10 (almost) ironclad arguments for SEO

Ian Lurie

SEO. What’s the deal? Why do marketing VPs, IT teams and CFO’s flee, screaming, at the mere mention of search engine optimization?

I have no answers.

However, I do have a few points – data-driven or otherwise – that I’ve used to sell SEO in the past. I’ve tested extensively, and I can tell you that these all work far better than threatening to give your client a lederhosen wedgie.

  1.  85% of people who click on a search result click on the organic search result. The only way to rank in the organic results is SEO.
  2. According to statistics in Vanessa Fox’s best-seller, Marketing in the Age of Google, 100% of searchers click the first organic search result. Less than 50% click the first paid result. Don’t believe me – believe her.
  3. SEO has a cascading effect. Most of the work you do for organic SEO – content creation, site performance improvements and link building via outreach – also improves conversion, grows your overall brand and strengthens other marketing efforts.
  4. It scales well. If you spent $5000 on organic search and then get 1,000 clicks from an organic listing, it cost you $5/click. As your rankings improve, though, and you get, say, 10,000 clicks, your cost doesn’t increase. Now your cost is $.50/click. And so on.
  5. You’ll learn critical stuff about your customers. Improved search visibility will mean more unpaid search traffic. That will tell you more about the words, phrases and questions on customers’ minds when they look for your product or service.
  6. Search puts you in front of the customer when they need you. Unlike traditional advertising, banners and such, search-driven marketing appears in front of the customer right when they need your services. You know that, because they’re searching for you. Hopefully you know why that’s good.
  7. SEO is a fantastic deal. Even the most expensive SEO campaign costs a fraction of offline marketing. A typical print ad in a national magazine will cost you $40,000, minimum. A banner campaign on a major site? $10,000/month. Television? Don’t even ask. Even plain old face-to-face selling may cost more by the time you’re done missing work, buying meals, traveling around and wearing holes in your nice shoes. Try this: Take 5% of your offline marketing budget and invest it in a smart SEO person. See what it gets you.
  8. Paid search costs increase over time. There are very few topics for which pay-per-click (PPC) marketing has become cheaper. “Bid inflation” means that most companies have seen a rapid rise in their PPC expenses. SEO only gets more expensive if your consultant increases their price, or your in-house team asks for raises.
  9. SEO is a lasting asset. Assuming you stick to SEO techniques with long-term viability, your search engine optimization work will help you for months or years. Every improvement you make, every page you add to your site, every link you earn will stick around, boosting later efforts. Think of SEO as a marketing savings account: Your work will generate compound interest.
  10. The upstart can win. In spite of my whining about Google’s brand favoritism, SEO is a small business’ best chance to beat out incumbents. SEO requires a degree of agility that big companies often can’t manage.

There you have it. I pull out 3-4 of the above arguments in almost any sales pitch to a new or current client. They work. Lederhosen threats do not.

Possibly related, definitely virus-free

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. Thanks Ian, there are some solid arguments here.
    My question is whether we’re on the cusp of a diminishing emphasis being placed on SEO overall. After all, it is (at it’s core) about gaming, and reverse-engineering Google and other search engines’ algorithms. That’s all well and good, but the main idea is to give consumers more accurate results in response to what they’re looking for. In an ideal world, it’d be impossible to game the system, and this is something that I believe the semantic web is working towards, as are other technologies, such as Gmail’s Priority Inbox.
    It’s not hard to see tech like the GPI being rolled out beyond just email to include website search results, with a users’ past engagement with similar websites being factored into the search rankings, and therefore reducing the importance of SEO. I realize this may be far enough beyond the horizon that marketers shouldn’t consider SEO unworthy of their attention in the meantime, but I’m curious as to your thoughts on this?

  2. @Jason It’s a good point, but I don’t actually see SEO going away. It’s become less and less gaming and more and more about finding how to develop content that pushes people’s (not Google’s) buttons.
    I think SEO will stick around as long as there’s an internet.

  3. @Jason…
    and what will replace SEO. Every effective Internet Marketing campaign I have ever seen…(and I have seen a lot) were either the DIRECT result of SEO? or a direct result of some other type of Internet marketing.. (article writing, social media, etc) that was done SO WELL that the direct result of their effort great SE results..
    Either way, if would not have been effective if they didnt drive organic traffic via the Search Engines..
    In Real Estate Internet Marketing, SEO is still the King… (and email marketing…boo….hiss) is still Queen…

  4. I agree with Ian & Jim, I can’t see SEO going away…its become to large an industry and about more than gaming the algorithm. Knowadays, its more about making sure websites content is rich, regularly updated, useful and easily accessable to the user.

  5. SEO works for most type of sites… but not news sites. Because of the diverse types of news we have, organic traffic from search engine is fleeting at best, not to mention hard to monetise. Unless of course you are talking about vertical interest sites (like travel) or hyperlocals.
    But news pages? Hardly. Probably that’s why the best way to monetise these pages is paywall.

  6. [sigh] Ian, if you persist in continuing such excellent articles like this one, I’m going to be forced to start reading your every post…and I’m trying to CULL my feedreader “top picks” not ADD to them!
    Seriously, I’m considering making this post an office wall chart to look at frequently. They are EXCELLENT points.

  7. If not ironclad, these arguments are quite close to be so.
    I believe that almost all of us are using them. I personally like #7 and #8, as my clients are always people burnt by (bad done) PPC. It usually works in make their faces assuming a more natural aspect after have heard or read the cost of a serious SEO campaign…. because PPC is treaky as paying small amounts per months on you credit card, when SEO it’s like buying a Ferrari cash.
    About the comments… I think that SEO is going to be meant more generally as a discipline, as it already has to deal with other tactics: Social Media for the inferences between Link Graph and Social Graph; Email marketing (that could be a great SEO tool too); Web PR; CRO…
    Nice post Ian 🙂

  8. Ian, I came into this post a little skeptical that I would find any useful information, not being a frequenter of your writings.
    This is a great one-two punch for pitching a sale. Some of them I currently use, but this whole list is going in my sales folder. It touches on nearly any hesitation a potential client may have.

  9. I too don’t think that SEO is going to go away SEO will continue to evolve as it has been, it is really no longer strictly a practice involving methods to get search engines to find you. It has evolved into a practice on getting you exposure through many channels so that potential clients can find you.

  10. I am still baffled by how hard it is to prove this point to some businesses even when presented with the clear facts. And the way you have put them out can only make it clearer if they would just take a look at it with an open mind. But I guess when you get so entrenched with the old ways of doing things it just makes it harder for change. Great article though. Thanks.

  11. I like to consider myself an “Advanced Newbie” student of internet marketing and SEO. I’ve taken a special interest in the SEO part for some reason. That being said…
    I’ve been amazed at just how easy it is to “Amaze” local businesses with my “Magical Internet Marketing Knowledge” as they have said to me before.
    Yet this amazes me that “lil ole me” knows enough to amaze someone else concerning SEO. Wow! I feel smart… and I don’t even know all that much yet..This is FUN!! 🙂

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