SEO requires an investment of time – and usually monetary resources – to achieve results over time.
Because SEO is a longer-term investment than other digital marketing channels, it can have hidden challenges, issues, and costs.
These issues can impact performance and push the opportunity to break even and become profitable on the investment further into the future.
Unfortunately, many companies and organizations have been burned. The rime and resources invested in SEO were wasted due to specific aspects of the process, people involved, or business challenges that derail even the best-intended campaigns.
Here are eight specific ways you can waste money on SEO without even knowing it. Being aware of each and taking action can help increase your chances of success.
1. Not Defining Goals up Front
Without clear goals, a lot of money can be wasted focusing on and chasing the wrong performance metrics.
I hate it when I hear about SEO professionals talking about one set of metrics and business executives or owners talking about a different one.
It can all sound good up front. But relationships go sideways when things are left open-ended or assumed.
Make sure every stakeholder understands how “performance” is defined whenever money is being invested.
2. Measuring the Wrong Metrics
A lot of SEO and web analytics metrics have been around for a long time.
That doesn’t mean they are one-size-fits-all for each company or campaign.
In fact, they often mean different things within segments, behavior, or customer journeys for the same product or service.
Assuming we are all aligned on goals, we need to make sure we know the right KPIs and metric sets for each conversion.
If we’re investing heavily in SEO and only looking at last-click conversions, we’ll possibly miss seeing the role of organic search on the customer journey.
Or, we’ll inadvertently weigh tactics wrongly spending too much time and money in specific tactics that only contribute to one aspect of driving conversions.
Work backward and make sure you have full visibility of the customer journey and attribution so you can remove any guesswork from your measurement plan to make the most fiscally wise decisions in your strategy.
3. Not Defining Roles
Even with fully defined roles, there are still challenges when it comes to collaboration and efficiently to keep SEO efforts moving forward.
Without defined roles, you are sure to lose money on SEO.
If the wrong party is responsible for copy, SEO strategy, IT, web updates, or project management, you can misplace dollars.
It is essential to know who is responsible for all of the components necessary to see success.
If that’s one person, then great. Odds are that it is multiple people or entities and they all need to be pulling in the same direction.
With roles undefined or with the wrong people trying to implement tactics, you can have some areas of SEO get way ahead and then be stuck waiting on others to do their part.
Chances are that you’re still paying the people who are sitting on hold to move forward as well as those that can’t execute quick enough.
The inefficiency or lack of ability to move forward is a big area where SEO dollars are wasted.
4. Working Without a Plan
Flying by the seat of your pants may be a legitimate strategy. I think there’s a good case to be made for being agile and using agile methodologies in SEO.
However, if you’re moving forward without a plan of some sort, then you’re too agile and will always be stuck in a reactive mode rather than a proactive one.
If your SEO person/people are constantly scrambling and you’re the one asking all of the questions about what and why, that’s not a good scenario.
That means there’s no plan, the SEOs are too busy, or that they don’t understand your business.
It hurts me to see these scenarios play out.
Taking a brief pause up front to define the strategy and schedule – even with built-in room for flexibility and agile changes – is important to ensure that the effort can succeed without losing money in wasted time and reactive approaches.
5. Having a Website with SEO Deficiencies
I’m someone who has a hard time saying “no” to taking on SEO projects even knowing that the technology the site is built upon will present significant challenges.
Part of that is stubbornness and the other part is that I have found ways to be successful.
The biggest part of making sure that SEO dollars aren’t wasted is for all parties to know what they are getting into at the outset.
A full discovery of the website technology is a great starting point. Run through a checklist of what SEO elements can and can’t be updated.
Without knowing the challenges and workarounds, you can jump into an SEO agreement or spend time and money on something that ultimately is a lost cause or has to be scrapped.
No one wants to spend $10,000 on SEO to eventually get to a dead end and be told they need a new $25,000 site.
It is better to know this up front and properly budget or decide to stick with the current site and try to at least max it out in terms of performance and optimization.
6. Not Having a Content Resource
Content is fuel for SEO.
One of the top three challenges that my team and I face when running SEO projects for clients is when there’s not a resource for content and copy or if that resource is defined, but that entity doesn’t have the bandwidth to produce it in a timely manner.
I totally get that we’re all busy. That might necessitate outsourcing content or finding the right resource who can deliver it on time and on budget.
It is possible to stick with other on-page factors and focus on external ones like link building while waiting for content.
But if the content can’t be delivered, then it can hurt the overall SEO effort and result in wasting money in other areas.
It might seem more expensive to pay for content, but in hindsight, it is likely cheaper than paying for SEO that can’t be fully effective for months and months while waiting.
7. Practicing Outdated Strategies & Tactics
Don’t feel compelled to “do SEO”. That typically leads to forced tactics and often actions that are misguided or no longer impactful.
There are warning signs like a focus on meta tags, submitting pages, putting city names at the bottom of pages, creating many subdomains, and much more.
If something feels outdated or spammy, take a moment to pause and make sure the tactics and strategy align with current best practices and standards for how to optimize your site.
A lot of money can be sunk into time and energy focusing on narrow or outdated SEO practices.
8. Paying for Tools & Technology You Don’t Need
We don’t have to go too deep on this one.
Make sure you know:
- What tools you’re paying for.
- If you’re using them.
- If they are helping you manage your campaign and success.
There are likely tools that you use episodically and can be turned on and off as needed to prevent paying for them month-after-month when not in use. In other cases, you have go-to tools that are untouchable.
Know your technology stack, needs, and ensure you’re not wasting money on things you don’t need.
You want a well-oiled SEO machine. We all do.
We want a strategy that all are in alignment with goals and metrics we all understand. We also want to make sure that we stay on schedule and on budget.
Understanding the hidden areas that the investment can be wasted important. We all believe in the power of SEO and how it can impact most businesses and organizations.
However, even the best intentions can sometimes result in bad plans and investments if you don’t heed the warnings of areas where money and time can be wasted.