I work with companies of all sizes in my job as an SEO Consultant at Distilled in New York City (the best city in the world). I have a Fortune 500 company that you have definitely heard of, a hotel chain you have definitely heard of, and two startups that you may not have heard of (yet). I love it when a company “gets” SEO and wants to bake it into their company. In fact, I tweeted this tweet today after spending a full day at one of my startup clients working with them:
I realized today just how much SEO ties into a whole business. If only more business people understood that…
— John Doherty (@dohertyjf) January 13, 2012
I get stoked when companies start to get SEO, but I have one thing to say:
SEO is NOT your full marketing strategy
Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE SEO. I gave up a lot to get here. But I get scared when I hear that people are putting so much weight into their investment in SEO, because when we take a long hard look, building your company being reliant on SEO is a fool’s errand.
Have you ever heard the saying:
Everyone therefore who hears these words of mine, and does them, I will liken him to a wise man, who built his house on a rock. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it didn’t fall, for it was founded on the rock. Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall. – Matt 7:24-27
Let me qualify what I mean by this.
Building anything based on a third party is dangerous, because that third party can, at almost any time, change. Now, that third party cannot change completely, because they are also somewhat reliant on you (like Google is reliant on your Adwords spend, so they cannot just do away with Adwords all of a sudden), but they can change their algorithm and your business can be hurting.
What if you saw this in your Analytics one day?
Would your business be able to survive?
SEO is one avenue of search. Given, it can be quite a lucrative avenue as it is often known as “free traffic”, though I prefer to call it “passive traffic”. There’s nothing passive about working to earn it, but it’s still not active traffic like email or paid search. You earn your rankings, you maintain them, and traffic keeps flowing.
SEO can be baked into all parts of your marketing, though. It can, and should, be included in the following avenues:
- Business partnerships
- Content development
You can embed SEO into your emails by directing people to linkable pages and encouraging them from there to link to your pages through blog posts or other content (blog competitions work well here). You encourage them to do this by creating great content, which is informed by your keyword research and market/competitor analysis, which are both instrumental parts of SEO. Your social strategy gives you a lift in traffic, which can often result in links (for more check out Why You Should Guest Post for statistics on links). Your business partnerships should provide you with quality sites from which you can at least get a branded link, if not a consistent column from where you can get targeted links.
What’s a Decent Traffic Spread?
You’re probably thinking now: “Alright, so this is great, but when should I be concerned?” Well, you should always be concerned about relying too much on one avenue for your business, but I’d say that you should really be concerned if over 70% of your traffic is coming from organic, or any channel to be honest.
Think about Mahalo and eHow. They built their businesses off of thin content that ranked well because of weaknesses in Google’s algorithms. I’m not saying this was not necessarily smart as they made a lot of money, but they put all of their eggs into one basket. They were all-in on organic, and once the Panda update rolled around, their businesses tanked.
For example, organic is about 33% of my traffic to this site each month. I have clients whose organic traffic is 25% of their total, one that it’s around 30%, one that it’s 18%, and so on. SEOmoz’s is only about 20%, by the way. That should tell you something right there.
This is healthy:
This is dangerous, precisely because an algorithm update could tank you:
SEO professionals have an obligation to manage the expectations of their clients and tell them when their expectations are off. Screw satiating your clients when they are wrong; sometimes we have to stand up to them and tell them that they are wrong. If they give wrong numbers and set bad expectations, reset them. If they are throwing everything at SEO, encourage them to invest in other areas as well, without working yourself out of a job. We’re around to build businesses, not sucker people out of their money.
What’s your take? Should SEO have a bigger role?