While SEO can be highly effective, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution for all businesses.
SEO might not be the immediate answer to your digital marketing needs.
Here’s why SEO may not be the best fit for a business, with alternatives and insights into when it may be a more valuable investment.
1. You require fast results
Do you need fast results for your business and a way to attract tons of visitors to your website in no time? Then SEO may not be your best course of action.
SEO takes time to work.
New websites can take at least three to six months to rank on Google. Even then, 95% of pages don’t enter the top 10 positions within a year, per an Ahrefs study.
Results will vary depending on your strategy, but data suggests that you must wait to see an impact. That’s why this path is not for everyone.
For example, if you are hosting a one-time event or concert, or it’s the first time you are organizing it, you are limited in time.
You can’t just wait for search engines to index your website or for people to start searching for your event. You need to make them aware of it and get them excited.
That’s when paid search or social media ads are more effective in promoting your event and getting people to buy tickets or register.
Or let’s say you have a new solution, such as a CRM or a mobile app, that you want to introduce to the market. You want to show people how awesome your solution is and how it can solve their problems.
Here, you can’t rely solely on SEO. You’ll need to use other marketing methods to grab your audience’s attention and convince them to try your solution.
PPC advertising is key in this case. After you build up some traction and reputation, you can start investing in SEO, as people will search for your solution independently.
So, SEO is not always the best option if you need to quickly generate interest around a new topic or when launching a new product to the market.
You’ll need marketing methods that will help you reach your target audience instantly, such as social media ads or other types of paid advertising, and drive them to your website or landing page.
2. You operate on a tight budget or limited resources
SEO isn’t prohibitively expensive. You can manage much of it yourself with basic knowledge and free tools. Advanced tools like Ahrefs are available for under $100 per month to level up your game.
The problem is that good SEO takes a lot of time and effort.
You have to research keywords, analyze competitors, create content, build links, monitor rankings, and so on. And that’s not even counting the technical aspects of SEO, like site speed optimization, mobile-friendliness and security.
These tasks can consume your precious time and energy, which you could use for other important aspects of your business like customer service and sales.
So what do you do? You could hire an SEO agency or professionals to handle everything for you. They have the skills and tools to get the job done right.
They don’t come cheap, however. Depending on the scope and quality of their services and the things you need help with, you could end up paying anywhere from $500 to $10,000 per month for SEO.
While this can be acceptable for larger companies, it may be a significant sum for many startups and small businesses.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying that SEO is not worth the expenses. It can be one of the best investments you make for your business in the long run.
You can drive organic traffic, generate leads, increase conversions, and grow your brand awareness while outranking your competitors and dominating your niche.
The thing is, SEO can wait if you’re on a tight budget or have limited human resources or time.
First, you should focus on developing your business and perfecting the product or service to form a more comprehensive SEO strategy.
You can also defer your SEO efforts if you already have an in-house marketing team that knows what they’re doing and you’re making money from other promotion channels that are working well for you.
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3. You face low demand for your product or service
SEO is about getting people to find you online when searching for something related to your niche.
There must be interest in your topic and demand for information to justify implementing SEO initiatives like content marketing.
For example, if you run a local pet store, you can use the high demand for pet products, information and services online.
It makes sense to try to rank high for keywords such as “how to groom your dog” or “healthy treats for cats,” as they can translate to more sales.
Similarly, your store has to deal with increased competition from other pet businesses for limited ad placements, which can quickly become expensive and unsustainable.
SEO may save you money over time. Once your page ranks among the top results, you only need to keep it updated to retain rankings, proving to be a strategic advantage.
But what if your product or service is not very popular, or you cater to a specific audience? Then, you might not need SEO as much.
For instance, if you’re in security contracting, arms, nuclear, or other industries with low demand or high barriers to entry, you don’t have to worry about optimizing your website for search engines.
Not many people are looking for these things online, and you probably have other ways of reaching your customers.
4. You are not concerned about outranking your competitors
Another case where you don’t need SEO is when your brand is so well-known that everyone recognizes it.
Think of Mars candy bars, for example.
They have a great website but don’t focus on creating elaborate blogs or landing pages targeting specific keywords.
They don’t have to because they’re already famous and are not concerned with beating their competitors in the search results.
What’s more, they don’t sell their products directly to customers. Instead, they rely on a well-developed indirect sales distribution system.
So, they are not interested in ranking for the keyword “Mars candy bar.” Ranking for this keyword may even jeopardize stores that want to get found in their market.
Even if you search for their main keyword, depending on your region, the official website may not reach the top of the search engine results page.
You can see the same trend with other established brands like Coca-Cola that operate under a franchise distribution model.
However, you don’t need to be a global business chain not to concern yourself with competitors.
Another scenario where SEO might be optional is if you have a very niche business that serves a very specific market.
Maybe you sell custom-made jewelry for weddings and only work with a few clients per year.
In that case, you don’t need to compete with thousands of other websites for generic terms like “wedding jewelry.”
You need to reach your potential customers by other means, such as referrals, social media, or email marketing.
5. Your target market does not use search engines
Sometimes, your target audience doesn’t use search engines to find you. They already know you and trust you, and they visit your store in person or type your website address directly into their browser.
For example, if you run a local bakery with a loyal customer base, you don’t need to worry about ranking high on Google for keywords like “best bakery near me.”
Your customers know where to find you and love your products. They might even recommend you to their friends and family through word-of-mouth.
However, just because I said you don’t have to worry about SEO doesn’t mean you can ignore your online presence.
You still need a great website that shows off your brand and what you do. You must also be active on social media to connect with your audience and share valuable content.
Additionally, you can benefit from local SEO, and you still have to optimize and maintain your online pages, whether it’s social media or Google My Business listings.
These things matter greatly if you want to grow your business and reach more people.
Assessing the pros and cons of SEO
If you’re still on the fence about whether SEO is right for your business, consider the following opportunities it can provide to your business:
Pro: Increased visibility and traffic
- SEO can help you attract more organic visitors interested in your products or services.
- You can also target specific audiences based on location, demographics, or preferences.
Enhanced credibility and trust
- You can establish your brand as an authority in your industry through content marketing.
- Appearing at the top of search results will make you seem more authoritative, showing your expertise and value to your customers.
Improved user experience and conversion
- SEO will ensure that you create a user-friendly and engaging website that provides relevant and useful information to your visitors.
- You’ll get to optimize your website for mobile devices and ensure high load speed and accessibility.
- This will improve your customer satisfaction and loyalty and increase your chances of converting visitors into buyers.
Evaluate how important these factors are to your company. Try to consider the long-term perspective of your business.
If you think these opportunities are important, you can start taking small steps toward developing an optimization strategy.
SEO takes time to show results, so it may be worth it to start working on your optimization as soon as you notice chances for growth.
While the benefits are great, and many SEO experts tout the selling points, I believe you should also be aware of the possible disadvantages of this promotion strategy. Here are the things to keep in mind:
Con: High competition and intensity
- SEO is a dynamic and ever-changing field that requires constant research, analysis, and adaptation.
- You must keep up with the latest trends, algorithms, and best practices to stay ahead of your competitors.
- Hiring professional SEO experts or agencies to help you with your strategy may be necessary.
Uncertain and delayed results
- SEO is not a quick fix or a guaranteed solution. Building your ranking and visibility on search engines takes time and effort.
- You may not see immediate or consistent results from your SEO efforts.
- Technical issues, algorithm changes, or manual actions from search engines may impact your progress.
- SEO can be risky if you don’t follow the ethical and legal guidelines of search engines.
- You may be tempted to use risky techniques to manipulate your ranking or deceive your customers. However, this can backfire and damage your reputation and credibility.
Consider SEO’s value for your business at the moment
SEO is valuable but not obligatory. Assess its pros and cons for your situation.
If you choose SEO, invest fully in experts and resources, be patient for results, and offer unique contributions.
If it’s not right for your business now, don’t stress. You can revisit it when the time is right.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.