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When Is SEO A Waste Of Time And Money

08 July 2021 | 0 comments | Posted by Che Kohler in nichemarket Advice

How SEO can waste money

I know the title might sound surprising coming from someone who has made a livelihood from SEO, but take it from someone who has been in the trenches of daily SEO and peeked behind the curtains of so many sites, data reports and cryptic google update releases, the SEO game, is exactly that, a game.

Search engines and Google, in particular, has transitioned from trying to index the best content to trying to gamify SEO so that marketers and businesses constantly need to chase the carrot and has the carrot disappears into the distance, decide to submit to performance marketing eventually.

Having worked in SEO for a few years now, I've worked on hundreds of websites in various niches and countries, and I think it's safe to say I've come to some conclusions over the years.

What I've noticed as marketing budgets are slashed in 2020 and 2021 is that businesses are now considering SEO as a focused channel going forward to try and reduce their cost per acquisition as if this is a given.

SEO may be considered free traffic, but it's not free to acquire; it costs money, it cost time, and it requires a certain level of expertise that is, well, costly.

Do you need SEO?

The idea that EVERYONE needs SEO is not true, but If you're going to ask an SEO if you need SEO 100% of the time, they will tell you yes. You cannot expect an unbiased answer from someone whose income depends on them saying yes.

If you're asking yourself if you need SEO, you're asking the wrong question, in my opinion. The question you should be asking is what is the most affordable way to remain in business and attract customers.

Sometimes this CAN be SEO, but it's not always the answer. Every business will have an anchor channel; for some, it's YouTube, others it could be Facebook, or Instagram, TikTok, certain websites email is their channel that drives the bulk of the revenue, and YOU cannot be the master of them all.

You need to pick the channel that works best for your business, focus on that channel, squeeze every bit of juice out of it before moving on to another. The spray and pray shotgun approach is not going to cut it in this competitive landscape.

When is SEO a waste of time?

Now, this is not some blanket diagnosis, and it's best to have your website evaluated before you decide on SEO. However, off the top of my head, I can think of a few situations where SEO is not the ideal channel for your situation.

  • If you're a startup trying to prove product-market fit, it's best to focus your budget on performance marketing and establish a customer acquisition cost. You can then use this as a baseline for investor pitches to state that over time you could reduce this cost through methods like SEO.
  • If you're a one-page website, I think that's fairly self-explanatory.
  • If you're a social brand, targetting gen Z's and zoomers, it may be best to knuckle down on Instagram, TikTok instead.
  • If you're not willing to produce regular content for your site, no amount of technical SEO will help you if you have no content for it to amplify.

It's not that these situations cannot benefit SEO, but that the effort and spend could be better focused on other channels.

What type of SEO is a waste?

Depending on the stage of your site and business, you may require a particular type of SEO. Examples that come to mind are:

  • If you're already strongly content focused you may need to supplement it with a little technical SEO
  • If you're in a competitive niche, you may want to focus your SEO budget on outreach or PR, depending on the best links for your business.
  • If you lack keyword targeting, it may be better to focus on expanding your content pages.

The point I am trying to make here is that you don't always need the full suite of SEO but the part of SEO that brings you the best bang for a little buck.

Speak to a digital marketing consultant or several

Please don't take my word for it; I encourage you to do your research; when diagnosing a problem in your business, it's always better to get a second and even third opinion, especially when committing resources towards a specific strategy.

What you will find is different marketing professionals will showcase their bias, their proposals will focus on THEIR strong points. If they're a Facebook reliant agency, you'll see their pitch will be slanted in that direction, same with a more SEO focused agency, but that doesn't mean these pitches are the best for your business.

It means it's what they can confidently offer you within the budget you're willing to spend.

It's not a one size fits all

Unfortunately, this is a game of trial and error, and you may have to pass through several service providers to find the anchor channel that offers you a sustainable customer acquisition cost. Failure with a channel is not ALWAYS a reflection of the service provider but a reflection of their skillset bias versus the addressable market for your products.

Many people will approach me with the idea that there are a billion people doing a zillion searches a day for their Product when in truth, it's not even worth a hundred. I indeed cringe each time I hear I want to rank #1 for Product + Location.

Okay, go for it; it won't guarantee you're going to get enough traffic to sustain your business.

Everyone's path is different.

I will continue to turn away those who DON'T need SEO and point them in a direction that best suits them. If you care about someone's business, you'll want it to thrive; if it does well, it should become SEO ready in the future.

I see way too many sites trying to SEO their sites to death and do SEO for SEO's sake, and instead of costing themselves traffic from other more affordable channels.

If you're going to milk the organic traffic juice, it's better if you milk cows than almonds.

Tell us your SEO story

Have you been frustrated with SEO for your business? How did you or the company overcome it? Have you moved over to a new search engine? Share it with us in the comments.

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Recommended reading

If you enjoyed this post and have a little extra time to dive deeper down the rabbit hole, why not check out the following posts on SEO and search updates.

Tags: SEO, Business, Digital Marketing

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