If you were to find a time machine, go back about 10 years, and ask me if your company needed SEO, you would hear a passionate speech full of evangelical zeal.
Of course, you need SEO! Why would anyone not need SEO? SEO is the most effective form of marketing there is. And it’s the most cost-effective, too!
If you want some more reasons why most businesses need SEO, I urge you to read 12 Reasons Why Your Business Absolutely Needs SEO by Sam Hollingsworth.
The 5 Pillars of SEO
I still believe that most companies benefit from SEO.
Every company can benefit from the basic building blocks of SEO, which I define as the following (known as the 5 Cs).
- Code: The underlying code of your website may not make you rank in the search engines, but without proper code, there is a better than average chance you won’t rank at all. Technical SEO best practices are good for every company.
- Content: The content on your site, as well the content about your site elsewhere on the web, needs to appeal to both prospects and search engines. While there is no need to be overly aggressive in getting keyword phrases into your copy – you do need to have them. It’s rare that a page will rank for a keyword phrase that doesn’t appear in the copy.
- Connections: Everyone knows that links are what the major search engines use as primary relevancy signals. But don’t think of it as “link building” as that tends to confuse folks into thinking that they need to create something that automates the building of links. In almost all cases this is a bad idea. The basics of quality link building are not new – and they were pioneered in the public relations world. Building relationships with influencers is a tried and true way to create lasting connections that reward sites with links.
- Communications: Social media is not SEO. But using social media to engage with customers and influencers is one of the best ways to create the connections that lead to links. Every person involved in SEO or content creation should have a place at the social media marketing table.
- Capture: We don’t know how well we are doing unless we know how well we are doing. Having a robust analytics program is vital to a proper SEO program. Being able to determine what is working and what is not is imperative. Not every keyword provides sales right away – but they assist with sales later. Proper attribution modeling (as much as possible) will help ensure that you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater because of bad data.
Sometimes the Squeeze Isn’t Worth the Juice
The pillars of SEO haven’t changed much in the last decade.
The companies that execute all five of the pillars better than the competition outrank them almost every time.
But for some companies and verticals, the resources required versus the return are not worth the time and money it takes to create a robust SEO program.
Experience and maturity have shown me that not all companies need to implement a full-scale, robust SEO program.
Let’s look at the five reasons why a company might not need to do (too much) SEO.
1. No One Is Searching for Your Product or Service
Innovators and disrupters are great a creating products that we never knew we needed.
I have a client that created an amazing backpack frame that both provides the wearer with added support to prevent back injuries – but also doubles a seat that will support someone up to 350 pounds. You just set the backpack down, fold out the seat and have a rest. My kids use it every day at the bus stop and it has proven popular with outdoors enthusiasts of all stripes.
The problem was that no one was searching for a backpack with a seat. Most people didn’t know something like it even exists.
Unfortunately, our first tactic with the client was a full SEO program. Once we finished the keyword research, we knew it wouldn’t work.
So we pivoted to an awareness campaign that combined paid social advertising with content marketing. Today, these backpacks sell at major sporting goods manufacturers, and an SEO program will work now that we have created some demand.
2. Your Company Needs Results Fast
In my experience, SEO typically provides the second best ROI, behind only quality opt-in email lists.
But SEO is slow.
Anyone who’s ever run an SEO campaign knows that while we may see some results quickly, the campaign isn’t typically performing to profitable levels for up to 6 months. The patience required is not an option for some companies.
If you need to sell something quick, putting your money toward a paid advertising campaign is the best bet.
Tip: Are you targeting an audience that isn’t particularly technically savvy? Bing converts better than Google. Bing also provides a better ROI, to a point. You want the volume of sales that can get with Google and Facebook, but you will get more sales from the visitors who click on your ad.
3. You’re an Enterprise Company Stuck in a Contract with a Horrible CMS
Doing quality SEO work on a large, enterprise site requires a special skillset.
Not only do you have to know your stuff, you have to be able to use persuasion, coercion, politicking, groveling, and fighting to get the slightest changes made in many large organizations. And sometimes decisions are made by people who don’t understand all the ramifications of their actions.
Several “enterprise” level CMS platforms look great in a demo. They have all the bells and whistles a C-Level IT person could want.
But many of these CMSs are SEO dumpster fires out of the box. Fixing them isn’t easy, especially in an organization where there’s a 4-month queue and four approvals are required to change a meta tag.
The good thing is that companies typically have the money to spend on a robust ad campaign – even if they can’t tie their shoelaces when it comes to SEO.
4. You Want to Promote Events, Ever-Changing Inventory, or One-Time Offerings
It’s hard to do SEO for things that change rapidly.
If you have an event to promote, traditional SEO isn’t going to help you sell any tickets – especially if it’s a first-year event. By the time the event is indexed and ranking in the main index, it’s most likely too late to participate or the event is over.
The same goes for sites (e.g., Woot.com) that have disparate inventory that changes all the time. Getting a product indexed that you aren’t going to be selling in a month is a waste of time and effort.
We frequently have prospects approach us to “SEO” a one-time offer or contest. SEO is not the ideal vehicle for this promotion.
Facebook, influencer outreach, public relations and paid advertising (AdWords, Content Network, Programmatic) are much better suited for promotion in these types of situations.
5. You Have Little Money & Even Less Resources
If I were starting a small business, and I only $5,000 to spend on marketing, I’m not going to be putting a robust SEO program in place.
I would definitely work to do as much toward improving my five pillars of SEO on my site, but the time and effort required to do quality SEO are going to eat up my money and resources.
I’d be much better off making sure my website is solid and promoting my offerings through social media – putting a small amount of money into amplifying the social reach.
Work until you can spend the money on SEO and then do it. In the long run, it will be the best investment you will ever make.
SEO is an investment. It isn’t free.
Even if you do it yourself, you’re going to have to spend long hours learning something. You could be spending that time on your business.
I always say, SEO isn’t rocket science, it’s more like plumbing. You could watch a few YouTube videos to figure out how to fix your sink, just like you could learn some basic SEO and fix some things on your site. But if you screw up on fixing your sink – or watch the wrong video, you’ll end up with a mess that will require far more than the local plumber to fix.
The same goes for SEO.
If you don’t have the resources to either hire a good SEO or contract with one, probably best to learn the basics of Facebook advertising. Then hire or contract with an SEO as soon as you can.
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