Question: Is SEO a long-term process or can there be a quick fix solution?

Before all you SEOs raise your hand with the answer, lets take a minute to analyze the basis of the question for all the small business owners out there.

A lot of businesses are looking for ways to grow their companies without increasing long-term costs. They want profits, and in order to be (and remain) profitable, they have to keep expenses down to a minimum as much as possible. After all, the more you spend, the less profits you have in your pocket, right?


This is an unfortunate mindset when it comes to SEO and SEM. Instead of looking at them as an investment that will grow their businesses, owners hope that both SEO and SEM can provide quick-fix solutions that will bring an influx of new customers and soaring profits. And somehow, magically, that influx is expected to stay strong, even without any ongoing marketing efforts.

Uh huh.

I got two words for you: Coca-Cola.

Or Pepsi Cola.

Or Wal-Mart.

Or Target Stores.

When did these guys stop advertising? All are well-known brand names and very few people are in danger of forgetting that Coke continues to make cola. Should Coke (or Pepsi, or Walmart or Target) stop their marketing efforts, nobody would forget to go to those stores or buy those products.

Or would they?

These companies continue to advertise for one reason only: it increases their profits. They just don't advertize once or twice, or for a year or two. They continue to advertize year after year after year to make sure people keep them in mind when they do their shopping. They know that when the advertising stops, sales decline. That's the bottom line.

I often talk to business owners that want to invest temporarily in their SEO or PPC efforts. They want to start strong then scale back or eliminate the "expense" down the road.

That's just crazy talk!

PPC as a Short-Term Solution

PPC can be expensive. It's pretty hard to run a successful PPC campaign without an ad spend of several thousands of dollars per month. And it's very easy to move into the tens of thousands of dollars per month. A lot of businesses look at PPC as a temporary solution until their natural search engine rankings are in place. Then they cut out the PPC and let the natural do it's thing.

The question to ask is, if you're profiting with PPC on each and every click, why cut it? Sure, you can get "free" clicks in the natural results via SEO, but why cut out one profitable stream just because you opened another? The problem with PPC as a temporary strategy is that you're looking at the expense, rather than the ROI that it brings.

If all you see is the $5000 per month credit card charges in ad spend, that can be daunting. You can be tempted to think, "I can't afford this $5000!" But if that $5000 in ad spend is bringing you $10,000 in profits, you really can't afford to stop. Sure, you'll "save" $5000 per month in expenses, but you'll be losing $5000 each month in profits.

Killing profitable PPC can really hurt your business. If your PPC campaign isn't, or is barely, profitable, perhaps you need someone else to manage it for you. How you manage your PPC campaign can make a HUGE difference in your profits.

Short-Term vs. Long-Term SEO

There are some things you can do to SEO your site that only need to be done once, then you move on. Things like website architecture can make a profound impact on your site's performance. A few hours of consulting can help point you in the right direction to improve your rankings.

But SEO is really a perpetual process of researching keywords, finding problems and making your site more search engine friendly and keyword focused.

Short-Term SEO Solutions

Short-Term SEO can really only focus on a few things, including site architecture, one-time keyword research and optimization of a set number of keyword phrases. It's pretty difficult to "fully" optimize a large site in a short period of time. There is no ongoing management, reflection or strategic improvements being made. Once the "SEO" is done, it's done. The rest is just happenstance.

Here are some pros of a deliberate short-term SEO campaign:

  • Pages gets fully analyzed, optimized and rolled out within a few weeks or months, depending on the size of the site.

  • Site architecture (should) be reviewed and problems corrected.

  • No long-term contracts or ongoing commitments.

  • No re-occurring fees past the initial payments.

And the cons:

  • It can take months until any work or recommendations are submitted to the client, delaying performance on the search engines.

  • Many valuable keywords may not get optimized into the site based on timing, contract limitations, available pages to optimize or keyword discovery through analytics.

  • Limited reporting and performance analysis.

  • Extremely limited or non-existent link building or social media help.

Long-Term SEO Solutions

Long-Term SEO is more about the process of improvement. Keyword research and optimizing those keywords into your site is an ongoing process. Finding and correcting site architecture and usability issues is important for continued success. Link building and even social media strategy continues to keep you ahead of your competition.

Here are some cons of a long-term SEO campaign:

  • Some valuable keywords may take time to get optimized into the site as other important keywords are targeted first.

  • Long-term commitment, which is generally 6-12 months at minimum but likely can go on indefinitely.

  • More money out of pocket.

And the pros:

  • New and valuable keywords are always being discovered and optimized into your site.

  • Ongoing performance analysis, ranking maintenance, analytics reporting and consultations as needed.

  • Ongoing link building and social media consulting (if included in a contract)

  • Keywords are optimized and implemented continuously; no waiting for a "final" product to be delivered.

  • Responsibility in success lies with the SEO because nothing is being "handed over" and then forgotten about.

Short-term SEO campaigns can have merit. But for long-term success and growth, a long-term strategy is generally warranted.

When looking at your SEO and SEM efforts as an ongoing investment, you can get out of the mindset of "cost" and look at the return on investment each will bring. If the return is profitable, then any cut into the "cost" of your online marketing will only result in a cut in your profits.

Follow at @StoneyD, and @PolePositionMkg.

July 22, 2011

Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.

If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.

Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.

Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.


Google delays any gains in rank on purpose.

If you could enjoy a rise in rank over a month for anything but the longest tail keywords,
SEO pros would be better equipped to pick apart their precious algorithm.

Another issue I've run into with many small business owners is that they aren't willing to pay for SEO, short or long-term. As a business owner, I completely understand the desire to cut costs and keep a short leash on your budget, but you have to weigh the benefits against the cost. By pinching pennies now, are you actually cheating yourself out of a bigger payday down the road?

SEO is definitely a long and ongoing process. The moment one stops doing seo, competitors will start taking his spots.

SEO is ongoing, but nothing is as unsure as SEO and how engines continue with qualifying results. Things can change with every algorithm update.

PPC is good for short term and if you do it properly you can fetch good returns.
SEO is good for the long run!

Very good article. I also like the little section on Target, Coca-Cola and Wal-Mart. It's such a simple concept but it's so true. When advertising stops, sales will decline.

Absolutely a long-term solution, but it does need to be maintained regularly. As your trust and authority develops further with Google you'll need less and less link building and content creation. Once your established it just depends on the competition, adjust content updates, link building, and social media marketing as needed.

Our efforts definitely push toward reaching long term sustainability in the SERPs. But, ya, I agree with above, depending on the competition, you'll have to due weekly or monthly maintenance of content/SEO.

Definitely SEO is Long trem process. One can't get immediate ranking and if it does so, it will be for a short time span. It is also an ongoing process as we have to maintain the optimisation in search engines else our rivals will flush us out.

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