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SEO costs are frontloaded but the payout pays off

June 13th, 2011 No comments

Companies starting the long journey of search engine optimization (SEO) have to really take a leap of faith when it comes to investing in SEO. Like many reasonable SEO’s I fully understand that this is painful and that there is uncertainty and insecurity in doing so.

I’m currently working with a number of newer companies who are showing varying degrees of commitment to this process. I can point them to various examples of websites where I took over the SEO and helped them grow traffic but here I’ll offer a fresh look at a case study in SEO investment. This is a broad look at a case that is, in some ways a uniquely successful case (as all successes are) but in other ways typical and even predictable.

benjaminsThe initial approach
This company approached me about two years ago around the middle of 2009 and told me that they were spending X amount of dollars (a mid three figures number) per month on SEO and it wasn’t doing anything for them. Unfortunately, there are many companies and people (let me emphasize unfortunately) who take money in the SEO business without delivering growth or, at least, measurable value in some respect. This company had built some backlinks from some time before but other than that had done little to continue growing traffic to the client’s website.

Every SEO has their own unique strengths
When I looked at the website’s situation, I realized that I could do a lot to grow the site’s traffic through content development. This is an admitted strength of mine (hence the name of this site) and is a focus of mine vs. the focus of many SEO’s which is linkbuilding (while there are still others who, it seems, are questionable as to whether they have any focus).

The work
I took over the site, got to work and started developing content, telling the site owners that if they invested about $1000 per month I would double their search engine traffic in 6 months time: from about 50 visitors per day to 100 for a concentrated niche that was somewhat competitive (for page one results, anyway) and also highly interested. I never quite topped out on this budget as I follow the old adage to under-promise and over-deliver.

Since the company was already investing money in SEO, though, the investment was relatively easy for them.

Here’s a graph of those first six months:
SEO-frontload

What you see in the graph is that the traffic was basically flat-lined when we commenced work on SEO for this site. (I say ‘we’ because I did work closely with the site’s developer on some critical changes.) During initial work, traffic rose only very slowly, so little that it barely registers on this graph. We could see progress in terms of pages getting indexed and getting some traffic from new keywords.

However, there was no great payoff and we had promised the client that traffic would double within six months. They kept spending the requisite high three figures per month, though. They may have been growing worried, I’m not sure, but I don’t think I was.

What happened was that there was a cumulative effect of activating the site’s development and continuing to add content as well as working with partners to create links into the site, then tweaking the site structure as we went along. All of that work cumulatively added up to an eventual spike in traffic.

And that’s the way it goes.

After this, the site owners felt that the site had grown enough and they were happy with the amount of traffic they were getting for the investment they had put into it. Of course, others like continued growth, although a doubling of traffic every six months is not likely, especially as you start to top out on terms that you can truly rank for and as you run out of content ideas (as happens with sites that are focused on a small industry or consumer niches).

The point in all this, of course, is that your search engine optimization payout is often frontloaded but in the end there is a payoff. It hurts at first but in the end you will enjoy results and from there, clients can decide to continue to grow traffic or simply enjoy the benefits of your investment for a while… as long as your competition stays asleep.