Search engine optimization gives companies a natural and more sustainable search engine presence than paid search advertising, which marketers can use to generate website traffic and online conversions.
In the past, marketers have relied on SEO for both objectives. However, annual findings from Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization (SEMPO) and Econsultancy suggest companies worldwide are increasingly using SEO primarily to drive site traffic.
Last year, marketers were about equally focused on using SEO to generate leads (32%) and drive website traffic (34%). But this year, the 87% of companies worldwide who are using SEO have a clear preference for their main SEO objective: 42% primarily turn to SEO to increase website traffic, compared to only 29% for lead generation.
These findings complement those of MarketingSherpa that show 57% of US search marketers feel SEO is “very effective” at driving website traffic, compared to only 35% who feel it’s good for lead generation.
SEO listings offer a more sustainable traffic flow, compared to paid listings that can be turned off and on at a moment’s notice. In addition, internet users are more likely to trust natural listings than paid listings, according to Covario.
For SEMPO and Econsultancy, the increased emphasis on driving site traffic appears to be at the expense of more heavily direct-response objectives like lead generation and ecommerce. However, marketers have not entirely abandoned these objectives, highlighting the fact that a marketer’s SEO use need not be an either/or scenario.
Given the shift in goals, companies worldwide appear to have reprioritized their use of primary SEO metrics to reflect an increased focus on website traffic. This year, 57% of companies are most often relying on site traffic to measure SEO success, up from 49% in 2010. Also reflective of change in SEO goals is the decreasing use of number of sales/leads—instrumental for measuring lead generation—as a barometer of SEO effectiveness.
Clearly, marketers are appropriately adjusting metric usage to benchmark their increased efforts to drive website traffic through SEO. The change shows marketers are conscious of SEO’s strengths, deliberate in their choice of objectives and accountable for their goals through proper metrics selection.