Is SEO Worth The Effort?

Many of my clients ask for SEO services to some extent, though those same people also barely know what SEO really is and how to go about it. Whatever SEO they ask for, I always ask them is it worth their time, money, resources and energy to do SEO? Because SEO isn't a once and done type thing. Most people think it's not worth the effort, and for good reason!

Is SEO Worth The Effort?

Like most people you're probably a rather busy person who needs to focus on running their life and business. If your profession is SEO then this article isn't really for you as you already live and breath SEO, but for the rest of us the question of SEO is it worth the time, money and effort?

Is it worth a $100? A $1000? $10,000?! A million?! The simple answer is: it depends.

If you're like most people then what you're looking for is cost effective results. By cost effective I mean:

  • A good value for the money
  • Doesn't break the bank
  • Gets results that exceed the cost of the investment
  • Get you results in a reasonable amount of time.

While that is a stretched definition of ‘cost effective' it is rather applicable to online work, especially SEO.

For SEO to be worth the effort it has to meet your resource and goal needs which include time and money. Since we also want results, the cost equation also has to factor in what it will (or already has) achieve(d).

The reason the answer is it depends is because your situation is different and unique from mine, which is different from the guy's down the street and different from a Fortune 50's situation.

The first thing to keep in mind is some foundational SEO is almost always needed. Unless you really don't care about search engines or ranking, you **will* have to at a minimum set you website up to be searchable, SEO friendly and have good content.

But past that initial optimizations, is there much use of doing more and more (offsite) SEO? It all depends on how much money (or time) you have available to spend on an SEO project. Let's take three scenarios: small, medium, and large businesses:

SEO Considerations for Small Businesses & Start-ups:

As a start-up or small business your biggest consideration is cash-flow, and thus money. Only after available money should you consider results. “If you can't fund it, don't bother with it” is the basic idea here. Thankfully foundational SEO isn't difficult. Your SEO steps are:

1) Setup basic on-site SEO. If you use a CMS/blog like WordPress, install a well rated SEO plugin and follow the on-screen instructions (most of them are easy to follow along with). For WordPress I highly recommend WordPress SEO by Yoast.
2) Create all the major social profiles for your website/brand (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, ect..). Give each profile identical information and in the description a link to your website.
3) Especially if you're a local business: get yourself listed on local directory websites such as Google My Business (formally Google+ Local, and before that known as Google Places), Yelp and Bing Local.

That's it to get going. Don't worry about complicated strategies nor long term ranking goals. Your priority is to get clients in the door and giving you money. And the best ways to do that do not involve SEO. Your best bests are probably with direct advertising, community outreach and good ol' fashioned marketing. If you're a very local business you might want to try some local ads.

If you have the time, do guest blogging in-order to get traffic to your high quality site (along with blog posts on your own site).

SEO Considerations for Medium Businesses

You have some spending capital and the resources and time to invest into things that don't give you immediate returns: now it's time to really get into the SEO game.

As a medium sizes business your priority is brand growth and as such you'll need to focus on two things:

1) High quality content on your site (along with it being well SEO'ed).
2) Media outreach to have others linking back to you.

For quality content you can:

  • Do/get interviews
  • Infographics
  • Training material
  • Market awareness media such a youtube videos

All this should be handled by a small social media & content team. At least one person needs to be dedicated to an outreach program while the rest handle content creation for on-site articles and off-site stuff that people can reference and link to.

At this point you should be well on your way on social media, especially Google+ Pages (for business), as that will impact your SEO and internet rankings.

SEO Considerations for Large businesses

You'll need to have dedicated teams for niche functions:

  • Social media teams. Yes, multiple teams. Some to handle social response, some to just create quality social content and interactions; you'll even want a dedicated social media marketing team.
  • On-site content creation teams. You'll want various teams for various content types (audio, video, text) as well as content flavors such as training, press and general education.
  • Off-site content team(s). These are the ones that will handle content that's made to be used by and linked to by others, such as info graphics, youtube videos and people who write specifically to get your website more traffic.
  • You'll also want a few media outreach people that find people for the previous teams to write about, to and for.

Small, local and start-up businesses:

For the most part your SEO efforts should only consist of making sure your website is looking great to the search engines, and that's about it. Other SEO efforts, if any, would simply be an add-on to creating high quality content because at this stage of a business your focus needs to be on more immediate returns. SEO is something that you would have to dump a lot of cash, time and resources into in-order to always rank very well.

That isn't to say you can't rank well from day one with little effort, it does happen. But that's the exception not the norm.

My conclusion:

Don't focus on SEO unless you have A LOT of time, money and resources to do so.

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