SEO starts when you plan a website and continue the effort throughout the site’s lifetime.
SEO costs and workload are heavy at the beginning because you’re researching the keyword strategy and planning content and links.
Then begins implementation, the wait for results, and the long active grind of tweaking.
But does SEO ever stop?
Few who make a living providing SEO services would answer yes to that question. Any SEO consultant wants to offer constant value and not feel like they are wasting time. On the extreme side are those who make clients fearful of losing gains if they stop doing SEO.
These represent some rare times that your business could stop SEO.
Your Business Hit a Rough Patch
According to the QuickBooks State of Cash Flow Report, 61% of small business owners struggle with cash flow issues on a regular basis. Among those, nearly a third have been unable to fulfill financial obligations to their vendors, creditors, or employees.
If you hit a bump in the road that switches your business into survival mode, it’s okay to take a break to turn the tide of red ink from your balance sheet.
An SEO hiatus may help you create a little more wiggle room to make a U-turn and, in return, save your business from going under.
Do you have to publish precisely X new content pieces and gain exactly X new links each month because your SEO agency prescribed this when they signed you on?
Your SEO company works for you. Whenever you hit a rough patch, do whatever it takes to get back on your feet. Any mature long-term SEO practitioner should understand this.
Another Marketing Channel Substantially Outperforms SEO
Should you manage to unearth that one special marketing channel—a modern-day substitute for the philosopher’s stone—that dramatically outperforms everything else, go full throttle with it.
Even at the expense of scaling back other alternatives such as SEO.
Having most of your eggs in the high growth basket can let you eat your competitors’ lunch (or brunch, rather).
When certain types of new ad products perform like money printers, you want to shift resources in that direction until it fades.
Having on board a trusted SEO consultant with your best interest in mind means you know exactly where SEO should stand on the totem pole of your marketing channels.
Technical SEO Issues Are the Only Real Problem
A top local Atlanta travel blogger contacted me to audit and recommend fixes to get their blog back on track after switching to a new domain and suffering losses. They were great at creating awesome content that performed but admitted sucking at technical SEO. We ended up doing an audit, identifying several technical SEO issues, and they ended up bouncing back.
Here’s a pretty common scenario: the client had some technical SEO issues. We fixed them. End of story.
Just like with the case above, oftentimes a client website is doing really well, apart from a few technical issues undermining search. And if you cure the root cause, the symptoms—drops in visits, rankings, leads, sales—can dry up shortly after.
Along with the need to shell out money to SEOs.
However, since some clients have just a basic understanding of how SEO works, an exploitative agency can conjure up other “issues” out of thin air, shoving services of questionable value and arbitrary prices down their clients’ throats. Reminds me of some auto mechanics.
Therein lies the litmus test indicating whether or not you’re getting scammed. Personal gain for the agency or benefit for the clients. As always, actions speak louder than words.
You’ve Tapped Out Your Local Market
In small, narrow markets, you may reach a point where you more or less tap out the demand for any lead-generating keywords and want to pause Local SEO efforts.
What’s the point of paying for SEO when you’ve exhausted the opportunities it has to offer?
For example, if your Atlanta, Georgia, widget business has an average position in Google of 1 to 2 for “Atlanta Widgets” and other related, high-converting positions and you’re in the local “3 pack,” what are your goals going to be?
Once you’ve hit the ceiling of your local market like this, it won’t kill you to pause and take a step back. It won’t last forever, so be prepared to jump back in.
Long-term SEO doesn’t mean you can’t pause once it starts.
You Completely Own Your Niche Keywords in the SERPs
Yes, you can always build authority. But if you’re selling a particular product or service and completely own the niche keywords in the SERPs, you can pull back on SEO.
Provided you managed to come out on top of the competition with stellar content and a strong diversified backlink portfolio, your rankings won’t collapse like you may have read in the articles designed to keep clients in line.
As Toni Morrison brilliantly put it,
“All art is knowing when to stop.”
More Visitors Don’t Boost the Bottom Line
SEO, if done by a seasoned pro, can transform your site into a gift that keeps on giving for years to come, especially during times when things go south. When ad budgets were cut during the pandemic, those who invested in SEO felt less pain.
SEO ROI can be proven. But if a company is making the same profit as the year before when they had 30% less visitors, sure, question SEO.
A simple truth that may make your agency uncomfortable:
More traffic does not necessarily equal more sales.
Your gold standard, the measuring stick, must be your performance for lucrative, high-intent keywords which attract visitors who want to buy your product or service. The further you deviate from it, the less cost-effective your marketing efforts get.
Think about it this way. If you sell apples and you rank for all apple terms, is it worth it to try and rank for every single other type of fruit? And how will that affect the authority signal you’re sending to Google? Are you really an expert on all the others or do you just want more traffic?
Don’t fall for that trap. When more visitors have no effect on the bottom line, it might be time to have a discussion with your SEO service provider.
Organizational Changes in Progress
Leverable works with a client who we’ve shown an almost 10-fold increase in organic visits over the years. They’re dealing with a big internal product change and have no time. We paused their SEO campaign for a few months so they can catch their breath.
Whenever your business undergoes sweeping organizational shifts that could potentially lead to a change in perception by search engines—be it rebranding, product launch, repositioning, merger, acquisition, etc.—you might want to let the foot off the gas and resume after the dust settles.
Systemic changes mean doing things differently. Your SEO strategy should also morph into a game plan that aligns with the new vision, goals, and values.
But until you get a clear picture of where exactly you decide to steer your ship and what business goals you aim to achieve, do not dive into SEO.
Your SEO company must be your greatest ally, your trusted counselor, not someone who sees you as on or off the program. And when you no longer benefit from such a partnership, you must be made aware of that by the agency itself. Not the other way around.
If you’ve done SEO the right way, you shouldn’t have to worry about leaving the helm for a time.