When I mention SEO in conversation with business owners, I generally get one of three responses. The first is one of acknowledgment and appreciation; these are people who have used SEO in the past, or at least who understand the benefits of SEO and how it works. The second is one of unfamiliarity; these are people who have somehow never heard of SEO and are learning about it for the first time. The third is one of skepticism; these are people who know what SEO is, on some level, but believe it’s not worth pursuing or that it’s nothing necessary for a business to pursue.
I totally understand the first two groups of people. The third is a bit more complicated. Sometimes, it’s because they’ve tried SEO before to negative results, and sometimes it’s because they have a misconception about what SEO really is. Either way, it leads me to a critical hypothetical question about SEO in general, that applies to anyone who’s ever considered the strategy: who really needs it?
What SEO Is and Isn’t
First, let me explain what SEO is and what it isn’t. SEO is not a get-rich-quick style scheme to get your site to the top of Google search rankings. It’s not just a marketing strategy designed to funnel more people to your blog. It’s not a gimmick. It’s not a fad.
Instead, SEO is simply a collection of strategies designed to make your website as visible as possible to people who are probably already searching for a company like yours. It’s a more complicated digital equivalent of making sure the name of your store is hanging above your door in your physical location; people need to know where to find you.
It’s More Than Just Rankings. No, Really
On the surface, SEO is only about getting higher rankings in search engine results pages (SERPs). And yeah, admittedly, that’s a pretty sweet benefit to doing SEO. But realistically, SEO is too multifaceted and too beneficial in other areas to be reduced to that one benefit. Plus, thanks to Google’s level of sophistication these days, it’s virtually impossible to engineer your way to higher rankings for specific target keywords.
Instead, SEO is about earning a better reputation with offsite content, higher customer loyalty with onsite content, traffic through multiple channels (organic search results, referral sites, and social media among them), click-through rates and even conversions. Granted, some of these are merely peripheral benefits, but they still apply to your overall efforts.
These are all nice, but does that really mean you “need” to pursue an SEO strategy?
The Competition Factor and Opportunity Cost
One of the biggest pressures you’re going to face is the competition in SEO. Let’s say you choose not to go with an SEO strategy in any form. Fine. But that isn’t going to stop your competitors from doing it—and you know you have competitors. Your shared customer base is going to be relying on search to inform their purchasing decisions, and if your competitors are allowed to run rampant in the SERPs with no one to keep them in check, they’re the ones who will be enjoying all the benefits (namely, the new traffic and customers).
Not pursuing an SEO strategy is essentially handing over this population to your competitors on a silver platter. In some ways, you “need” to have an SEO strategy simply to hold your own.
What You Actually Need to Survive
Even if you’re a small business with a historical customer base and traditional background, it’s generally accepted that pretty much all businesses these days need to have a website. If people need to find information on you, checking your hours of operation or trying to contact you, a website is the first place they’re going to check. Without that anchor point, you’ll definitely fall behind the times and appear amateurish to your current and potential future customer base alike. For all intents and purposes you “need” a website to survive.
If you’re going to create a website in the first place, you might as well adopt a handful of SEO tactics to make sure that website can be properly indexed, or “seen” by Google. It doesn’t take much; you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to take care of the basics. You just need a few hours and enough determination to learn the ropes (or, you could always contact us for a free consultation). This doesn’t constitute it as a need, per se, but it does define it as a “should,” or at least a “might as well.”
You’ll also need to consider what industry you’re in, as some industries are more dependent on digital discoverability than others. For example, a cutting-edge SaaS company will need far more coverage in the digital world than a manufacturing plant that’s been open for over 100 years. The level of competition, type of clients, and necessary expertise of the former all dictate some level of SEO participation, while the latter may depend entirely on traditional and historical clients to preserve forward momentum. However, any company in any industry can benefit from SEO in one way or another.
Costs and Benefits
I won’t tell you that you “need” to pursue SEO, because it is technically possible to survive without it. The question is, would you really want to? SEO has so many benefits, and because it’s such a long-term-focused, compounding strategy with minimal investment requirements, I consider it a missed opportunity not to be at least marginally involved.
If you’re interested in learning more about the cost breakdown of SEO, how to get started with a strategy, or exactly what tactics are necessary for a smooth running campaign, feel free to contact us—that’s what we’re here for.