Who Doesn’t Need SEO

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Aaron Wall of SEOBook was recently interviewed on Small Business Trends Radio about SEO. During the interview, Aaron was asked which companies should and shouldn’t invest in SEO. His answer, and the question itself, brought up some legitimate questions that I hadn’t yet seen addressed in the SEO space.

Does every company really need SEO? Does every website out there have a legitimate need to link build and optimize on page? Unfortunately for us SEO professionals, the short answer is no – the long answer is this post.

Completely Forget About It

Aaron said that the more abstract your product or business, the less viable SEO is for your company. The reason for this is that the more local or tiny your niche, the less likely it is that there’s any competitive SERPs in your industry, or any real search volume to go after. Local sandwich shops and artists are good examples of companies/sellers trying to shell out products that have no real sales viability in the organic SERPs.

As a niche artist, ranking for “artist” is unlikely to result in any real sales for your product, and even if it does, the likelihood you gain positive ROI from your link building efforts is almost zero. Similarly, people looking for local sandwiches are unlikely to ever make it past the local listings, making on-page optimization and link building largely a wasted effort.

To be more specific, the exact types of business that can almost completely ignore SEO without much loss are “one keyword locals”. If your business is specific to a certain region and only has one descriptive keyword to describe it, such as “Los Angeles restaurant”, “San Francisco Sitar Player”, “Atlanta sandwich shop”, your company will not lose much completely ignoring SEO. When I say “one keyword”, I mean one keyword that can be regionally flipped or drawn out into one or two long-tail variations (such as Los Angeles Chinese restaurant or Chinese restaurant in Los Angeles).

However, these companies should not ignore the social world – there are opportunities in going viral, getting your business locally listed, and setting up Twitter and Facebook accounts to talk to your customers. Supply enough local citations and throw in one decent title tag on your website and you’ll have a great chance of ranking strongly for this singular keyword, whether short-tail or long-tail. Otherwise, get creative and find ways to spread your art and connect more specifically on the internet with your targeted audience – an audience that won’t know how to search for you.

Okay.. Maybe

This differs from those companies that might be local, but have enough keywords to make a decently optimized website worthwhile. Dentists are a good example of this, as they have several services such as general dentistry, veneers, and teeth whitening for their clients, all of which are being searched for separately.

Depending on the size of your target market, these types of companies may be able to turn out great rankings with a SEO Site Audit alone. As it comes to link building, though, most of these companies are more than capable of completely ignoring it without missing out on too much ROI. Done incorrectly, link building efforts in these borderline niches will end up in negative returns for said businesses.

Don’t Misinterpret this Message

My intention here is not to say “ignore internet marketing entirely”. Rather, I’m stating that certain websites viability in the link building/on-page optimization world is so marginal that participating would have to be done “for fun” rather than as a viable business opportunity to really be worth your time/offer positive ROI for your website.

Almost all businesses have a need to start participating socially and ensure their local listings are properly set up. However, they don’t have a need to start wasting their time and money in places it shouldn’t be allocated.

Ross Hudgens
Ross Hudgens is an SEO in the Seattle area. He frequently blogs about SEO on his blog and specializes in dynamic content creation for websites online. In his spare time he enjoys Crossfit, selling Burial Insurance, and listening to great music. 
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  • http://www.jackringer.co.uk Jack Ringer

    So true! I have been “doing SEO” since 1997 when I had a small wedding DJ business in San Francisco and thence out to the East Bay Walnut Area – Hey Aaron lives by the Caldecott Tunnel these days – right?

    Anyway at 58 I started to get a little tired of being stuck indoors all day so started my own venture as a Town Crier in Plymouth, England – my home town.

    I was number one overnight and doing well.

    My American wife has taken over the Google adWords MCC and organic seo side now and doing really well

    I have so much to say on my blog about my “days out crying” and find people (American Tourists!) to be most generous.

    David aka Jack Ringer

    • http://twitter.com/RossHudgens Ross Hudgens

      Correct Jack, in some areas you can do it instantly.. generally you'll need a somewhat authoritative domain, but if you have that, some keywords are a cinch.

      Not a surprise that American tourists are generous – travelers are a good representation of America's most progressive, intelligent and kind people!

      • http://www.jackringer.co.uk Jack Ringer

        Hey! My wife was a generous, intelligent American tourist from San Francisco so – well – I married her ;0)

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  • andrewbkk

    Stuff like this ought to be obvious, but I'm surprised by the number of people (ie, clients) who automatically feel that SEO is important.

    As you pointed out, businesses operating in niche markets can often find more cost-effective marketing solutions than SEO.

    • http://twitter.com/RossHudgens Ross Hudgens

      Thanks for the reply Andrew. I'm glad our clients do feel SEO is important, but the unfortunate part is when we can't convince those that need it that they DO need SEO, while others that really have no viability are all about it. Wish we could flip flop those!

  • http://www.seonoobie.com Maciej (ma-chi)

    I completely understand the “artist” example because that is a real stretch. But it doesn't hurt to rank for “NYC Hip Hop Artist” if you are a hip hop artist from New York. Some SEO is never going to hurt you. Should you spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on it to just overlap some keywords that are loosely related? Probably not but some good quality SEO with newsworthy PR won't hurt your online branding. It is another ingredient in the arsenal.

    • http://twitter.com/RossHudgens Ross Hudgens

      Marciej, you're right. I think if said artist maybe through that in their title tag it would be enough to rank if they were active in the social world and getting decent links back to their domain. Going overboard probably won't convert to much.

      Everyone's time and resources finite and I think for a local hip hop artist (who for sure is short on both of these), time would be much better spent investing into viral campaigns.

  • http://www.search-engine-academy-washington-dc.com Nancy E. Wigal

    I agree that social media is crucial for any business, regardless of whether or not they optimize their site. But they need to understand which type of social media will give them positive ROI, and that's where trying and tweaking – much like doing SEO – comes into play.

    Great points made; thanks!

    • http://twitter.com/RossHudgens Ross Hudgens

      Thanks for the comments Nancy, I agree!

  • http://trianglelocalsearchsolutions.com/ Mike LaVallee

    You made some good points about these real small ultra local businesses. If you are a sandwich shop with a 3 page website how much on page seo do you really need? Not much at all and they would benefit more from a FB fan page, Twitter account and maybe a couple videos than any on page seo.

    • http://twitter.com/RossHudgens Ross Hudgens

      I think a sandwich shop needs great word-of-mouth and strong emphasis of the 4 P's – Price Product Promotion Place. The word of mouth generates from that locally and if all four are done efficiently I'll be eating those footlongs constantly!

      • http://www.jackringer.co.uk Jack Ringer

        Absolutely on your points with the sandwich shop scenario – I'd happily pay for a Google Places listing here plus Twitter daily specials and so on. I like to use Friendfeed so that I can double post to Twitter.

        I have worked with so “name” companies in the US and UK but really am tired of the “hierarchy” resistance to good, well done and honest seo.

        Oddly enough my dear Missus and I are looking at opening an Olde Worlde “sandwich and coffee” shop with a twist 😉 on the Barbican in Plymouth – where the Pilgrim Father's sailed from guys! and we will be hammering it with a WordPress Blog, Google Places, Images, Twitter and so on.

        I'm so glad I picked up all the info I needed way back when

        Jack aka David

  • http://www.chipsdigitalpc.com chipsdigitalpc

    SEO is like Sex. There is tons and tons of info out there but there isn't any “one way” for every business. Just as there are a million ways and nuances out there to be a “good lover”, it only matters if your customers/partner(s) think you did it right 🙂

  • http://www.itchair.com/ SEO Los Angeles

    Everyone needs SEO! you need to promote your business, its the only way!

  • http://www.itchair.com/ SEO Los Angeles

    Everyone needs SEO! you need to promote your business, its the only way!