Why SEO Is An Investment Rather Than A Cost
Unlike SEM, SEO does not provide rapid results. However, with the correct investment, significant gains will be achieved over time.
Companies make investments on a regular basis. The goal of every investment is to put money into something now that will pay off later.
So why isn’t there any investment in an acquisition channel like SEO?
SEO investments grow in value over time. Increases in traffic and income might be difficult to “notice” since growth is considerably more obvious when assessed over time, typically up to a year later.
Who wants to come back to power a year later and say, “Hey, look, we did it!”
Unfortunately, organic findings are prone to this. Producing them takes some time.
This post will go through some of the most important inputs that drive organic development, as well as the kind of results to expect. How SEO requires investment in:
Building teams to build and supervise SEO strategies that generate business outcomes.
Content: Creating and optimizing content that is underpinned by a solid technical basis that drives the consumer’s journey and the decision to trust and transact with your company over another.
Tools: For both SEO and content marketers. To uncover the many micro-optimizations that drive the macro impact, tools are required, just as a sports team requires a ball and equipment to play.
A common misunderstanding is that SEO is “free.”
It is impossible to have “free traffic.”
It is not easy to generate constant, high-quality online traffic. It has never been.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a little business, a large corporation, or something else entirely.
What is important is achieving the highest potential return on investment.
This necessitates investing in the elements that contribute to increased traffic.
Another common misunderstanding is that SEO ‘simply happens.’
SEO is, at its foundation, a long-term strategy. SEO is a long-term investment.
As the number of improvements compounds, the results are realized over time.
Organic traffic will not appear just because you have a website with content or things to offer.
The truth is that any traffic acquisition strategy, particularly one involving organic traffic growth, necessitates investment.
- The plan and daily operations both require people.
- To generate and optimize content, writers are required.
- Engineers are required to code and release updates to a website’s technological infrastructure.
Every team in an enterprise firm interacts with the website or app, thus they must understand how to contribute to SEO efforts (and not unknowingly harm them).
SEO is a collaborative effort that benefits from constant improvement.
Continuous, deliberate investment in people, content, and tools is required for SEO to produce significant business benefits.
Organic traffic is a long-term client acquisition strategy. Once your website outperforms its competition, SEO becomes an unfair competitive advantage.
What is an investment in SEO?
People, content, and technologies are the bare minimum of SEO team resources.
Businesses can go “all in,” investing internally or externally through agencies and consultants or fund a combination of both.
The only “right” answer is one that benefits the company.
Let’s look at each one separately.
People are, in many respects, a company’s most valuable asset. In the case of SEO, this entails hiring experienced search engine professionals to handle the ins and outs of website maintenance (or a group of sites).
This can range from a single subject matter expert to, ideally, a team of SEOs, each with their own set of specialized skills or unique expertise (think of any superhero movie where they combine their powers).
Because SEO relies on the coordinated outputs of numerous teams, the investment can also involve copywriters, engineering resources, strategists, web analysts, data scientists, product managers, and UX professionals on complementary teams.
If the team is not in-house, the investment expenditures can be used to hire an agency or specialist consultants to complete the work. The idea is that a team of subject matter specialists develops the best SEO plan for the company depending on its resources. They prioritize the work and interact with several departments to produce SEO updates on a regular basis.
I would be remiss if I did not address knowledge gain. In a dynamic area like SEO and digital marketing, it’s critical for a company to set aside money for your SEO team’s continual learning and development (L&D).
This could be anything from assisting with their leadership growth (e.g., online courses, regional SEO meetups, and industry conferences that offer learning and networking opportunities).
Hiring an internal SEO content strategist to oversee a team of authors or outsourcing the task to an agency or consultant are also options for content investment.
Bottom line: having the capacity to post and publish optimized material on the website, regardless of how SEO content teams are formed, is critical to success.
It’s unusual for a single SEO to be able to develop and publish content on a regular basis while simultaneously managing day-to-day SEO activities (those are called unicorns).
It’s also impractical to expect a single person to create content for a company of any size at scale. A dedicated staff of professional writers working from an editorial calendar is required to produce such results.
Without amazing, relevant content, websites cannot rank. This is why this type of investment is critical for internet firms.
For content development, optimization, and performance tracking, physical writers and SEOs require tools.
What are the costs involved? It all relies on what the company needs and where the gaps exist.
It could be volume: how many pages and at what rate will be published? How many people will be using the tool (some companies charge by the number of “seats”). There are also different price points for the software solutions themselves, ranging from basic keyword and URL rank tracking to enterprise-level data for huge websites that require crawling and analysis capabilities at scale.
There are numerous possibilities for groups of all sizes and budgets. It’s best to self-educate and self-evaluate the finest method for the business if you’re a marketer deciding on tools for your teams and resources.
Earned vs. paid media (or: investing now vs. later)
Paid search and SEO (earned media) are two of the most common traffic acquisition methods, and both necessitate the investment of people, content, and technologies.
Many people believe that funding in both channels should be allocated more evenly. However, the truth is that the outcomes are generated at various times.
- Because paid search campaigns can be managed daily – even hourly – they produce a more immediate result, which is why SEM often receives a larger share of the budget.
- The return on an SEO effort might take months or even years before a page (or pages) of optimized content is indexed by search engines and begins to rank well enough to deliver meaningful traffic to a website.
Consider the following scenario: you have a garden and wish to raise tomato plants. To get the garden to produce that veggie, you must perform all of the things that come with growing that type of plant, which will undoubtedly take some time.
However, if you require tomatoes immediately, you must purchase a fully mature tomato plant and plant it in your garden. That’s how paid search works.
So, if you want tomatoes tomorrow and haven’t been properly tending to your garden, you won’t get them because gardens don’t give immediate results. This is SEO.
Using this example, it’s clear that a company’s reliance on a channel like paid search to attract customers to its website is unsustainable. In a bidding battle, your budget will eventually run out, or you will be priced out of the market.
Because SEO does not work like paid search, it cannot provide rapid results. However, SEO is similar to a garden that would produce an abundance of fruit year after year if properly cared for.
Investing In An SEO Team
In the year 2021, Google made over 5,000 updates to its search engine.
That alone is reason enough to have a professional team in charge of all aspects of SEO.
Assume you’re a director or manager in charge of expanding your SEO department. You must consider your own resources as well as the expertise required by the company.
Perhaps it’s an e-commerce site that would benefit from a technical SEO with e-commerce knowledge. Perhaps your company should double down and update its material.
Find whatever SEO expertise and experience the company need.
The point is that each business will require a unique set of SEO talents.
An enterprise-level in-house SEO staff with an anticipated compensation range (USD) looks somewhat like this:
- Director of SEO: $150,000+
- Senior SEO Manager: $120,000+
- SEO Product Manager: $120,000+
- Technical SEO Lead: $120,000+
- Content SEO Lead: $110,000+
- SEO Expert: (specializing in data science and mining the company data for insights) $150,000+
- Platform specialist: (Enterprise sites are either bootstrapped or built on large-scale solutions like Salesforce; what counts is that you have an SME who can make technical adjustments to the site based on the platform it’s on.) $150,000+
Remember, you can’t just put together a team without providing them with the necessary tools. A great football team requires more than simply players; it also needs various types of coaches, equipment and gear, training facilities, and other factors.
As a result, SEO is regarded as a long-term investment. Hiring smart and experienced professionals to manage and develop a website’s content and technical architecture is a long-term investment that pays off in the long run.
It’s comparable to the financial commitment required to purchase a home. A homeowner should budget ahead of time for home renovation projects and basic property maintenance. When a home is well maintained over time, it becomes more appealing to buyers and sells for top money, resulting in a profit for the homeowner.
A firm requires SEO professionals to look after and enhance the website as a whole, much as it is financially more practical to maintain a building over time than to undergo a full rehab.
SEO Is Profitable: The ROI Of SEO
Traffic and income are the most important SEO KPIs.
How much traffic can SEO increase? It’s difficult to pinpoint because it depends on a variety of output-related parameters, including:
- How frequently do you make updates to your website?
- What exactly are the enhancements?
- Are they the ones who will make a difference?
One method to approach this estimate as a starting point is to frame it like this: take the baseline of your current level of annual organic traffic (from your traffic sources, like Adobe or Google Analytics). Then, ask yourself, “What does a 1% improvement look like?” “What would a hypothetical 1% drop in traffic look like if we did nothing?”
That’s your +/- baseline, from which you can extrapolate up to 5% in each way as an estimate of site visit improvement or decline.
To put things in perspective, “doing nothing” refers to making no technical SEO enhancements to existing material or publishing new content.
Important: Doing nothing might often be more expensive than a small SEO investment.
Measuring The ROI Of An SEO Investment
Because SEO does not produce immediate rewards for funds spent, it should be seen as an investment.
Consider why investing in a 401K account is deemed financially sound: the expectation is that the funds will increase over time and be greater when you need them in the future. This is due to compound growth and continuing investment in the fund. The same may be said for SEO.
Search is an attribution channel that grows over time as the site improves, as savvy marketers know.
“Almost any Google Analytics account you look at will show you that search is a key element of website traffic,” explains Krista Seiden, Founder & Principal Consultant, KS Digital. “Whether it’s last-click attribution or a multi-touch conversion path, organic search is a critical driver for the vast majority of organizations, and hence a vital reason to engage in the channel.”
Another measurable SEO expenditure that takes financing up front but pays off afterward is content optimization. Allow me to explain.
The stages of the buyer’s journey should be recognizable to most marketers:
Customers, it turns out, seek out different types of content depending on where they are in their evaluation process. The idea is to tailor your material to the customer’s search intent.
Andy Crestodina of Orbit Media created this wonderful picture to show what types of content a company would need to attract, inform, and persuade someone to buy their product:
Consider how many types of material each component of the list has, or does not have, in your company. When was the last time you updated the content? What more content would you need to provide to make your offer more competitive?
Let’s imagine you conduct a content audit on your website and discover that you lack how-to information. For example, it can cost $500 to $1,000 to have a 1,500-word article created and published on your site so that when people search for “how to repair an LG water filter,” your content would appear at the top of the SERPs.
If done correctly, the post covers all aspects of the subject, is relevant for a variety of search phrases, and remains on the front page of Google for months, if not years. As a result, the one-time expense of creating the content contributes to several sales in the future.
That is, in a nutshell, how content optimization provides value year after year.
SEO Investments Based On Business Size
Let’s have a look at how it might be profitable at various levels. Take these figures with a grain of salt; they’re just approximations to see how an SEO investment breakdown would appear based on annual revenue and company size.
- Headcount: 5-50 full time employees
- Annual Revenue: <$50M
- Rough SEO Investment: $1-$5K/month, $60K/yr.
- Revenue from SEO channel: between 2-5%
When it comes to startups and small businesses, it’s advisable to invest in SEO after determining product market fit. Most startups need to quickly acquire paying clients. Once clients and regular revenue have been established, SEO can be brought in to improve the existing site’s content and performance in order to assist cast a larger net, amplifying the product and attracting new prospects.
Most small businesses should engage in SEO, but many don’t since it’s expensive and there’s usually no one else to update the website besides the owner. A minor investment in SEO services can assist generate foot traffic to retail premises.
Local SEO agencies and/or specialized consultants are excellent options since they can frequently carry the burden of making a website mobile-friendly and optimizing content for Google Maps and a Google Business Profile listing.
Hiring an SEO for a small business should be similar to hiring a trustworthy, licensed professional to complete your taxes. It’s not something that every business owner can or should accomplish alone. Hire a professional that will monitor your SEO requirements as they pertain to your company.
My advice to small businesses is to start allocating at least $1,000 a month to SEO services. Take three months out of your advertising or marketing budget to see what you can do.
- Headcount: 50-250 full time employees
- Annual Revenue: $50M-$1B
- Rough SEO Investment: $10-$20K/month, $240K/yr
- Revenue from SEO channel: between 5-10%
Mid-sized businesses should invest in SEO because it is a more cost-effective way to acquire customers over time, and they will benefit the most from SEO investments because they typically have the financial resources to support their in-house SEO lead with external agency services and/or consultants. At this stage, SEO might mean the difference between being able to grow efficiencies and pulling ahead of competition or being left behind.
The website is usually the responsibility of the marketing team of mid-size organizations and agencies. Even if an SEO specialist is on the team, both technical and content resources may be limited.
SEO can help a business flourish at the midsize level. You’re missing out if you don’t have a trained specialist supervising the technical parts of your site and optimizing your content for what real people are searching for in relation to your business.
- Headcount: 1,000+
- Annual Revenue: 1M+
- Rough SEO Investment: at least $1M/year
- Revenue from SEO channel: between 5-20%
SEO results at the enterprise level are dependent on both investment and consistent outputs from numerous teams. Enterprise SEO is primarily about developing protocols that allow various cross-functional teams to improve technical factors such site architecture, internal linking, and crawl and index efficiencies.
On the content front, it’s about collaborating with internal brand and content teams to produce and publish large-scale content improvements that outperform competitors.
Fixing flaws identified in an SEO audit isn’t always enough for large sites. Because SEO is essentially a cross-functional discipline, it requires strategic management to prioritize and cooperate internally across many various teams delivering on the SEO work, including product, engineering, QA, delivery managers, content, UX, and design teams, to name a few.
“You need more than SEO expenditure to see SEO benefits — SEO is dependent on product, technology, and content.” It’s a complicated, hybrid realm that relies on other resources, teams, and outputs.”
Cross-functional teams are critical to SEO performance, particularly engineering and content outputs. Expect your SEO traffic to decline if you can’t publish code or content.
The Benefits Of SEO
Even a minor investment in maintaining a website’s performance, content, and user experience can add up over time to deliver a year-over-year return on investment for the business.
Because humans are naturally curious, we’re always looking for solutions to issues, new places to eat, and directions to where we’re going–we’re built to ask questions, and that handy, mobile device in our pocket that’s linked to the internet 24/7 is ready to answer any and all queries.
Here are some key SEO statistics:
- 93% of the time, an online session begins by searching keywords on a search engine.
- As of 2021, 53% of all website traffic (worldwide) clicks on organic results.
- Google alone processes more than 40,000 keyword searches every single second. That’s over 3.5 billion searches in a single day and 1.2 trillion per year!
- 16-20% of keywords searched on Google in any given day have never been searched before.
These convincing statistics indicate that search is not going away very soon.
Aside from attracting interested humans, another advantage of investing in SEO is that it addresses many of the same issues as making websites easier to navigate for the minority of the population who are disabled. This is referred to as accessibility.
Although there isn’t a direct correlation, many technical SEO techniques can be applied to improving the user experience for users who use a screen reader to access websites (statistics suggests that 8.1 million Americans have a vision impairment).
Furthermore, combining SEO with accessibility labels in the QA automation process increases efficiency by making testing automation easier. That’s a big win for various in-house teams working on SEO and generating revenue.
SEO Tactics To Invest In Page Speed
Improvements in website speed and performance, as measured by Google’s Core Web Vitals, will be the North Star of investment in 2022. (CWV). These are elements that aid with the loading of a website for both search engines and people.
Many groups are forming around:
- LCP (biggest contentful paint): load the heaviest items first to make the rest of the process appear smooth.
- CLS (cumulative layout shift) is a technique for reducing the number of components that “jump” or move across the screen as it loads.
- FID (first input delay): the amount of time it takes for users to interact with the page and complete the task they came to do.
Your website pages should, in general, load rapidly. In July 2018, speed became a ranking criteria, and users demand it. However, speed alone will not increase traffic.
Relevant and authoritative content
One of the best SEO investments is improving content (either upgrading existing material or deleting underperforming pages).
Google is improving its ability to determine user intent. That means staying on top of your content and making sure it’s helpful, accurate, and relevant is a given.
To improve your E-A-T signals, it’s worth investing in a content overhaul:
For corporate firms, the generic searches that occur at the top of the funnel (TOFU) are largely where SEO is most effective. Big businesses can usually afford a higher paid search expenditure, but the number of new visitors who arrive at the website as a result of planned, continuous investment in well-written, relevant content benefits the firm tremendously over time.
Technical SEO Outputs
This refers to the rate at which engineering and product teams can collaborate with SEO teams to fix the site’s technical issues. A constant level of work will help to build a solid technical basis.
In general, if a site goes 6 months or longer without releasing any technological upgrades, it risks losing significant ranks and hence traffic because it is unable to compete online against other teams who are focused on testing and learning to enhance the SEO results they’re seeing.
A Few Reasons Not To Invest In SEO
Let’s pretend you’re a:
- A startup that has yet to find its product-market fit.
- You’re an affiliate website looking to make money. Continue to reach out to influencers…
- You believe that developing links is the only way to go. Have a good time with it.
- You need to reach a certain amount of users in order to attract investors, which means you should utilize paid search to grab clients rapidly and then employ SEO to keep them.
- If your business has minimal or no engineering resources. SEO is based on collaborations with engineering and content teams, as well as their regular output.
- When you can’t afford to pay for the services of a skilled consultant or agency. On average, SEO companies charge $112.22 per hour worldwide, and 50% of SEO providers have a monthly retainer minimum of less than $3,000 per month.
For SEO To Deliver, It Requires Investment And Collaboration
Make no mistake: SEO consists of two components. It’s a lot of work, but it’s well worth it!
Have you ever heard the phrase, “Anything worth having is difficult or involves effort?” The same may be said for SEO.
The table stakes that need to be addressed in order to be competitive online include a site that loads quickly, is safe for processing transactions and provides relevant and helpful content.
The myth that organic traffic “simply happens” and costs nothing is completely false. It takes a certain amount of investment to turn organic traffic into a useful marketing channel that also generates a long-term profit.
One of the most solid foundations a company may have is a consistent flow of organic traffic.
Because every people on the earth looks for products, services, and information to make their life simpler, SEO efforts are worthwhile. Your company must be the first option in your clients’ minds.
Businesses must invest in SEO since it is a discipline that is specifically created to optimize the technical components of a website for search engines so that real individuals looking for amazing products and solutions can find them.
Remember that SEO’s return on investment takes time to compound. Paid search, on the other hand, can be turned on or off. What happens if your PPC ad budget runs out?
SEO is a channel that consistently produces results. All you have to do now is keep investing.