In the early 2000s I raised hackles among my peers at a major conference when I asserted that pushing monthly retainers for SEO was unnecessary and thus ethically suspect. Back then, SEO was much more a one-time job than it is now.
These days SEO, like most marketing, requires at least a few hours per month to prevent losses, never mind seize new opportunities. As my blog post on SEO Hell implies, the complexity of SEO rules and their rapid changes require monthly or at least quarterly work to ensure that your ongoing website work doesn’t undo past SEO improvements.
Let’s look at a few examples.
Your SEO agency completed SEO technical audits and repairs, enhanced your CMS-SEO, and refined Google Analytics reporting. This investment will pay off in perpetuity with no further work needed. However, your webmaster decides to move the site to the secure HTTPS protocol. The webmaster, not specializing in SEO, does not know that doing this without proper 301 redirects erases a lot of PageRank. Or the webmaster does know about 301s but neglects to change canonical tags accordingly. Or he does not set up a new Google Search Console, so later you don’t get an alert about a malware infection, bad link neighborhood, or thin duplicate content.
Here’s another example. After a local SEO job brings new business, you notice a sudden decline in local traffic and sales or leads. If you had kept your SEO pro engaged for a few hours per month, she would have alerted you to the recent major change in how Google displays local results, and advised you on what to do about it.
The above scenarios can be multiplied almost exponentially because there are many important levers and dials in SEO these days, and they need periodic tuning to respond to the evolution of your website and SEO rules.
If a company had an SEO firm checking in each month, or if the company gives its qualified in-house pro time to do so, the likes of the following changes that did happen would not have caused losses:
- In April 2015, Google suppressed websites without mobile responsiveness, and now about 50% of searches are mobile.
- A couple of years ago, Google announced that everyone will soon have to upgrade their Google Analytics tracking code.
- This list can go on ad nauseam.
The more time since your last professional SEO work, the more likely you are to experience declines.
Regarding SEO opportunities, an SEO firm or an SEO employee given adequate resources can apprise you that Schema.org markup is now a main pillar of successful SEO. Not implementing this, while ever more of your competition does, causes you lost opportunities–and actual losses, as competitors’ enriched search results take clicks from your site.
The upshot is that SEO has grown up, and like all marketing, it requires a part of your ongoing marketing budget.