Five Big Ideas About SEO That Every CEO Needs to Know

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Five Big Ideas About SEO That Every CEO Needs to Know

I am an SEO. I am a business leader. And I consult with CEOs in the digital marketing space.

I’ve worked with CEOs who lack an understanding of the big-picture of SEO—how it works, what it requires, and what it means to execute it successfully. It’s the CEO’s job to lead, not to understand the all about dwell time and meta titles. But in order to lead successfully in a digitally dominate era, the CEO needs to know at least five features about SEO.

CEOs who understand the following five features will be light years ahead of their peers, and will be able to lead their companies with a greater degree of success.

1.  SEO Takes Time

There’s no such thing as a quick fix any area of marketing. Search optimization is no different.

I understand the frustration. In order to gain first-page ranking and to see results, it takes months of hard work and ceaseless effort. Many CEOs measure time in terms of revenue. The business world thrives on short-term profits and the brief time period of quarters.

Perhaps one of the reasons why SEO is mistakenly perceived as a quick-and-easy technique is because it’s lumped in with the whole arena of online interaction—lightning fast connection speeds, instant emails, downloadable media, instant access, online purchases. Everything’s instant, right?

Wrong. Search engine optimization works at glacial speeds in spite of the hurry-up pace of everything else.

SEO doesn’t comply with short-term demands. It is simply not possible to trick the search engines into giving you short-term results. SEO is an investment, not a quick win.

When the CEO sees search engine optimization for the late-blooming flower that it is, he or she will value it more, invest in it more, and be less hopeful about results next week.

2.  SEO Costs Money

Search engine optimization is not free. I’m not sure who started this idea, but I’d like to put it to rest once and for all.

If there’s one thing that concerns CEOs more than time, it’s money. A CEO’s mind is often rolling with cost projections, revenue, payroll, earnings, debt, marketing spend, stock prices, and just about everything else. One fact that the CEO needs to keep in mind is that SEO costs money.

Companies spend their SEO money in several areas:

  • In-house SEOs: A good SEO hired in-house isn’t going to be cheap. Quality SEOs can easily command six figures annually.
  • Reporting: SEO is all about the numbers. Every decision is backed by data. This data doesn’t just appear in pie charts and year-over-year bar graph comparisons. It’s mined out of the mountains of numbers, generated by software services, or interpreted and distilled from Google Analytics. Either way you slice it, it costs.
  • SEO consulting agencies: Whether by contracts or monthly retainers, many companies choose to hire SEO agencies to advise them on SEO best practices. It takes a team of skilled and knowledgeable experts to provide complete SEO advice. To succeed, a company needs technical expertise for implementation and current SEO knowledge for strategy. SEO monthly consulting fees can run in the low thousands to the millions.
  • Linkbuilding. Glancing through Moz’s report on the Link Building Survey 2014, you can tell that companies spend money on linkbuilding. “Linkbuilding” can be classified as “content projects that more than likely still have an impact on link building efforts.” The largest percentage of companies are spending between $10,000 and $50,000 per month on these efforts.

Organic traffic doesn’t cost like paid ads cost. But organic traffic still costs. CEOs must realize that there is a difference between paid search (think ads) and organic search (think SEO). Both cost money.

3.  SEO is Constantly Changing

One of the few constant truths of SEO is that it’s always changing. To be an SEO today means that you must adapt yourself to the constant fluctuation of techniques and practices.

The SERPs themselves change on a daily basis.

Daily Changes on SERP by Dr. Peter J. Meyers

Just because you were ranking at number one yesterday, doesn’t mean that you’ll be ranking at number one tomorrow.

The algorithm changes on a daily basis, too. According to Matt Cutts, Google tweaks their algorithm on a daily basis. Engineers make anywhere from 300-500 changes per year. SEOs are at the mercy of the algorithm. We don’t control it. Even if most of these changes are small, they do have an impact.

But the big changes happen. Major algorithm changes can completely upset the fruit basket, creating a mad scramble in the search community for the new way to win at SEO.

4.  SEO is Mostly About Content Marketing

There’s a mistaken belief that SEO is mostly about technical tricks and techniques.

It’s not. SEOs need to know the technical stuff like how to create a sitemap.xml, and what it means to optimize their robots.txt. But these “technical” things comprise a small portion of the actual workload of SEO.

SEO is mostly about creating content, not pulling out technical tricks. Content marketing is SEO, as I stated on Quicksprout. To win in the SEO game, a company must be willing to invest heavily in the generation of high-quality content.

Some deluded marketers tried to pit content against SEO, making one superior to the other. But there’s not a competition. There’s SEO with content marketing. They are becoming one and the same.

To win at SEO, you need content marketing.

5.  SEO Cannot be Viewed as a Standalone Department or Initiative

SEO has a place in virtually every department of a business. SEO provides valuable data, and every department needs access to this data. Furthermore, SEO possesses information that affects what every department does.

Here are a few of those areas.

  • SEO techniques should influence how public relations produces content.
  • SEO is a critical part of any content produced online.
  • SEO data should be used in advising marketing practices as a whole.
  • SEO information must be taken into account when determining the success of marketing initiatives.
  • SEO is a key part of social media.
  • SEO should be part of writing press releases.
  • SEO insights should be considered in site usability or redesign.

CEOs should make decisions based in large part on the information and advice of SEOs.

Conclusion:  SEO is Not a Solution. It is a Strategy.

Usually, SEO is either thought of as a silver bullet or a total waste of money. Those are the two extremes.

The truth, as usual, is in the middle. It’s imperative that a company carry out SEO. But SEO isn’t going to solve all of a company’s growth and revenue problems, at least not right away.

The best way to approach SEO is as a necessary and powerful strategy. A CEO must engage in SEO, not with the expectation that is going to cure all ills, but with the willingness to implement its strategies.


Image Credits

Featured Image: Dusit via Shutterstock
Post Image: Dr. Peter J. Meyers via Moz

Neil Patel
Neil Patel is the co-founder of KISSmetrics, an analytics provider that helps companies make better business decisions. Neil also blogs about marketing and entrepreneurship at... Read Full Bio
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  • Nick Stamoulis

    “Perhaps one of the reasons why SEO is mistakenly perceived as a quick-and-easy technique is because it’s lumped in with the whole arena of online interaction—lightning fast connection speeds, instant emails, downloadable media, instant access, online purchases. Everything’s instant, right?”

    I think you absolutely hit the nail on the head. Everything else we do online has immediate and powerful results. You push a button and something happens. But with SEO there is a lag…the things you do today might not really count for anything for several months. It’s hard to handle when you are used to speed.

  • Marcus Crutcher

    Great article, Neil. I know this is written for CEOs, but I hope small business owners will take these messages to heart as well.

    I work with small businesses on SEO strategies & implementation. The scale is much, much different than the examples in your article (none of my clients are paying millions for SEO consulting), but the principles are the same. The principles of SEO cost & engagement are particularly tough for small businesses.

    I run into entrepreneurs all the time who want to do their own SEO, but they don’t realize the time it takes, both in hours per day & how long it takes to see results. Ultimately, they have to decide what is the best use of their assets (time & money) in order make their company & SEO goals both successful. Whatever the decision, they really need to keep your final thoughts in mind & engage with the SEO strategy to have any success.

  • Cindy Kelly

    Great article, Neil. I’m so glad to hear you say “SEO is Not a Solution. It is a Strategy”. Often times, people think the solution is simply “ranking” but it’s so much more than that! Great post!

  • Maciej Fita

    I still talk to decision makers that think SEO is something similar to pixy dust. They are clouded by the fact that it once was very technical and over the years has shifted towards more of a marketing focus. You have to pay to play when it comes to SEO because there are ingredients that go into it that take time to curate and craft.

  • Preben Sangvik

    Oh yes. You got it right there. SEO is a strategy, not a quick one time solution. Not a two time solution, or a three step method. It is something that goes on and on and on. I do agree.

    Some times we get instant rankings, but more often it is a long term dedication that is needed. It takes time, AND knowledge.

    The right knowledge combined with a great online real estate makes it easier, and sometimes it may look like a very quick solution for the client. I’ve got clients that I have ranged in the top 5 in days. But they don’t know about the time it took to build the VRE (Virtual Real Estate) needed. I have prepared the supper for days. They just happen to order it the day it was ready to be served… 🙂

  • Ruth Ownes

    Thanks Neil,

    This post also helpful for the SEO guy to be refer to the client/CEO of the company as SEO takes time to provide the result.

  • Tom Mansell

    Probably one of the best articles I’ve read recently, Neil.

    I think the biggest problem is around point 5, the silo’s. Informed yet traditional CEO’s are beginning to recognise the need to implement various digital marketing practices; search, native advertising, social and PR, however aren’t joining the dots and understanding how these practices “scratch the back” of one another.

    I also think the traction around “SEO” as a discipline is growing and a basic understanding is filtering through into the C-Suite, however it’s the traditional practices that seem to be gathering momentum here; link building, keyword stuffing, exact match anchor linking etc. I think this is partially our own fault with a number of professionals in the industry still utilising these tactics for quick visibility.

    It’s an issue around education and this article is a fantastic way to instil the correct thinking.

  • Afzaal

    Agree!! I would not only recommend this article to CEO’s only, it is for all those persons who are trying to bring their website on top results in the search engines and are trying to grow their business. A great patience is needed if anyone want to have a good solid base for SEO. Often marketing emails come around from different people that they guarantee to bring the website above in 2 months with a money back option. They surely adopt black hat seo techniques that is just like a bubble and it bursts very soon!

  • Emily Earhart

    I think this is one of the best posts on SEO that I have read lately. Could never imagine that somebody would take up the initiative to write on the CEO angle as well. This post is extremely helpful for the employees when putting forward their points to their bosses.
    With your conclusion, I believe you have completely redefined what SEO is….. A strategy and not just a solution.. Beautiful!

    • Kelsey Jones

      Thanks for reading SEJ, Emily!

  • miketat

    Since long time this discussion is going on and its fact that SEO is a time taking process and there is content is on of the most and important key factor to improve ranks. Along with this its not time that everything is organic. If you want to get rank then always keep in mind that paid searching is much important to increase your business and revenue.

  • Hemant Gupta

    A really nice report about the myth of SEO. You have clear all the myth about SEO. Mostly people thinks that by the help of SEO they can increase there business. But the truth is available in this article.
    Again thanks for this great report.

  • Mithun

    This post deserves a medal. Unfortunately, some clients will never understand any of these things. They want their domain name and pages on the very first page Google Search results.

    I faced some problems with these clients as they assume that I am not smart enough to get the job done.

    Anyway, now I have an article that I could share with people who think SEO is a “One day job”.


  • Erwin

    SEO is for more than a strategy, a point of view, somehow like an approach.