13 Things Every CEO Needs to Understand About SEO
Organic search engine optimization (SEO) has enough specialization and technical aspects that it can be overwhelming to the C-suite.
Or, worse yet, over-simplified and thought to be something easy and that can be done quickly leading to unmet expectations.
The mysterious nature of SEO can lead to misunderstanding and frustration for CEOs.
Understanding the high-level principles and some of the important aspects of SEO success can set the right expectations with executives.
Here are 13 key things that every CEO needs to understand about SEO.
1. Layout of the SERP
The search engine results page (SERP) has evolved a lot over the past several years.
It used to provide a standard layout with a few different variations that always included the “10 blue links” for the organic results and included ads above and to the side. Plus, news, map, or other content relevant to the search query.
Now, we see varying layouts that are intended to provide an optimal experience on a mobile device and cascade to desktops and other sizes.
The number of ads varies and other information is pulled into the SERP ahead of organic results. You don’t always see 10 organic results and sometimes they are pushed way down the page or mixed in with other content.
First step first, know what you’re looking at in the anatomy of the SERP understanding what is paid, what is organic, and what sources all of the other items come from including local listings, video, images, news, shopping ads, and more.
2. Results & Timing Expectations
SEO doesn’t offer the same level of instant gratification of paid search. While there are low-hanging-fruit terms and easy wins, in most cases, SEO is a long-term play.
For competitive queries, hard work and time have to be invested to move up in the rankings. Search engine algorithm updates and competitor updates create a moving target that takes time and discipline to achieve.
While SEO professionals are trained to not make guarantees and carefully set performance expectations, it is safe to say that we’re talking about months for lesser competitive terms and longer (sometimes much longer) to achieve top results for competitive queries.
Assuming we’re following the search engines’ guidelines, our limits are in areas of collaboration and resources put into the effort.
3. Influence over the Search Engines
When we’re not seeing the search rankings and results we hope and expect, we can’t simply call Google and pressure for better positioning.
Unfortunately, organic search isn’t like getting support for Google Ads, Google My Business, Analytics, or other products. This is a service Google provides to its users – those that use the search engine. It owes us nothing.
SEO professionals gain a lot of information and knowledge through experience, industry sources like Search Engine Journal, and hearing directly from the search engine representatives themselves.
Ultimately, though, we have no individual sway over the search engines or algorithms.
4. Meta Tags
No one area of SEO holds the magical power to influence rankings. Context and addressing the wide range of factors have the most impact.
Meta tags are still sometimes asked about or mentioned as the first thing someone thinks of when asked about SEO.
No, those items alone don’t have much impact if that’s all you do.
SEO is about so much more than just tags.
5. Submitting Pages
Another old-school tactic that is, fortunately, being asked about and mentioned less than it used to is “submitting to Google.”
Google has recently removed the form where you can submit URLs to it. In the past, a part of getting content indexed was to submit the URLs of new or updated pages through a form. That practice became obsolete when XML sitemaps went into use.
More importantly, submitting to Google and indexing is important to ensure that content is known about, but is not a ranking factor itself.
Focus on submitting and getting stuff indexed needs to be prioritized after creating good content that is worthy of being at the top of the SERPs.