**Updated 5 Sept 2018 to reflect the change of Google Adwords to Google Ads
SEO. One of the most important, but also most significantly spam folder filling topics in Digital Marketing. We’re willing to bet that you’d need more than two hands to count how many SEO companies have contacted you offering the world and we’d be further willing to bet that you’re at least a little sick of it by now.
Full disclosure, we’re not beyond contacting anyone for this purpose because at the end of the day we’re a marketing company, but one thing we most certainly do not believe in is trying to push products onto a client that they don’t need. The size of your business tends to dictate the budget you can allocate to marketing and the smaller that budget is, the more important it is to see a return sooner rather than later.
With SEO that can rarely be the case. Earning your place on the front page of search engines is a lot different to paying to be visible and for that reason it’s not something that can happen overnight. We’ve certainly had our fair share of cases where the right recommendations with timely implementation can start to yield results within 4-8 weeks, but these are the exceptions to the rule. In most cases, results only begin to show themselves by month 3 at the earliest unless something dodgy is going on with regards to methodology and as anyone who has gone down that path will tell you, you don’t want the consequences that will inevitably bring. So let’s break down a few things to consider when deciding whether or not it’s time for your business to engage in SEO and a few alternative recommendations if it turns out that you’re not.
Good SEO is not cheap
Contrary to what a lot of the unsolicited emails you receive might tell you, the quality of your SEO diminishes in direct correlation with the amount that you pay. To be blunt about it, as soon as you hit under $1000 per month you’d have good reason to question the methodology of the agency in question. This is because implementing SEO is not cheap for your provider. If they’re worth their salt then they’d be beginning by spending a good amount of hours assessing your website itself, your content marketing efforts and your overall online presence along with the links pointing to your website. That takes a lot of attention and time as follows:
Having a broken car in the race will never work, so the first thing they should be looking at is how SEO compliant your website is. This means combing through each URL and assessing the overall menu structure, metadata and relevance of the site, after which extensive recommendations should be made with regards to changes.
A few necessary exceptions aside (such as a business with one very niche product or service), content marketing should always be a part of the plan. Aside from the obvious benefits of regularly adding keyword relevant content to your website, the activity around your site also contributes to rankings. Social Signals are also important as they can push this activity and if you have a great blog then you would naturally want to get it out there in front of as many relevant eyeballs as possible. While it wouldn’t take long to do a skim of your blog and the regularity with which you utilise it, providing a keyword relevant content marketing plan (we recommend planning 6 months ahead) that balances genuinely useful information with SEO goals is no small job.
Social Signals and Activity:
While links from social sites hold little weight with regards to increasing rankings directly, the activity around your online presence from these channels through to the website itself does contribute. This means that upon initial assessment of your situation, a provider should be looking at how you interact with your customers across all platforms and it would not be totally out of place in 2018 for an SEO provider to make recommendations with regards to Social Media.
Assessing your Link Profile:
By now any business looking to engage in Search Engine Optimisation should have some idea what this means. The websites pointing to your website serve as your “cred” with search engines. For this reason they also need to be held accountable to the rules laid out for your own website. Pulling all of these websites and assessing them both individually and as they pertain to the larger picture of your link profile can sometimes be a mammoth undertaking. From there numerous actions could be required. From disavowing certain links deemed toxic, to manually trying to get those links removed, to making recommendations on how to improve your link profile over time with everything from earning links organically via content marketing, to utilising your partner businesses and suppliers through to manually prospecting like minded websites in order to obtain links, this is one of the most time consuming aspects of SEO and there is rarely an end to this part of the activity.
There is a lot more to it such as assessing your outbound links and a veritable laundry list of minor SEO ranking factors that will gradually be addressed after these initial activities are being actioned, but the point here is that SEO is difficult and requires that you be ready for a serious investment. With that said, the return on it is pretty huge once everything kicks in and is humming along nicely, so don’t go feeling disheartened about it in general. Just be sure you’re ready for that level of marketing.
SEO requires patience.
As we’ve already said, earning your place on the front page takes time. But why is that?
The bit to pay attention to here is the word “earning”. When it comes to its organic (free) listings, Google makes no money for those clicks. They do however want people to keep coming back and using these free listings for obvious reasons, which means that they want to provide the best possible results to their end users. As you may well have noticed when looking at the paid results for your own search terms, a paid system is not a reliable enough way to judge true relevance if you’re going to factor in the ability to bid for that spot, even if you do still have stringent rules about how you can advertise.
As with real life, building trust takes time and the rules are there for a good reason. This is why a lot of black hat (meaning underhanded) techniques that can occasionally deliver fast results often don’t last. A flurry of activity can sometimes result in rankings but if it’s not consistently followed up then you’ll soon find yourself dropping back off as websites with a more steady approach keep plugging away because they’re taking the time to give the search engine what it wants and build trust over time.
Aside from this, it can also just take a long time to implement your SEO as we’ve also outlined. Even the best-laid plans for implementation shouldn’t happen too quickly as too much activity in too short a time frame can actually be viewed suspiciously by search engines. Anything that looks unnatural is frowned upon even if the activity itself is natural but implemented too close together. So for this reason, SEO may not yet be for you. But luckily…
…There are alternatives in Google Ads (formerly AdWords) & Social Media PPC!
These alternatives are each good for their own reasons but also have their drawbacks, so it’s important to pick the right one. The difference generally lies in costs and your audience.
Google Ads (formerly Google AdWords):
This option suits those who feel that their audience is primarily hunting down the products or services that they provide. Depending on the keywords you target you can catch people at exactly the right point in the buying cycle. Motivated leads who are actively seeking your help. It’s a better option than SEO for those who need a faster return because although you should never go into a new marketing venture expecting an instant return, it can certainly be had via this channel much faster than it would happen through SEO activities.
It’s also a great complimentary platform for SEO as the data that it provides will give you some really great intelligence on which keywords convert best. This then allows you to target those keywords with SEO, but still rank amongst paid listings for those terms in the meantime while you earn an organic spot on the front page.
The potential issue with Google Ads, however, is that it isn’t the cheapest of PPC options given that it’s a bidding system, which can drive costs per click up over time. If you can get a good return happening then this shouldn’t matter, however, if your allocated budget can’t fuel an effective campaign, then social media could be for you.
Social Media PPC:
Unlike just a few short years ago, it’s difficult to quantify today how much cheaper Facebook is given the meteoric rise of the platform. However, it would be safe to say in a general sense that unless you’re in an over-saturated market for the channel, you can at least stretch the same budget you’d use for Google Ads much further, if not lower the budget altogether.
This is great for smaller businesses with smaller budgets, however, it’s not quite as direct as Google Ads in terms of catching people right at the moment where they’re motivated to buy. You can however target much more detailed personal interests and information than you can anywhere else (don’t worry about the recent scandals involving this, the platform isn’t going anywhere as outlined in the Facebook part of this previous blog). The same also goes for Instagram advertising, which is run via the Facebook ads manager interface given that they own Instagram.
LinkedIn may also be an option for you, however, given how niche a market you would need to advertise on the platform, that’s best left for an upcoming blog. So stay tuned!
In the meantime, if you feel like you need to discuss or dive into any of the above options, feel free to get in touch