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SEO has truly come into its own as a marketing channel, but columnist Jim Yu argues that that doesn’t mean we should rest on our laurels.

Organic Search Past & Present Industries across the board benefitted from SEO in 2014, and there is no sign of this slowing down in 2015. According to this study by the National Retail Federation, search marketing — including SEO — was the most effective source for acquiring new customers in 2014 for 85 percent of online retailers.

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Last year, other data points showed that organic search was a key starting point for brands to put their products and services in front of the target customer. According to this data from Kenshoo, search is the starting point for most people looking to book travel (58 percent of leisure travelers and 64 percent of business travelers). In a study conducted by BrightEdge (my employer), we discovered organic search was the largest driver of traffic and revenue for almost every industry analyzed. For B2B marketers, organic search drives over 51% of traffic.

BrightEdge traffic study by industry

So, what can SEO practitioners do to keep the momentum going in the new year? Following are five areas in SEO that should be on every marketer’s list to master in 2015.

1. Map Strategy To Audience & Competitive Insights

Over the years, SEOs have become really good at understanding keyword intent and segmenting the marketing strategy to match intent.

With the loss of keyword data in Google Analytics and the general progression of SEO as a discipline, we are starting to merge more traditional marketing concepts into SEO to create a new way of segmenting audiences.

Now, we must merge quantitative data around the topics driving search demand and pair that with market insights about who our personas are and what types of information are useful to them on their buying journey.

In addition, we need to understand what the competition is doing for those topics driving demand because, as we know, search is a zero-sum game.

That means finding data points that can help us:

  • Identify new ways to tackle adjacent markets
  • Discover new keywords to target
  • Understand what types of content perform
  • See where the competition is doing well and where you can do better
  • Progressive SEO means technical, analytical, and traditional marketing all rolled into one.

2. Align Your Content & SEO Teams

Your SEO efforts are really only as good as the experience you’re creating for your target persona. That’s why great SEO needs to work in tandem with great content. If you’ve taken the time to explore Step 1 in this article, you have a good foundation for content and SEO alignment focused on the user.

Data from the Content Marketing Institute in 2014 show that B2Bs and B2Cs are embracing content in the form of blog posts and web content as a key facet of their content marketing. Many of us believe that the best approach is to start with strategic content and apply SEO best practices to help maximize its value and visibility online. Google algorithms like Panda tell us that user experience and quality are what we should all be striving for.

And while recommendations on making creative content and technical SEO come together with sound great in theory, many brands are still struggling with which department or team does what and in what order. I talked about this in a 2014 article on content and SEO. I touched on one solution to ensure that the creative and technical teams are working in tandem: Establish a clear workflow from content creation to optimization.

Content Optimization

I’ll mention one important takeaway again from that discussion for brands that are trying to define how technical and creative teams can work together: Uncover all the roles and skill sets on the digital marketing team, and discover where overlap and cross-training opportunities exist for creative folks to learn SEO, and SEO folks to learn creatively. For more insights on creating value through your content in 2015, I recommend reading this recent article on Marketing Land.

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