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Five Reasons You Should Not Invest in SEO This Year

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Your SEO investment is wasted if it doesn't bring the right visitors to your website and convert them into leads or sales.

Moreover, driving traffic to a poorly optimized website becomes more expensive over time; you need to constantly find more visitors to make up for declining conversion and close rates.

This year, stop wasting time and money on SEO spending, and instead turn that investment toward increasing revenue from the traffic you already have.

Here are five reasons for not investing in SEO in 2016.

1. Search engine algorithms are adapting too quickly

For years, Google and other search engines used results algorithms that relied heavily on numeric ranking factors. When a company was looking to reach the top of a keyword's results page, those factors were fairly easy to manipulate.

Now those search engines have shifted their logic away from simple numeric factors that can be "gamed" and focus on the macro goal of returning search results that searchers most likely to want to see.

For example, Google's Penguin, Panda, and Hummingbird updates, along with an increased emphasis on providing a strong user experience, have made gaming the system harder.

And how often do those major changes happen? Google updated its algorithm 20 times in the last two years, according to MOZ's Google Algorithm Change History.

It's crazy to build a business case around catching up to search algorithm adjustments.

2. The penalties for bad SEO tactics aren't worth the risks

As search engines stepped up optimization of their algorithms, they also increased the penalties for trying to manipulate them.

And the more you attempt to use those kinds of tactics, like link building or posting lots of low-quality content, the more you'll find yourself in the punished, marginalized minority.

Those outdated tactics will crush your site traffic and harm your company brand.

Instead of pursuing those tactics, you should spend your time, money, and resources on other activities that will limit your risks, build your brand, and deliver a positive return on investment.

3. A strong user experience increases conversions and builds brand equity

So, where should you invest? In a better user experience.

Killer products, quality editorials, timely blog posts, well-researched whitepapers, compelling case studies, and informative videos will only generate the kind of engagement you want when you invest resources in converting the traffic already coming to your site.

For example, have a clear navigation that helps visitors get where they want to be as quickly as possible.

Ask yourself:

  • Can users find content immediately?
  • Am I cramming too much content on a page?
  • Are the calls-to-action easy to see and understand?
  • Is there any white space?
  • Are my pictures or graphics big enough to see on a phone?
  • How effective is my site search?

Implementing thoughtful strategies to those questions will do wonders for your users' perception of your business.

4. Not all traffic is created equal

SEO isn't a very targeted approach... Your visitors are adapting just as quickly as Google's algorithm, which is why increased search traffic doesn't always lead to increased conversions.

The key is to make converting your existing traffic a priority.

The numbers speak for themselves. Though the sale conversion rate may be around 2%, conversion rates for lead generation are much higher, generally over 10%. Recent research by Wishpond put average B2B landing page conversion rates at 13.3% and B2C at 9.9%. Those benchmarks should help you pick out what to test.

A page layout, a button color, or an offer that worked yesterday isn't necessarily going to work forever, and it may not even be the most optimal choice now.

Perform tests continually, so you are always adjusting and improving your website.

5. Improving site search offers greater ROI than improving SEO

A large portion of online conversions are lost because users can't find what they want on your website. So, investments in tools like site search are better than those in SEO because site search can improve the user experience and increase the conversion rate—all at the same time.

The data captured from site-search tools is also invaluable. You can find out what your visitors search for and also use that data to decide what content to create and how you customize search results to improve your user experience.

Help users help themselves with site search, and that will boost your search rankings, your site conversion rates, and your bottom line.

* * *

Constantly throwing money at SEO has diminishing returns.

Take a hard look at everything you're using to communicate to all prospects. Do you deliver a great user experience once prospects are on your site? Do you make a strong offer to capture visitors as leads and follow up with them? Do you give them the tools with site search and great content to find the answers they're looking for?

If you invest in doing those things well, you'll get higher ROI than just throwing more money at SEO.

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Matthew Riley is CEO and co-founder of Swiftype, an Elastic company. Elastic builds software to make data usable in real time and at scale for search, logging, security, and analytics use cases.

LinkedIn: Matthew Riley

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  • by Dan Mon Mar 7, 2016 via web

    It doesnt look like you have been keeping up with SEO. Any decent SEO today balances UX and has conversions as the top KPI. Search Engines do adapt, but SEO strategy shouldn't be focused on gaming the system, but on an approach that will never be penalized by Google, which yes, is possible. Also, if a site doesn't have any traffic going to it, site search doesnt matter. SEO usually does not have diminishing returns, but instead gains momentum. I have never come across a company that had to decide between the two, but its apparent you are just trying to get people interested in your product.

  • by Stephen Mon Mar 7, 2016 via web

    Everything you suggest should be done, has its' foundation in Search Engine Optimization. SEO should not be about "gaming the system" such as " posting lots of low-quality content" Why would anyone suggest to post low-quality content. SEO is not about low quality it is about increasing the quality of your site's structure and content which is the foundation built from SEO.

    You can not convert traffic without traffic and if your site is not optimized it will not be properly indexed and will not show up the SERP.

  • by Madeline Anderson-Balmer Mon Mar 7, 2016 via web

    You say "Perform tests continually, so you are always adjusting and improving your website." In fact, that's search engine optimization (SEO). You're constantly reviewing your sites to make certain that people find you. And not just "any" people, but the people who are going to find your site and want to do business with you. Whether you do it yourself, or pay someone else to do it for you, you're investing in SEO. Sure its frustrating that Google changes their algorithms constantly, and that SEO isn't a "set it and forget it" kind of thing. But in fact, as the market changes, websites need to change. There is no easy/fast fix, and if you try to game the system, you deserve to be penalized. True attention to content, site usability, keywords that flow within content, etc. are ways to boost what your site experiences on the web. Focus on the incoming traffic, and maximize that, but not by ignoring how your site is perceived by the search engines. Building site traffic and maximizing the quality of that site traffic is a very important aspect to doing business online.

  • by Jason Darrell Mon Mar 7, 2016 via web

    Oh, wow. Your ignorance of what SEO is, has been and where it's going dictate that you should never, ever write an article with SEO in the title again.

    What happened to the editors at Marketing Profs? Don't they check the validity of the content before it's published? Two words: email clickbait

    I'd strongly suggest revising this before it gets ripped to shreds - and I am going to share it with fellow data scientists. If they have the time, duck.

  • by Ben Mon Mar 7, 2016 via web

    We believe that while SEO is an important marketing strategy, there are many marketers whose mature SEO programs aren't delivering the results that they're looking for. After speaking with Swiftype, we've found that part of the reason is because they're not implementing basic SEO principles and practices correctly. Another reason is because they're not allocating as many resources towards optimizing the traffic they bring in from SEO. For these marketers, it's important to have an effective combination of SEO and site optimization. Feel free to email me at if you'd like to discuss.

  • by Deekron Tue Mar 8, 2016 via web

    Awesome. I've been telling my client this for a while. SEO is a more advanced marketing channel should only be done if the website and conversion process are optimized for it. Otherwise, it will not be effective (for the reasons you mentioned).

    And for all the naysayers poo-pooing this article, I bet at least half of them have never optimized a website and SEO to the point of driving new leads and converting them to sales. They're just speaking about SEO in broad, generic or theoretic terms, which helps no one.

  • by Madeline Anderson-Balmer Tue Mar 8, 2016 via web

    Actually, I have optimized a website for sales and converted leads. If you're using a system like adwords, and your site is not optimized for keywords, you're going to pay more for your advertising. Taking one step at a time is important. Having systems in place to actually USE the leads when they come in is also important, but just plain ignoring SEO because you have bigger fish to fry isn't a great approach, and can cost you more in the long run. At least from my experience.

  • by Clay C Mon Mar 21, 2016 via web

    I'm always hesitant to post that I think a piece is poorly conceived but... this piece is poorly conceived. As a person who has optimized many, many sites for retail sales and lead generation: items #1 and #2 rely on defining SEO as a set of tricks. #3 is not prevented by SEO. #4 is true if you focus SEO on ultra-high level keywords but is definitely NOT true of SEO focused on long tail, high conversion keywords. #5 can you share statistics supporting the %3C%3E comparison?

  • by Taylor Tue Mar 22, 2016 via web

    Did anyone else notice something fishy...?

    The whole article builds and builds and builds, stating all of these very poor 'Reasons', and then what is Reason number five? Boom, a call to action: Invest in a search platform for your website. Guess what the author does for a living? He's a CEO of a company that developed a search platform for websites.

    I didn't really agree with your points up until that point, but that really shot your credibility, unfortunately.

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