TL;DR: SEO is a long game, and negative trends in search visibility are hard to recover from.
Some business owners want to stop and start SEO. They want to make one site-wide overhaul and hope the results of it last for 6 months or longer. Unfortunately, that’s not how SEO works.
Here’s a screenshot of a business that took that approach:
Search engine optimization is the process of increasing the quality and quantity of website traffic coming through search engines like Google. And unlike Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising, where you can feel its effects pretty immediately, SEO is a longer, more laborious and comprehensive process.
In an analogy, PPC is like running through a fast food drive-thru to satisfy your hunger, and SEO is like sowing the seeds and cultivating the crops before harvesting what you can eventually prepare and eat. If you stop harvesting now, you may still have some crops to last you, but six months down the road, you’re going to be kicking yourself for losing out.
SEO as a service encapsulates so many different practices and strategies for your business. So when you stop SEO, you’re not pausing one thing but many things at once. We thought we would walk through the effects of withdrawing from each.
If you stop optimizing your local presence…
In many ways, your Google My Business profile is your business’s homepage. It’s the first thing they see when they search your business name directly, so it should represent you well.
Letting go of your local presence will mean losing visibility for “near me” searches and leaning back into the old untrackable, unreliable means of being found. There’s a chance that your customer will discover you by driving past your physical location or hearing from a friend, but you don’t want to wait for them to find you. At all times, you should be proactive about getting in front of your audience, and if you’re a local business with a physical location, your Google My Business (GMB) profile is one of the best ways to do that.
With local optimization, you have clear numbers for how many people connect with you by searching your name directly and how many find you through searching your products and services more broadly. You also get numerical data for how many people click to call you, click to visit your website, and click to get directions to your location, as well as other interactions on your business listing like photo views and link clicks from Google Posts. This is highly significant insider information on how your users interact with your business! And you wouldn’t have access to any of this without local optimization.
While COVID-19 has prompted Google to suspend some GMB features like new reviews, responses, Q&A, and business information edits, it will be important that your business is on top of its game as soon as these features are reinstated. This could be the perfect time to evaluate your GMB presence, create review curation strategies, gather frequently asked questions for your Q&A section, and branch out to other local directory sites.
If you don’t monitor technical site issues…
Without a great diagnostic tool and the right person to interpret the findings, you may not even know about the technical issues that could be preventing your site from ranking well. There are a few otherwise harmless technical issues that can really hurt your visibility on search engines like Google. Technical issues like:
Duplicate Content — If Google finds a page of your site with an 85% match in content to another page, it considers it duplicate content. When Google finds duplicate content, it typically starts to only show one of the pages in the search results, which hurts you in the long run.
Sitemap Coverage Issues — Sitemaps are a list of your site’s pages and how they are organized. When there are sitemap issues, it means that Google will have a harder time understanding your site content, making it less likely to give it to users in the search results.
When you’re not consistently keeping up with and chipping away at these technical issues, they accumulate into something that’s too mammoth to handle. Not to mention that technical issues could be the reason that you’re not appearing on Google at all, which gives your customer no chance to find you. And it’s easy in the day-to-day of running a business for a technical problem as major as falling out of Google’s index to go unnoticed for weeks or longer.
Even small, easy fixes snowball into months or years worth of work and waiting for Google to trust you again. Don’t let your website get to this point.
If you stop providing fresh site content…
Blogging is an integral part of any strong SEO strategy. It allows you to provide new content for Google to crawl, signaling to the search engine that you’re active and relevant. Blogging also provides you with the perfect opportunity to rank for your business’s target keywords, allowing you to really build out valuable content around a subject in your wheelhouse.
Without the benefits of blogging for SEO, you run the risk of:
- Losing rankings for target keywords
- De-incentivizing people from visiting your website directly or through branded search terms
- Decreasing your opportunity to score quality links back to your site
- Missing out on new audiences, which also harms any retargeting campaigns you may be running
At this point, you might be saying to yourself, “I get all that, I should be blogging—blah, blah, blah—but what do I write about; what gets me better found on Google?” We totally get this sentiment. So, what does Google want from your content?
As Google is notorious for doing, this can change depending on the time of reading. In November 2022, Google has emphasized E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, or Trustworthiness), so much so that they’ve gone ahead and updated their Quality Rater Guidelines for it. Google has also made “helpful content” a big part of their strategy to improve user experience and better align with user intent. This means following SEO practices and staying true to Google core updates are still important, but so is developing content that answers people’s questions based on your particular industry niche, product, service, and more.
The major takeaway here? Even though Google’s content guidelines can be somewhat of a moving target, that doesn’t mean we’re completely without direction at any given time. For Google’s part, they want site content to be made for people, by people. They want content that is written well, answers people’s queries, and serves a purpose beyond just ranking or clickbait. Google wants quality pages and blog posts.
If you quit revamping outdated pages on your site…
While blogging is one of the best ways to consistently create fresh content for your site, blog posts will never (and should never) take the place of the higher-level, meatier pages of your site, like your products and services pages. Blogging is a great way to capture long-tail question searches, while your product and service pages should capture your shorter, top-level keywords.
Refreshing outdated page content can drive a significant traffic boost to that page, sometimes to the tune of a 30 percent increase or greater (that’s bonkers!). Hence why we’ve gone ahead and updated this blog, which first premiered in April 2020 (the height of COVID, no less). In SEO years, that’s like a lifetime (we’re only half joking here). And yes, blogs can be good to update too—along with “About,” “Services,” or other heavy-lifting pages.
Additionally, one of the most important factors to take into account when refreshing page content is search intent, which is why our SEO team at Uptick invests time researching the search engine results pages (SERPs) to determine search intent around specific keywords before rewriting page content. This gives the page the best chance to rank in that SERP landscape. Your page has to be better than the top result in the SERPs for your target keyword, and the landscape changes constantly. If you don’t stay on top of adapting to these changes in landscape, you’ll become irrelevant to Google and your users.
If you stop building new pages…
You’ll lose any ranking momentum you may have gained by other means. You should be constantly looking for new ways to organize your site content based on the ways people are searching and how they expect to digest content.
Breathing new life into the content on your existing pages will only go so far if Google makes a significant algorithmic change (which they tend to do pretty frequently) or if your competitors become more active online.
As a business owner, you may have organized your product pages based on what you know your customers typically purchase together, but from an SEO standpoint, they should still have their own pages. There’s no guarantee that Google will always value what it values now, but if you stop looking at your site from an SEO perspective, you’ll lose out on the opportunity to stay on top of your competitors in the SERPs. And if you stop moving, changing, and updating your site, you’re going to hit a wall and ultimately start to fall.
If you stopped all of this at once…
So each of the above scenarios assume that you’ve paused or ceased SEO efforts in one area. But if you quit SEO efforts altogether, you’re going to feel a compounded downtrend. It may not be immediate – most effects in the search world are not.
SEO is a long game in both directions—it takes a while to move the needle forward, and it takes a while to move it back. And just like a muscle, it’s much easier to maintain than it is to gain, so while you have good rankings and visibility in organic search, we highly recommend doing what you can to at least maintain it. Once the ball starts rolling in the wrong direction, it’s harder to stop.
If you’ve paused SEO in the past, or if you’ve never even started, we’d love to open a conversation about how it could boost your business. Get in touch with us today.