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Once You’ve Reached the Top, is SEO Still Worth the Investment?

There’s been several great articles out there comparing the RoI of SEO vs. PPC (if that little barrage of acronyms confuses you, this article might not be up your alley, just fair warning.) But most of these articles only show you a few scenarios — what happens if you invest X in SEO vs. X in PPC over Y period of time.

What few of them go into is what happens after you’ve achieved your lofty goal of an organic #1 ranking in Google for a few of your choice keywords. There are two schools of thought on the matter: the school that says you should move your SEO spending on to newer, greener pastures (i.e. different keywords), and the school that says otherwise. Let me let you in on the truth: if you want to stay on top, SEO spending can’t ever reach zero on any keyword you want to stay competitive in.

The reason is simple: other people are still spending money to reach the top of the mountain that you just finished climbing. If you don’t keep spending, they’ll overcome you and you’ll wake up one morning at #2. If that doesn’t jolt you into action, the next day you’ll be at #4, then #8 — and these days, with Google producing 7-result SERPs on a semi-regular basis, #8 is effectively out of the game entirely.

SEO is a unique instrument. In some ways it acts like an annuity — you pay in for a long time with no return, and then suddenly it ‘matures’ and you end up getting a lot of benefit. Unlike an annuity, however, you don’t get that benefit without any further input. You have to pay upkeep on your SEO investment to make sure it keeps giving you what you want.

Now, you can reduce your SEO spending a little once you reach the top of the heap — or at least move some of your SEO budget on to the aforementioned greener pastures. SEO specialists agree, however, that it’s not wise to move more than half of your spending out of your
‘conquered’ keywords, because in the end, keeping what you have is much more valuable in the long term than adding more territory to your online empire.

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