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“If you play, you have to play to win”

For the second edition of our podcast, we won over Andre Alpar, one of Germany’s thought leaders in search engine optimization and content marketing. Besides working for Rocket Internet and heading the Berlin-based agency Performics, he also founded his own companies like “Hitmeister” and invested in a lot of startups. And, of course, he also publishes a lot of content: Andre Alpar is writing books, recording podcasts, and organizing events like OMCap. In our podcast, he shares insights on building a solid SEO team, finding the right approach to communicate your product, and how SEO works within the overall marketing mix. Last but not least, he tells us why not only the voice in your head can lead to paranoia.

SEO Skills to Cover

According to Andre Alpar, search engine optimization requires expertise in at least four areas. First, there are technical aspects of a website one has to account for. Second, a marketing team needs to handle all topics related to keyword research and campaign management. Third, there is the area of content creation which includes editorial work as well as copywriting or the production of other creatives, depending on media and format. The fourth skill set relevant regarding SEO includes all topics related to off-page activities and strategic communications which should reside in the realm of a public relations department. And since allrounders are rare and the market demand is huge, it’s a smart move to look for specialists in each of these areas who exhibit outstanding performance in their respective niche.

Do People Know What You’re Selling?

Besides finding the right people for all relevant SEO tasks, companies also need to find a suitable strategy to bring their products closer to their audience with the right content. One of the first signposts in finding the right way to communicate is to distinguish whether one’s product is a commonplace good which customers are already familiar with, or whether it’s an innovative product which people don’t know yet. While the latter requires companies to explain their product and to create awareness and demand, generic products first and foremost need to be set apart from the ones of the competition. So marketing for innovative products cannot be as direct and is at least initially a lot of work in the upper funnel. SEO approaches need to be adapted when search volumes for your product don’t exist yet–which can blessing or curse. Marketing for generic and well-known products, on the other hand, can be straightforward and much closer to the actual conversion. The challenge for those products is to stand out in an ocean of similar products.

SEO in the Mix

As SEO approaches diverge depending on the product, companies also need to account for their role within the overall marketing mix. Typically, SEO is not a channel that decides over life and death. But proper SEO lowers the average customer acquisition cost significantly and leads to more profitable returns on investment. SEO is a long-term game which supports and complements performance marketing and enhances marketing activities throughout the whole customer journey.

In a broad sense, the customer journey consists of three phases. The initial goal is to establish a very first touch point with potential customers which is usually achieved by expensive performance marketing or other costly measures such as PR, advertorials, influencer marketing, and the like–Acquiring customers always comes at its price. Subsequently, you need to engage your audience until they do convert. If they do, customer relationship management kicks in as phase three. In a broader sense, the second phase is already part of CRM, even though potential customers don’t pay yet. And measures in these two phases after the acquisition are far cheaper than generating leads. But ironically, it’s customer engagement in these phases that is able to retain customers and increase their lifetime value. In turn, this increases the overall ROI.