Monday, April 18, 2016

Is SEO Positioning Over-hyped?

There is no question in my mind that the great mantra of the 2010s among marketers is "SEO".  SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the achievement of a high position in a search engine of a particular business.  And it is greatly overhyped.

The logic of the marketeers is that success depends on getting as close to #1 search result as possible for a given search term or business name.  Great sums are spent to "optimize" this position.  It sounds wonderful, but there are considerations.  I think for most small businesses, achieving very high SEO should not be the overriding goal.  Here's why:

1) Every competitor is also doing the same thing, and there are only so many top-ten positions to go around.  If you are a Realtor and hoping "Top Realtor in Gotham" will show you, you will likely be disappointed.   Every business spending money with a marketing firm to buy more "horses in the race" is locked in an arms race of sorts with others doing the same thing.

2) Not every small business builds their marketing plan around search.  Quite a few I know rely on relationship building, word of mouth, advertising, and good old fashioned promotion.  And, similarly, not that many consumers (or clients) see the be-all-and-end-all in search.  A search may inform but it does not automatically lead to to a sale.  Oftentimes the search is conducted to find a detail that is not remembered, such as a telephone number or address.

3) The question of "High SEO" is highly dependent on the "what" of the search.  That is, what search term matters most?  Do you want to score high with your business name? your line of business? a particular product or service? something else?  One's search position can change enormously based on the word choices a prospect makes.  Trying to buy high SEO for every combination can be enormously expensive.

What's the solution?  I recommend adapting to the realities of search.  A business can improve its search position by keeping a web property with strong content, fresh material, and plenty of both.  Use videos and a blog to add searchable material.  Consult your web master for ways to enhance searchability of the web site.  But most of all, ensure your messaging reflects ways in which you are unique and different.  Continue to work the non-search methods most businesses use.

Bottom line: Search is part of the equation, but it is not the most critical to a small business.  Be careful buying into programs that focus on building the maximum SEO.  Very often, that program may not result in the strongest return on investment.  Depend on established marketing techniques.

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