Is It Too Late to Start Optimizing for Search?

Photo by Merakist on Unsplash

If you’re a business owner that’s paid attention to marketing and advertising trends of the past couple of decades, you know how big search engine optimization (SEO) has become.

During its first few years of existence, not many people used it because not many people knew about it. After that, business owners objected to it because it seemed like a scheme or a way of “cheating” search engines, or because the technical component was too difficult to understand.

Some business owners felt it was a fad, and that within a few years, the commotion would die down and traditional advertising would again be the best way to generate brand visibility.

Now we’re in 2020, SEO has been around (and stable) for many years, and its ROI has been proven again and again — but business owners are still making excuses not to get involved. At this point, many non-participating entrepreneurs understand the potential value of SEO, but their complaints aren’t about SEO’s longevity or ethics; instead, they’re worried that it’s “too late” to get involved.

The Root of the Fear

What does it mean to be “too late” to start an SEO campaign? Depending on who you ask, it could mean a few things, but it generally boils down to one or more of these ideas:

· SEO has peaked and is on a decline. Some people believe that the “golden age of SEO” is already over (despite the ongoing popularity of SEO and content marketing as viable strategies). To get involved at this stage would require settling for an inferior ROI.

· Without sufficient education, it’s impossible to keep up. This line of thinking is more complex. These marketers don’t have any understanding of how SEO works, but they know it’s an ever-changing field. They believe by the time they get up to speed with the basics, their strategies will become obsolete, or that they’ll never be able to keep pace with other experts.

· Competition is too fierce. Some companies have been optimizing their sites for years, and have the authority to show for their efforts. Trying to start optimizing now would be like starting a marathon when everyone else is halfway done.

Already, we can see that there are valid and invalid motivations for avoiding SEO at this stage of the game, so let’s take a deeper dive.

The Present and Future of SEO

First, let’s look at the idea that SEO has peaked; frankly, there’s no evidence to this other than blind speculation. It’s true that there are new methods of search, including voice search with devices like smart speakers, but these methods aren’t completely replacing traditional search, nor are they negating any previous SEO methods; instead, they’re simply a new consideration for optimizers to bear in mind.

Couple that with the fact that internet usage is increasing, sharply, every year as we get access to faster internet and better, more mobile devices. Can you imagine a world without online search? I can’t, at least not at this point. And as long as search exists, there will be a viable search optimization strategy to take advantage of it.

The Education Factor

Now let’s examine the education factor. The basics of SEO are easier to learn than you might think — and after that, I’ll admit it can get a bit complicated (especially when you consider subjective ranking factors like user satisfaction).

Still, you should be able to learn the building blocks of SEO within a few weeks — even if you aren’t especially technically proficient. And while it’s true that SEO does change periodically, with the addition of new technology and the evolution of user behavior, the fundamentals never change much.

Besides, if you’re truly lost and feel you can’t understand the basics of SEO, you can always enlist the help of an agency to do the work on your behalf.

The Competition

The competition factor is the only real “valid” excuse I can see for thinking it’s too late to get into SEO. It’s true that companies that have had more time to build links and generate authority are going to dominate you as a newbie, especially if you’re trying to compete for high-volume head keywords. But here’s the thing: there’s so much real estate, and so many opportunities to rank, it’s impossible to face competition everywhere.

Instead of trying to take your fiercest competitors on directly, you can use certain strategies to get the better of them, such as:

· Long-tail keywords. Instead of focusing on the highest-volume keywords you can find, look for long-tail keyword opportunities. They represent longer phrases, and have lower search volume, but are generally much easier to rank for.

· Segmented targeting. If you have a competitor in your main niche targeting your main target audience, consider choosing an alternative target. Use SEO to target a secondary audience, or differentiate yourself in some key way. Don’t fight over apples when you could have oranges instead.

· Local SEO. Instead of trying to compete on a national level, with intimidatingly large corporate budgets, compete on a local level with a local SEO campaign. You’ll face far less competition, and could end up in one of the top three spots of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

The Bottom Line

Let’s get this clear, then: it’s not too late to start an SEO campaign, and it probably never will be. SEO has a clear future, and is highly learnable (even though it does periodically change). Most importantly, while competition is a major and valid concern, there are tons of strategies to avoid it.

If you’ve never managed an SEO campaign, now’s as good a time to start as any. Consider working with an experienced professional if you don’t feel like learning things on your own, and don’t make excuses for not getting involved.

For more content like this, be sure to check out my podcast, The Entrepreneur Cast!



CEO of EmailAnalytics (, a productivity tool that visualizes team email activity, and measures email response time. Check out the free trial!

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Jayson DeMers

CEO of EmailAnalytics (, a productivity tool that visualizes team email activity, and measures email response time. Check out the free trial!