I ran across a great article by Darren Rowse over at ProBlogger entitled, “What to Do When Your Search Rankings Drop.” In it he recounts a time when his site’s traffic dropped a dramatic 70% suddenly and for no apparent reason. He relied on Google to bring in most of his site visitors and some unknown change in their algorithms resulted in this costly (for him) change of fortune. While not the point of his article, this example underscores a principle that we’ve been emphasizing for years—it’s very risky to rely on awareness and demand generation being driven primarily by high search engine result page placement (please note my emphasis of the words rely and primarily).
I’m not suggesting at all that search engine optimization efforts are not important, but rather that your business plan needs to rely on demand generation from a source other than organic Internet search engines—a source over which you have more direct control. The risk of building your business with a single point of failure over which you have no direct control whatsoever is prohibitively risky in almost all business scenarios.
It’s for this reason that we typically advise our clients to build a business plan without consideration for demand generation via search engines (referral marketing is always the most desirable and secure foundation for demand generation) and then go ahead and implement a best practice SEO strategy. If your business plan is solid and your unique value proposition legitimate a by-the-book (Google’s book that is) SEO campaign will generate demand over time; all of which should be treated like “gravy” until significant enough to begin including in your sales forecast. This strategy then mitigates the high-risk of relying on search engines for your business while at the same time taking advantage of the great high ROI opportunity that organic search engine marketing offers.