I received a question from a digital marketer in Australia via LinkedIn who saw my presentation (Who Is Succeeding With Digital Marketing In 2013 And Why?) on slideshare.net and sent me a question.
I thought I’d post the question and answer for all of you to read because it’s a common question (and a discussion area that I find interesting).
‘Waste of time’ is probably a little extreme but my thoughts on the subject are essentially this:
1. SEO inherently carries a lot of risk, a lack of easily monitored metrics and a general lack of certainty. Basically, all SEO is at the whims of Google. Whether it works or not will vary massively based on link building strategy, link quality, link velocity, on-page factors, the niche, the keywords selected and what updates Google is making this month.
The thing that you definitely don’t want to have happen is use the wrong strategy and be penalized or use the right strategy and pick the wrong (non-profitable) keywords.
2. AdWords, whilst generally “more expensive” is inherently less risky. You can track it daily, pull out reports daily, rapidly turn keywords on/off and so on. In other words, AdWords is a great way to “test” and “prove” that certain keywords have potential for profitability before going down the sometimes difficult path of running a successful SEO campaign.
3. As a general rule, if a keyword drives sales and/or leads (conversions) then generally it is safe to assume that an SEO campaign will help you to “win more” and scale up those results by an order of magnitude.
4. As a general principle I feel that “if you can’t make adwords work for a business, SEO is probably not going to help much.”
5. This approach also encourages businesses and agencies to focus not just on vanity rankings (e.g: “hey! we’re successfully ranked for a search term that doesn’t generate us any sales or traffic”.) but also on conversion rate and getting the fundamentals right. Is the offer a good fit for what visitors are looking for? Is the information presented in such a way that encourages the potential customer to take a desired action?