Search engine optimization or SEO is an ongoing process. It’s not a one-time event. It’s a process because the market, the competition, and the companies that set the rules – search engines – are constantly changing and evolving.

So should you.

The Market Is Constantly Changing

Apple introduced the iPad on January 27th, 2010. Before that, if you were a technology retailer, you never had to worry about ranking for the word “tablet”. If someone walked into your store and asked for one, you probably would have referred them elsewhere.

busy apple store shows why seo is a process - cause things are constantly changing
By Rotated by User:HereToHelp [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Now, of course, just about everyone knows that a tablet is, among other things, an electronic device. But even since 2010, it has evolved. There are now IOS, Windows and Android tablets. They come in varying weights, sizes and colors with different processors, speeds, storage capacities, and screen resolutions. Now when you search or shop for a tablet, you have to be specific with your search language in order not to waste time reviewing pages and pages of unhelpful information.

Language evolves. Market wants and needs evolve. Something that may have no bearing on your business today, could become a huge business driver in the future.

SEO is a process because we can’t always anticipate what’s coming next. The language on your website has to keep up with market demands and reflect the language being used by your peers, prospects and customers.

The Competition Changes

The competitive field changes just as quickly. Not only who you compete against, but how, when, where and why they compete. It can be a full-time job just keeping track of all the changes.

As an example, Yahoo published a fast food breakfast taste test a few days ago comparing the different market offerings of McDonald’s, Taco Bell, White Castle, Burger King, Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks. A few years ago, half these companies didn’t offer breakfast.

delicious looking egg mcmuffin on a plain white plate in front of a window
Photo by Alex Medvick on Flickr.

McDonald’s is testing offering breakfast all day. If you are a niche restaurant that has always offered breakfast fare no matter what the time of day, you are now going to have to compete with McDonalds!

The competition changes constantly. Competitors come and go. The tactics they use to attract and retain customer’s attention can vary from day-to-day. SEO is a process because you have to, at the very least, monitor and keep up with the competition. Ideally, you’d one-up them.

Search Engine Rules Change

Lastly, SEO is an ongoing process and not a one time event because the rules search engines use to decide who ranks where change daily.

Picture of two guys standing in an aisle between rows and rows of complex computer servers in a massive data center
By Robert Scoble via Flikr

I’m not kidding. Daily. Matt Cutts, Google’s official “search” spokesperson, has stated “… we tend to make a change to our core search algorithms at least once a day… 350 to 400 times a year”. Moz, a respected search engine optimization tool maker and thought leader, believes Google changes its search algorithm 500-600 times a year. Whether it’s 350 or 600, I think we can agree it’s a lot!

Google changes its algorithm daily because people are always going to try to game the system, and because they’re a publicly traded company. Google pays an army of engineers to continuously fine tune their ranking algorithms. It’s in their best interest to ensure customers continue to get the best results possible, shareholders earn a good return on investment, and employees are challenged and proud of their accomplishments.

SEO is a process because what works today, won’t necessarily work tomorrow.

What All That Means For Small Businesses

For small businesses, that means if you want to rank at the top of search results you have to accept SEO as an ongoing business requirement – just like any other form of business marketing and advertising. You have to invest for the long haul.

I think doing SEO half way or giving up prematurely is a waste of time and money. Unless you’re doing paid advertising, SEO takes 2-4 months before you even begin to see results. It can take a lot longer depending on your current situation and the competition. Ask your SEO advisor what he or she thinks about how long it will take. Set your expectations accordingly.

jcpenney logo

A last word about cheating. Cheating works. It can get you to the top of search results pretty quickly. That said, because you haven’t done the work craft a compelling value proposition that attracts and retains customers, shortcuts don’t translate into sustained business or profit. You won’t be able to hold stolen rankings for very long, and you put yourself at risk of a Google penalty or permanent ban.

It can also hurt your business reputation. Do you remember the JC Penney scandal? Is it really worth it?

So to conclude, SEO is an ongoing process because the world is an ever changing place with lots of rules and expectations. Business owners need to keep up and shortcuts don’t cut it.

Are you surprised? Do you have questions? Do you disagree?

This article was previously published on the blog.

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