Is SEO a Good Investment for Your Small Business?

In our blog post, SEO Tips for Small Businesses, we addressed the importance of developing your SEO strategy for your small business and provided tips to help get you started. Today I want to discuss the next big question every small business owner asks: is SEO a good investment? The answer may seem readily apparent to most people, but when you run a small business you don’t often have the luxury of disposable income. We understand that every dollar counts and we want to make your dollar count, but there are a few things one must understand before investing in a SEO campaign to better your business. Let’s start with expectations.


For business owners new to SEO, managing expectations can be difficult when one doesn’t even know what one wants. Some business owners may not know where to begin. Some feel that they need leads, not SEO, but this would be the equivalent of building a house without laying a foundation. Other owners may feel that investing in link building services is the way to go, but often find that the services they’ve used have only caused penalties and wasted money.

Regardless of what an owner might know or not know, it is important to have realistic expectations of the SEO process. Achieving a coveted position in first page results in a search engine may take several months and there are no guarantees that your business will stay at the top. While many business owners will expect immediate and enduring SEO results, consumer trends fluctuate rapidly and repeatedly, which causes changes in keyword ranks. It comes with the territory, but if this reality isn’t made apparently clear from the get-go, then this will likely leave the business owner feeling dissatisfied and frustrated. This might even result in the loss of the client’s business if they’re not sure what to expect from the campaign. This is why it is so important to address and set realistic expectations so there won’t be any surprises.

When it comes to initiating an SEO campaign with an agency, a lot of business owners believe that spending $2k/month is a lot, that it should buy about 40-80 hours of work plus the ability to regularly email their SEO 20+ times per day, etc., but this is wholly unrealistic. In reality, a budget of this value typically allows for an average of 15 work hours per month, which is just enough to do maintenance level work, fix a few technical or minor issues, and maybe do one or two small things per month that might make very small gains in SEO. It may seem surprising, but it’s true, and if you’re promised otherwise, then you should question the credibility of your agency.

If you can spend money at a certain level and achieve 100% ROI, you should do that ALL day long.  Even if it’s a 50% ROI, for a lot of businesses in a lot of industries, that’s a good return.  For some in other industries, maybe 10-30% is realistic.  These numbers are hard to estimate.  For some businesses in some industries, it might be impossible to truly calculate ROI for SEO, as the data might not be available to directly attribute everything to SEO.  In other cases it is next to impos  sible to determine that some of the performance improvements made will directly result in a single sale.  Best guesstimates can be made, but there’s little to nothing in the way of proof.  The bottom line being, you need to spend money to make money, and if you have the ability to calculate that and you can do it at a healthy ROI, then it would be a mistake not to do it.  Here are some examples of several different types of campaigns with either immediate or long term results:

Chart One

ROI image 1

(Chart One shows 2-3 weeks of work with on-site optimization. 16 exact match keywords had significant improvements in rank with many hitting the first page for the first time.)

Chart Two

ROI image 2

(The end result was a 24% increase in organic traffic month over month.)



Investing in an SEO campaign can be one of the best uses of a company’s marketing budget and can serve a company well if it is acquired in an intelligent way. For some businesses, depending on their market, product, service, etc., it might be necessary to spend $100 to make $130 ($30 profit, 30% ROI), and that might be completely realistic. Generally speaking, if a campaign leads to improved keyword rankings, increased organic traffic from those keyword rankings, increased conversions from the increased traffic, and if those “conversions” equaled increased sales of their product/service to a degree, then that was worthwhile for the amount of SEO budget  and your business would have had a good ROI.

More often than not, companies will barely spend anything in SEO and freely dump tens of thousands of dollars into PPC and Google AdWords.  That’s fine, too, but in a situation like this, a company might want to consider reallocating at least a small portion of their PPC budget and invest those funds in SEO to additionally build good long term organic results. As a business owner, it is important to understand the value of SEO, be open to and willing to pay for services that most likely won’t reflect immediate results, and invest enough to provide a decent return on your investment.

Chart Three

ROI image 3

(These results are from a 6 month campaign for an 80,000 monthly search volume, extremely high competition keyword.  Rank improved from #31 to #7.  The ultimate result was a huge improvement in brand visibility and new visitors.)



This is the million dollar question. The short answer is, from a well-executed SEO campaign, about 3-4 months, but achieving this is far more complicated because it all depends on your website, the age of your website, and if any penalties have been imposed against your site.

If your site is brand new, the search engines will most likely acknowledge it sometime within the first 3 months of creation. If your site already has a history with the search engines and is in good standing, i.e. has no penalties, has  built new links, produced meaningful content, etc., then an SEO campaign can reflect results in less time. The type of results you can expect, and how quickly you will see results, will vary from project to project, and as with all projects, patience is an absolute must. Beyond that, the extent of your investment will also determine your results.


SEO is the foundation that can build long term stability of traffic, while also increasing it as well.  In the long run, SEO and the organic traffic it can help build eventually becomes some of the “cheapest” traffic in comparison to growing PPC budgets.  PPC costs money.  SEO costs to invest in and build it over time, but once it’s built and, provided it was built safely, you often can maintain that increased traffic for far less than it might cost to acquire that same traffic from PPC.

SEO Tips for Small Business

The term SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization,” is likely to produce a glazed-over look for a lot of people who just don’t know what you are talking about, but if you have a business or are thinking of developing a business, this is a term you need to know.

SEO is a process which affects the visibility of a website or web page in a search engine’s search results. Whether through natural or organic (un-paid) search results, SEO is what gives rank to your website, and rank is everything when it comes to the success of your business.

If your company has already established a web page or website, you might be asking, “Well, isn’t that enough?” The plain and simple answer is “no.” It is not enough for a web page or website to simply exist; it must be structured in certain ways in order for search engines to read them properly according to their algorithms, i.e. get the most information out of your website and into your consumers’ hands.

How your web page or website is structured, by the addition of keywords and descriptions added to titles, headings, and links, is what boosts a search engine’s ability to find and index things. This is the basis of SEO, and this process of organizing and indexing data is what allows search engines like Bing, Google, and Yahoo to find your pages. The search engine then uses various metrics and popularity indicators to determine page ranking.

Now you may be thinking, “This sounds expensive.” To this I say: it all depends on what you are trying to accomplish in relation to the size of your company, web pages and website. But if you’re a small business just starting out and on a limited budget, there are still quite a few things you can do on your own to benefit your business.

Here are 10 tips to get you started:

  1. Start now. The longer you wait to get started on SEO for your website, the harder it becomes to rank higher than your competitors. Also, if you don’t implement it at all, then there is no way for search engines to find, categorize, or rank your site.
  2. Be patient. SEO results may not appear immediately. Sometimes it may take weeks or even months for search engines to credit your work. Easier said than done, I know.
  3. Don’t expect to automatically outrank older, more established sites. Remember, it takes time to build trust and authority. Repeat Step #2.
  4. Adapt. To gain and retain positive rankings, your SEO strategy needs to evolve along with search engines’ frequency in releasing algorithm updates.
  5. Set up and utilize free Google tools. That’s right, I said “free.” Two important tools are Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools (now known as Google Search Console). Google Analytics measures website activity and performance, and provides detailed statistics about a website’s traffic and traffic sources. Google Webmaster Tools helps you identify issues with your site and provides detailed reports about your site’s visibility on Google. These tools can tell you a lot about who your visitors are, where they’re coming from, and how they’re finding you, which can help you develop important strategies in marketing your business.
  6. Remember your audience. If your content isn’t interesting, helpful, or doesn’t encourage sales, then there’s no point for visitors to stay or return. If it is engaging, visitors will stay longer, return more frequently, and it will send a signal to search engines that your site is relevant and deserves good rankings. It is imperative that you spend a significant amount of time building high quality content (blog posts, YouTube videos, case studies, etc.) that answers common prospect questions while showing the value of your products and services. Use things like Google Analytics and YouTube Analytics to monitor these pages and determine user engagement.  Keep yourself in check and make sure you’re building content that is engaging. This cannot be stressed enough.
  7. Maintain your website. Your work is never done. Rankings fluctuate like the stock market. If you want your site to attract more visitors, sales, or to rank higher, then you should continuously be improving it.
  8. Build your online reputation. When you develop positive relationships through your website, you are building trust, which encourages your visitors to make recommendations to others, which leads to more growth for your business. Creating a Google+ page will give more credibility to your business and will improve your rankings for localized keywords. Within the social platforms and online communities (forums, local sites) where you are active, find other high quality, professional individuals and companies to establish a relationship with.  The more you associate with good quality companies and people, especially those that have a good online following of their own, the more it can assist you in building your online authority and visibility.
  9. Be responsible for your website. The quality of your content, or lack thereof, is a determining factor in your risk for certain Google penalties. Search engines will not remove penalties simply because you didn’t know, didn’t understand, or didn’t realize the effects it would have on your website. Playing risky games with things like inexpensive link building services for large volumes of links can come back to bite you in a big way.  Bottom line, build the best quality content that you can and try to establish relationships in your industry with the best quality people and companies that you can.
  10. If you don’t know, ask. Google support and advice is available online via their Webmaster Guidelines and Webmaster Help Videos.


These are but a few of the many steps you can take to optimize your website on a shoestring budget. Remember, you can still achieve big results if you just invest the time needed for creating quality content and establishing online relationships. Consider the resources and relationships your company already has, and how you can better take advantage of them. Then, once your business experiences some growth, you can hire an agency like Apogee Results to help improve your SEO even further. In the meantime, make the most of the tips provided above and tune in next time for more useful tips and advice.