Search engine optimization (SEO) is not a “quick fix,” and columnist Trond Lyngbø outlines ways in which this mindset can hurt businesses.

In an online business environment that’s heavily dependent on organic search, the lack of an effective search engine optimization (SEO) strategy is detrimental to your growth and profitability.

In this column, we will look at three SEO facts that business leaders should know to achieve excellent results.

Fact #1: SEO Is Not An Add-On, But A Build-In

Search engines have become an indispensable part of the consumer’s decision-making and buying process, which means that organic search is important for every business. Being visible in Google and other search engines matters because that’s where most searchers go to look for things — and where most traffic to your website will come from. Organic search connects you with buyers.

Factors that affect your ranking on search engines are not limited to your own site, either. Some of the most important ranking factors are external, such as getting links from other authoritative websites in your niche. Google counts them as “votes” in your favor.

For best results, search engine optimization should be integrated with all of your other marketing initiatives from the start. Breaking down silos and working with other departments is mutually beneficial for all parties! Here’s how:

Content Marketing

If content marketing is an important element of your traffic generating strategy, then you must first research your ideal prospect’s search behavior to gather insights for planning your content.

Doing this before creating your content will help tailor whatever you create to the existing needs and current behavior of your clients.

Paid Search

Some business leaders consider paid traffic to be completely distinct from search engine optimization, not realizing that an SEO specialist can help you amplify the reach and impact of your paid search campaigns.

It is true that SEO and paid search are different beasts, requiring specialized knowledge. But both address search users, and having SEO and PPC teams work together can be powerful.

SEO specialists tap into multiple data sources and use research and analysis techniques that can make PPC experts more effective at generating sales and boosting profits. And conversely, PPC is a great way to try out new ideas and experiment with conversion-boosting techniques before investing a larger budget into long-term strategies like SEO and content marketing.

Conversion Rate Optimization

Just getting more visitors isn’t enough. You must convert them into paying customers, or get them to do what you want. And SEO can bring you better results once you understand your typical website visitor on a deeper level.

Why did they come to your website?
What do they want from you?
How do they intend to act on your information?
Armed with this data and insight from an SEO expert, you’ll better understand the psychology of website visitors and can use it in your online communication to improve conversions.

Business Development

Insights gathered from Google can help future-proof your business. By digging into archived, historical data and comparing it against future trends, you can

analyze markets
study competitors
make sales forecasts
allocate resources
All of this will help you find out what you need to become a market leader, how long it will take to beat your competition, and which activities will get you there in a cost-effective manner.

A good SEO analyst can help you uncover information that will warn you against venturing into markets which are too competitive, or safeguard you from wasteful investments in areas with low profit potential.

Branding & Communication

Once you understand what goes on in your ideal customers’ minds, your brand message and marketing communication will be more consistent and more effective. It costs nothing to access Google’s search data and study it for insights.

Are you speaking in your customer’s language? Have you identified the most frequent questions your customers ask? Do you solve the major problems that they are facing?

Your story becomes more interesting when you talk about what they are already interested in.

Knowing what your prospects care about, you can:

reach out with a helping hand
offer valuable resources
plan effective brand campaigns
conduct interesting and entertaining interviews
use data intelligently
combine it with your other data and information to amplify the impact
Integrating SEO into all that you do, both offline and on, can enhance your results and speed up your growth.

On the other hand, trying to “slap on some SEO” like putting icing on a cake doesn’t work. This mindset is why many businesses don’t experience success with search engine optimization.

Fact #2: SEO Is No Replacement For A Good Product

Great SEO can’t fix what’s wrong with your product. As a U.S. politician said recently, that would be like “putting lipstick on a pig.” So start with your product — and fix that first.

In the future, the way your customers feel about your products (and the opinions they voice about your business) will affect your visibility on Google. The search engine giant wants its users to keep coming back, so it will ultimately strive to suggest only high quality products and services which their users will love. Thus, “customer delight” might soon become a crucial ranking factor for your website to show up high on Google search results!

Stop thinking about SEO as a “quick fix” or “duct tape” solution for your business. That attitude will prevent you from reaching your potential and can become a threat to your future success.

Fact #3: Plug-Ins Can’t Replace An SEO Expert

You can’t just “install SEO” quickly and easily. A WordPress plug-in cannot cover all aspects of search engine optimization. If you believe that SEO only means checking off boxes in a plug-in’s settings on your website control panel, it’s time to change.

Many businesses lose out on opportunities because leaders and in-house marketers lack knowledge and skills to dominate at organic search.

An expert can use SEO to make your marketing stronger and prevent expensive mistakes. Common errors — like website code changes that negatively affect SEO, or installing plug-ins that slow down your website, or not running SEO audits from time to time — become easy to avoid.

Technical SEO, which you must work on before installing an SEO plug-in, includes planning out several aspects of your website, such as information architecture, website structure, navigation, internal link architecture, etc.

Fact #4: Good SEO Is Data-Driven

This May at SMX London, I had a fascinating discussion about this with some SEO consultants. We all agreed that poor planning creates poor results. And when search marketing fails, you can’t blame Google or SEO itself — only yourself and your poor planning!

It’s time that business leaders accept this. If only a tiny fraction of what you do is effective in bringing you desirable results, why repeat everything that doesn’t work again next year? Stop doing it!

There are prospective customers you haven’t yet reached because your planning and execution is sub-optimal. That’s because you aren’t getting important things done, and it is increasing your rate of failure. By engaging these prospects and establishing a relationship, you can boost sales.

That’s why you should take decisions based on facts, not gut instinct. Digital analytics are critical for this purpose.

Not only must you cull the right data to review, you must actually know what you’re looking at — and how it is relevant. Unless you are able to weed out things that don’t matter, you’ll only keep guessing and taking unnecessary risks… eventually driving your business into the ground.