For anyone running a business, it feels like you never stop having new and important marketing strategies, practices, and tactics you need to be doing.
One one hand, you know you can’t throw money at every decent-sounding strategy that comes your way… but you’re also very aware that if you miss the next big thing, you’re giving up a HUGE advantage to every competitor waiting to take your customers.
For many, search engine optimization (SEO) falls into this category… and here are 5 reasons why [you don’t need it for your small or local business].
SEO is costly and you never really know where your money is going
Getting a web page to rank high for valuable keywords is one of those things that’s part art, science, and intuition.
Even though search engine optimizers have a rough plan of what they’re going to do, they work in a sort of touch-and-go manner (that’s the art / intuition part) so it’s difficult to tell someone exactly what the specific plan is.
Add to that, it’s easy to take someone’s plan and do it yourself or hire someone in-house to do it (another reason SEO consultants and agencies don’t share too much about specific tactics).
Ranking on the top of Google for a keyword that people use to buy the things you sell can literally make you an overnight success… so that puts SEO people and SEO companies with these “superpowers” in high demand and at times, excessively expensive.
This isn’t to say that there isn’t a ton of work that goes into good SEO… and I’m definitely not saying it’s not worth it if you can double, triple, or even 10X your results (because it’s not uncommon to grow your sales 10X once your SEO finally kicks in), because it is.
What it means is that as with anything worthwhile and in high demand, you’re going to pay a little more if you want it.
SEO requires time and consistency (it is not set-it-and-forget-it)
SEO is long-term.
It takes months (and sometimes even years for the most competitive search terms) to get a #1 ranking on Google.
If you’re strictly looking for a quick turnaround and want to start ranking tomorrow, there are better ways to do this (like PPC).
That said, be careful to avoid confusing the need for immediate results with basic lizard-brain impatience because the latter can cause you to miss out and lose big on significant opportunities.
Also, SEO isn’t set-it-and-forget-it and that’s not a shot at the efficiency of SEO or the person executing your SEO.
Instead, it’s more to do with the everchanging environment, new technologies, and how people adapt to these and all the other changes.
Think of how voice search on Siri / Alexa / etc. changed things up.
If I wanted to buy a new car, I might type the following search in Google: new car dealers in Miami
If I’m using Siri or Alexa, I’d probably “ask”: Where can I buy a new car near me?
As a business, you can open your business up to lots of new customers just by doing some research and staying on top of all the ways potential customers are searching for the things you provide.
SEO results take time to manifest
SEO is like a sport.
For an athlete to get to the top and become #1, they need to execute the strategic, time-consuming, and sometimes difficult work.
You can fast-forward the results by bringing in someone who already knows what they’re doing… though they still need time to sort things out, figure out how to work within the team / business structure, and adapt it to their work.
Anyone who promises quick gains, is likely doing something that’ll get you in trouble (and ultimately, banned) so when it comes to SEO, it’s wise to remember the saying: Easy come. Easy go.
SEO practitioners are tight-lipped about their work (and love to badmouth each other; many times unfairly)
Like I said above, sometimes it’s impossible (or unwise) to be completely transparent with an SEO action plan because much of it is touch-and-go and / or intuition.
Also, no one likes to spend hours on research, analysis, and planning just to have their work implemented by someone else and ultimately, leaving them out of the loop and unpaid.
Imagine writing a book, taking it to a potential publisher, and when you leave, they publish it themselves under their name and you receive no compensation or recognition for your work.
That’s what happens every day in the SEO world and unethical consultants and SEO salespeople take advantage of that and start poking holes just to get the job / contract only to end up using the same tactics and charging more to do it.
A confident search engine optimizer doesn’t need to badmouth another’s specific execution without first understanding the full scope of what’s going on (a lot of things start to make sense when you understand why people do the things they do; it’s no different with SEO).
Generally speaking, the SEO industry has lots of scammers and few actually get the results they promise
Does this even require further explanation??
First, let’s understand what SEO actually is.
SEO stands for / is the acronym for Search Engine Optimization (and sometimes, it’s used to describe the person doing the work; Search Engine Optimizer).
Simply put, SEO is the practice / tactic / art / science / strategy of optimizing or tweaking a web page (or collection of web pages) to rank well for specific keywords with the intention of getting people to view said web page(s) when people search said keywords on search engines (like Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, etc.). “SEO” is also used as a noun to talk about a person that does search engine optimization.
Essentially, an SEO’s job is to “convince” a search engine that it is the absolute best resource for a particular search phrase / keyword.
This convincing is done, in large part, by demonstrating popularity and authority… SEO is a great big popularity contest (it’s like being a teenager and being back at school).
Basically, the more times people visit your pages, talk about your pages, link to your pages, share your pages, etc., the more popular (and the more authority your brand is perceived to have).
You’re probably thinking that it’s easy to fake these things and you’d be right… if it was 2005.
Today, search engines have extremely sophisticated systems (algorithms) in place to catch “black hats”, fakers, and search engine spammers.
Believe me, no matter how slick you think you or your systems are, Google will catch on.
Because Google’s entire business model is based on providing the best search experience, they spend a ridiculous amount of money protecting the integrity of ALL their search results which means everyone eventually gets caught (and the smarter $$$ invests in long-terms big results over immediate but short-lived “okay” results).
An important stat you should know about SEO
According to Hubspot (they’re kind of a big deal), 81% of consumers say they do online research before buying anything online and many of them start the process on a search engine like Google.
a., I actually suspect that number to be much higher than 81% by the way because these studies are usually a few years behind
b., We’re hardly ever more than arm’s reach away from our phones which means we’re always ready to “Google” something
c., Because of the above, people now research things online before making offline purchases too!
d., Google gets over 3.5 billion (yes, that’s billion with a B) every day; as I’m writing this around noon time, Google already has well over 4 billion searches today — check out this cool page with Google search stats
As the title states, SEO isn’t for everyone.
Onto the 5 signs you don’t need SEO (and you’ll still be fine)…
1. You don’t have a website
Yes, most businesses will benefit greatly from having a decent website however there are many that never had one and do fine without one.
While one could argue that having a website (and doing SEO) can grow the business, there are plenty of people out there that are getting more than enough business, aren’t interested in getting any more customers, are happy where they’re at, and like being small enough they don’t need to go after customers (more about that below).
If this is you, you don’t need SEO.
2. Your business is too small for SEO
Sometimes a business’ margins aren’t big enough to justify the cost of building and maintaining a website (though there are affordable options; see here) and then getting search traffic to the website they just invested in (btw, it is possible to do SEO even when you don’t have a website; see here).
On average, a basic customized website will cost anywhere from $600-$2,500 (5X more if you want to sell products through your own e-commerce shopping cart) plus monthly hosting and email ($5-$45/month on average; here’s the hosting option I use and recommend if budget is an issue).
Also on average, SEO will cost you $800-$10,000 per month (the low end is usually okay for low competition industries where it’s okay to “work slower”).
If your outlook isn’t making generating at least 3X the costs I shared above, then you definitely don’t need SEO (at least not traditional SEO).
For you, I recommend getting good at one social media platform (like Instagram, Facebook, TikTok, Pinterest, YouTube, etc.) and posting stuff [at least once a day] that’ important to people buying what you sell and that ties in directly to your product / service.
Additionally, I recommend creating a Google My Business (GMB) page / profile and filling it out as completely as possible and regularly adding posts to your GMB page.
This will help you to rank on Google Maps for local searches without having to invest in traditional SEO.
3. You’re getting TOO MUCH traffic already
I meet people all the time who already have more traffic than they can handle (or convert) but they’re afraid of missing out (FOMO) on the benefits of SEO.
If this is you, you don’t need SEO.
Instead, put your efforts on improving your conversions and wow’ing your customers with outstanding world-class customer service.
Because SEO keywords is a moving target, you’re really never in danger of “missing out”.
The real reason to get started early is to get your top search engine rankings sooner but if you’re not even converting what you’ve got (or worse, you’re providing “just average” service), then you’re just compounding and exploiting the things you need to fix.
4. You’re already ranking on Google
Many times I’ll do an analysis for a business owner only to find Google already sees their brand as an authority and is already ranking them on the top of many search results.
If this is you, you don’t need SEO however you’d probably benefit from doing a little research to see what’s working really well and make sure you continue to do more of that.
I’d also see if there are any keywords you can add to your website’s content for an easy and inexpensive traffic boost.
5. You’re not ready to commit
I know it’s cliché, but SEO is a marathon.
If you’re not ready (or able) to commit, SEO isn’t for you.
Lack of patience will kill the most promising SEO campaign and oddly enough, people will typically want to pull the plug right before things are about to start happening.
Investing month over month without visible results is difficult to see and even more difficult to “sell” to bosses and partners who don’t understand SEO.
Sometimes money is an issue… this is where you need to think like the successful CEO.
They don’t plan on immediate returns because they know the biggest and best returns come from “slow growth” and therefore always plan on not seeing any returns for a significant length of time (this is how they manage expectations and seemingly always get incredible results).
Sidenote: Jeff Bezos’ battled investors on a daily basis who couldn’t stomach severe losses during Amazon’s early years. Jeff committed to the marathon and shifted his investors’ mindset from sprint mode to marathon mode. Until you can do the same, you don’t need SEO.
What if you DO need SEO?
If after reading all the above you find that you do need SEO, you can either click here (for an SEO I wholeheartedly recommend) or read my post on how to make sure you’re getting the right SEO help.
Ivan is a professional advertiser and digital content marketer. Here are some famous brands he’s worked with.
When he’s not running ad campaigns, Ivan is helping people get more customers with bespoke interactive chatbots (i.e., virtual assistants for your website that turn prospects into paying customers).