between April and September 2020 saw visits lift +16% (compared to the prior period). This growth is huge as the usage of search was already a well-entrenched mature behaviour with Australians making over a billion visits per month to search engines prior to the pandemic.
Reviewing the channel mix for a selection of Australia’s leading ecommerce and omnichannel retailers underscores the importance of organic search as an upstream source of traffic. The channel delivered an estimated +20% to +50% of all inbound traffic for some of Australia’s largest ecommerce brands in 2020. This highlights the relative importance and potential scale of the channel and its importance in ecommerce user journeys.
These trends highlight the need for a comprehensive approach to capturing increased search demand through a mixture of paid and organic initiatives. Gone are the days of taking an either / or approach to SEM and SEO. The growth in search volumes and costs means most brands don’t have the budgets to fund 100% paid coverage for all relevant keywords. Sophisticated brands adopt a nuanced approach where paid search investment is focussed on lower funnel terms that have a high propensity to convert. Whereas organic search efforts look to capitalise on all parts of the funnel by showing up with quality content that helps the user in a variety of formats e.g.: text, image, video, data.
The growing popularity of single page applications
Web development technologies, frameworks and best practice is a fast-moving field. This constant evolution presents both opportunities and challenges for marketers as it relates to SEO. A good example of this is the rise of sites using single page application architecture, otherwise known as “SPAs”.
SPA’s offer several benefits for marketers including fast and responsive user experience, simpler production deployment and versioning.
However, SPA’s can be highly problematic when it comes to SEO as.
- Presenting an entire site’s content on a single page is diametrically opposed with the fundamentals of the foundation of great SEO, which is to publish thematically distinct pages with excellent content that addresses the users query, wrapped in excellent UX, and is accessed via individual URL’s. An example of this is JBHifi who’ve done an excellent job optimising their site, look to receive huge levels of inbound traffic from organic search and have 64,400 pages in Googles index.
These challenges mean that without considering the potential impact on SEO from a technology decision during a site build or relaunch it’s possible to see unexpected significant declines in traffic and revenue.
The growth of visual and voice search
Google’s Famous Mission Statement is “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful”. It’s worth noting the word “website” isn’t mentioned in this statement. SEO in 2021 stretches into environments beyond traditional search results, specifically voice and visual search
- Voice search in Australia is largely owned by Google who have a dominant position in the smart speaker category, are the number two mobile operating system and have an unassailable position as the number one search engine. This means the fundamentals of winning in the voice search ecosystem in Australia are built on top of SEO best practices around keyword / topic research, content optimisation, technical presentation, and structured data mark up.
- Visual search is a rapidly growing category of search that is distinct from image search as the inputs are images uploaded by users (as opposed to keywords) e.g.: photos from a smartphone. Visual search is particularly relevant for categories that have an aesthetic think, ecommerce, fashion, and home furnishings. The below example from Google lens provides an example of how visual search allows users to easily “shop the look” and discover similar products via photo inputs.
With several platforms vying to capture market leadership in visual search including Pinterest, Snap, Bing, and Google the SEO requirements for each platform vary. Considerations for Google include using structured data to make it easier to “understand” each image, optimising key attributes to be as descriptive as possible and using appropriate site architecture and site maps.
Organic search is an important and growing channel that can offer significant volumes of quality traffic and impressions to a brand. However, success is not a given as it requires a diligent commitment to make sure the channel is considered when making technology, strategy, and resourcing decisions.