state of seo findings

Five Top Insights from The State of SEO

Stuart Shaw 10 months ago

1) Marketers don’t understand their competition

It’s important to innovate and try to lead the way, but being the market-leader is not always possible or likely. Instead, the best way to keep up, is to be mindful of what your biggest competition is doing - both SEO wise and for content campaigns - and don't forget to leverage third-party tools to monitor those competitors effectively.

competitor analysis graph state of seo

It's never too late to start competitor research - luckily it is a well-documented practice for organic and paid search. The crucial thing to do is to learn from successes and mistakes alike, made by your competition. If you spot a big campaign that didn't go very far, it can be incredibly useful to examine it closely and work out how you can do it better.

If you’re working with an agency and feel that you need more insight on competitor research, then it can be worth working together on it, for your next strategy. This will give you clarity from expert eyes and more understanding of your actual competitors and perceived competitors (as an agency, we see this a lot). Remember, there are several types of competition:

  • Your perceived brand competitors
  • Your actual organic competitors
  • Your actual paid competitors
  • Competitors for audience attention
  • Competitors for audience income
  • Product competitors

These types of competitors are not mutually exclusive and you might find two contrasting brands that crossover as competitors to you, simply due to your market share (for example, an mid-range priced women's clothing brand would crossover with both ZARA and Primark, despite those two brands having minimal overlap when it comes to products and pricing).

2) Branded terms are being targeted by competitors

Bidding on other brand terms has never been more popular. Organically we’ve responded to the clear user demand for “brand vs brand” terms, and creating fresh content to target users in the consideration stage of a purchase journey and competitor brand traffic alike.

brand terms graph state of seo 2019

Let’s be honest though, this is just good business sense for lots of brands. You can find out more about how to protect your brand from this sort of activity with a tool I created here, to help organise your branded traffic results and make sure they are ready for battle!

3) SEO budget is getting lower

The 2019 survey suggested that more marketers are spending their budget elsewhere, and so we followed up to understand why they’re spending five percent less on SEO than 2018.

60% of marketers told us that resources and a shortage of budget are the main causes of a reduced spend on organic. And just over 30% still find proving the value of SEO to be a critical factor in securing funds or resources. To solve this struggle, all marketers, whether in-house, freelance or agency, must be tight on their measurement and attribution models, as well as brand value and purpose when it comes to spending more on SEO.

budget on seo for state of seo 2019

Measurement and education is a constant challenge in our industry, and keeping yourself and management up-skilled is not as easy task. But with more noise (think CRO, Social, and EDM), as well as constant changes in Google regulations, it's more important than ever to ensure knowledge is in tip top shape so that proving results is not a roadblock to investment.

4) Link-building might be losing its appeal...

Link building by quantity has created a demand for sites that sell links by DA - and these companies are still in business despite the search community knowing that many of those sites have been “blacklisted” by Google.

tweet on link building

Yet marketers are still spending valuable budget on links without knowing if they’ve made any search impact. So it’s no wonder that marketers are more unsure about the value in link building, over other practices.

confidence in practices from state of seo 2019

The lack of confidence in non-branded PPC vs technical SEO is also a concern. Paid activity provides an exact costs for cost per acquisition, cost per conversion – which should in theory be much easier to measure, and therefore secure investment for. It’s also a worry that user experience activity (UX) is still a mystery to many.  Split testing has been made easier on many CMS platforms and site providers, and putting the user’s experience first is something that should be championed and prioritised, as the benefits of doing so are well documented.

5) Users still want best practice advice from Google

There are a significant amount of our surveyed marketers who aren’t clear on Google’s guidelines.

Google utility from state of seo 2019

Perhaps not all search professionals, marketing managers or higher, have the resource or time to give Google’s webmasters forum and help centre a good read. You can find the basic guidelines here, as well as more information on content, quality, and snippets.

Measurement rears its head again, with our marketers calling for clearer attribution, and visibility for voice search, another area that our research has found that is difficult to measure.

Now read the full results...

If these top five points gave you some ideas on how to improve or change your SEO activity, be sure to download the full results.

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