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SEO stands for search engine optimization, which is the process of getting your website pages ranked higher in organic (not paid) search results. It’s important for business because 70-80% of search engine users only focus on the organic results, and of those, 75% of people never scroll past the first page. If you’re not at the top of search results, you’re losing business to your competitors.  

So, does SEO really work? The answer is yes. In fact, improving SEO and growing their company’s organic presence is the top inbound marketing priority for 61% of marketers. But understanding the importance of search engine optimization, and knowing how to use it effectively are two entirely different things. Many either don’t comprehend what’s involved, or find that SEO is harder than they thought. 

Understanding how people search the internet, engage in social media, and shop is challenging in itself. Then factor in understanding how search engines evaluate and rank results, and you add a whole new level of complexity and difficulty. Therefore, SEO has secured a place in business as an essential—but often hated—marketing tactic. 

Here are seven reasons why SEO is the marketing tactic you love to hate.

1. You’re at the Mercy of Search Engines

When we say search engines, we know that’s primarily Google, since it holds almost 93% of the global search engine market share. And Google doesn’t make it easy. There are hundreds of different ranking factors, and they aren’t public about what those ranking factors are. 

Unfortunately, that means the rest of us are left making our best educated guess when it comes to SEO. And then when Google modifies their algorithm, those guesses may no longer work like they used to. Google has also taken steps to catch those who are gaming the system, so now people find they have to work harder to get the same results as before.

2. The SEO Landscape Is Always Changing

Anyone in the SEO industry will tell you that SEO isn’t anything like it was 10 years ago—or even five years ago. And in a few years it will probably be quite different from today. Search engines are in business to provide the best online search experience for their users, which includes predicting what searchers want. As a result, Google regularly evaluates and modifies its algorithm to meet its own goals.

SEO requires both knowledge and a steady dedication to keep up with an industry that is constantly evolving and shows no signs of slowing down.

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3. SEO Is a Long-Term Tactic

Compared to other digital marketing channels, SEO is a long-term investment. The activities you do today rarely show results tomorrow, next week, or maybe even this month. Changes to your site, building links, and creating quality content could take up to several months to see a return on your investment. That can be difficult when marketers are used to paid platforms like AdWords or Facebook Advertising, where you put money in and can immediately track and measure results.

To go along with this, SEO requires a lot of testing to find what does and doesn’t work because there are so many variables. SEO takes consistent, daily effort over time to achieve lasting, significant results.

4. SEO Is Complex

Effective SEO combines branding, content creation, IT, and content promotion through a complex set of tasks. There are three primary branches, or components, of SEO:

  • Technical SEO deals with the programmatic components of your website, and server optimizations that help search engine spiders crawl and index your site more effectively. 
  • On-page SEO deals with the content on your website to help search engines understand the topic and value of each page. 
  • Off-page SEO works to strengthen the influence and relationship your website has with other sites, including building authority. 

To top it off, with SEO changing all the time, it can quickly grow even more complicated and harder to understand.  

5. Effective SEO Is Multidisciplinary

SEO isn’t an isolated initiative. It’s an integration of many things and requires coordination with several different departments in an organization to be effective: web-development, marketing, branding, content, customer support, and public relations, among others. The many different aspects that influence search ratings are very integrated; quality SEO happens when you bring dozens of skills together.

6. SEO Is Extremely Competitive

Just like you, your competitors are trying to rank in top search results spots too, which makes SEO relentlessly competitive. Not only do you need to stay on top of how Google is ranking your site and content, but you also need to know what your competitors are doing. If you have a “How To” that’s driving traffic and ranking well, a competitor could post a better one that could bump yours off the first page results. Consistent SEO also means regular monitoring of those in your industry.   

7. There’s No “Right Way”

We all like step-by-step instructions on how to achieve results: do X and Y and achieve Z. But SEO is never that straightforward. There are so many different types of sites, different ways to  optimize, and different strategies to get different page rankings or search results. For that matter, there’s no Google training or certification, no SEO textbook, and no dedicated Google reps to contact for SEO guidance. SEO requires extensive knowledge to start, then trial and error, and a commitment to put in the time and effort to find the “right way” for you. 

“Hard” SEO Is Always Better than “Easy” SEO

SEO is hard, but necessary in today’s digital world. It may be tempting to try and find an easier path for SEO, and there are people out there who will promise it. But Google catches those who go the easy route sooner or later. Big Leap is dedicated to helping clients reach their SEO goals through the best strategies to achieve long-term, quality results. Let the SEO experts at Big Leap help your business improve your SEO, and reap the rewards.  

Jaime Theler
Jaime Theler is a published author, freelance editor, and content writer at Big Leap. When she isn't writing or volunteering in the publishing community, you can find her running, reading, or hiking. She loves to drag her family on "nature-cations" and has been accused of the inability to sit still.