What kind of return on investment (ROI) do you expect from your investment in SEO campaigns?

If you’re like most independent affiliates and web publishers you don’t necessarily have a handle on what the dollar amount of that ROI, but you figure it has to be something. Right?

Maybe not.

In an intriguing post on SearchEngineland.com last week titled, SEO Should Not Be Held to an ROI Target – Here’s Why, author David Waterman suggests that SEO is a sunk cost that’s not going to pay its way on your balance sheet.

Waterman’s controversial hypothesis is based on a two-pillar platform that states, “SEO is not a marketing channel; and SEO is not an investment; it’s a requisite”

So what does it all mean?

SEO is Not Marketing
SEO, Waterman observes, is not something you can just throw money at and expect results (though plenty of people wind up doing just that). In his view, SEO is more like a metric that tells you whether or not your sites are visible to search engines. .

It’s an interesting take and it’s not one that the article’s many commentators agreed with.

One representative posts says, “Anything done to increase a brand’s reach and exposure is a marketing effort. It’s like putting up a flyer, hoping people like the flyer and then giving you a call.”

SEO isn’t Optional, Investments Are
PPC advertising, SMO, and SEM are all marketing investments you can choose to use, or not use, at your leisure. SEO, according to Waterman, is something you can ignore at your own peril.

Building a website without employing basic SEO techniques is analogous to building a house without getting a building inspection. Maybe the house will withstand the test of time but, more likely, it will probably give you plenty of trouble in the future.

In this case, that future is the first time Google crawls your site and decides it’s not worthy of a decent page ranking.

Of course anyone who hires an SEO consultant, web designer, or freelance writer will tell you that the money they spend on those services certainly qualifies as an investment.

Whether you think SEO should pay out dividends or not, Waterman’s ideas lay bare one essential SEO truth: SEO is as much art as science. At the end of the day, you just have to embrace the ideas and techniques that work for your site and ideological leanings.

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