Does Your Business Actually Need SEO?

In the world of online marketing gospel, it’s sometimes seems like “do everything you can to improve your search position on Google” is the first commandment. Certainly, search engine optimization is important to most inbound lead generation campaigns. But, should we always take it as a given that SEO needs to be a top priority?

Or more to the point: are you sure your business even needs organic SEO in the first place?

It’s entirely possible you don’t. I see smaller companies every day that wouldn’t get a lot of value from extensive SEO work, especially when you consider the time/costs associated with the effort. Even though more “experts” than ever are hawking SEO services, the reality is not every company needs it.

To consider why I would even utter such blasphemy, let’s take a look at a few important underlying ideas…

Some Businesses Won’t Attract Customers Through Search Engines

There some companies that can’t benefit from better search positioning simply because customers don’t look for what they sell online in the first place. An obvious example might be a taco truck that shows up outside of construction sites every afternoon and beeps its horn to alert workers. It’s highly unlikely, even in the age of smart phones, that many labourers are going to be turning to Google for this type of service.

If you thought about it for a little while, you could probably come up with many more scenarios like this one. Some aren’t as obvious, but even when we get into grey areas there is a cost-to-benefit analysis to be run. Some products are chosen for convenience, location, via the old boy’s club, and other factors that have nothing to do with search engines or any other form of online marketing.

Local Review and Profile Pages Could be More Valuable

Even in cases where online marketing is important, search engine optimization might not be the best way to attract attention from buyers. Sticking with our culinary theme, suppose for a moment you own a bakery that puts out fresh bread and cupcakes every morning. It could very well be that the smell coming out of your kitchen is the very best marketing tool you could ever have.

Beyond that, customers looking for what you offer are likely to turn to Yelp, the Better Business Bureau, or even Facebook before they involve a search engine. This is partly for convenience, but also because they trust the reviews they find online more than they do the marketing on your website. You could blog about new types of bread all day, but what would be the point?

The Competition Might Actually be Overwhelming

Another thing to consider is some businesses could use a better search ranking, but nonetheless won’t noticeably benefit from investing in SEO. That’s because they have competitors who are already deeply-entrenched at the top of the search rankings, making it prohibitively expensive (or time-consuming) to attempt to attract website visitors in that way.

For new businesses and tjhose in very competitive fields, it might make more sense to have a web presence for credibility reasons. Although their advisors are unlikely to tell them so, trying to crowd their way into an already packed space is likely to be frustrating, and without much of a payoff.

Speaking of bad advice…

You Have to be Careful About Who You Take Advice From

Avoiding search engine optimization in the kinds of situations I’ve outlined so far really amounts to common sense – you shouldn’t pursue SEO as a marketing strategy if it isn’t likely to bring you new customers for one reason or another. So, why do so many business owners get sucked into money-losing campaigns? Usually, it’s because they’ve fallen for a sales pitch or taken advice from the wrong person.

There are lots of SEO “experts” and “consultants” who will be happy to take your money after making all kinds of promises. All too often, they are thinking more about their bottom line results than yours.

An honest search optimization firm will give you a realistic lay of the SEO land (PDF), and even steer you away from campaigns or activities that aren’t going to benefit you. Unfortunately, finding honest people to work with is harder than ever.

Don’t take it as a given that you need SEO. If your business falls into any of these categories, trying to improve your ranking on Google is likely going to put a dent in your marketing budget without yielding you much in return.

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