During our meetings with potential clients, we sometimes hear the question “Does SEO really work?” from small business owners to experienced, large company CMO’s.
It’s a valid question to ask as many people have been sold on the dream of endless free traffic while an SEO guru/ninja/rockstar throws around jargon and hints at their secret sauce that only they know about.
The truth is SEO can work for most people if you have the right expectations, find a reputable SEO agency, and invest accordingly.
When SEO Doesn’t Work
There are situations where SEO isn’t the right fit or reasons why SEO may not have worked for you. The list below hits on some of the most common issues we see:
- Lack of Internal Buy-in & Resources: Especially within larger companies, your whole team needs to understand and buy-in to the SEO campaign. So often, we see the demand generation team initiate an SEO campaign without the web development, content creation, or PR/communications teams even being involved. Since SEO can touch all aspects of your marketing efforts, involving other departments early on in the process can help increase the efficiency of implementing an SEO campaign down the road.
- Wrong Expectations: SEO can be an extremely valuable asset to your business but there’s no silver bullet. There’s rarely something an SEO person can do to your website in 1 week or 1 month that will dramatically change your organic traffic. Think about SEO similar to branding or building a reputation. It takes consistency, time, and a lot of hard work.
- Industry & Search Results: Organic search results used to be an area where nearly anyone could compete regardless of company size. While small companies can still compete, it’s not as simple as it used to be. Search engines favor high authority sites (think Wikipedia, Forbes, etc.) for short and long-tail terms. There are also some search results (especially medically related) where Google favors highly trusted sources and doesn’t show smaller companies or products. Proper research for your industry and keywords should be performed to verify the actual opportunity to rank.
When SEO Does Work
A proper SEO campaign requires a broad mix of technical SEO, content, link building, PR, analytics, and other disciplines. Whether you rely on an agency for help with all of these items or handle some internally, you need all of these pieces to overcome the hurdles many companies face that cause them to lose faith in SEO.
When SEO does work, you should expect to see improvements in both the total number of keywords you rank for and the position in the search results where they rank. Proper on-site optimization, great content, and continually building your authority will help you rank for more terms, rank better for those terms, and drive more traffic and sales.
When SEO does work, you should expect to see consistent organic traffic growth. It doesn’t mean you’ll never have a down month but as you look at the bigger picture, the trend will tell you if you’re on the right track.
When SEO does work, you should expect to see an increase in leads and sales. Conversions are the ultimate test of success but often the final observable piece of the puzzle. Seeing a growth in rankings and traffic are usually great indicators but making sure that new traffic converts is what it really comes down to. This means making sure you’re going after the right traffic.
So does SEO work? Yes, it absolutely can. Does it work for everyone? No.
As search engines become better at identifying brands and authorities, the days of being able to trick search engines are long gone. SEO is like most marketing channels – those who put in the consistent, high-quality work, and resources will typically succeed while those who hope for shortcuts get frustrated, quit on their efforts, and declare SEO doesn’t work.