“How long do I need to be doing SEO?”
It’s a perfectly understandable question. Marketers want to know how long they need to commit to their SEO efforts.
The simple answer is that SEO should be a part of your marketing strategy for as long as it matters that prospective customers can find your business on the internet.
For a more in-depth answer, let’s start with the basics.
What Is SEO?
SEO is a set of disciplined practices designed to increase the quality and quantity of website traffic through organic search results. Even though SEO tactics are necessarily technical, a solid SEO strategy is more about people than search engines.
The art of SEO lies in understanding what people are looking for and providing the answers they seek, in the words they use, and in a format they want to consume it in.
Reliable SEO techniques deliver content in such a way that search engines can index it and evaluate its relevance to search queries.
Why Is SEO Important?
SEO is an essential part of being found by the people who need what you have. With 93% of online experiences starting with search engines, they are the primary conduit between your customers and your site. If you’re not being found in search engines, you’re probably not being found at all.
What About PPC?
It’s common to use PPC to solve that issue. When businesses are unable to get the organic search results they are looking for, they often invest in PPC to ensure that there’s a chance they’ll be found by that 93% of potential customers on the internet.
But PPC and SEO aren’t created equal.
Let’s go back into that 93% of internet sessions that start with a search engine. When someone has a question, they use a search engine to find the answer. There are two likely outcomes from that search:
- They find the solution they were looking for, and
- They establish a trusted connection with the resource that solved their question.
How does trust figure into it? Part of it is just basic psychology. When people help us, they put our interests first, which builds trust. Content providers make a small deposit into a bank of goodwill when they’re generous with their wisdom.
Organic traffic is highly prized, not just because it can be less expensive than PPC advertising but because it’s more credible than paid ads.
While PPC advertising has a specific place in your digital marketing toolkit, it does a disservice to both PPC and SEO to view them as two sides of a search coin. Ads don’t usually demonstrate credibility. Ads are rarely helpful, and more often than not, they’re considered a nuisance. On top of that, the return on your advertising dollars is directly proportional to your investment. You get what you pay for, and once you stop paying, you immediately stop getting clicks.
SEO Is a Journey, Not a Destination
Good SEO accrues benefits over time, with compounding dividends that accelerate growth. Although it can be a slow climb to the top of search rankings, persistent effort yields consistent results and builds authority. Google-designated authority, although hard-won, can increase the flow of traffic to your site in much the same way that adding three new lanes on the interstate can bring throngs of new customers straight to your front door.
There’s no single point of arrival for SEO. The digital landscape is in constant flux, with new competitors, algorithms, and user preferences impacting your organic traffic. Building a resilient SEO plan is like growing a flourishing garden. You can’t weed it once and expect it to thrive. Constant care and attention yield the most reliable growth.
Reasons You Might Want to Quit Doing SEO
Ironically, the two most common reasons businesses discontinue their SEO efforts are different sides of the same coin. Namely:
- I haven’t achieved my goals.
- I have achieved my goals.
Don’t Quit Before You Win
If you want to quit your SEO efforts because you haven’t seen the results you want as quickly as you’d hoped, don’t do anything until you’ve checked your expectations. Are they realistic? Did someone promise you a legion of customers would spring up overnight and beat down your digital doors? You might need to recalibrate your goals, so let’s dig into those for a minute.
Setting Realistic SEO Goals
While it’s great to shoot for the stars, it’s important to use context to understand where you can achieve success, and incrementally update your goals from there over time. Look at your past analytics and set predictive goals based on existing data. A trusted SEO partner can provide benchmarks informed by a competitive analysis and make recommendations based on your unique business goals. More traffic is great, but sustainable growth is created by bringing in traffic that converts.
Suppose your expectations are realistic, but you just haven’t seen the results you’re hoping for yet. In that case, your SEO strategist should be able to tell you (in plain English without jargon) why that might be, offering suggestions for gaps in your implementation of SEO recommendations, or new actions to take to adjust your strategy to better align with your goals.
Indeed, effective SEO requires the same thing that effective anything requires: experimenting, learning, and growing. Integrating what we’ve learned into future activities that are all-the-more impactful. Your competitors’ websites that appear #1 in search are implementing effective SEO strategies that work – so don’t give up just because you haven’t found yours yet.
Great SEO results don’t happen overnight. By virtue of how Google assigns authority to web pages, it can take one month or three, or even over a year to make truly sustainable gains in your search rankings. That’s why reputable SEO agencies won’t work on month-to-month contracts – they understand that sustainable SEO gains take time to build momentum.
Be wary of anyone who promises quick SEO wins. Overnight gains in traffic are often the result of unsavory techniques that Google will penalize when they find them — and they will find them.
Don’t Quit While You’re Ahead
If you achieve your goal of grabbing the number one spot in SERPs for a specific keyword, congratulations! But you can’t set it and forget it. It’s important to remember that you have search competitors that are focusing every day on trying to get back to #1. Much like a marathon runner who holds a comfortable lead, your competitors are working hard to close the gap between your position and theirs.
You have to sustain your SEO efforts to retain your advantage. Fortunately, once you’ve achieved that #1 spot, you will have learned a lot about what works – and you’ll be able to leverage that moving forward into a sustainable long-term strategy. But if you stop focusing on SEO, you’re just opening the door to others swooping in on these activities, and beating you out again.
If You Stop…
If You Stop Posting Content
Without new content, you miss out on opportunities to:
- Rank for new keywords, and optimize for semantic keywords that pop up as Google’s algorithm continues to get “smarter.” Fewer keywords mean less traffic.
- Create pages for other sites to link back to. Fewer fresh backlinks mean less traffic.
Of course, the downsides to stopping your content production engine have downsides that start with SEO but that impact other elements of your marketing strategy as well:
- Less traffic means fewer conversions and a slower-growing email list.
- A lack of fresh content will frustrate loyal customers who’ve come to depend on your valuable insights.
- Less-engaged customers will decrease the number of searches on your brand name, which Google considers an indicator of a quality website.
In summary, high-quality, keyword-targeted SEO content is what drives prospective customers to your site. If you stop posting content, the result is a vicious cycle. Less content means fewer backlinks and lower page authority, which results in fewer conversions and reduced revenue.
And the only way to pull yourself out of that vicious cycle is to resume your targeted SEO content creation production line.
If You Stop Making Technical Improvements
Excellent technical SEO makes it easier for Google to index and understand what your site offers, broadcasts trustworthiness, and makes it more likely that your content will be served in response to search queries. If you stop optimizing your site for technical issues, you’ll see issues pop up, at first likely sporadically, and then compounding over time.
- Poor technical SEO makes it difficult for search engines to index your site, which is the first step to returning your content in search results.
- Page experience metrics depend on continuous coding audits. Slow page loads and poor mobile performance will damage your search rankings, especially after the 2021 release of the Core Web Vitals update.
- An out-of-date robots.txt file could send Google crawl bots to index areas of your site you don’t want returned in search results or tell it to ignore pages you do want to be found. We find that the multiple website stakeholders commonly associated with a business’ site usually means that the robots.txt file often needs updating.
- Broken links or outdated redirects will send signals to Google that your site is in disrepair. Again, it’s common for these to pop up if not consistently sweeping through to find and fix them.
When your site no longer meets evolving technical standards, Google will assign lower trust and authority signals to your content — adding momentum and depth to the vicious cycle of lower page ranking, less organic traffic, lower conversions, and decreased revenue:
If You Stop Building New Pages
So everything is evolving, right? Just as your business is growing and evolving, your competitors are evolving, Google is evolving, and the best thing we can all do to not get overwhelmed is to just stay on top of things.
The easiest way to do that, when it comes to content, is to make sure to continue adding pages on your site that make your product/service offerings clear to your prospects and customers.
- Without new pages that segment your product offerings, you’re missing out on opportunities to rank for long-tail keywords.
- Ranking for fewer long-tail keywords means you won’t attract the highly qualified customers who are most likely to convert.
- Losing keyword growth momentum will impact your search rankings.
Landing pages attract people searching for exactly what you have to offer. If you’re not working to bring them to you, they will likely go to your SEO-committed competitor. Fewer long-tail keywords compound ranking slippage, which further feeds the downward spiral already underway.
The Opportunity Cost of Quitting SEO
Just as a consistent SEO strategy builds momentum toward higher authority and better ranking, neglecting your SEO creates a downward spiral that you will then need to reverse. It takes less energy to perpetuate forward motion than it does to reclaim lost momentum. Most costly of all, in terms of time and money, is reversing a downward spiral.
And you may not realize you’re in that spiral until you start to see its negative impact – on your leads, on your conversion rates, etc. No matter what way you spin it, when you let up on your SEO efforts, you open a door to a competitor capturing your customers and pulling them away from your business. We don’t look at rankings and traffic out of vanity – they’re directly related to conversions, sales, and revenue.
Find a Trusted SEO Partner
A lot goes into creating a sustainable SEO strategy and ensuring it stays aligned with your business goals (check out our SEO case studies for some great examples). A great agency will continuously monitor your metrics and make recommendations based on changes in the competitive landscape, algorithm updates, and your business’s evolving needs.
Expect a reliable SEO partner to keep a watchful eye on your competitors, target new keywords, recommend new product and service pages, and offer advice about keyword-rich content to publish. They should always be available to provide guidance when you have questions or concerns.
The conclusion? Of course. Make SEO a permanent part of your ongoing marketing efforts and find a partner you can trust. As slow and steady progress gains momentum and accrues compounding benefits over time, you’ll wonder why you ever considered quitting SEO in the first place.