Oct 29, 2013 11:36:00 AM
Posted by Lindsay DeFeo
As you look to the future, are you allocating more budget to your SEO? If not, you should be.
SEO, at its core, has changed. What was once a primarily technical endeavor has morphed into something quite unlike the SEO of 2004.
The SEO of today looks a whole lot more like marketing than computer science – and while the technical elements of SEO remain an huge, important part (nobody would argue that optimizing the technical components or architecture of your site is any less important), success in Google continually seems to become more closely tied to success in other areas.
To keep up with the pace of change, budgets need to reflect the evolution of the channel.
Here are a few of the factors that will push SEO budgets upward in the coming months:
1. Link Building is Getting Tougher.
SEO’s love to bemoan how hard it is to build links for clients – but the fact is, building links has always been among the most challenging things for SEO’s to do.
In the past, there were clever shortcuts; automated link blasts, free directories, blog commenting and forum profiles all served as effective (if not spammy) means of earning links and improving your rank.
As Google continues to refine their Penguin algorithm update (the one responsible for targeting spammy link schemes), these tactics fall to the wayside.
The problem? They were the staples of many SEO firms, and they were pretty cheap to execute, too. They also didn’t require much input from a client – the SEO firm could go off to their dark, swampy cave and do it all by their lonesome.
That doesn’t fly any more. Google never intended it to. Earning links today means taking a more hands-on approach, which brings us to point #2.
2. Content Costs Cash.
Though the primary goal of content marketing isn’t to build links (there’s an audience you’re trying to reach with needs you’re trying to meet that should take precedence over earning links), content-based link building has soared in popularity and remains one of the last safe vestiges for companies trying to earn links naturally.
As such, it’s being (perhaps unfairly) labeled as the “new SEO” or “new link building”. Regardless, one thing is for certain: Content is incredibly important for SEO again.
But creating content, conducting outreach and collaborating for placement all take more time – and more money – than old-school SEO tactics.
It’s not enough to just frantically publish, either. Critical to your content work is a strategy that is well-grounded in the needs and buying cycle of your audience. Strategies take time to develop, processes take time to write and management of a content process takes time to do.
The results are there – in spades – but you’ll need to be prepared to roll up your sleeves and put in a new degree of effort if you want to continue to dominate search results.
3. More to Monitor than Ever
In September, Google rolled out changes that will soon see (not provided) traffic hitting 100%. As SEOs lose keyword data, they must turn to other tools and mash up data from different sources to try and recreate the same reporting metrics that once took just a few clicks and a couple seconds of time.
It’s not just that - there are also simply more things to keep an eye on.
Rankings, traffic, trending keywords, Google+ Places listings (and their reviews), Knowledge Graph, schema.org markup, mobile traffic, user behavior… the metrics and channels keep growing and growing.
And because SEO is becoming more and more closely tied to other marketing efforts (social media for content amplification, PPC for keyword testing and data gathering, content marketing for links and community building) it can’t live alone – SEOs need to collaborate, meet and share information with other disciplines.
As data becomes harder to splice and disciplines become more intertwined, budgets start getting blurred. Great SEO plans for the future instead of reacting to the past, so for good, sustainable SEO, you need to hire someone that knows where the ball is going.
4. Cleanups Are a Factor
It’s a sad but necessary statement: Bad SEO has hurt a lot of good companies. Because there were so few checks and balances before Google Panda and Google Penguin, some unscrupulous SEO companies were able to swindle businesses and leave enormous, unnatural link building and content footprints.
If you’ve used the services of someone less-than-credible or if you’ve done your fair share of “experimenting” with less than savory tactics, a cleanup budget may be necessary. It’s not enough to change your ways in the present – the past may come back to haunt you.
A link audit is a good start – but like anything – requires budget to undertake.
5. Competition is Intensifying
Awareness of SEO has skyrocketed in recent years, so that once-idle competitor of yours has probably started to make some moves. Your active competitors, on the other hand, will continue to aggressively reinvest in SEO in order to maintain their positioning. As more players enter the game, the cost to compete rises.
Don’t Panic – Plan!
Although SEO has become more complex, more competitive and more difficult to measure, the opportunities available through great SEO also continue to increase. It’s not the cheap channel it used to be, but that doesn’t mean the returns aren’t there.
Revenues from SEO should grow with time to compensate for its growing budgetary needs. Instead of panicking, plan for the future by allocating the budget required to succeed in SEO in 2014.
The channel is changing. Is your SEO budget?
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