When properly implemented, search engine optimization (SEO) can help businesses attract great numbers of website visitors and can generate strong ROI. Though SEO has several benefits it also has its downsides.
If you’re thinking about incorporating SEO into your marketing strategy, it’s important to consider its pros and cons because it requires significant investments in money, time, and other resources. This blog post will share the pros and cons of SEO for businesses.
Cons of SEO
We're going to keep it real with you by starting with the cons first! We’re providing these cons not to scare you away from SEO but to let you know that it is a significant investment and endeavor to pursue. We’d rather you know all that your business is getting into should you decide to implement SEO through an in-house team or an agency.
Takes Time to Produce Results
SEO is a LONG-TERM approach, and for business owners investing in marketing, the time it takes for the effects of SEO to kick in can be the biggest con. It usually takes up to 6 months to start seeing results, and it takes even longer to generate a significant return on investment from SEO.
Is a Continuous Investment
In addition to being slow-moving, SEO should be a continuous and consistent investment. Businesses often see results after 6 months of implementing SEO, but the real fruits of the investment occur over longer periods of time.
This means businesses need to invest in SEO even past the 6-month horizon. Even after favorable results are achieved (e.g. ranking in top 3 results for relevant keywords or ranking for more relevant keywords), businesses must continue to conduct SEO to maintain their rankings.
This is because there will always be competitors fighting to earn rankings over your business, and search engines like Google are always evolving, updating, and surfacing new websites.
The slow-moving nature of SEO and the need for it to be a continuous and consistent investment is why we recommend in our blog, Should Your Business Consider SEO?, that only businesses who can afford to wait and to spend consistently on SEO should consider leveraging it.
Successful SEO Requires a Big Team
SEO involves a large set of actions that must be completed consistently and strategically. These actions include but aren’t limited to:
Technical Web Development,
UX/UI Website Design,
Content Marketing, and
Because each action requires a specific skill set and time to complete, it’s often unreasonable to place the responsibility of executing an entire SEO strategy on 1-2 people. In most cases a single person doesn’t have all the skills necessary to do a good job implementing SEO, nor do they have the time.
In our What Is SEO? blog post, we explain that this is the reason why a lot of the cheaper agencies or internal marketing employees aren’t able to execute SEO strategies well. They simply don’t have the complete team needed to effectively conduct all of the SEO actions.
This need for a large team can be considered a con for businesses who want to perform SEO in-house with a couple employees or who want to work with a cheaper agency.
Can be Expensive Due to Talent
Since a big team of people with specialized skill sets is needed to conduct SEO successfully, you can imagine the cost of paying the team can get expensive.
Whether your company wants to use an in-house team or an agency to implement SEO, it’s going to be a significant investment because of the talent and time it takes to do SEO well.
As we mentioned in the What Is SEO? blog post, there are agencies and individuals that offer SEO at a low cost, but unfortunately, businesses get what they pay for when it comes to SEO.
Tracking ROI from SEO can be Difficult
It’s easy to watch your business’s website move up in search result rankings, but it’s a lot harder to translate its ranking improvements into dollars.
Luckily, it’s not impossible to relate revenue to your search rankings. It just takes diligent tracking efforts, an understanding of organic traffic metrics, comfort with numbers, and familiarity with analytics software.
To calculate ROI from SEO, you’ll have to determine how many leads or direct sales were tied to your website being found on Google and other search engines. To decide whether website leads, sales, and website traffic were affected by SEO, you’ll have to layer in traffic comparisons over time. We’ll get into the weeds of ways to calculate ROI from SEO in another blog post.
Requires Premium Tools
They collect and display data that are needed to make SEO decisions. Some of this data includes:
Keyword Search Volumes
Competitor Backlink Sources
Search Result Rankings
Traffic from Certain Keywords
Because of the advantage these tools provide, they often charge a premium to use them, and pending on the platforms and features your business buys, the expenses can stack up.
This con is the most noticeable if your business plans on dedicating an in-house team to conducting SEO. If you will have an agency implement SEO for your business, then the cost of those platforms will probably be baked into their service fees.
Pros of SEO
With all the downsides to SEO, we wouldn’t recommend it if it didn’t offer serious benefits! There are several pros to SEO which make it worth the investment in time, money, and other resources. Let’s take a look at them.
Drives Significant Growth in Website Traffic
Effective SEO taps into keywords and phrases that thousands of people are searching for each month, and directs them to your website.
If SEO is implemented correctly, your website will begin to gain a lot more website visitors from search engines like Google than it used to. Because results are slow moving, they seem to almost fall out of thin air when they begin to trickle in!
This effect was achieved with one of our lawn care clients for whom we perform SEO services. Before they began to work with us, their website received roughly 8,000 clicks from organic Google searches in their 2022 peak season.
After they began to invest in SEO with us, their website received roughly 13,500 clicks from organic Google searches in their 2023 peak season. This represents over 50 percent growth in clicks because of SEO!
Is More Cost Effective than Paid Ads
Though Google ads and Facebook ads are known for generating ROI faster than SEO, they are a lot less cost effective than SEO. This is because there is a direct relationship between how much you spend and how much traffic you receive (1x or linear growth).
For example: Your Google ads might cost $4 per click, so if you want to drive 1,000 people to your website per month, you would need to spend $4,000 per month.
In this sense, SEO differs from paid ads because there isn’t a direct relationship between how much is spent on successful SEO services and how much traffic is earned. Typically, the cost of SEO remains the same while the website traffic it generates increases (1x or exponential growth).
For example: You might spend $3,000 on SEO per month, but your website visitors could grow from 500 to 1,000 in one month; then grow from 1,000 to 2,000 the next month – while the cost of SEO remains the same.
What makes SEO even more cost effective than paid ads is that its results linger long after the cost of SEO services has been incurred. This means that if you shut down all SEO activities after working at it for 1 year, the rankings and traffic earned aren’t going to suddenly disappear. In most cases they will hold for several months – allowing you to get more return from your investment.
This is not the case with paid ads because once you stop paying for them, they immediately stop delivering to potential customers – disappearing without leaving any evidence that they even existed.
Attracts Potential Customers Who are Likely to Buy
Unlike outbound marketing efforts such as Facebook ads or direct mail, SEO draws in consumers who are actively searching for what your business has to offer. Because they are already looking for the service you offer, they are more likely to convert into customers.
Depending on what stage prospective customers are in as they find your website, they might have the opportunity to engage with the content you offer on your website – developing more trust for your business as they consider working with you. This will also help increase the likelihood that they will become your customers.
Creates Staying Power for Your Business
As we mentioned earlier, the results achieved through SEO last long after the actions were implemented, and they don’t disappear if the SEO efforts are ended.
This is because the hard work, consistency, and persistence needed to implement SEO successfully creates a barrier to entry for competitors who want to improve their rankings.
Meaning, it will take them the same amount of effort if not more for them to displace your businesses rankings. On that same note, the slow-moving nature of search engine updates as well as the lag between SEO implementation and its results also protect your business from being displaced.
*Note: This differs from Google search ads because your rankings are when you spend less than your competitors or when you stop paying for the ads.
Increases Brand Credibility
As we discuss in our Benefits of a Strong Online Presence blog post, offering valuable content to prospective customers is a tried-and-true method of establishing authority in your industry and earning credibility in the eyes of the consumer.
SEO can help businesses build credibility by getting their content in front of potential customers at each stage of their buying journey.
SEO can also be responsible for developing the helpful content that is provided to prospective customers. As we explain in our What is SEO? blog post, SEO is a set of actions that are completed over time. One of those actions is the creation of branded content that potential customers find valuable!
Boost Brand Awareness
Believe it or not, SEO can be an effective technique for building brand awareness because several actions involved in SEO, mainly off-page SEO, ultimately increase your brand’s visibility. This includes collaborating with industry experts, influencers, other businesses, websites, and community resources to share your business’s content or link to your website.
Such activity increases brand awareness since a business’s name, content, and website is being mentioned and shared by parties that have influence over its potential customers. This approach also boosts website traffic through referral links, social media pages, and branded search.
Considering SEO for Your Business?
If you’re thinking about investing in SEO for your business but aren’t quite sure whether it’s the right investment to make, please feel free to contact us.
A Forge teammate can listen to your business’s goals and objectives, review your competitive landscape, and calculate average relevant search volumes to help you determine whether SEO would be a good fit for your business.
If you’re not ready to speak with a Forge teammate, you can check out more SEO resources below to better inform your decision on whether your business should incorporate SEO into your marketing strategy.