Why you should do SEO in the long-term only (and never stop)
Too many false beliefs exist in SEO that we must stop spreading. The one that came back the most working as an SEO consultant for more than 6 years was that you only need to focus on SEO for that “push” moment during the launch of a website. In other words: you can write 200 SEO articles in bulk, and then let your website live its life. It couldn’t be more wrong.
SEO depends of Google, which has an algorithm that is constantly updated
To understand why SEO is something that only works in the long term, we must go back to why and how SEO exists. If we cut the acronym in English, we read Search Engine Optimization. Already, something is obvious. The word “optimization” implies something that is living, that is updated according to the times, changes and trends of the moment.
For example, let’s take the case of a car. The revision is simple: it is once every X years to check that everything is fine. If you want to optimize your car to make it more efficient and cool, then the options are endless: you can opt for bigger and stronger tires, an engine with more power under the hood, heated seats… There are many ways to “optimize” your car, and this optimization can even take several years if you try to follow all the trends and at the end of the day, you buy a new car.
That exactly the same principle for SEO. SEO changed quite a bit since it started and the rules I started with in 2017 are nowadays completely obsolete.
Search engines, and mostly Google – which will account for 90% of search engine market share in France in 2022(leptitdigital.fr) – are constantly updated, to better answer consumer habits that evolve with technological, societal and economic advances… In 2022, for example, there was no less than 10 updates to the Google indexing algorithm (searchengineland).
What are the main goals of SEO?
The main goal of SEO is to generate traffic to your website. Obviously, the ultimate goal is to transform this traffic into conversions (sales, lead generation…), but SEO does not ensure these conversions in any way, unlike advertising (which I will talk about below).
So you have to see SEO as a conversion funnel: it helps you to create doors to your website, so that as many visitors as possible land there. Of the number of visitors, only a certain percentage will stay and potentially buy your products or services.
In SEO, we are therefore in a quantity objective: generate as much organic traffic as possible to improve your conversion rate.
We already understand a little better why SEO is a long-term lever: in order to follow this goal of quantity, it is necessary to be able to generate a lot of content, and especially, to be up to date with your competitors and what Google puts forward.
Why do we talk of SEO as “long-term”?
When we compare SEO to other marketing strategies such as SEA or social media, we often evoke the notion of “long term”, of something that lasts in time but also takes time to take off. To better understand why SEO is above all a long-term lever, let’s compare it to its cousin SEA.
SEO vs SEA
Those two strategies are completely different but yet complementary :
- SEO is about using keywords that are searched by users and have a search potential to better “rank” your web pages, and get a place among the top search results.
- SEA is buying keywords searched by users to appear as an advertiser on these queries.
SEO is content marketing when SEA is a strategy of bidding.
SEO is free (in the sense that it doesn’t rely on a budget) vs SEA depends on the money you invest (in Facebook, in Google…).
You see where I’m going with this?
First, if you cut the budget to the SEA, you have no more results, it is immediate. Your results depend primarily on the amount invested in your Google bidding campaigns.
But it also means that the results of traffic and conversions in SEA are almost immediate. This is not the case for SEO.
In SEO, you are looking to rank organically: you have to give Google time to crawl your website, index the page, and then rank it according to its relevance to other results. This referencing will therefore initially take some time before being done.
This referencing time is completely indeterminate! It is said in the business that it usually takes about 3 months for a new content to start getting results of clicks and impressions, and it is often placed at the bottom of the scale. But this number is not a rule.
Your content may quickly run into the top 10, or it may never be featured properly.
Then, a ranking is not fixed: the performance of your organic keywords will vary from month to month and year to year.
Globally, we like to think that the more time will pass, the more your website’s SEO will have chances to improve: after all, Google will have visited more and more pages of your website, and you will be positioned on more keywords. But nothing is less sure if you do not continue to work on your SEO in the long term.
So why work on SEO continuously?
The reason is simple: there is today hundreds of millions of websites, and this number is only going to get bigger. Which means competition will become harder with time.
If you don’t update your website, even though it is ranking very well, Google will obviously privilege at some time a competitor that has updated its website more frequently than yours. Like any consumer, Google likes freshness. We like what’s new, what’s relevant, and cared for over time.
Moreover, SEO relies on several pillars at once: content, but also technical and external links. Each pillar needs to be nurtured, well maintained and updated with the latest technical and editorial requirements.
Let’s take an example: you are positioned at #1 on your core business keyword thanks to a landing page.
This landing page has everything: quality and relevant content, a Hn structure that follows secondary keywords, and keyword-named images and internal linking.
You forget about this page. A competitor comes along, and publishes a page that Google considers better. You lose the first place in the search results.
If you continue to look at your rankings and decide to rework this page and create a semantic cluster for example, you may be back at #1 and you may pick up new keywords.
If you tell yourself that with the work done in 2020 then basta, job done, you have a great chance that you find your page on the 16th page of search positions, invisible to all. And that you lose the biggest source of organic traffic to your site.
Doing SEO right, the solutions
You’ll have understood, the powerful advantage of SEO is that it does not depend on an advertising budget paid to Google every month, and that it is sustainable over time. However, it requires to be pampered and here is what I recommend to website owners.
Adopt a long-term vision
If you’re launching a new website, for example, don’t think that publishing 50 articles at launch is enough to give it visibility. Create a long-term editorial plan that responds to the demands of your market.
Create relevant content
In SEO we often talk about blog posts as a way to update your website regularly, but this is not the solution for every business. You can also create regular SEO landing pages, update your main sales pages, update the format of your images, create redirects for obsolete pages…
Keep an eye on your stats
Take a weekly look at Google Analytics and Google Search Console. Try to make monthly reports, in order to have a better vision of your performance changes. It is by having your nose in the metrics that you will know what strategy to adopt and what actions to implement to optimize your online referencing.
Be on the lookout for Google updates
Create Google Alerts to track the latest algorithm updates (yes I know, it’s very “inception“!). Google almost never publishes an “official guide” on what to do to be in compliance with its updates, but many SEO experts give hints and tips that can be useful to follow. Skipblast, Search Engine Land and of course Twitter are very good sources.
Challenge yourself from time to time
In SEO, we have to be a little humble. Completely dependent on Google, we don’t have much control over the success or failure of our web performance. All you can do is work intelligently and over time, know how to change course if a strategy does not work, and always continue to learn about the subject.