In the Headlights, January 20, 2021: SEO Strategy, Dark Search, Crisis Marketing

SEO Strategy, Dark Search, Crisis Marketing

In The Headlights

Will SEO Work For You?

Last week, one of our readers, Mark, wrote in saying that he was pessimistic about SEO, particularly for smaller businesses. I thought this was a discussion point worth exploring; like every channel, strategy, and tactic, there will be businesses it’s right for, and businesses it’s wrong for.

What sort of businesses might those be? It depends largely on two things: how niche or broad your business is, and what resources you have to allocate towards SEO.

Let’s establish some definitions. In SEO, a niche is something where search volume exists, but competition is relatively low. Niches are things like highly localized searches – “coffee shop in Wilmington, Delaware” – or searches for a very specific product or service. These probably number in the hundreds per month, but competition isn’t too fierce.

A broad category is highly commoditized and incredibly competitive – a search like “movie tickets” or “fast food” or “marketing consultant” are crazy competitive and vague. Lots of search volume – in the millions per month – but also so much competition that you’ve got a decent hill to climb.

That means you’ve got to put resources towards SEO, and broadly speaking, you’re talking about people, budget, and time. It takes time for SEO to work. It takes people delivering high-quality content to make SEO work. And it takes budget, either in soft dollars (employees) or hard dollars (agencies and contractors) to make SEO work.

So who is SEO right for?

The SEO Matrix

If you’re a niche business, and you have rich resources to throw at SEO, you can dominate your category. You can own a substantial share of search for your industry and topics, capturing most of the volume and business.

If you’re a niche business, and you have scarce resources to throw at SEO, it’s a viable strategy but you won’t be dominant. You’ll rank for some of the volume in your category, but leave some on the table.

If you’re a broad business, and you have rich resources to throw at SEO, it’s also a viable strategy but you’ll need to devote just as many resources to it as you would any other paid channel. Your results will be commensurate to the resources you put towards it. One of the critical mistakes companies make in SEO is under-investing commensurate to the return SEO gives – if 24% of your conversions come from SEO, then 24% of your budget and people should be allocated towards it (often it’s much less).

If you’re a broad business, and you have scarce resources to throw at SEO, then you’ve got an almost impossible task in front of you. You probably won’t outrank competitors. Your choices are to either find more resources to throw at it, or more strategically, get focused on the products and services you offer until you find and become a niche business.

As long as you’re clear what kind of business you are and what kinds of resources you have to throw at SEO, most of the time, you can make it work. For those cases where you’re a commodity business without resources to devote to it, finding your niche and differentiation will solve some of those SEO problems as well.

The Bright Idea

In last week’s In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris talk through how to make marketing operations during a crisis. When big, macro events have the world talking, what’s appropriate and what’s not when it comes to marketing? How should marketing leaders weigh the different operational decisions?

Watch/listen to the most recent episode of In-Ear Insights here »

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Rear View Mirror Data

In this week’s Rear View Mirror, let’s take a look at a problem vexing many marketers: dark search. What is dark search? It’s search traffic that’s miscategorized as direct traffic, usually the result of someone using a browser with strict privacy settings, like Safari on Apple’s mobile operating systems. One of the things we’d like to know is what keywords might we be missing because of dark search traffic?

To find this out, first set up a segment in Google Analytics 3 that matches a source/medium of (direct) / (none), then examine how much traffic to landing pages that encompasses. For Trust Insights, that’s about 12% of our traffic this month so far.

Segment of dark traffic

Once we know what landing pages attract the most dark traffic, and we’ve confirmed that our dark traffic matches our known search traffic (meaning it’s not dark social), then we match those landing pages to keywords from any reputable SEO tool:

Matched dark traffic

When we compare this list to our normal keyword list, we find some of the usual suspects, but also a few that weren’t on our radar. This gives us additional ideas and topics, especially since an audience coming in as dark search could very well be a slightly different audience than our regular crowd.

We don’t have a summary dataset of dark traffic by site or industry this week because by it’s very nature, it’s dark and not visible. However, take this technique and apply it to your own analytics data to see what kind of dark search secrets you can uncover.

In Case You Missed It
Partner Spotlight

We faced a lot of adversity in 2020, from downsizing and job loss to budget cuts and career changes. So let’s start 2021 with an event that helps bring us all a little balance, something to start the year right: the first-ever MarketingProfs Career Day.

We’ve gathered six of the smartest people we know for this one-day free virtual event designed to help you make sure you hit your career goals this year. You’ll learn:

  • Learn directly from LinkedIn experts and employees how to create the ideal profile and how to put the world’s largest professional network to work for you.
  • Get a template for creating the most impactful story of you that’s ever been told.
  • Appreciate how widespread your skillset actually is, and how you can apply for jobs you never thought possible by thinking outside the box.
  • Put science to work to motivate you to actually do the things you’ve been procrastinating like: updating your resume, revising your Linkedin profile, and actually applying for that job.

Whether you’re actively applying for a job or just want to have these resources in your back pocket, you’ll want to check out Career Day on January 22.

And if you can’t make it on January 22, don’t sweat it – register now and you’ll have access to everything on-demand for 90 days!

Register now for free at »

Interested in sponsoring In The Headlights? Contact us for sponsorship options to reach over 14,000 analytically-minded marketers and business professionals every week.

Shiny Objects

Shiny Objects is a roundup of the best content you and others have written and shared in the last week.

Data Science and AI

SEO, Google, and Paid Media

Social Media Marketing

Content Marketing

Join the Club

Are you a member of our free Slack group, Analytics for Marketers? Join 800+ like-minded marketers who care about data and measuring their success. Membership is free – join today. We also post hundreds of job openings sourced from around the Internet every Wednesday, so if you’re looking for work, join the Slack group!

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Read our disclosures statement for more details.

Get Back To Work

We’ve changed things up in Get Back To Work, and we’re looking at the top 310 metro areas in the United States by population. This will give you a much better sense of what the overall market looks like, and will cover companies hiring in multiple locations. Get all the data in our Slack group!

Upcoming Events

Where can you find us in person?

  • MarketingProfs Friday Forum, January 2021, virtual
  • MarketingProfs B2B Forum, March 2021, virtual

Going to a conference we should know about? Reach out!

Want some private training at your company? Ask us!

Stay In Touch

Where do you spend your time online? Chances are, we’re there too, and would enjoy sharing with you. Here’s where we are – see you there?

FTC Disclosure

Some events and partners have purchased sponsorships in this newsletter and as a result, Trust Insights receives financial compensation for promoting them. Read our full disclosures statement on our website.


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