According to BrightEdge research, organic search “remains the dominant source of web traffic and the largest digital channel,” with an average traffic share of 53% across industries. You would think the value of organic traffic from search engines would make investing in SEO a no-brainer, but marketers and business owners often have real concerns about integrating SEO into their overall strategy.
Perhaps you’ve tried SEO before with less-than-stellar results. Or maybe you’re finding it hard to rationalize the expense in an ever-tightening marketing budget. Many of your Google Ads campaigns are particularly successful, it may seem like an unnecessary and unnecessary effort. No matter where you stand, it’s understandable to re-evaluate if your investment in SEO is worth it.
As a digital marketing company that’s been around since 2006, we’ve heard almost every worry you can imagine to investing in SEO, from concerns about cost and ROI, to complete misconceptions about how SEO works. As understandable as a cautious approach may be, the bottom line is, SEO does work, and it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to boost leads from your website, long term.
To help explain the value of SEO we’re going to break down the 11 most common objections to SEO that we’ve heard and show why they are worth reconsidering.
You might think that you are, but almost every time we audit a company’s SEO process they are failing in many categories.
Sometimes we discover that marketers who say they’re doing SEO are running a paid search campaign, posting on social media, or maintaining a blog—none of which is SEO!
Search engine optimization or SEO, involves the strategic use of a variety of specialized tactics, including keyword research, on-page optimization, link building, and both technical and content optimization, to drive qualified traffic to a website by improving its organic (non-paid) rankings in search results.
While other techniques—specifically paid search, but also efforts like social posting—can drive traffic to your website, they are not considered SEO because they have no effect on how search engines naturally index and rank your content.
But this raises the question, does it really matter if your traffic is organic or not? For sustained business growth, it does. According to BrightEdge, of all traffic across the web:
These statistics clearly show how powerful SEO is as a tool to grow your business. This isn’t to say paid search, or any other effort isn’t worth it. Different methods of digital marketing reach audiences at different stages of the buyer’s journey, and they work best when used to complement a solid foundation of SEO.
If you’re interested in learning more about the fundamentals of SEO, were recommend Moz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO as a great introduction to the topic.
We believe SEO shouldn’t cost a lot for a small company. There are plenty of methods to use to gain popularity in the search engines within a budget.
Good SEO is certainly an investment, but it can, and should, pay for itself when done correctly. If you use a website to promote your business (and who doesn’t?), SEO is simply invaluable. Why? Consider these SEO statistics:
Is your website responsible for generating 40% of your revenue? Of course, this statistic will not apply equally to every industry, but it shows how significant organic search visibility can be to business success. If you aren’t investing in SEO, you are leaving a huge potential revenue stream on the table for your competitors.
So how much should you pay for SEO to be worthwhile for your business? Again, that will differ greatly by industry and how competitive the market is. But Search Engine Journal reports that a majority of businesses spend about $5000 per month on SEO.
No matter your budget, SEO can significantly affect your bottom line. Businesses who invest in strategic SEO reap the rewards. SEO is only too expensive if it’s not justifying its cost by generating enough sales. If that’s the case, it may be time to reassess your strategy or provider, rather than abandon SEO as an element of your marketing strategy.
SEO does take time. While some SEO tactics can be applied quickly, you’ll get the most benefit from a comprehensive strategy. This includes not only tuning up the website you have but planning for the ongoing addition of optimized content. And while it’s not impossible to experience the benefits of SEO sooner rather than later, there is no way to guarantee how quickly optimization will be considered by Google.
We encourage our clients to invest in a minimum of six months of SEO to begin to see real, sustainable benefit. That said, it’s not uncommon for businesses to experience some level of improvement in as little as two weeks after executing changes. Remember, SEO is cumulative; it builds upon itself to make it easier for your future optimization efforts to be successful. A year from now, you will thank yourself for the SEO you invest in today.
Because it tends to be quicker, paid search advertising is sometimes seen as a better investment to SEO, but this simply is not the case. While both may drive traffic to your website, the two channels are very different. Using these efforts in tandem will allow them to build on each other over time and increase your overall return on investment. Not to mention, if you decide to discontinue paid search, your traffic won’t be lost altogether. Thanks to your SEO efforts you’ll have a steady flow of organic traffic coming to your website.
Marketers who have heard that “content is king” may think SEO is out of reach because they don’t have the resources to create new content. And while this can certainly slow down your SEO efforts, the good news is that SEO is not all content. There are many technical fixes or less-involved on-page optimizations you can make that will still improve your organic visibility.
For example, one strategy we often recommend is optimizing and expanding existing content. Pages on your website that already rank on the second or third page of search results are excellent opportunities for marketers who want to make effective use of writers within a tight budget. Tactics like rewriting title tags and header tags or adding media can be quick ways to better optimize the on-page elements of your page. Looking for areas to expand your content and make your page more in-depth are also less time-consuming than writing an entirely new content piece.
Of course, you’ll still need someone to execute these changes, which can be a challenge if you don’t have the budget for a designated writer on-staff. In this situation, we recommend either hiring a freelance writer (preferably with experience in your industry) or training an existing staff member in SEO best practices so they can incorporate writing into their workflow.
It’s important to keep in mind that when it comes to content, quality is always preferable to quantity. Even one blog post a month can see strong returns when done strategically.
HIBU comes to mind on this one. A lot of business owners fall for their scheme and we are left to clean up the mess.
There are many advantages to one-stop-shop web development, at least on the surface. But when SEO (or paid search) is part of a website package deal, it’s usually done generically with automation rather than a custom strategy. Businesses tend to see less-than-desirable results from these types of campaigns.
Sometimes, all-inclusive web development shops will target a specific industry, which means there’s an inherent conflict of interest in helping several businesses try to outrank each other. These types of package deals may be a useful and affordable way to get a website going, but they often aren’t a long-term solution. In the worst cases, they hamper a website’s growth and limit the business it can generate.
If you find yourself in a situation where your website needs to bring in more traffic, but you’re locked in to a service agreement and can’t make the SEO changes necessary to get there, you’ll need to think outside the box, or seriously consider your contract’s kill clause. No matter your limitations, an SEO expert can advise you on what workarounds can help you see some movement in your rankings. We’ve helped clients implement very targeted tactics to improve their visibility while waiting for a service agreement to expire. Some ideas include the following:
When you rely on your website to drive business at any level, it’s imperative that you can control your SEO. A website that is not producing content is essentially left to die in the eyes of search engines. If you are in a sticky situation like this, well-done SEO is more valuable than ever. It’s worth the investment in experts to reclaim your lost visibility and set your website growth back on track.
If you’re in an industry that requires a great deal of technical knowledge, it can be hard to find an “outsider” that understands your business’s unique challenges. This is an issue we’ve seen a lot, and we understand the annoyances of working with agencies who miss the mark because they don’t have a firm grasp on what you do.
Fortunately, good SEO does not always require a deep or technical understanding of your industry:
A good amount of effective content creation can be done without subject matter experts. Top-of-funnel content—broad, educational pieces—require less specialized knowledge, but is highly valuable because it drives organic traffic through non-branded keywords, making it a great way to reach new prospects. And when you do need more technical information, having your subject matter experts work with writers and SEOs is a great way for others to learn your business. Good technical writers are skilled at learning an industry quickly, as well as knowing their limitations so they can efficiently extract the answers they need to write highly effective content.
With the endless supply of simple hacks and quick tips in digital marketing, it can be easy to get hung up on a single SEO tactic, such as putting keywords into titles and heading tags. And while focusing solely on on-page optimization may have pushed you to the top of the search results ten years ago, SEO has become increasingly complex. Google considers over 200 factors when ranking pages, and uses machine learning called RankBrain to determine, not only the most important results for a given search, but also how users are interacting with those results.
This means it’s much harder to “trick” the algorithm than it once was and relying on one tactic can lead to questionable practices that can get you penalized. For example, a company focused solely on building back links may be tempted to use computerized programs, launch large-scale guest posting campaigns, or pay for blog posts that pass PageRank—all tactics that are now considered “link schemes” and a violation of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
At the end of the day, there’s no single technique that will get you the rankings you want. An effective SEO strategy is comprehensive and relies on a combination of tactics working together. We recommend starting with a comprehensive SEO audit to help you better understand the different factors that are influencing your website’s search visibility and recognize opportunities to improve. From there, you can build out a complete SEO strategy that will improve your rankings and increase qualified traffic for the long run.
When you pay for a service intended to impact your bottom line and don’t see a return on your investment, it stings. And with SEO, it can be hard to identify exactly what went wrong.
In our experience, marketers who have been less than thrilled with their investment in SEO have a) been dinged by a major update to Google’s algorithm, b) worked with an “SEO” company that wasn’t doing good SEO, or c) both.
Although no SEO strategy could claim to be algorithm-proof, SEO providers who follow best practices should see their clients’ traffic and rankings stay on track regardless of algorithm updates. If you’ve worked with a company using black-hat tactics, such as buying links, keyword stuffing, or using unoriginal content, your website may have suffered significantly.
In cases like these, the hesitancy to retry SEO services is reasonable. But if you’ve had less-than-satisfactory results in the past, that does not mean you’ll have a similar experience in the future. A good SEO provider will be able to demonstrate their knowledge and be crystal clear about their methods and results. Effective SEO will improve your keyword rankings, drive more organic traffic, and increase the number of leads.
SEO is not “set it and forget it.” A past redesign, even if it was successful, does not ensure you have strong rankings now. With new content go into the search index every day, it’s highly likely that you’ve been beaten down a page or two in the search results if you haven’t kept on top of your optimization, and that can have major consequences for your traffic. If you rely on organic traffic to drive business, it’s vital to know where your SEO stands so you can continue to make enhancements and maintain your competitive edge.
This is true even if you have a redesign planned; if anything, SEO is more important before a redesign! Although many marketers think of it as a fresh start, a poorly executed redesign can lead to broken back links, lost SEO elements, and the inadvertent deletion of high-value content. A redesign is an excellent opportunity to invest in your ongoing visibility by preserving existing SEO elements that are driving traffic and creating an SEO strategy that leads to long-term success.
Paid search advertising, a type of pay-per-click (PPC) advertising, is a highly effective marketing channel with many benefits. When done correctly, it can generate quick results by driving additional traffic and sales, all while showing marketers clear ROI for their efforts.
However, some marketers mistakenly believe that investing in paid search alone is enough to drive traffic to their website. No marketing effort should operate in a silo. With organic traffic accounting for an average of 53% of website traffic, it simply can’t be ignored. In fact, we have found that SEO and PPC efforts often work best in tandem, with SEO bringing in visitors through non-branded searches and guiding them down the marketing funnel.
Also, keep in mind that paid search efforts are only as good as the time they are running. Once you turn them off there is no lasting value to your website. SEO, on the other hand, is collective and designed to pay off in the long term. The traffic that results from well-managed SEO will be there, whether you invest in paid search or not.
It’s common for marketers to wonder if the attempt and expense of SEO is worth it. Whether you’ve been burnt by previous attempts at SEO or are having a hard time justifying the cost in your marketing budget, it’s important to fully balance the risks and rewards for your business.
In this post, we’ve addressed some common concerns surrounding SEO. While each is worth considering, the bottom line is that it would be difficult to find a business website that can’t benefit from SEO. Sadly (as is the case with many things), those who would benefit the most, often have the hardest time justifying the cost. To that end, we’d like to encourage you to think of it differently. Instead of asking if SEO is worth it, consider how you can get the most value from SEO, for your budget. A good SEO expert, whether in-house or outsourced, will be committed to ensuring just that.