It’s the season when many of us are getting out of the office and heading to the beach, the mountains, or even just to the couch. When we take a break from working, we might fall a little behind, but it’s easy to catch up. That’s not the case with SEO. SEO isn’t just a long-term commitment—it’s also one that has to be kept up more or less indefinitely. You may have made it to the top of the search rankings, but once you stop SEO, sooner or later those rankings are going to drop (as are page visitors, clicks, and other metrics). There are some SEO services that don’t require frequent updating, but most require ongoing upkeep and improvement. Keeping pace with all of those Google updates, adding content to your website, and other tasks like that never take a vacation. Here’s why.
Online is the New Everything
If your business has been around for a while, chances are you used to split your marketing budget between multiple offline ventures, from print ads to billboards. Those still exist, of course, but today most businesses spend the lion’s share of their marketing dollars online. Why? The web is where the customers are. Yes, plenty of eyeballs will see your print ads, billboards, and other collateral. But it’s a small number compared to the exposure you can get online, where you can reach potential customers and clients literally anywhere in the world 24 hours a day. To make sure those folks can find you, it’s important to have online visibility—which is exactly what SEO boosts. You would expect that if you took down a billboard or stopped a print advertising campaign, there would be a drop-off in leads, right? The collateral that was bringing customers in was no longer there. You shouldn’t expect SEO to be different. Some aspects of SEO, like PPC ads, will disappear when you stop paying for them. Others though—like your website itself—will obviously live on. But just because they are still online doesn’t mean they’re getting the same level of visibility.
Here’s an example of a former Higher Power SEO client. We began working with this client on SEO in the second half of 2014, and you can see that as we headed into 2015, traffic began to grow. In May 2015, they decided to stop all SEO efforts. At first, they remained on an uphill trajectory—site traffic peaked in June 2015. But within the next month, it started dropping. It’s continued to drop. Comparing the June 2015 high point to June of this year, there was a 95% drop in direct traffic and a 75% drop in visits to their landing pages.
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Results Take Time
The other aspect of that chart that you probably noticed is that while we started working with this client on SEO in 2014, the numbers remained stable for several months before starting to pick up. That’s because SEO takes time—the first few months can be frustrating, because you’re putting money in, but you’re not seeing a return on your investment. That patience does pay off, as you can see from how the numbers grow in the example above. There are many reasons why SEO isn’t an instant fix. It takes time for search engines to crawl your site, for example, and strategies that can reap major dividends—like investing in regular, high-quality blog posts—need time to gain traction. It’s true that in order to maintain robust rankings you need to keep investing, but once you’re going strong your larger earnings can fund that reinvestment. On the other hand, stopping SEO means that rather than maintaining or increasing growth, you’re likely to see leads and new customers drop along with that lost traffic. The money you may have saved by stopping your SEO efforts is likely to be less than what it will take to start a whole new SEO plan—in the long run, it makes better financial sense to stick with it. If you are concerned about budget, it’s smarter to make changes to your SEO strategy than to drop it altogether.
Your Loss is Your Competition’s Gain
This one’s a biggie—just because you stopped doing SEO doesn’t mean your competition did. And your lost clicks, site visits, and rankings? Those are going to someone else. It’s basically the fable of the tortoise and the hare. The hare’s doing so well he thinks he can take a nap and still have the tortoise easily beat, but as the moral goes, slow and steady wins the race (and in this case, the rankings). During your metaphorical nap, plenty can happen to your site. Maybe there’s a technical issue you don’t notice, Google updates their algorithms, you don’t add new content. On the other hand, your competitors are still plugging away. When you stop (or even pause) your SEO, not only are you weakening your position, you’re strengthening your competition’s chances. Take organic rankings—something that shifts often and has a big impact on site traffic—for example. When your site starts dropping on search engine results pages, someone else’s site is taking that spot. It’s hard to overstate how much those rankings can matter. A number one search ranking gets something like 18-38% of clicks, while just dropping down that list to #5 gets you down to 3-5% of clicks. And that fifth position is still fairly high up on page one of search results! The click percentage just continues to drop from there.
SEO Doesn’t Have an “Off Season”
Here in San Diego, we’ve got enviable weather pretty much the whole year ’round. But just like anywhere else, businesses have on- and off-seasons that tend to be tied to the calendar. When you’ve got fewer new leads or customers coming in, it can be tempting to cut back on SEO. You think you don’t really need that visibility right now, since fewer people are looking for you in the first place. But if we haven’t already convinced you that taking a break is a bad idea, here are a few more reasons why. One is that something search engines love is seeing regular updates like continuous blogging, staying on top of social media, and making updates to existing pages. It not only shows that yes, your website is alive and kicking, but also that you care about your site visitors’ experience. This is something that’s worth doing in your off season not only for the search engines’ benefit, but for your existing customers and clients. Just because they don’t need you right now doesn’t mean you want to be completely forgotten! Similarly, if a potential lead finds your site or social page during the off season and sees it hasn’t been updated in months, that can be a turnoff—web users expect continuous updates, and a stagnant feed sends the wrong signal. Last, it’s easier on your budget to maintain your SEO efforts year-round than to start and stop. It can cost more to regain your lost ground, and the more often you do that, the harder it gets—search engines reward stability and tend to look less favorably on sites that are unpredictable.
It’s Not Everything—But it’s a Key Player on Your Team
SEO helps your business by improving your online visibility, connecting you to new clients and customers and making it easier to maintain engagement with your existing base. But it’s just one part of your team, and one part of your overall business plan. If you’re bringing in new leads but don’t have a consistent or effective way of handling them, those leads won’t actually get you business. Similarly, if you’re increasing site traffic and racking up comments and likes without replying to or following up on them, those improved numbers aren’t worth much. Having a professional firm handle your SEO makes sense—it’s complicated, time-consuming, and constantly changing, so trying to go it alone can quickly eat up your time (and money) without giving you good results. But even the best SEO can’t solve everything—your team still needs to put in the work to translate that online presence into new sales and happy clients.
Are you concerned that your SEO budget could be better spent? Higher Power SEO can look at what you’re currently doing and help find areas where you may be able to spend less, as well as opportunities where spending a little more could have a stronger impact on your ROI. Call us at 760-881-4736 to find out more.