SEO: The Best Business Investment in a Recession & Beyond

Richard Lawton1st September 2020 - Richard Lawton

SEO: The Best Business Investment in a Recession & Beyond

When recessions arrive, as they inevitably do, the average business’s reaction is to reduce or eliminate expenditure on marketing. Following that recession-driven herd will ultimately leave your business lagging behind and can make it a target for predators. The best investment available to you is in your own business and the best business investment you can make during a recession & beyond is in SEO.

Investing in your own business delivers the greatest ROI

Investing in your own business delivers the greatest ROI

Having nearly two decades of working in finance recommending various asset classes as investments to clients, I’m very familiar with the variety of returns they can achieve. From savings accounts to real estate, you can see an ROI from 0-13% per annum. However, what I’ve learned as a business owner is that no other asset delivers a return on investment like investing in your own business.

Smart entrepreneurs and investors leverage their funds to make their money work for them. When you look at some of the most successful investors in the world, Warren Buffett or George Soros for example. They report an approximate 20% return annually. Returning €1.20 for €1.00 invested is seen as the pinnacle of responsible investment performance.

Yet, depending on your industry, when properly fueled with leads, phone calls and purchases, your business can deliver average returns of 36% on every euro or pound invested. With access to an investment that can deliver such levels of return consistently, why would you consider investing in anything else?

Now let’s look at the best long term investment in growing and sustaining your sales machine: SEO.

Search is demand

Simply put, search is demand. Currently, there is no better barometer of the available consumer demand in your industry than that revealed by search volumes. Examining search-demand can help you understand your target market’s pain points and solve them. It can also help to plan new products and services, and tap into live current demand.

If you want to truly understand your customers, examine how they search. Once you know your target audience’s needs, you can be the one to satisfy them and reap the rewards.

In today’s world, it is simply unimaginable for any business, from local to corporate, not to invest in SEO. Even more so in a recession as search traffic delivers the most relevant and active consumers your business could reach. SEO places your business on the leading edge of all the available demand in your sector.

Search is demand

How is search changing?

Consumer behaviour has radically altered since the global outbreak of Covid-19 and its effects will be felt for the foreseeable future. While retail outlets have long been declining in profitability and losing sales to e-commerce channels, the pandemic is accelerating that behavioural change.

Stores have reopened but we’re still seeing lower numbers of consumers than you’d expect in normal circumstances choosing to shop in-store. This consumer demand is migrating to online channels that can facilitate home delivery of goods and services. This has seen increases in search volumes across many industries.

PPC spends on areas such as Google ads are declining (down 7% January to March 2020) and organic search figures are growing for sites that have consistently invested in their SEO activities. This suggests users are currently more hesitant to convert immediately. Higher levels of research will be conducted before purchasing in a recessionary environment.

As many economies enter a pandemic driven recession, consumer purse strings will tighten and demand will inevitably decline somewhat. Obviously it won’t cease entirely though. Being visible in search to access available demand and ride the wave as it returns is crucial. Investing in SEO will accelerate your business growth out of any hard times and beyond.

Search signals intent – SEO makes you visible when it counts

When consumers enter their buyer’s journey, it generally starts and often ends with a search engine. Consumers use search to research and ultimately decide on which provider best meets their needs.

When we search, the terms we use convey strong signals about our intent and likely consumer behaviour. Currently, there is no other marketing channel that can provide a stronger indication of your target audience’s intentions. Purchases are becoming more heavily researched than before. You need to be the authority providing the answers to that research.

The buyers journey

You can gauge intent and how warm a user might be towards making a purchase by the search term used. For example, someone searching around “costs of owning a swimming pool” is in research mode. They’re at the early stages of their buyer’s journey towards investing in their own swimming pool and need crucial information to guide them.

If you own a swimming pool company, that’s when you need to have created original research for your market. You need to create detailed content and ideally rich media (images & video) around the topic in your FAQs or a blog post. By answering these crucial user’s questions with your content, you’re gaining visibility and building trust with the user. By answering their questions, you’ve built your authority on the topic. You’re now an option for their choice of swimming pool provider when they reach that stage of the purchase journey.

When users start searching for terms like “best value swimming pool providers”, they’ve likely reached the end of their research journey. They’re probably nearly ready to make that substantial purchase. That’s when the cumulative SEO work that your business has invested in pays dividends. You’ve established your authority in the eyes of search engines and the user as your site ranks close to the top of page 1 in SERPs (search engine result pages).

Being visible in search during these critical points along the consumer journey is the ultimate goal of your SEO activities. The more of these users your business reaches, the better it will weather any recessionary storm. If you’re not visible, then you’re not an option for your target audience.

SEO needs content

What’s required to ensure you’re Search Engine Optimised?

Let’s discuss what modern SEO campaigns involve. This will help to understand how it positions your company, products or services when properly invested in and developed.

Ranking well through SEO involves a combination of a number of both technical and creative practices. The variety of skills and software involved mean it’s difficult to source the necessary talent for an internal team without substantial costs. That’s where hiring a specialist SEO team who have the experience, talent and tools come in.

Properly resourced long term SEO efforts will improve your business’s authority in the eyes of search engines. Better yet, they’ll build trust with your users and make your site the most satisfying answer to a user’s search query. SEO is holistic. If you aren’t addressing all aspects of SEO activities, creative, technical, and link building campaigns, you’re not going to see the results you want.

SEO is not a once-off effort and ideally should be continuously considered across all an organisation’s activities. Ryanair is a famous example of how not considering SEO at multiple levels in an organisation can cost jobs. Both historically in 2014 and more recently. Maintaining good SEO practices creates jobs, having bad ones or none can be the cause of job losses.

SEO builds authority

SEO builds trust & authority

In 2019, Google announced it’s EAT (Expertise, Authority, Trust) changes to their algorithm. They were introduced to aid the fight against the spread of misinformation. This is especially important around what Google describes as YMYL (Your Money or Your Life) topics. That’s any information that potentially could impact a person’s future happiness, health, financial stability, or safety.

So now, more than ever, it’s important to build trust with your audience. Trust is established by demonstrating your business’s expertise, solving users’ problems and delivering value to your users.

This means creating content, tools, ebooks and downloads that deliver both perceived and real value to your users. It’s also best done without directly asking for much in return (at most an email address) from your audience. The goodwill created will serve your business reputation for the long term.

SEO ROI versus PPC and Social Media

SEO is a long term investment

Developing SEO considered content will drive conversions now and build your brand as a trusted source for the long term. However, it can take time to see results. It can take up to 12 months to see your site placed optimally in search results. That’s why the sooner you start, the better.

If you want short term results, choose paid options such as social media and paid search. Those channels are like turning a traffic tap on which of course turns off once your budget is fully spent. SEO is a long term investment that will keep on delivering returns long after the latest SEO work has been completed.

If your potential customers can’t find your site when researching their next purchase decision, it’s your competitors that will take their business.

SEO is a long term investment

SEO is a cost-effective investment in your business

Sales are the single most important factor in whether or not your business will flourish. They are the engine driving all other business activities. Investing in SEO is cost-effective and drives organic sales for the long term.

That’s why your money goes further with SEO than short term paid campaigns that stop delivering return shortly after they’re switched off. Organic traffic means it’s free eyes on your content. When you acquire the coveted top positions in search, you’re getting free marketing every day.

Your website is an asset. Some business owners believe they can build a website and think that’s “job done!”. They fail to understand that a website is next to useless without investing in SEO. You might as well hand out flyers advertising your web address as that’s how visible your website will be without SEO.

Your website should be the hardest working marketing and sales platform that your business has. It’s delivered across your audience’s mobile phones, tablets and desktop computers 365 days a year. It should be a 24hr sales machine. Your digital presence is your shop window and likely the first encounter your target audience will ever have with your business. Those first impressions need to be positive, helpful, informative and friction-free.

Investing in SEO is about developing your site to serve your users as best it can. Creating relevant and helpful SEO considered content is often cited as the best ROI a business owner can get from their marketing budget.

What is the ROI of SEO?

Calculating the ROI on your SEO investment is not a clear cut affair. One approach to understanding the actual return on investment is to consider the search term you’ve achieved ranking for.

If that search term would have cost you €1 a click in Google Ads and you’re getting 10 clicks a day by ranking well organically, then that’s saving you €10 a day. If your conversion rate is 1 in 20 of those clicks turns into a sale or lead then you can add your margins to your rate of investment return calculations.

Our long term experience demonstrates that ranking your site organically as well as running paid Google Ads can see your business capturing up to 33% of the clicks for a search term. That’s an incredible 1 in 3 people searching that term will end up with their eyes on your offering. Don’t underestimate the effect that can have on your revenues.

As long as you’re targeting the right search terms and creating genuinely valuable content, you should see your revenues grow in line with your website traffic. SEO is all about reaching the right users, at the right time, with the right message.

SEO place your business at the edge of all demand

So why is SEO the best investment in a recession?

A fully engaged and well-resourced SEO strategy positions your business right at the edge of all available demand in your industry. During a recession, you need to tap into any and all available demand at the best cost possible. That is, ideally organically through an existing SEO strategy that has long been in play.

Having said that, there’s never a better time to start your SEO campaigns than now. Working with a strong SEO team that can help your business tap into that holy grail of internet traffic, organic, is only a few clicks away.

Contact us today and we can start what will be a long but very rewarding journey with some quick wins along the way.

Richard Lawton
Richard Lawton

Richie is strong advocate of combining performance marketing with data analytics to deliver ROI at Friday. He's a former stockbroker who fell in love with the power of digital marketing & data science.

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