So, let’s dive right into it, is SEO worth it? In 2023, SEO is still one of the smartest investments for boosting your brand’s visibility and attracting new business online.
While some critics think SEO is too expensive and time-consuming, 80% of CMOs still say they will maintain or even increase their SEO budget this year. SEO is widely seen as a cost-effective alternative to paid ads, enabling brands to generate the same amount of traffic at a fraction of the cost.
The key is to focus on aligning your content with your audience’s needs and preferences, as content quality and user experience are among the main drivers for SEO performance.
In addition, it is important to treat SEO as a long-term investment, as it may take 6 to 12 months to see the results of your activities.
Is SEO worth it in 2023?
SEO has been a controversial topic for digital marketers ever since the concept was invented in 1997. For its supporters, SEO is a solid strategy for building your brand, attracting more traffic and generating more high-quality leads and a better ROI on your marketing spend in the long term.
For its detractors, it is a costly, time-consuming activity with no 100% guarantee of success. And for its haters, SEO is a gimmicky practice that uses click-bait-like tactics and keyword stuffing to inflate traffic without much impact on the overall success of your marketing activities.
At Contentoo, we are convinced that SEO is a powerful marketing technique that’s as relevant as ever in 2023. We’ve seen countless examples of how optimising your content for findability contributes to reaching your marketing goals.
That’s why, in this post, we want to dispel some of the misconceptions about SEO, set the record straight and definitively answer the question: Is SEO worth it?
What is SEO?
Most of the arguments against SEO are based on a fundamental misunderstanding of what the term even means. So, to start off, let’s look at what SEO is – and what it is not.
- A set of practices used by digital marketers to make their content easier to find via search engines, especially Google, which is the platform of choice for over 93% of internet searches.
- A proven way to help your content rank higher on search engine results pages (SERPs), so that it is likely to appear near the top of the list of search results whenever someone searches for keywords or topics related to your content.
- More than just choosing the right keywords. It is about optimising your content’s quality and authoritativeness, whilst also improving the user experience you offer to your audience (for example, by optimising your website’s performance).
SEO is NOT…
- Using click-bait-like headlines or meta titles to try to attract masses of visitors to your page (only to disappoint them when your content does not live up to their expectations).
- Stuffing keywords into your content under the false assumption that “the more times I repeat this popular keyword, the higher my content will rank on Google.”
- Adding the right keywords to content that is otherwise inferior, or to a web page that does not offer a good user experience (for example, because it takes ages to load, or because it is not optimised for mobile devices).
The benefits of investing in SEO
With the correct understanding of what SEO is – and how to use it – digital marketers can put a strategy in place that opens them up to many important benefits. Here are some of the major benefits of investing time and budget in SEO in 2023:
Nearly 70% of all online experiences start with a search (usually on Google, as mentioned above). At the same time, less than 1% of people who perform a Google search will click on a link from the second page of Google search results. This means optimising your content to help it rank high on Google’s SERP is the key to being visible to the overwhelming majority of people searching for information on the internet.
Better user experience
SEO is not just about “what” you publish, but increasingly also about “how” you publish it. Google prioritises content that caters to modern user preferences. For example, in 2020, Google switched to “mobile-first indexing.” This means it prioritises pages that offer a fully optimised viewing experience for mobile device users, instead of prioritising pages that are optimised for desktop viewing only. Other UX-related, technical aspects of your website (especially your page’s loading speed) also impact your SERP ranking. This means SEO is directly linked to ensuring a better overall experience on your website.
One of the best ways to see how much money SEO can save you is to compare it to the alternative: pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
To figure this out, look at your content’s traffic value metric. How much are you currently paying for Google AdWords? How much would you have to pay if all your traffic was generated through PPC alone?
For most websites, organic (SEO) traffic makes up the majority of overall traffic to your website (53% on average). Plus, 70% of Google users say they prefer clicking on organic search results as opposed to paid ad results, because they consider them more trustworthy. One study found that brands who engage in SEO save 400% on ad spending on average, whilst attracting the same level of traffic.
So, SEO content not only performs better than paid ads, it builds more trust – usually for a much lower price than you would pay for PPC advertising. Below, we’ll look at the financial costs of SEO in more detail.
Potential ROI from SEO
One of the most persistent criticisms of SEO is that it is difficult to track its ROI. How can you tell whether the cost of investing in SEO outweighs the cost of investing in paid ads, for example? The traffic value metric is a good place to start. But to reliably calculate the ROI, it also helps to have a clear view of the actual cost of SEO to begin with.
How much does SEO cost?
SEO experts offer many guidelines to help marketers decide what an effective SEO budget should be. Some recommend spending about 25% of the amount you spend on PPC advertising. Others recommend spending as much as 5 to 10% of your business’s total revenue. One thing is clear: digital marketers say they currently spend around 10% of their total marketing budget on SEO, with 80% of Chief Marketing Officers saying they plan to maintain or increase their SEO budget in 2023.
The figures above give you an idea of how much you should invest on SEO, but the actual price tag of your SEO activities varies depending on a number of factors, including:
- The volume of your content output
- Your industry, products and market (how many competitors will you have to outrank on Google?)
- Your team size (do you have SEO experts in-house, or will you need to hire new staff or work with external SEO consultants)
- Your content marketing goals (for some goals, paid ads are a faster, but not necessarily more cost-effective solution)
The main costs of SEO are:
- People: It takes either in-house employees or external consultants to execute your SEO strategy.
- Content: Regularly producing, optimising and refreshing content is essential to your SEO success.
- Tools: To successfully implement your SEO strategy, you’ll need subscriptions and licences to tools like keyword research tools, automated SEO tools and analytics tools for tracking performance.
Why local SEO is a great opportunity
While many digital marketers have already discovered the benefits of SEO tactics like keyword research and optimising for user experience, there’s a new form of SEO on the rise: local SEO. This strategy makes local businesses (brick-and-mortar stores) more visible to people searching for products or services near them.
Local SEO has been around since the early 2000s, when more and more local businesses started listing their locations and advertising online. Since the rise of social media and online map services like Google maps, it’s only become more and more important.
According to Think With Google, 76% of people who perform a search to find a local provider for a product or service will visit at least one local business the same day, and 28% of those local searches result in a purchase.
If your brand operates local businesses, these local SEO techniques can help drive more customers to your locations:
- Always ensure your locations are listed on Google Maps, Google Business, Google Reviews, Apple Maps and other popular local directory sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp. In addition to being listed, ensure your listings contain accurate information.
- Try to secure as many “name, address and place” (NAP) listings on trusted business directories and other consumer or tourist information sites. This helps Google verify your location’s identity, which makes it more likely to display information in its search results. You can use a tool like the SEMrush Directory Manager to manage NAP listings on many different sites.
- Optimise your content on your website and social media channels to ensure it is accurate and contains relevant local keywords. Any modern keyword research tool will give you the option to search for location-specific keywords that you can include in your content to improve its local visibility.
Why start with SEO now vs. later?
SEO success does not happen overnight. In addition, SEO is a continual process: you’ll need to keep optimising and refreshing your content as relevant keywords and user processes continue to evolve.
Most SEO experts agree that it can take around 6 to 12 months on average before you see an impact from your SEO activities. Part of this is simply because it takes Google and other search engines weeks to “crawl” (analyse) and index new pages.
Your content also has to compete with other websites which may be more established than yours. Just like entering a new market with your products, it takes time to establish and grow an audience for your content, and win people over from your competitors. This is why it’s better not to lose any time getting your SEO strategy off the ground.
Common objections to investing in SEO
As we mentioned above, SEO also has its critics. Here’s a breakdown of some of the most common objections you might hear about SEO (and the reasons why these objections do not line up with the facts):
Objection #1: SEO is too expensive
Is SEO expensive? Yes. But is it worth the investment? Absolutely! In fact, as discussed above, SEO attracts more traffic and builds more trust than paid ads, which are generally far more expensive in terms of cost per click.
Objection #2: SEO results take too long
Sure, it can take months to see results from SEO. But it is a long-term strategy for growth. If you are looking to instantly boost your traffic, then an expensive paid ad campaign is the way to go. But there is no substitution for SEO when it comes to establishing your brand, building a solid customer base and maintaining good customer relations for the long haul.
Objection #3: Don’t SEO experts use shady tactics?
Today’s SEO experts know that there’s no way to “cheat” at SEO. Google’s algorithms have evolved continually over the past few years to be able to identify high-quality, valuable content and display it more prominently than low-value click bait. Keyword stuffing is also no longer an effective form of SEO. In short, modern SEO is about connecting your content with the right audience. If you’re just trying to pull in masses of people with click-bait, how does that actually translate into attracting high-quality leads?
Objection #4: I want to do SEO myself
It is entirely possible for some marketing departments to hire a full-time SEO specialist or even an entire team of them. For most small- to mid-sized brands, this may be a luxury they cannot afford. That’s why working with external SEO consultants on an “as-needed” basis is the cost-effective option. But that doesn’t mean you give up complete control of your SEO activities. Like any aspect of your content marketing, SEO should always be a collaborative effort, ensuring that your content – and the tactics you use – represent your brand in the way you want it to be represented.
Objection #5: SEO seems like too much to manage
SEO is a complex activity. But it is a vital part of any successful digital marketing strategy today. And fortunately, there are now tools and plenty of external experts at your disposal to help manage the workload and achieve better results.
SEO tactics to invest in
Want to invest your SEO budget in activities that have the most impact? Here are our recommendations:
Improving your page speed is an excellent SEO investment, because it is often pretty easy to achieve. Search engines prioritise pages that load fast, because they offer a better user experience. To improve speed, focus first of all on compressing images on your pages. This can easily be done using an image compression tool like TinyImage, JPEG Compressor or Kraken.io.
Relevant, authoritative content
This is by far the most important tactic for earning a higher SERP ranking. Your content must be designed to truly add value and answer questions that are really on your audiences’ minds. Make sure your content is well written, free of spelling and grammar errors, easily skimmable and focused on providing answers. For example, it’s a good idea to include common customer questions as headings within your content.
Some aspects of SEO go “behind the scenes” and focus on technical issues that affect how well your page is understood by software analytics tools like Googlebot, which “crawls” pages on the internet, determining how relevant they are in response to search queries.
According to HubSpot, some of the most important technical SEO tactics involve making the structure of your website more obvious. These techniques include:
- Creating an XML sitemap
- Using a clear, logical URL structure
- Adding a “breadcrumb trail” which shows how subdomains fit into the rest of your website.
A few reasons NOT to invest in SEO
It’s no secret that we are strong believers in SEO. In short, if you are investing in content marketing, then you should ideally also be investing in SEO, to make sure you get the maximum ROI out of both activities. However, there are some scenarios where you might want to prioritise other activities. For example:
- You need to build a specific amount of traffic in a short period of time (for example, to meet requirements from investors in your business). In that case, paid ads will be a better investment, as they can boost your traffic much faster.
- Your company is just starting out and hasn’t identified its target audience yet. Focus on raising brand awareness via social media and direct marketing to determine your audience and their preferences. At a later stage, begin focusing more on content marketing and growing your audience through SEO.
So, is SEO worth it?
There is no doubt that SEO is a complex, time-consuming, expensive and ongoing process. But is it worth the investment in 2023? Without a doubt!
We have seen how SEO can boost a website’s performance, attracting up to 10 times more visitors and generating far more leads than non-optimised content. And 80% of CMOs agree: that’s why they are continuing to invest and even increase their investments in SEO in the year ahead.
Just remember that SEO is a long-term investment. Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see immediate results – that’s perfectly normal with SEO. To get the maximum benefit, be sure to take advantage of the tools and collaborative partners at your disposal. With the right SEO specialists in your network, you can ensure a strong return on your SEO investment and greater visibility for your brand online.
So, are you ready to dive into the world of SEO and give your online visibility a boost? Talk to one of our content advisors today!
Is it really necessary to do SEO?
If you’re investing in content, then investing in SEO is essential to ensure a stronger ROI. SEO content is far more visible and accessible to your audiences than non-SEO content.
Can you really make money with SEO?
Yes, SEO is a proven strategy for growing your business by making your brand visible to more potential customers. By increasing organic traffic, you can also reduce spending on expensive pay-per-click ads. Research shows that brands that implement SEO save up to 400% on ad spending whilst still achieving the same level of traffic.
Is it worth paying for SEO services?
SEO specialists are a valuable addition to any digital marketing team. Considering the high salaries that SEO specialists demand as full-time employees, many marketing departments prefer to work on an “as-needed” basis with freelance SEO strategists and consultants.
How has SEO changed in 2023?
80% of CMOs say they are maintaining the same level or investment or increasing investment in SEO in 2023. SEO now accounts for about 10% of the average marketing budget. Many businesses are investing more in local SEO to attract customers to brick and mortar stores as high-street shops are now back in full swing following the pandemic years.