SEO has taken over the search engine landscape and has become the primary focus of digital marketing.
Everybody from marketers to advertisers, writers, CRMs, eCommerce professionals, and startups of every shape and size use SEO in their daily digital strategy.
But what are the real advantages and disadvantages of SEO?
Does SEO have any disadvantages? Or is it just a mantra that we drone on about through mere habit and repetition?
What is SEO?
It’s easy to get lost in the many varying definitions of SEO.
In a nutshell, SEO is the process and method of optimizing websites and other online entities (like social media accounts), to enhance their visibility in search engines.
SEO endeavors to shuffle sites and their content to the top of the pile where users are most likely to find them.
SEO is a simple concept, but it has numerous sub-disciplines.
The core components of SEO are:
- Site design; UI and UX
- Content; images, text, video and other media
- On-page optimisation; optimizing content for SEO
- Technical SEO; building robust and cross-compatible websites
- Off-site SEO; link building, networking and social
- Local SEO; for businesses and organisations that require a local presence
What Is The Point of SEO?
But why does SEO exist, and why is it even important?
Because search engines are the main gateway to the internet. SEO has a strange relationship with Google and other search engines.
Whilst it might be tempting to think that Google and SEO have a closely related or even symbiotic relationship, this doesn’t paint the whole picture.
Consider Google’s main aims; to make Google products and services the best in the world, to sell adverts, and to bolster their online influence. Google wants to be in control, and for the most part, they are.
The aim of SEO, in some sense, is to take back control from Google and engineer effective strategies that benefit businesses, organizations, and any other entity that requires an online presence.
In the beginning, this used to be about gaming Google’s algorithms to ‘cheat’ the system, but now it’s much more about serving the user – this is what search engines want you to do.
Google’s focus on entirely honest and transparent organic SEO was enhanced in 2021 when Google decided to crack down on some forms of backlink exchange.
In the early days of SEO, gaming Google was pretty easy. By purchasing a few pricey backlinks and creating a quality site, your position at the top of the SERPs was all but guaranteed, especially given the relatively low competition at the time.
Google fought back, engineering new algorithms that placed increasing focus on the genuine credibility of sites. Google wants their search to work for the user, if they gained a reputation of pushing dodgy, scammy, or spammy sites to the top of the SERPs then Google would not be the massive business it is today.
SEO is now far-evolved and more complex.
The upshot is, it’s now easier for any and all businesses, organizations and individuals to harness the power of SEO.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of SEO
Without further ado, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of SEO.
Advantages of SEO
1) Organic Search Reigns Supreme
Organic search is fuel for businesses. The more that people find your content via organic search, the more traffic you’ll get. You need the traffic to make conversions. SEO is top-of-the-funnel, it’s your opportunity to capture people from the SERPs.
According to BrightEdge, 68% of online experiences start with a search whereas 53.3% of all website traffic comes from organic search. Moreover, 1000% more traffic comes from organic search than social media.
SEO is a surefire way to improve digital visibility. SEO is the only tool you have to work your way up the SERPs. Paid traffic is another game entirely and whilst it can be effective, it doesn’t have the same longevity as SEO.
2) SEO Has High ROI
But is all the money and time spent on SEO worth it in terms of ROI? Data suggest that it is – 60% of marketers told HubSpot that SEO is their main source of leads. These SEO leads had a close rate of 14.6%.
SEO converts traffic into leads efficiently, especially if the search terms have strong conversion or buying intent. For example, ranking highly for a phrase like “buy chamomile tea” gives you a strong chance of capturing leads who have their wallets in their hands already.
In comparison, running PPC campaigns can be very expensive, especially for competitive keywords.
SEO can be done DIY or with the service of an SEO professional – there’s a lot of choices out there and getting started doesn’t need to cost you anything at all. Some 70% of marketers view SEO as having a superior ROI to PPC.
3) Long-Term Results
A solid SEO strategy will set your site up for long-term results. SEO does change as Google’s algorithms shift and add new features and improvements, but the core tenets of SEO such as content, UI/UX, backlinks, and technical SEO are not subject to a great deal of variation.
By building SEO steadily, your site will ascend the SERPs slowly but surely. Once you’ve obtained a decent position, it’s just about sustaining it. In a sense, SEO becomes easier with every rung you ascend in the SERPs. Once you’ve built authority and presence, it’s hard to lose it.
By comparison, PPC is quite unstable and volatile. SEO is much more stable and has greater longevity, especially if you create excellent evergreen content.
Disadvantages of SEO
1) SEO is Long-Term Strategy
The advantage of SEO’s longevity doubles up as a disadvantage because of how time-consuming it is.
SEO strategies take some time to implement and though some gains can occur as quickly as it takes Google to index the page, it can take several months for multiple efforts to accumulate their benefits.
SEMRush says it can take 6 to 12 months for SEO strategies to reap rewards. It depends on your work rate, expenditure, and the competitors you need to beat to ascend the SERPs.
2) No Real Guarantees
Your SEO efforts are not guaranteed to work, at least not as quickly as you’d like them to.
Google expressly warns against SEO companies that guarantee first-page results. SEO is not a get-rich-quick scheme, even though there are a vast number of success stories and rags-to-riches tails of startups and SMEs blossoming into much bigger companies via the power of SEO.
So long as you moderate your expectations, this is not a real issue.
3) You’ll Have Competitors
Even if you think you have a very strong niche with low competition, it’s only a matter of time before new competitors enter your space. The internet is the most competitive space in the world. Some keywords like ‘car insurance’ or ‘mobile phone brands’ are likely to be absolutely dominated by huge sites with enormous SEO clout.
This doesn’t mean there are no opportunities, even in competitive areas. But, the more competitive the niche or subject, the more shrewd you’ll have to be, and you’ll have to invest more time into your content, link building, social media, and other SEO juice.
SEO is an ongoing competition and you’ll need to stay on the ball to prevent competitors from leapfrogging you.
Once you’ve found some decent rankings, maintaining them is crucial. Sometimes, there’s very little you can do to remain competitive for a specific keyword or phrase, but you’ll still be able to work around that keyword or phrase to out-maneuver competitors and stay on-trend.
Summary: The Advantages and Disadvantages of SEO
SEO is a unique discipline in many ways. It works both with and against Google and other search engines.
The advantages are clear – search engines are the machines between global web traffic and SEO is your opportunity to feed them what they need to rank you higher in the SERPs.
SEO does take time, dedication, and skill, but it’s not rocket science either, even if it might seem like it is at times.
When in doubt, keep it simple and focus on your bottom line; content, on-page, and off-site SEO.
Usually, it’s only a matter of time before you start to see the rewards.