Search engine optimization (SEO) can have a strong impact on a business, driving revenue and profits. Other times, it’s frustrating and fruitless and feels like you’re pouring money down the drain.
A lot of content has been published on the virtues of SEO and why you should use it, but few have been published on what happens when SEO turns out to be a waste of resources. Let’s look at the pros and cons of investing in SEO, what you can do to work around some issues and when it might be best to cut your losses.
No developer means no SEO
Important SEO initiatives, such as an audit, need a developer to take it from being an average audit to a great one. Without a developer, there is little point in doing an SEO audit unless you want the audit to be very basic. Without developers and/or a budget to hire them, SEO can be put on hold.
SEO budgets are always an issue. Sometimes only a limited budget is available and, at other times, there may be too much of the budget left over at the end of a fiscal year. You would think having money left over would be a positive, but when it results in an unorganized spending spree, it may actually set your SEO program back.
By diverting your attention from what’s important or allocating funds unwisely, you are not able to introduce changes to a site swiftly. That lack of implementation may keep you from ranking well or taking advantage of a competitive situation.
Always keep a portion of your budget aside for implementation. There is little point engaging in SEO without being able to implement it, especially in competitive niches.
Search engine optimization is data-driven and requires fresh and accurate data, which comes at a cost. Burning through your budget to hire cheap or inexperienced SEO providers or buying reports you don’t really need is likely to produce poor results. When budget is an issue, it’s best to consider alternative initiatives like paid ads to drive revenue instantly instead of working with ineffective SEO.
SEO should not be done in effort to chase SEO white rabbits like:
- Keyword density.
- PageRank sculpting.
- TrustRank anything.
- The latest phony ranking scheme
None of these things are important or helpful in getting a web page to rank. While PageRank still is an internal ranking factor for Google, it can not be determined for any page by anyone who does not work in Google Engineering. All the key performance indicators (KPIs) listed above are fluff and do nothing to improve rankings.
It is not possible to reverse engineer any of the items listed since the sheer volume of data to be pulled is massive and would require huge databases to analyze everything. Any attempt to please C-level managers with limited or no SEO understanding by feeding them phony KPI values is deceptive and does nothing to help move a website or business forward.
SEO takes time to research, implement and report on. There is no point in expecting swift results from SEO, as most campaigns require three to six months for Google to crawl, embrace and reflect upon the signals it pulls from a web page. So be patient.
A TV marketing campaign can generate leads almost overnight, but no sustainable SEO initiative can do that. That does not mean marketing via other channels is superior to search engine optimization, just that it’s different. You can’t measure the effects of TV against SEO since they are so different. Embrace both and look for ways for the two marketing venues to work together.
Poor business model
The most fundamental limitation to SEO is that it will not fix an inherently flawed business model. A business model that works can be expanded with SEO and increase revenue by raising organic search visibility.
However, a product or service that finds no buyers won’t become more appealing if you improve site performance, fix canonicals or claim more SERP real estate. There are limits to what SEO can do.
Following SEO trends
One of the worst reasons for wasting money on SEO is following presumed or actual industry trends. When you follow trends you are reacting to a changing environment rather than actively shaping it.
Ideally, feature and site releases should follow a pre-planned timeline with objectives focused on user experience and conversion growth. Not just on traffic growth, as that factor alone does little to boost revenues.
A proactive approach evolves and improves. A reactive approach lacks leadership and a unique selling proposition. In terms of SEO, following trends is a particularly poor strategy because there are incredible amounts of misinformation published about the next big thing. The search engines promote technological innovation with their users in mind, rather than content publishers.
And yet there are countless instances when trends such as accelerated mobile pages (AMP) are peddled as a performance wonders that will work for everyone. The reality is, it’s an example of a costly technology which achieves superb site performance results. That said, most sites can accomplish excellent results like this by themselves without surrendering control over their own content. Blindly following SEO trends is a shortcut to almost guaranteed SEO budget waste.
SEO is a business decision which has its ups and downs and can go wrong for many reasons. Having a bad experience in SEO is no reason to stop it. In fact, it is likely to be the best reason to continue and commit to SEO.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.