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12 Major Brands on Where SEO Fits in the Digital Marketing Mix for 2016

November 24, 2015
Aaron Polmeer

By Lee Odden

Did you know? Google handles 100 billion searches per month and more than half of those are on mobile devices.

Did you also know? 15% of Google’s 3.5 billion daily searches have never been seen before.

I remember when you couldn’t search for anything on a smart phone and now people are searching for just about anything and everything, mostly on mobile devices. It’s an understatement to say search engines, consumer searching behaviors and search engine optimization have all changed.

As much as social media, content marketing and other marketing channels emerge, there is no mistaking the value of being the best answer for buyers at the moment of need. So how valuable is SEO going into 2016? More specifically…

How important will SEO be as a part of your digital marketing mix in 2016?

That’s the question I asked marketers from major brands including Dell, Xerox, EMC, eBay, Logitech, Symantec, McKesson, IBM, Ingram Micro, McKinsey & Co and Verizon. Hopefully you’ll find some common ground and even inspiration about where optimizing for organic search will fit in your digital marketing planning for the coming year.

“SEO is a foundational element of digital marketing. I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Organizations should focus on how all of their marketing elements integrate, resulting in an omni-channel strategy that focuses on a net objective but allowing for customization to customer.”

“Influencer marketing is a great example of a piece of the puzzle that ties to SEO but might not always reside next to it in an org structure. If you’re smart, it’s all inter-related and you recognize that many customer journeys begin at first search.”
Alison Herzog
Alison Herzog  @alisonjherzog
Director, Global Social Business & Digital Strategy at Dell (client)

“SEO is a key, if not critical, component for digital marketing. We’ve lost a huge opportunity if we’ve created content that can’t be found. We know that our clients are actively learning and searching for answers long before they contact us, much of that activity happens through search. But it isn’t enough to wait to be found.”

“Search is important, but it is one of many levers. We need to be proactive, understanding all of our clients and prospects’ trusted sources and making sure we engage there as well.”
Jeannine Rossignol
Jeannine Rossignol  @j9rossignol
Vice President, Marketing for Large Enterprise Operations at Xerox

“Organic traffic is our richest audience so it requires significant focus. SEO supports our ability to drive traffic to a commerce experience, so understanding how effective SEO is, helps assess how well our content resonates.”
Todd Forsythe
Todd Forsythe  @toddforsythe
Senior Vice President, Brand & Experience Marketing at EMC

“SEO is critical. Digital eye tracking shows the consumer goes straight to the organic information on the page. I think social signals will continue to increase as a factor in organic ranking. Brands who do well at content marketing will also build their organic rankings.”
Tami Cannizzaro
Tami Cannizzaro  @tamicann
Senior Director, Global Demand Generation at eBay

“It’s been interesting to watch SEO transition from a sort of elitist role into a much broader topic for all digital marketers. SEO experts have rightfully expanded their roles to include content marketing strategy and content marketers are keeping up on SEO trends to support their marketing efforts.”

“This convergence will continue in 2016 as SEO continues to rely on remarkable content for driving SEO results and content marketers rely much more on SEO for optimizing content to drive traffic and conversion. What was once a highly technical and specialized topic is evolving into a conversation that is around a much more holistic approach to integrated marketing. I think this coming together will give birth to a true marketing experience that will be necessary to break through in the New Year.”

Jason Miller
Jason Miller @JasonMillerCA

Group Manager, Content Marketing at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions (client)

“In my opinion SEO is still the luck of the draw and not something I would invest too heavily in. Yes, we need to have it and it will be part of the mix but it is not something I would rank as a key driver to the overall digital marketing strategy. Related to this, my focus is on earned media through sites like Quora which also have SEO benefits.”
LaSandra Brill
LaSandra Brill @lasandrabrill
Senior Director, Enterprise Digital & Advertising at Symantec

“As long as there is a Google, I think SEO will be a staple in the digital marketing mix. The difference is, how we use it today versus in the past.”

“Several years ago, optimizing content for search was the primary focus with #1 rankings for keywords being the primary goal. Now, we focus on creating the right content, for the right audience, at the right stage of the buying cycle with qualified leads being the number one goal. SEO is just one of many tactics in a marketer’s arsenal to ensure their content is found by the right people.”
Barbara Feinberg
Barbara Feinberg  /in/barbarafeinberg
Senior Product Marketing Manager, Campaigns & Digital Marketing at McKesson (client)

“I believe SEO is the responsibility of all members of our organizations from the PR team to the web team to the ecommerce team. I predict we will be doubling down on SEO as a rebrand poses special challenges that no doubt we will not get everything right on the first pass. We will have to make SEO a critical path for future success.”

Jeremiah Andrick
Jeremiah Andrick  @jeremiah
GM, Global Ecommerce at Logitech

“SEO will continue to be of growing importance in 2016 as customers and prospects continue to gain more and more control of the relationship with brands. Brands will need to focus on being findable based on their customers preferences – where, when and how they choose to search for and interact with brands and their offerings.”
Michelle Killebrew
Michelle Killebrew  @shellkillebrew
Program Director, Digital Marketing Transformation – Cloud at IBM

“Most established brands already have a strong keyword index with Google. However, there are many other platforms for prospects to find you other than Google. Using SEO strategies on social media, especially since the Google-Twitter partnership, will prove to drive positive results in 2016.”
Kyle Peterson
Kyle Peterson  @kylegpeterson
Global Digital Marketing Manager at Ingram Micro

“I think SEO will remain important – it’s the top of the funnel online and continues to be our main source of discovery for standardized industries and information. That said, I think it becomes (or perhaps has already become) the third leg in a three legged race.”

“Data mining has also become essential – if you aren’t measuring and tracking, you aren’t learning, and if you can’t interpret what you measure and adjust quickly, you fall behind. Data drives storytelling, product development, customer understanding, R&D, brick and mortar decision making (including where to locate – or close – stores, what route for drivers to take, and more), and hiring.”

“The third leg, of course, is design. Design (and design thinking) is the path to empathy and culture, and those are where your customers live. If you can master the marriage of design thinking and business, you can conquer the world in the next few years.”
Leslie Poston  @leslie
Social Media Editor at McKinsey & Company

“I believe SEO should remain a marketing priority and will be needed for 2016. Not as much as it it did in early 2010’s, but it will. The digital marketing mix is like an orchestra and needs all parts to sound complete. My belief is there will be a much bigger shift into social and the long tail effect (e.g. links that have a record of larger number of shares will have a stake in the ground for search). SEO will need to work closer with social analytics in parallel with keyword research.”
Andrew Mucci
Andrew Mucci  @AndMucc
Digital Strategist / Social Media Manager at Verizon Wireless

So, SEO is a big thing. But it’s not a dead thing, nor is it the only thing in digital marketing.

These marketers from major brands recognize the value of search engine optimization and they also recognize there are other channels, tactics and influences on the customer journey.

Customers are more sophisticated in how they discover, consume and take action based on digital content. So too, must we as marketers become more sophisticated in creating the answers customers need in order to buy.

This perspective is what drives our integrated approach towards online marketing and the foundation for my book Optimize: Leverage SEO data to inform content choices, use SEO copywriting best practices and SEO analytics to further optimize the search performance of content. Best practices SEO works in tandem with content marketing, influencer marketing, social media marketing, online PR and to some degree online advertising.

As I like to say,

As long as there are search engines, there is an opportunity to optimize search marketing performance.

The important question is, what conclusion have you arrived at when it comes to planning your marketing for 2016? Are you discounting SEO? Are you relying on it too much? If you’re taking a balanced approach, how do you know?

Top image: Shutterstock

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