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Those outdated tactics will crush your site traffic and harm your company brand.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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image of Matthew Riley

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