Reviewing progress for our many clients’ SEO campaigns, I daily get to deliver news about how much better we are doing in terms of traffic, keyword ranking, and/or conversions. We continually see successful marketing campaigns unfold in front of our eyes and it makes the work truly gratifying. I would be lying though, if I said that every website we touch turns to marketing gold. While we carry a healthy and diverse roster of clients across dozens of verticals, we sometimes are reminded that what is successful for one may not be successful for all.

I have posed the question “Is SEO (Link Building) really right for me?” before, but in light of recent events concerning Google algorithm updates it bears revisiting. As the landscape for search marketing has changed yet again, we need to make sure that an Internet marketing budget is a worthwhile investment for your business. The oft-referenced Danny Sullivan wrote a piece reviewing the backlash associated with Google’s most recent changes and it merits a thorough read. His response to search engine marketers’ complaints of yet another Google shift is simple: “Google Doesn’t Owe You A Living, So Don’t Depend On It.”  Rather than blaming Google for not saving or growing your business, honestly assess your website to decide if you can really count on the Internet for providing the revenue needed to survive.

Knowing Your Audience

Erick discussed this nearly a year ago and it holds true today; you need to know what your customer wants to get from your site and how they already interact with it before you spend money marketing it. Inversely, you need to make sure that your site is set up to properly speak to their needs and clearly take them down the path of contacting or purchasing from you. If your product/service is a $33,000 investment or requires a 6 month sales cycle, temper your expectations to see immediate return on your SEO investment.

No matter how much traffic you get or how well you rank, your product/service must translate well to your audience through the website. Furthermore, poll your current clients to gauge their level of comfort with contracting you via the web or researching your offering through a search. If those who already work with you admit that your website was not a factor in their decision–or even worse, a deterrent–rework what you have before setting up shop on page 1 of the search results.

Knowing the Landscape

Coke, Pepsi, and then the rest; this is the landscape of the classic cola market and I would be hard-pressed to find someone who disagrees. These industry giants have spent years building a product backed by a reputable brand that few care to compete with. Supposing you had a comparable soft drink with a similar taste and price, do you think being put on the shelves next to Coke and Pepsi would bring you instant success?Probably not, and this is by no fault of your own. For reasons that are too many to list, your success will be directly influenced by how your competitors have established themselves in the space.

In the same way, your desired keyword targets are like crowded shelves full of established competitors. Supposing your “soda” is clearly labeled and inches from the Coke and Pepsi of your industry, does your brand carry a reputation offline that is trusted? Does your price point vary greatly from those you are seated next to? Is your “can” labeled with the right marketing message to appeal to your customers? Does your “soda” taste good enough to be purchased again? I’ll stop with the comparisons but you get the idea: being found next to or above a competitor doesn’t mean you will achieve the same success they have or once did.

As you read this piece, please remember that I am not suggesting that the Internet is a money pit in which to sink your hard-earned dollars. In actuality, it continues to grow in reach and provide marketers a new and healthy source of income. All that I ask is that before you decide to invest, give yourself the SEO Gut Check to see if you know what you are getting into. If you can honestly assess your position in the industry, your appearance online, and your realistic goals for web marketing, partnering and openly sharing with a professional SEO can lead to a plentiful bounty.

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