C-Suite Advisory

To SEO Or Not To SEO? There’s A Lot More To That Question

Eli Schwartz

In the course of my consulting career, I have been fortunate to meet with and learn from many respected business leaders in the tech industry. It never ceases to surprise me how quickly marketing leaders will spend millions of dollars on search engine advertising (Google ads and others), while only investing in SEO as an afterthought.  

I think this comes from a fundamental misunderstanding of how to invest in a profitable search initiative and instead relies on a faulty assumption of what SEO really is. These executives believe that an SEO investment means only updating a website so it is on par with the well-known best practices from search engines. Additionally, they assume that SEO just means churning out content that will show up on search engines. 

Who Needs SEO

Because businesses don’t think they are worthwhile investments, they don’t prioritize SEO initiatives in any significant way. While they are correct that in most cases updating a website so it is on par with the common practices or simply churning out content that will show up on search engines will not be profitable, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an SEO investment to be made. 

 To decide whether they (or really you) should be investing in SEO, it’s worth determining first if you have an audience that will be discovering your website on search engines. This is not always a given, as there are many genres that will not be discovered via search. But if yours is a product or idea that merits an online search, you would be foolish not to invest in that search.

Optimizing SEO 

Once you have identified that your site is a great candidate for an SEO investment, only then can you decide how to deploy that investment. Armed with the knowledge that there are likely users looking for your product and service on search engines and not finding you, you can then brainstorm about how to be visible for those users. 

There are many ways to build an entire product offering around these users, but the right approach will be contingent on the business category, user persona and, most importantly, what the users might be seeking on a search engine. 

 User needs could be addressed with a handful of blog posts, a photo library, a video series – when it comes to users there will never be a one size fits all. All users and all businesses are different. Even if an approach works for a competitor, there is no guarantee that it will work for you too.  

Questions you should ask yourself when you develop your strategy are: 

  • Is there something about your site or business that makes you uniquely able to build this offering for SEO? You are likely already using your unique proposition in other areas of marketing – bring this into your SEO.
  • Will it be difficult to copy you because you did more than just use keyword research to create content? Are you just copying someone else?
  • Are you targeting queries that real humans would actually write? Keep the focus on the real human buyer as you develop your content. 
  • Do you believe you can justify the investment in SEO based on downstream revenue? If you can’t justify your SEO investment, go back to the drawing board or don’t do SEO at all.

The answers to these questions should define your SEO strategy. This means that the underpinning of your SEO strategy is focused on addressing user needs over search engine requirements. 

Whatever you discover, make no mistake, this is an investment in time, resources and budget. You will be building something or at least writing content for human users, and a half-baked approach will not achieve your revenue objectives.  

While every effort in SEO is an investment for a gain in the future, making that investment may come at the expense of other ways you might want to allocate resources. All decisions should be prioritized by the impact on the business. Where the business stands provides the answer to the question: To SEO or not to SEO? 

 SEO is a part of your business and all of your SEO investment should contribute to the growth of the business and be measured by the same metrics as the rest of your business. If you are going to invest in SEO, step out of the been-there, done-that mode and do it the smart way with Product-Led SEO.


Written by Eli Schwartz.
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Eli Schwartz
Eli Schwartz is an SEO expert and consultant with more than a decade of experience working for leading B2B and B2C companies. His ability to demystify and navigate the SEO process has generated billions of dollars in revenue for some of the internet's top websites, including such clients as Shutterstock, WordPress, Blue Nile, Quora, and Zendesk. As head of SurveyMonkey's SEO team, Schwartz oversaw the company's global operations, helped launch the first Asia-Pacific office, and grew the company's organic search from just 1 percent of revenue to a key driver of global revenue. His work has been featured by TechCrunch, Entrepreneur.com, and Y Combinator, and he has given talks at business schools and keynote conferences around the world. His new book is Product-Led SEO: The Why Behind Building Your Organic Growth Strategy.


Eli Schwartz is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Connect with him through LinkedIn. For more information, visit the author’s website.