Is SEO worth it? avatar
Is SEO worth it?

Search engines have revolutionized marketing. In the last decade, the way advertisers reach their customers has completely evolved to the point where now the customers are finding the businesses before the businesses find them.

Search Engine Optimization has become more important than ever.

But just like any business strategy, understanding if (or when) your business should use it is critical.

A few months back Google made an algorithm update named Hummingbird. The search engine now understands context. Most importantly, it maps user intent. This algorithmic change means that “SEO copywriting,” “large-scale low-quality link-building,” “random production of content” are no longer effective tactical strategies – not that they ever were in white-hat SEO anyway. Google is extremely sophisticated and knows better than ever when you’re trying to “cheat” their system with your website.

seo-user-search-intent Up until recently, organic search optimization was about keywords and robots. Today it is about user and searcher intent. It no longer relies solely on technical expertise, but more on human behavior. It includes web design as a whole, not just a particular page or a blog intended to increase keyword density.

You must become an expert in your field.

To rank well for a certain keyword or keyword phrase, you must become an actual authority in your industry – and specifically, in the keyword phrases you’re going after.

What does it take to be an expert?

There are no shortcuts. You must earn it. If you want to do search optimization, you need to:

  • be an expert or go home,
  • stand for something,
  • dig deep and be comprehensive,
  • build trust,
  • help others and communicate your expertise,
  • implement continuous improvement

Without fear of being overindulgent towards the SEO field, it is no longer a strategy that can be done by anyone. It requires a high level of technical expertise as well as consumer behavior knowledge. It also requires a strategic understanding of the business and its competitive environment. Moreover, it commands good understanding of company’s mid and long-term goals.

Having a clear and complete understanding of Google means continuously keeping up to date with information Google publishes, following guidelines and best practices, which often changes (you can read more on Google’s Webmaster Guidelines here)

SEO continues to be a critical tactical strategy, but every day it becomes a more expensive strategy to implement.

If you want to take advantage of digital marketing, especially SEO, then a good search engine optimization agency or specialist must be employed. SEO has to become an integral part of the overall company marketing strategy, and a good SEO strategy is in line with the company’s ROI expectations. The reality is that in the end, the SEO strategist must be responsible for improving the bottom line.

The challenge is that as Google evolves its search algorithm, so does the role of the SEO strategist. Today, organic search optimization includes many technical areas: Link building (Google has cracked down on most types of old-school tactics), content marketing, copywriting, research, SEO technical implementation, content strategy, user behavior and more.

If you hired individuals to do these functions separately, you would pay roughly these salaries (salaries vary by state – these are from CA):

  • Link builder $25k-$50k
  • Copywriter $30k-$80k
  • SEO Analyst $45k-$80k
  • Content strategist $70k-$100k

A larger company might also employ an SEO manager for $60k-$95k, or even an SEO/Search Marketing Director at $70k-$125k.

So, is SEO worth it?

Let’s look at some numbers. The value of being above the fold on the first page for the query “Dentist in San Diego” is about $15-$16 per click if you were to buy the traffic. For “Best Dental Implants in San Diego” the cost is between $38-$47 per click, and each click for “Cosmetic Dentist in San Diego” would cost between $14-$17. So if your website converts website traffic to leads at a 10% rate (conversion rate), you would need 100 clicks to get 10 leads. Thus for the term “Best Dental Implants in San Diego” it would cost you approximately $4,000 paid to Google via PPC to get 100 clicks and 10 leads (consider though that dental implants cost about $3,500 per tooth).

The value of being above the fold on the first page for the query “Dentist in San Diego” is about $15-16 per click if you were to buy the traffic. For “Best Dental Implants in San Diego” the cost is between $38-$47 per click, and each click for “Cosmetic Dentist in San Diego” would cost between $14-$17. So if your website converts website traffic to leads at a 10% rate (conversion rate), you would need 100 clicks to get 10 leads. Thus for the term “Best Dental Implants in San Diego,” it would cost you approximately $4,000 paid to Google via PPC to get 100 clicks and 10 leads. Consider though that dental implant cases cost anywhere from $1,500 – $20,000. (related post on Dental SEO).

An organic search listing, depending on its first-page position, generally gets clicked on more often than a paid listing (and consumers put more trust in organic results), so you are likely to get more than 100 clicks on the same number of organic impressions (your mileage may vary). It can be significantly cheaper to get organic traffic. Furthermore, usually, when a company ranks well organically, it does so for many more terms than just one, so traffic can become compounded. However, you do have to invest in the SEO effort. You have to be willing to go without a positive ROI for sometime until you’re showing up on the first page, and, this time depends in large part on how competitive your industry is.

Building a strong SEO strategy that is sustainable is worth it, but it’s not easy to do. For companies that focus on sustainable SEO, algorithmic changes will have little impact. It’s for those businesses that want “fast” search optimization, or “quick ranking” results that it becomes unattainable.

Multiple Online Marketing Tactics Are Best

I do have concerns with companies that focus solely on an SEO strategy. I often see the despaired look of owners or managers when their rankings fall as a result of an algorithmic change. Focusing on SEO alone is the equivalent of putting all of your eggs in one digital marketing basket. You don’t want to be in a position where rankings mean everything to your business.

These days, SEO experts need the complementary work of a Social Media Strategist, a PPC expert, and a Conversion Specialist. All these functions and a few more encompass a well planned digital marketing strategy that goes well beyond SEO.

A diversified business strategy includes search and social, paid and organic, cultivating new and recurring visitors.

The Competition is Not Going to Rollover

As with any good business strategy, SEO requires a regular, dedicated budget, and continued investment in development. If you find yourself saying “I’ll give it another three months and see,” you are not likely to succeed with SEO. Many times we’ve shown clients data on their competitors and how long they’ve invested efforts to go after a particular keyword phrase. But shock sets in when they see that their competitor has been optimizing for that term for 3,4 or 5 years. Moreover, a company that has spent that much time pursuing a term is not likely to stop making efforts to maintain such position.

It’s worth it!

An SEO strategy is worth it when it’s viewed and treated as a real competitive advantage of a business and not just a short-term tactic.