It seems, in my experience at least, most small business owners in the UK have heard of either Jonathan Jay or Nigel Botterill. Both offer business growth and marketing advice to small businesses and, generally speaking, offer a lot of value to the SME market. If you have not heard of them, I would recommend downloading their free material and signing up to their lists so you can make your own mind up.
What has surprised me is how both of them have come out against SEO recently. The reality is, as I am writing this, there are millions of businesses around the world benefiting from ranking well on Google for relevant keywords. Many of them will be paying someone for their SEO and will be getting a clear return on investment from it.
So why are Botterill and Jay against SEO? And why does it seem more people are giving up on SEO or saying it does not work?
There are a lot of views out there on SEO. My plan in this blog post is to cut through all the chatter, and clear things up. I hope you find it useful.
Let’s get back to basics
I like to keep things simple. The truth is, whatever marketing strategy you use there needs to be a business case for it.
Whether you’re putting money into leaflet dropping, Facebook Ads or paying someone to do your SEO, there needs to be a clear return on investment from that activity.
How to determine whether there is a business case for SEO?
First you need evidence that the keywords you want to target on Google work for your website. How do you gather this evidence? By running a Google AdWords campaign.
At Fountain we always start by testing keywords with paid ads and then tracking enquiries or sales at the keyword level. This is a very cost effective way to find out what keywords work and what do not. It will also enable us to work out a conversion rate for your website.
We will then look at where your website is currently ranking for the keywords that are performing through Adwords, and quantify the cost to get you to the top of Google on page one for each of them.
With the data from AdWords, we can also see how many searches each keyword gets. By getting number one on Google you will get around 50% of those people clicking on your website. We will then look at your conversion rate and calculate how many enquires or sales you are likely to get from being number one on Google.
We can also work out what the cost per sale or enquiry is likely to be. If it is too expensive then we will advise against SEO.
Risks with SEO
The section above only works if our forecasting is accurate. We are very conservative with our predictions to protect our clients. Normally, we come in well within the estimated time frame.
SEO is, however, requiring more work to get results, making it unviable for a number of businesses.
The most important thing is to do very careful due diligence before embarking on an SEO campaign, and never do it without running AdWords first.
I would never recommend SEO by itself as a strategy. It is not as reliable as other forms of online marketing – this is why Jay and Botterill are ruling it out.
However, I think to not go through the process of exploring whether there is a business case for it is risky. Your competitors might, and may well be successful. I have seen this happen with a couple of clients who just opted for Google Ads. Around 70% of users click on organic search results compared with 30% who click on paid ads.
SEO is getting harder. This means it is not viable for some businesses. But for others it is. It should be part of a marketing mix if you have crunched the numbers and there is a business case for it.
Effective marketing is about gathering evidence and looking at the figures. SEO is not excluded from this. Just because it is working for less people, does not mean it is dead, or will not work for you. I’m getting my clients ROI from their SEO, as are many other marketing professionals. Rather than listen to sweeping statements, do the maths and see if it works for you.