Here at ICM, we have had to disappoint many SEO-hopefuls , not because we have too many clients and are at full capacity(I certainly hope so), but because SEO wasn’t feasible for their businesses. SEO, short for Search Engine Optimization, is simply the practice of putting your website on the first page of Search Engine Results Page for search terms related to your product/service. Many have heard about the power of SEO and the benefits it brings but the truth is that it is not suitable for all. There are a few scenarios where this may happen.
1) Search volume and transaction value is too low
Yes, people search for almost everything online these days. Almost. Actually, the area not covered by ‘almost everything’ is pretty vast. For example, new technologies. You will not search for MP3 before you knew about its existence. Right? What about things that you dont know you have a need for ? such as tongue brush ? All these are examples of products or services with low or negligible search volume.
Even if you have hundred over people searching for your product or service every month, it may not always make sense to plunge into SEO. Why ? In a B2C context, the transaction value may not justify in certain cases. For example, if you are selling greeting cards at $1 each, how many of those do you need to sell in order to recoup your SEO investment ? (Be sure to make calculations in terms of the lifetime value of your customers. )
Typically in the B2B market, anything beyond 100 searches / month gives us the green light. For B2C industry, 1000/month and above is great. You can check it out by signing up for a free account at keywords tool.
Why can’t we just go ahead even when search volume is low ? Bear in mind: SEO is a fixed cost, instead of paying per click , you pay a lump sum every month regardless of the clicks you get.
2) Competitive gap is too big
SEO game is not created equal. Certain industries and keywords have intense competition, while others are a walk in the park. It is possible to rank for any keyword, but the question is whether it is worth doing it ? If it requires 2 years and 6 figures worth of investment for your website to be on page 1, would you do it ?
What are some clues that indicate competitive gap may be too big ?
– There are many well known household brands in the top 10 results(which indicates high authority, a ranking factor)
– Your website is brand new. It is hard to rank a brand new site due to Google sandbox .
– You are fighting for a global keyword with global competitors
Note: The simplified examples above doesn’t always make for an impossible SEO case, it really have to go through a more thorough competitive analysis by a SEO technician. If the main keyword you are eyeing after is a highly competitive one, you can still opt for longtail keywords through a deeper keywords research.
You may be wondering why some SEO consultants say ‘yes’ to your competitive keyword while others politely walk away. In these cases, beware of the use of spammy SEO tactics that allows your website to rank as fast as it disappears from the search engine results page. The key to SEO is sustainability.
3) Not sure of your customers’ psychology
For some, they are pretty darn sure that people typing in certain keywords are looking for what they offer. It is a match between searcher intent and business offer. There’s value creation and world is perfect. In those cases, when search volume is decent and competition is reasonable, businesses go ahead with their SEO investment.
The answer may not be so straightforward for the others. SEO takes 3-6 months of time as well as substantial monetary investment , so you dont want to start ranking for a keyword only to realize that those searchers are looking for something different from what you offer and you cant serve them. For example, are people who search “baking supplies singapore” looking for baking syrup or baking paper or baking powder ? ( I dont do baking but i think there are more baking supplies).
We can’t be 100% certain until we find out from them. The best way is to buy google ads and start ranking immediately to find out what they are looking for. Thats where SEM comes in as a way to test a market. On the other hand, SEO is a long term strategy that makes sense when there is more certainty.
“But my SEO company gave me a guarantee at low price, it is a no-brainer for me”
Let me define ‘guaranteed rankings’ here. No SEO agency in the right mind would guarantee 100% of your chosen keywords ranking in no.1 of Google search results page. The guarantee would be along the lines of ‘20% of your keywords in 1st page of Google search results page.’ That is a more achievable guarantee, and that is usually as far as the promise goes.
Search rankings ≠ new customers
What does it mean for the business owner ? Yes, it is cool to have a website ranking on first page of Google for your targeted keyword, even if it is 6th to 10th spot. You can now show it off to your friends, but do you have any idea how much traffic you will get for that ? About 3.73 % of total searches, based on studies.
Of course, I’m not saying I can get your website to number 1 in Google for any keyword that you wish for, like a genie does, but it is a good idea to know what one is paying for.
In asking the question what is the best SEO price I can get , perhaps the better question to ask would be; Is it worthwhile paying for SEO ? Say you are paying a low rate of $300 per month for SEO. After 3-6 months, your website gets ranked on first page for your desired keyword. Success ! Hurray !
You start getting traffic: about 3 per month, or maybe 4. With an average conversion rate of 2%, you need 12.5 months to get one lead(not sales). In this case, you better make sure you are selling something worth 5-figures with more than 50% profit margin to break even at least.
Search rankings ≠ forever
And there’s another issue.
Don’t assume that your website will stay on 1st page forever once its up there.
If quick fix spammy tactics are being used to rank the website, it will not take more than one month for Google to find out. Using automated systems can trick Google Robot into ranking a website, but it will not stand the test of the all-too-frequent manual reviews and algorithmn updates. And yes, Google hands out manual penalties as well. They are serious about maintaining the quality of the search results.
So SEO is dead ?
I have to add that I am a champion of SEO. SEO has 101 benefits which I didn’t talk about in this article. It gives you free consistent traffic over the long term.
However, it is just not suitable for everyone.
Find other trees
As cool as ranking on search engine is, it may not always be the best solution for your business. If it doesn’t work for you, dont despair. There is more than one tree in the entire forest. In fact, there are tons of digital marketing strategies that you can tap on to grow your business. Just make sure you to do proper calculations and put up tracking system before going into it.
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Ted is the director of Ice Cube Marketing. His insights on marketing has been featured in AsiaOne Business, Singapore Business Review , e27 and TechinAsia. He graduated with a 1st class honors degree in Business IT from NTU. While not planning campaigns for clients, he enjoys a good read on books related to psychology.