Many businesses are aware of SEO (Search Engine Optimization) as a marketing strategy. I regularly get asked about SEO: how much it costs and whether it will work. Yes, SEO works. But overall, it is becoming less effective of a strategy. Here are 3 reasons why. (Note: in this blog post I focus on Google because it is by far the most used search engine, but there are other search engines out there).
Google has made SEO more Difficult
SEO used to be easy work. Add a few keywords and build some back-links (links from other websites to your own website), and you could improve your website’s Google ranking and get more website traffic (and more sales). But search engines continue to update their algorithms, making SEO work more difficult.
Google’s updated algorithms reward websites with good design and content that people find helpful. Creating good design and content takes time and money, which in turn makes SEO more difficult to do. Doing the other stuff works too, but it becoming less effective.
There is More Competition in SEO
Because SEO has been around for over 15 years (Google started in 1998), the competition in SEO is very high, especially in established industries. For example, say you are starting a new dental practice in Vancouver and you want your website to show up on the first page of Google when people search “Vancouver Dentist”. This is no easy task. SEO is a zero sum game. There are only so many people that search “Vancouver Dentist” every month (over 1,000 searches/month, according to Google). There are only 10 websites that can appear on the first page.
I can guarantee you that all 10 of the dental websites that are currently on the first page have invested in SEO. They have paid a SEO company $800-1500/month for over 5+ years to get and stay on the first page. To “beat” these companies, you will have to outspend them. That could be a $30-50k investment.
This is an extreme example as the dental industry is very competitive. If your competitors have not invested in SEO, then it should be fairly easy to get in the first page. For example we worked with an acupuncturist this past year. With a new website design, rewritten website copy, and some basic SEO work, we were able to move their website from #15 to #3 in 6 months.
More Ads are Showing Above Organic Results
Whenever you search for something on Google, you will see advertisements first. After 4 ads, you usually see the Google maps widget. After that are the organic search results, which are the 10 websites that rank the highest on SEO (see diagram on the right).
Some people know that the first 4 results are ads and automatically skip these. Some people have no idea that the first 4 results are ads, and are likely to click something that gets their interest. Some people know that the first 4 results are ads and still click on them. By the way, every time you click on an ad on Google, that business pays Google (on average it costs $2.32/click, and for “Vancouver Dentist” the average cost is $12.70/click).
In the past (earlier in 2016) Google had 3 ads on the top. Also, Google maps didn’t always show up. That meant that if you were #1 in the organic search results, you would show up higher on the page and get more attention. Because of the changes, the #1 website in the organic search area is now further down on the page, which means it gets less attention and less clicks than it used to.
My inside source at Google tells me they have been experimenting with the area where Google Maps currently is, and will be inserting different types of search results in that area.
More and more businesses are investing in SEO, which making SEO less effective than it has been in the past. But SEO can still be an effective marketing strategy for some businesses. If you are considering SEO as a strategy for your business, do some research and answer the following questions:
- Are my ideal customers searching Google to find the product or service we offer?
- Are my competitors spending money on SEO?
- How much will it cost to acquire customers through SEO compared to other channels of marketing (social media, online ads, print ads, etc)?
- Do we have an advantage over our competitors in producing quality design and content on our website?
Once you answer those questions, you will be able to better decide if SEO will work for your business.