Search Engine Journal® State of SEO Report

The most recent state of SEO report from one of the industry authorities, Search Engine Journal®, offers a closer look at what SEO pros are experiencing, working at, and what they believe is ahead in the ranking wars.

The value of the report is how it allows business owners to establish which SEO consultants are needed for the challenging years ahead. Hopefully, the insights will aid in your selection of an SEO consultant, how much you should be spending on SEO, and understand where the big challenges are.

After reading the report, business owners should move forward to answer:

  • what are the costs and expected outcomes of SEO?
  • who is competent and what level of expertise is needed to compete well?
  • what impacts the success of SEO?
  • should you hire inhouse, or an agency or a freelance consultant?
  • how is content, graphic design, digital PR, copywriting, keyword selection impacting performance?
  • what are advanced level SEO strategy, tactics, techniques?
  • what rankings factors are most important as we head toward 2023?
  • how much funding should be put into SEO, promotion and content creation?
Screenshot courtesy of the Search Engine Journal

The report doesn’t tell us much about the difference between standard, perhaps mediocre SEO and Advanced professional SEO.  Questions about advanced techniques used weren’t included, but perhaps next year’s report will go deeper. Because it is clear that advanced SEO techniques are the deciding factor in success.

Ultimately, any report should give us insight into the very best practices, not just popular, common ones.

The Search Engine Journal® SEO Report

There have been a number of reports on the state of SEO, but a report produced by Search Engine Journal® and SEO Agency StraightNorth is exceptional. This report, surveyed more than 2,830 SEO professionals is freely available, delves into what’s happening with SEO agencies and freelancers and the companies they work for along with companies with inhouse SEO teams.

The authors let readers come to their own conclusions about successful SEO strategy and instead provide us with insights into current practices, and a notice of opportunities and threats going forward into 2023.

Search Engine Journal® may be the real authority on SEO today with its extensive topic coverage, author contributions and the important updates provided by Barry Schwartz of Rusty Brick SEO who is well known and respected in the SEO community.

The State of SEO report shows the growth of professional search engine optimization and what resources, issues, and opportunities we in the industry are experiencing. Every report comes with a subtle slant that many SEO buyers and marketing managers might not recognize. Sometimes questions are asked that don’t include vital issues.

Many business people don’t understand SEO. They called it magic when I started 24 years ago and they still call it that today.  I’ll delve into a conclusions made from the report — relevant insights for you as a business manager or senior marketing manager after reviewing their main findings.

The authors summed up the survey with 12 Top Insights:

  1. SEO pros earn between $50,000 and $74,000 per year
  2. top SEO pros who have more than 20 years experience earn more than $200k per year
  3. SEOs use keyword rankings as top measure of success rather than conversion rates
  4. content marketing consumes the major share of SEO budgets
  5. Digital PR is being neglected in SEO budgets
  6. two thirds of SEOs believe they are having more success now
  7. a third of SEOs believe title tags, meta descriptions and h1 tags are most important
  8. zero click Google searches are seen as the biggest rising threat to SEO
  9. 36% believe Google’s core web vitals will become the most important factor
  10. 35% of SEOs plan to focus on user experience in 2022
  11. clients budgets range from $1k to $5k per month
  12. they report that 38% of clients believe SEO is an essential part of marketing

How SEO is Valued

The survey discovered that SEO agencies are more likely to spend most of their budget on SEO compared to in house SEO staff, and most of that is on local SEO. In house SEOs spend little time on local SEO. Strangely, B2B SEO pros are likely to spend little on digital PR whereas B2C pros spend more of their budget on digital PR. B2C also prioritize spend on social media which they might see as PR.

Screenshot courtesy of the Search Engine Journal

Below we see how SEO’s prioritize their time spent. What’s notable is general descriptors such as on-page and analytics don’t really tell us specifically what they were working on. We assume it’s just basic content manipulation, keyword insertion, finding images, curating content, blogging etc. while obtaining basic analytics insights to see if they’re achieving any success.

Screenshot courtesy of the Search Engine Journal

These graphics report on what SEOs in general believe are the most important factors for ranking and high performance. It’s a generalization of course, and the critical matters of branding, impact, engagement, lead funnel progress, and customer loyalty aren’t covered. You might infer some some of the data. This is consistent with other state of the industry reports on SEO.

Screenshot courtesy of the Search Engine Journal

The Strategic Focus for SEOs in 2023

The authors surveyed SEOs expectations of what they’ll be focusing on for the next year. As mentioned, the user experience topped the list. We’re not sure what user experience means however. That could range from better topic coverage, to page speed, to funnel improvement.

What’s most notable are the last items on the list (demonstrating ROI, and better understanding the customer audience). In all fairness, a lot of these are often beyond the purvue of SEOs who may have limited access to client’s proprietary sales data and customer insights. This tells you that a lack of information and resources may be the SEOs biggest crippling factor in achieving high performance ROI via SEO.

Screenshot courtesy of the Search Engine Journal

In house SEOs expect to focus more on content and lead generation than agencies would. Freelancers are outsiders and unfortunately will have to put more work into demonstrating ROI. B2B SEOs plan to focus on content production and lead generation, which B2C SEOs plan to focus more in digital PR.

Final Conclusions about the Report

The report is very well done and provides an up to date view of where the industry is.

The report does not differentiate about the sophistication of SEO knowledge and expertise, other than years worked and salaries.  Experts who were quoted showed discouragement about the quality of SEO people available to hire and that it may be causing losses for their companies.

Although they list talents and responsibilities to focus on, the experts they quoted suggested that SEO specialization isn’t enough. SEO pros need to understand the full marketing spectrum.  Given how expansive SEO and marketing are, it takes many years to learn.  What many SEOs don’t have unfortunately is time to build their skills, learn brand and value proposition development, advanced analytics, copywriting techniques, engagement conversion requirements, and off site PR and backlink acquisition imperatives, and to test out advanced SEO tactics and techniques.

We could conclude that the demands made on SEO is not commensurate with performance or budget provided. SEOs cited a lack of budget and resources as key problem.

What’s not mentioned is that a company’s brand and value proposition, messaging, budget, content quality, and other non SEO issues also impact SEO performance.  It may suggest to some readers that SEO pros have all the resources and support within company’s marketing departments, when from experience we know that isn’t true.  In the biggest cause of failure of search engine optimization is a lack of funding and support to achieve stellar content, market reach and optimization excellence.

Learning the ultimate advanced level tactics and techniques is great, but without the resources to apply them well and expertly, an SEO is likely to find their work uncompetitive.  SEOs don’t operate in a vacuum.

The report offers no mention at all of AI SEO, predictive/prescriptive analytics, nor the use of SEO software tools.  Further issues are that content marketing is lumped in with SEO, when in some cases, the SEO consultant or specialist may have no control over the design, production and publishing of content — all of which impact SEO performance.

I’d recommending downloading a copy of the report on the Search Engine Journal website (you must register for content access), then revisit this blog to pursue further insight into advanced SEO — what’s really needed to win today.

Contact Gord at 416 998 6246 to get your search engine optimization strategy on a solid footing, using more sophisticated, advanced techniques that will grow reach, impact, engagement and help beat your competitors.

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