SEO is a strategy full of constant changes, ambiguities, and misconceptions. That makes it hard for the average business owner to make heads or tails of it, and even harder to try and figure it out all on his/her own. Despite SEO being a high-ROI strategy (when implemented correctly and over the course of many months), many business owners have thus far avoided the strategy due to their own fears, misconceptions, or reservations regarding its practicality.
It’s 2015, and SEO has been around for more than 15 years. You might have an online presence, but if you haven’t engaged in an SEO strategy, your competitors are likely ahead of you. When all’s said and done, is it too late for you to start an SEO campaign? Is it ever too late?
“Too Late” for What?
First, it’s important to define what could be constituted as “too late” to start. Generally, “too late” in this context means that it’s too late to see any meaningful results from the strategy. In other words, any possible benefit that could have been gained from SEO is now obsolete or no longer relevant. This could be due to:
· Outpaced competition. The thinking here is that your competitors have already spent so much time on SEO that it’s impossible for you to catch up. You know that SEO has an accumulating effect, meaning the longer you spend working on it, the more it’s going to pay off — so if your competitors have spent 10 years optimizing their sites for certain keywords (and continue to do so), there’s no way you could ever match their efforts.
· SEO decay. In this frame of reference, SEO is seen as a dying strategy that’s passed its prime. Because Google is constantly refining its algorithm to prevent optimizers from taking advantage and users keep searching in newer, stranger ways, it’s common to think that the ROI of SEO is declining in general. Under those circumstances, starting now would be less than profitable.
· Business decline. This is specific to certain businesses, but is still a common reason for thinking that it’s too late to start an SEO campaign. If your business is seeing negative growth and stagnation online, you might not have enough available capital to invest in an SEO campaign (or enough resources left to support new growth).
I’ll touch on each of these points in a little more detail to determine whether it’s ever “too late” to engage in SEO.
First, let’s take a look at what it takes to overtake an established competitor for a certain keyword. If one of your competitors has spent the past 10 years optimizing for specific terms in your industry (for example, let’s say “Chicago real estate” and a host of other related keyword terms), it will be hard — maybe even impossible — to beat them in the organic search rankings.
Given enough time and effort invested, even the highest-ranking sources can be dethroned, especially since Google is constantly tinkering with its algorithm and giving newcomers shots at the top rankings. However, investing that time and effort may not be worth it if the battle will be that long and expensive.
Instead, remember that there are always alternative outlets for search visibility. Search your opponents for weaknesses, and target those. For example, let’s say your competitor has the keyword “Chicago real estate” on lockdown, but are there any niche terms that you could snatch for yourself like “Chicago west side real estate?” Is your competitor listed in Google’s local 3-pack? Nobody has an entire industry on lockdown. It may be near impossible to disrupt what they currently hold, but you can always beat them in new areas.
This one comes down to a personal opinion, but the way I see it, there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that SEO isn’t going away any time soon. Google’s Knowledge Graph, which provides direct answers to common queries, has its limitations. Digital personal assistants offer new forms of searching, but it’s possible to optimize for them just like traditional search engines. Social media and major e-commerce platforms are cannibalizing some search traffic, but those sites also have search engines of their own — meaning they hold the key to niche forms of SEO.
My point here is that SEO is going to change — a lot — as it has changed — a lot — but that doesn’t mean that SEO will ever die. You may have to adapt, and many of the strategies and tactics of 2000 will never be relevant again, but there will always be a chance for you to take advantage of some form of SEO.
This is a factor you’ll have to decide for yourself. Know that even heavy SEO strategies take months of time to develop, and there’ s no way to get a quality SEO program up and running without significant investments of time and/or money. If your business looks like it’s going to close its doors imminently, there’s probably not enough time to put together that infrastructure.
If you’re just dealing with a limited budget, however, there are some options for you. You can start small, with a minimal investment, and scale up later, or you can try taking on the work yourself to save some money up front — just be careful that you don’t take any actions that earn your site a manual penalty.
The Bottom Line
For most businesses in most situations, it’s never too late to start an SEO campaign. Unless your business is completely going under and you have zero time or money to invest in a strategy, it’s possible to take advantage of an SEO strategy to increase traffic and revenue.
If your competition is heavily invested in keywords relevant to your business, find a new angle. If Google changes the game on you, adapt. There’s no reason to think that SEO’s best days are behind us, or that your visibility goals are ever out of reach — all it takes is a little flexibility to make things work.