Search engine optimization, or SEO, is the practice of increasing traffic to a website by boosting organic (non-paid) rankings in search engine results pages. Businesses do this through a range of strategies, such as:
- Technical optimization
- Keyword research
- Acquiring backlinks
- Page title and meta description writing
- International or local optimization
- Extensive, expert content creation
SEO has been a hot topic since its start in the late 90s, largely because of the difference it means for a business’s online marketing efforts and site traffic.
How much of a difference?
Consider the fact that 93% of all online experiences start with a search engine, but 75% of people never make it past the first page of search results. What’s most compelling, though, is that nearly 80% of people ignore ads (paid search results) and click only on organic results.
This means that your business has to be page-one-worthy through non-paid means to have a shot in relevant searches.
It’s the reason why companies today are willing to invest in SEO. In a recent study of 1,200 small businesses, Backlinko found that the companies spent an average of nearly $500 a month on SEO, and those that spent more than the average each month were significantly happier with their SEO providers.
Despite companies’ apparent willingness to spend to rank higher in Google searches, the question still tends to ring in many ears: Are SEO services worth it?
Let’s take a look at the biggest concerns that businesses have when considering investing in an SEO provider.
The 5 Major Concerns of Paying for SEO
You know the value of SEO, but now it’s time to get your budget involved. Naturally, questions arise.
What if I don’t see an increase in my site’s rankings?
What if it doesn’t move the bottom line?
Is SEO really worth the money?
The decision of whether or not to use SEO services is an important one. It could make all the difference when it comes to your online presence, from how you structure your content creation to how you handle site coding and development.
There are five common concerns on everyone’s mind when it comes to paying for SEO.
1. How will I measure ROI?
Businesses that are considering SEO services typically wonder how they will be able to track a clear return on their investment.
It may seem difficult to understand which SEO efforts are working since Google no longer reveals the organic search terms that brought people to your website. There’s also the question of the type of traffic that higher rankings will bring you — is it potential lead traffic or random users?
A white hat SEO provider will take you through the steps they use to measure success. It starts with having a conversation about the goals you want to accomplish with your investment. Your provider might ask you:
- What is the monetary value you place on a new lead?
- What are your most popular products/services?
- What other products/services would you like to see a spike in interest for?
The next step involves determining the metrics that are important to you in accomplishing your goals. Common SEO metrics include:
- Keyword rankings
- Amount of search traffic
- Click-through-rate (the percentage of people who actually clicked on your link after seeing it in their search results)
- Conversion rate (the number of desired actions for a specific goal divided by unique visits)
- Pages per visit
- Time on page
- Bounce rate
The key is understanding what you want to accomplish with a better organic search presence and communicating these goals to your SEO provider. Using tools like Google Analytics, you or your provider will be able to watch and report the success of important metrics over time. Pairing these with new lead and sales generation will help you to determine whether or not your SEO dollars are working for you.
2. How do I keep up with changing algorithms?
Google has completely changed the name of the SEO game several times over since the 90s. The noteworthy Panda and Penguin algorithm updates caused many businesses to start from scratch when it came to the way they had been handling their SEO strategies.
Google isn’t trying to mess with your rankings (and your SEO budgets) by updating algorithms and standards. The main purpose behind their changes continues to be to reward quality sites and downgrade deceptive ones.
Again, this goes back to black hat vs. white hat SEO strategies. Are you working with an SEO company that promises the moon in rankings and instead delivers low-quality content stuffed with keywords and links? Or is your provider all about tactics and content creation that focus on usability and user intent?
Quality-focused, intentional SEO practices will be able to weather any algorithm storm, or at least give you a solid foundation to implement adjustments from when the SEO winds change.
3. I don’t have the resources to back it up.
Content creation and web development are key when it comes to SEO practices, so a lack of writing or technical staff can lead to a roadblock in your plans. Having dedicated people on your team to handle issues and maintain your pages is crucial.
Luckily, there are three ways to work around a resource problem.
- Consider hiring a freelance writer or web designer who focuses solely on SEO projects.
- Invest the time to train a current staff member on SEO best practices and find a way to integrate these duties into their workload.
- Check if your SEO consultant provides web or content services themselves. It may mean an adjustment in your SEO investment, but leaving the lion’s share of SEO work to the professionals will save you the time and resources to do what you know best — run your business.
4. Shouldn’t I just spend the money on paid Google ads instead?
Businesses sometimes debate using SEO money on paid search instead. After all, don’t the ads show up before the organic results?
Yes, but the fact is that organic search results perform better than ads. BrightEdge Research reports that organic search results are the source of 53% of all website traffic, while paid search is the source of only 15% of traffic.
In addition, the BrightEdge group found that B2B companies achieve twice as much revenue from organic search than from any other channel stream.
While paid search is still a popular and practical solution to website visibility, it should be thought of as a secondary strategy that is separate from your SEO efforts.
5. I want results now.
There’s no getting around it. SEO takes time.
Companies may not want to take six months to a year to see results in their search rankings, but that’s why SEO is considered a long-term strategy and not a quick fix.
There are aspects of SEO writing that can be quickly completed, such as optimizing titles and metadata or even repurposing old content for specific keywords. Keyword research, technical elements, page design, and overall content strategy take longer to implement. Arriving at the results you want to see is also a finicky game of tinkering and tweaking.
Businesses need to view SEO as a consistent approach to their marketing efforts over the long haul. Accepting the practice for what it is helps managers see SEO through, even when they might be paying for results that will happen later.
SEO is an investment, not a splurge.
So is SEO worth it?
To put it bluntly, yes.
Businesses can’t afford not to be in the optimization game competing for valuable space on search results pages. Giving up the opportunity to rank highly means that your competitors will be doing so instead, gaining click after click from customers who would otherwise buy from you.
Investing in a quality SEO provider is also worth the money when you consider the alternative marketing costs. Traditional marketing spends for TV and billboards can be a higher payout for you without the trackable accountability that SEO services come with (remember all those metrics at your disposal).
It’s an investment that requires prudence, however. Companies that promise stellar results overnight either don’t know SEO or don’t do SEO the right way. Black hat SEO tactics will never get you the lasting results you want, and they could even incur penalties from Google.
SEO done right and by professionals who understand its intricacies can mean a long-term strategy for success and a steady stream of customers for your business.
Ready to dig in?
We’ve gone through several major points for and against SEO. So, is SEO worth paying for? If you’re nodding your head, then it’s time to take the next step.
- Check out our guide to keyword competition for a complete walk-through of keyword research and analysis to get you started with your SEO education.
- Learn how to use meta tags to better optimize your pages.
- Start your research on effective SEO content services with us!
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Andrea Tharp.