September 23, 2008
Sales are down for many businesses due to the slow economy. Business owners and CEOs are looking for that one thing that can pull them through the hard times and keep them afloat. When times get tough, many turn to SEO, hoping that it will be the ticket to increased sales. While SEO is almost always a good idea, if you're counting on it to save a failing business, you may want to rethink things.
The customers you receive from search engines should not be what your entire marketing plan consists of. SEO is a long-term strategy for increasing your targeted customer base. It's the gravy to the rest of your marketing initiatives. It's a way to reach those extra customers whom you wouldn't have been able to reach previously, but it should never be the meat and potatoes of your business.
SEO isn't a quick fix. If you didn't design your website with SEO in mind and you haven't given much thought to it, it's going to take time to plan your SEO strategy. It will take weeks to do the initial research required to even know where to begin. While there may be some low-hanging fruit you can grab quickly, without the necessary research, you wouldn't even know where to find it.
SEO isn't something you can just turn on. It would be great if we could just flick a switch and suddenly your website would be optimized and receiving highly targeted search engine traffic. But, unfortunately, it just doesn't work that way. Site architecture needs to be redefined, anchor text links need to be rewritten, Titles and Meta descriptions need to be created, and page copy generally needs a complete overhaul. Even paid search can't be turned on with the flick of a switch – keywords need to be defined, landing pages created, campaigns need to be set up, etc.
SEO needs time to age. After your website has been put into perfect SEO shape (after many months of hard work), it will start to receive more targeted search engine traffic. But even that is a slow process. Traffic will increase incrementally, and get better over time as the on-page SEO work begins to mature.
SEO needs link popularity. On-page SEO is only half of the battle for more search engine visitors. The success of your SEO depends on the overall link popularity of the website. If the site has been around a long time and has already built up a lot of links, that will certainly help things go faster. However, most sites will need some additional work in this area. Even with great overall link popularity, the links may not be targeting anchor text that correlates with the on-page SEO work.
SEO needs to be done in conjunction with other marketing. While SEO is a relatively inexpensive form of marketing, it shouldn't be the only thing you do to gain business. SEO is very volatile and the search engines can change their formula or drop your website on a dime. You should never count on the visitors you receive from organic search to always be there. Use it to supplement your other marketing, but always be aware that what Google giveth they can also taketh away. It's a good idea to perform other online marketing campaigns such as paid search, email marketing, blogging, social media marketing, etc., but also offline marketing such as direct mail, print advertising, radio spots, etc.
There's a lot that goes into a successful SEO campaign; when done correctly it's a worthwhile, long-term investment for nearly any business with a website. Just make sure to build it into your marketing plan from the get-go and not make it an afterthought. While I have seen SEO save some companies' businesses, more often than not I've seen it be too little too late.
If your business is doing fairly well without SEO, that's the best time to get into it and start collecting that extra targeted traffic!
Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a Boston SEO Company.
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