How to stop WASTING money on SEO

WARNING: If you believe that SEO is the end-all-be-all of marketing and that it is the ONLY way to market a business, then know that this article will probably cause some discomfort.  My loyalties are with small to medium-sized business (SMB) owners, not SEO consultants.

When I see small business owners frustrated with their marketing spend, they most often point to SEO.  I find this ironic because when I look at what most  (local) “agencies”  offer as services, the top two are almost always “websites” and “SEO” (social media is a close third).

It seems that there is a large disconnect between what many agencies offer and what SMB owners actually NEED. If you are an SMB owner, read carefully so you can avoid flushing hard-earned cash down the proverbial toilet.

If you are a local agency owner, PLEASE ask yourself if you are offering your clients what they ACTUALLY NEED and not just what is easy money for your bank account.  I keep getting your disgruntled customers, so I guarantee that what you make in the short-term isn’t helping you in the long-term.

Pre-Question: How much of a priority should I place on SEO?

This is really the ultimate question if you want to avoid wasting money. When it comes to business expenses, we can often waste money NOT by spending it on things that are inherently useless, but by putting too much of a priority (and thus money) on something that doesn’t warrant it. The key to note wasting money on SEO is to really understand how much time and money it deserves. So with that in mind, let’s jump in.

First Question: Do I rank #1 when people search for my company name?

If the answer is no, then, YES, you do need to concern yourself with SEO.  Find someone who understands SEO and have them square you away.  Do not pass go.  Do not collect $200.  

With that said…

Second Question: Do I know what SEO Really Costs?

Here’s the thing.  People find SEO appealing because they view it as a “free” or “organic” way to get traffic to their website.

But as the old saying goes, “There is no such thing as a free lunch.”

Ranking on Google COSTS MONEY. PERIOD.

Now, if you are paying someone to “do SEO” for you, then this is apparent.  

But what if you have decided to go “DIY” with your SEO?  Then you need to realize that spending energy to write blog posts and tweak content on your website costs TIME.  And if you are a SMB owner, I don’t need to convince you that TIME = MONEY.  Even if you are having a low-cost employee do the work, IT COSTS.

But this brings up the largest issue: any money spent on SEO is money that could have been more wisely spent somewhere else.

And this ^^^^ is where many SEO consultants are dropping the ball.  A good marketing agency or consultant should help you think through opportunity costs when it comes to the different aspects of your marketing.  The money you spent to rank for a specific keyword COULD have been spent on an infinite number of other things.  

And in spite of what some SEO gurus may say, SEO typically ranks rather low on the list for solid marketing ROI for SMBs.  

NOTE: If you are an SEO guru and hate me at this moment, feel free to send your profanity-laced email to hatemail@marketingmechaniconline.com.  And, no, I won’t read it.

Yet, there ARE exceptions…so while we are thinking about that….

Third Question: What is my REAL SEO need?

Not all businesses are identical, and even businesses of the same type are at different stages of marketing themselves.  It’s important to take this into account when determining how much of a priority you need to place on SEO.

We’ve already addressed the need to get ranked on Google for your company name.  But what happens after that’s been taken care of?  Here are things to consider:

  1. Are my marketing and sales systems squared away?  If your systems are not ready to handle incoming traffic, it isn’t time to worry about SEO.
  2. Have I gotten a solid grip of Direct Marketing?  Direct Marketing (FB Ads, Google Ads, Direct Mail, etc) will almost always get a faster ROI for your marketing spend.  If you haven’t tapped into that “well” yet, then it isn’t time to focus on SEO.
  3. Do I have to compete with gigantic corporations for my ideal keywords?  If so, SEO might not be the best marketing strategy for you.  The Internet has a power curve of 95/5.  Competing with large brands over expensive keywords is typically a losing strategy.  As Sun Tzu says, “Whoever is first in the field and awaits the coming of the enemy, will be fresh for the fight; whoever is second in the field and has to hasten to battle will arrive exhausted. Therefore the clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy’s will to be imposed on him.” (Ch 6, Art of War)  If the large brands have chosen that “field of battle” (aka keywords) it would be wise to shift your strategy and grab a place where you have the opportunity to dominate your competition.
  4. How are people looking for me?  If people are doing “local search” (aka near me) then your focus should be on local SEO rather than just long-tail, intent-based keywords. (And for many areas, local SEO isn’t very competitive.)
  5. Am I in e-commerce or CAN I ship my product service outside my local area?  If so, then you definitely want to be considering the utility of SEO.  But make sure you are squared away on your systems and direct marketing FIRST.

Conclusion

So there you have it.  A 3 + 5 question guide to NOT waste money on SEO.  But a quick recap for scanners:

  1. Get your business/company name locked down in search results.
  2. Make sure your marketing/sales systems are ready for traffic.
  3. Master direct marketing for your market segment.
  4. If local SEO is applicable, get that nailed down.
  5. If you sell outside of your local area, THEN go after broader SEO marketing.
  6. If you compete with massive brands, consider unorthodox tactics to outmaneuver them rather than going toe-to-toe for keywords.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the “Ask a Marketing Mechanic” box.

If you want someone to help you sort out all of this SEO madness for your business, go ahead and schedule a free 20-minute consultation!

And remember: STOP WASTING MONEY ON BROKEN MARKETING