It’s 2020. If right now you have any sort of business, no matter the size or the scale, it’s very unlikely you haven’t thought of reaching your potential customers online. Even if most of your business transactions are conducted offline, you’ve probably realized that without a solid online presence you are losing customers. The times of High Street window shopping are fading away. More and more purchase decisions are made exclusively online, so it’s more important than ever to consider the question: How can I generate more leads and sales using online channels?
Without a doubt, COVID-19 has accelerated the need to answer this question efficiently. This article will highlight a particular channel that will help you achieve this: Search Engine Optimisation, more commonly referred to as SEO.
When is SEO an answer for my business?
When somebody approaches me in need of SEO strategy, it’s always important to take a step back and understand if SEO is absolutely the right channel for the business.
The main online marketing channels that can generate traffic and sales are: Social Media, Email, Influencer Marketing, Social Ads, Display Ads, Search Engine Ads, PR, and SEO.
So without turning this article into a 200+ page book, I’ll focus on the main question: when does it make sense to invest in SEO for my business?
Here are some simple questions you should start asking yourself:
- Does my target audience look for my products and services on Search Engines? Then SEO is for me
- Is it possible to buy my product through my website? Then SEO is for me
- Can I generate high-quality leads through my website? Then SEO is for me
- Do I have a hyperlocal business that people used to search for in yellow pages? Then SEO is for me
- Is there a marketplace that dominates my industry (e.g. booking.com, amazon.com)? Then SEO may be for me
There are only a few cases where I’d advise against investing in SEO:
- Very low search volumes for the product or service, which means that investment in SEO is unlikely to yield positive ROI.
- The vast majority of leads and sales in the industry are generated through referrals, which means that other channels will yield better ROI.
- The market is dominated by big marketplaces and the majority of purchase decisions are made at those marketplaces, not on individual websites.
In all other cases, SEO is something you should definitely consider!
Advantages & Disadvantages of SEO
Advantage #1 - It’s free traffic
By far the biggest plus of optimizing your website for organic traffic is that organic traffic is free. No matter if you get 100 monthly visitors or 1 million, if they find you via search results you won’t pay a dime for their visit.
The only other marketing channels that can offer similar upside are Social Media and PR, however, traffic coming from those channels are usually not consistent and come with much lower buyer-intent.
Advantage #2 - It’s like a moat
If you start to dominate the search engine result pages in your industry, that means you are building a defensive moat for your business. The way SEO works is that businesses who constantly provide great, Search Engine Optimized content are building a reputation in the Search Engine’s eyes. Once you become an authority in your industry, and continuously work on improving it, competitors cannot simply outbid you overnight.
Advantage #3 - It can be low-maintenance in the long-term
A lot of marketing channels have a direct relationship between how much time and $$$ you invest, and the results you see. Your ads won’t be running if you don’t pay for them, your social media following will fizzle out if you don’t post regularly, your email subscribers won’t visit your website if you don’t send them emails. You get the picture...
However, once you acquire high rankings for pages on your website it’s likely that it will bring you constant and free traffic with only very low maintenance required. Yes, competition and algorithm changes may keep you on your toes, but it’s rare to see your organic traffic completely disappear. There are websites that haven’t been updated for 10 years and they still receive tens of thousands of visitors on a monthly basis!
Disadvantage #1 - It’s slow
One thing is for sure: you can’t build an SEO success overnight.
The main reason is that for any given search query, search engines like Google need to filter out millions of websites and deliver the best matching websites in the order of quality. To do that efficiently, search engines build sophisticated algorithms that look at 100s of different ranking factors.
You, as a website owner, need to perform a series of optimization steps and produce high-quality content on a consistent basis for at least 6 to 12 months to rise to the 1st page of the search results.
Why is being on the 1st page important? I’m happy being on the 2nd or 3rd? Well, 75% of people will never scroll past the 1st search results page when looking for something. Your best strategy is to do all you can to get your website ranking up to the 1st page. And it may be slower than you are willing to wait for the first customers to come in.
Disadvantage #2 - Results are not always guaranteed
I will not be surprised if on a weekly basis you get at least one email that says something along the lines of “we can get your business to rank in #1 spot in 2 months!” or “we guarantee high Google rankings!”.
In reality, any good SEO knows that no matter how great you are, everything is still in the hands of almighty Google and other search engines. Search algorithms and competition landscapes change constantly, which makes it a never-ending battle for the highest rankings. And while an experienced SEO can improve your rankings significantly, nobody can guarantee that you’ll be able to reach high enough positions to see a significant effect on your business’ bottom line.
The best time to invest in SEO
I love this saying – “the best time to invest in SEO was 5 years ago, the second-best time is today!”. And it’s true. Due to the fact that it takes time to acquire traffic through search engines, the sooner you start investing in SEO strategy, the sooner you’ll see results coming your way.