by Joshua Steimle
As the owner of an SEO firm, it would be tempting for me to tell you, and everyone else, that SEO is always the first place to spend your marketing dollars. I believe that SEO, when executed correctly and under the right circumstances, provides a better long term return on investment than any other form of marketing. But there are circumstances that make SEO less than ideal for some companies. Here are three situations in which SEO is not where your company should invest its marketing budget.
You Need Results Fast
With few exceptions, SEO is a long term investment that will not yield short term results. If you are launching a new website on a domain name that has never been used before, you can expect to wait several months, perhaps more than a year, to start getting results from SEO, unless you’re targeting keywords for which there is little competition. If your website has been up and running for several years, and you’re not targeting heavily competitive keywords, then you may be able to start getting results from SEO within two or three months. But if you need to boost your sales or lead generation efforts within the next month or two, SEO is not the right fit for you.
For short term online marketing efforts you’ll want to look into retargeting and paid search. Retargeting refers to those banner ads on websites that seem to follow you around, almost creepily. They’re great for reminding people who have visited your website that they should come back and check you out again. Paid search, alternatively called pay per click, PPC, Google Adwords, or search engine marketing, refers to the ads that show up alongside natural search results in search engines. With retargeting and paid search you can have ads showing up in Google and on other websites within minutes, rather than waiting months for SEO to start working its magic.
What’s the catch? Why not just focus on paid search and ignore SEO? First, retargeting and paid search generally have a lower return on investment in the long run–you’re going to pay more to get less. Second, in search engines most people don’t click on ads, they click on organic search results. If you put all your efforts into retargeting and paid search and ignore SEO, you’re leaving a lot of potential business on the table. But when you need results fast, retargeting and paid search are great options.
You Don’t Have the Budget To Do It Right
If you’ve only got $500 per month to spend on SEO then don’t hire an SEO firm. SEO, done the right way, has a certain threshold cost, and it’s more than $500 per month. There are plenty of SEO companies out there who will be happy to separate you from your $500 per month budget, but you’re unlikely to get much back. Better to wait until you can afford the $1,000 and higher prices it costs for a legitimate SEO campaign. By the way, $1,000 per month might be enough for a local campaign in an area that isn’t too competitive. If you want to run a national or global campaign targeting a competitive space, be prepared to budget a minimum of $5,000 per month, if not $10,000 to $20,000 per month.
If you’re running a small business or a bootstrapping entrepreneur and know you need good SEO, but just don’t have the budget, consider doing it yourself. The Moz Beginner’s Guide to SEO is a great place to start
You Have Something Better To Spend Money On
Every industry and business is different. While SEO may be a great choice for your business, there may be some other form of marketing that is better suited to your particular circumstances. Don’t engage in SEO just because everyone else is doing it. Treat it like any other business decision by gathering as much information as you can and comparing it to other marketing opportunities. A client of ours recently told us he can buy a large number of guaranteed leads for the same price he’s paying for SEO services, and therefore he’s considering moving his SEO dollars to buying those leads. I’d like to tell him he’s making a mistake and sacrificing long term, sustainable results for a short term gain, but only he can make that call. The best I can do is provide him with the data he needs to make an informed decision and explain the benefits he’ll receive if he continues to invest in SEO.
Seasonality Is Not A Good Reason To Stop SEO
While there are good reasons to not spend money on SEO, these do not include having a seasonal business. For companies that have a seasonal sales cycle, it can be tempting to say “Let’s pause SEO during our off-season and start it up just before our busy season comes around again.” This is a mistake for two reasons.
First, SEO is a bit like a freight train. It’s not something you can just turn on like a car and go. It’s not like paid search. It takes time to get results, and those results build upon each other over time.
Add to this that SEO is inherently competitive. If your company were the only one in your market, you wouldn’t need SEO at all. The only reason you need SEO at all is because you have competitors and they are engaging in SEO just like you are. If all your competitors are quitting SEO for the off-season then you won’t lose much by quitting, either. But are your competitors quitting? What if your competitors are going to keep on going strong with SEO through the off-season? Then no amount of work is going to allow your company to catch up when the busy season starts again.
Aside from the risk of getting behind, there’s also the opportunity to get ahead. If all your competitors quit SEO during the off-season this is the perfect opportunity for your company to continue investing. Then, when the busy season comes around again, your company will be ahead and your competition won’t have a hope of catching up. I do triathlons, and it’s said that triathlons are won during the winter, when most people are relaxing and taking a break, rather than during the summer when the events are happening. This is because those who win triathlons in the summer are training hard in the winter and getting ahead. If your company is seasonal and wants a winning strategy, you’ll use this time to get ahead of the competition, rather than taking a break.
Have you found good reasons to stop SEO, or to keep investing? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.
Joshua Steimle is the CEO of MWI, a digital marketing agency.