Search engine optimisation, or SEO, is one of the most important marketing tactics available to many organisations.

The term can refer to an approach to content, as well as the technical process of making improvements behind the scenes. Both forms of SEO help search engines, especially Google, understand what a website is about and who it’s relevant to, so it appears in searches by the target audience.

Of course, Google has become so ubiquitous in the modern world that we almost automatically assume anything which moves a business up the rankings must be a worthwhile investment.

And for many this will be the case.

Take B2C companies that rely on high volumes of traffic to sell low-priced items. These retailers need to appear prominently when buyers are searching, or they simply won’t make the impact they need.

But for businesses that operate by nurturing relationships over an extended period, the impact may be less pronounced. A quality website that portrays the right message is still important, but the priorities are different, and strategies should reflect them.

What can SEO do for me?

Technical SEO addresses a wide range of factors that can affect how well websites perform in search engine rankings. The quality of the website itself is important, but even the best content won’t be seen if the underlying structure is not up to par.

Some SEO techniques boil down to best practice in the design and build of the website, while others require ongoing work to optimise, particularly as the site grows. Common areas covered include:

  • Organising the site’s architecture and future-proofing the hierarchy
  • Correct use of elements that give search engines useful information about a page
  • Permanent and temporary redirects to avoid errors and give users the best information

All of this work is beneficial to the health and performance of a site, so why would a company choose not to invest in it?

A question of resource

There are a few potential drawbacks of ‘overachieving’ when it comes to SEO. Some businesses try to run before they can walk, investing heavily in creating a strong online presence before they have built the infrastructure to cope with the increased demand.

It seems like a good problem to have, but it’s a recipe for reputational damage that can be difficult to repair. 

More often, however, the decision comes down to a simple question of resources. Every business needs to allocate time and money responsibly, and that means strategically focusing on areas likely to have the greatest impact.

High search rankings may be nice-to-have, but not the best use of resources if that is not where the audience is. Disruptors and businesses that operate in a niche that people are not searching will find it significantly more difficult to deliver a return on SEO work.

Websites are often compared to shop fronts. People are passing by, taking a quick look, and learning about what it is a business does to decide whether they want to enter. It’s a neat analogy for search traffic.

But what if there is no search traffic?

Then your website might be more like an office than a shop. You still need it to look good. It should be tidy, professional and say something about who you are. But potential customers aren’t just stopping by – you need to go and find them, and invite them in.

That’s where allocation of resources becomes so important.

Depending on where you believe you will find your audience, public relations, advertising and direct approaches can be more effective in making that initial contact. They will still expect to see a quality website with a clear message, but they will go directly because they want to learn more about you.

What’s right for you?

The future of SEO is unpredictable, with research by Jumpshot last year showing half of all Google searches do not produce any clicks at all. Many companies are diversifying their marketing in response, but others will be able to adapt and capitalise on new SEO trends.

Ultimately, your approach should be about finding a strategic balance that is right for your business.

Understand your customers, what they are searching for, and where you need to be to begin a meaningful conversation with them.