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Investing vs. Wasting Budget on SEO

Posted on Jan 10th, 2011
Written by Lee Odden
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    Website TrafficCompanies that seek to expand their market reach to growing populations of customers spending time online have turned in significant numbers to search and social media as marketing channels. The world of search and social as an intersection with content marketing is quickly emerging as well.

    The pro of all that attention and budget is that companies are finding increasingly effective ways to engage with customers and grow business revenue. The con is that many companies categorize half-hearted or incomplete search and social efforts as ineffective or irrelevant.

    Marketers are tasked with finding technologies and communication platforms that will grow the business and keep the brand ahead of the competition. The tendency for industry media to idolize the latest digital marketing tactics creates unrealistic expectations or worse, tentative investments in tactics like SEO without actually being committed to what it takes to be successful.

    If you’re an Online Marketer, you might have heard requests like: “Our competitors and several smaller companies that we don’t even consider big enough to be competition are all over Google and we’re not. This month, you need to find a way to optimize our site to increase our Google rankings.”

    Another example: “We need to engage a consultant, but there’s not a lot of budget. So let’s test it (SEO or Social Media Marketing) out and if they can shows results, we can increase the budget.”

    Yet another example: “We’re launching a new website and we need to optimize it to drive traffic. Forecast how many sales we’ll get from the SEO starting from month one and through the  year.”

    It’s reasonable to expect a return on a marketing investment, but tactics like SEO require a commitment to content, links and continued attention to web analytics and conversion optimization for improved performance.  If an online marketer within a company is tasked with engaging outside help from a SEO consultant or digital marketer, it’s important to understand that commitment so expectations with business leaders can be managed.

    As a consultant, nothing is worse than seeing a SEO program just start to gain momentum (especially after the client side marketer has overcome the hurdles of getting internal buy-in) only to have someone from the C-Suite look at a balance sheet and say: “We’ve invested $X on SEO over the past 3 months on the new website and we’ve only had 2 leads?  We’re wasting our time and money on SEO, since it doesn’t work.”

    Experienced marketers from B2B to online ecommerce sites understand that with a new website, it can take quite a few months to build up the content and links required to get Google’s attention in the search results. Even after persistent SEO efforts with content and link acquisition deliver traffic to the site, the content and lead gen or product offers must be compelling enough to convert those visitors to leads or sales.

    Launching a new website in a competitive category means even more time to see the same kind of search visibility as competitors that have been actively engaging SEO tactics for 3, 5 or even 10 years.  In fact, SEO alone on a new website to drive traffic makes little sense. Consultants should inform client side marketers of that and provide other marketing options for what will drive traffic to the site and how SEO efforts can work in concert with Social Media, Online PR, Email, PPC and other Online Advertising.

    I’ve often told business owners and marketers that if they want to reap the rewards of dominant search visibility, they need to commit to content and links indefinitely. Otherwise, don’t bother and drive site traffic through other means. SEO is an investment and the way we consult, works holistically with how a business publishes and promotes content online. Expectations should be managed with proper competitive analysis, benchmark reporting, forecasting and ongoing analysis of performance.  A tentative approach always results in tentative results.

    Of course I am an advocate of SEO since we’ve helped numerous companies generate significant revenue over the past 10 years, but I can empathize with business managers that only look at spreadsheets without understanding timeframes. I can also understand the pressures marketers have at generating new business with slim budgets and not necessarily understanding the specific mechanics of what goes into a competitive SEO effort.  It’s only through education and raising awareness that these barriers can be overcome.

    If you’re a corporate marketer that has invested in SEO and not see the results you’d been promised or expected, how did you handle it? How have you overcome internal disconnects about how SEO can work with your company? How have you managed expectations?