As the head of Business Development for my company, Return On Now, I have the opportunity to interact with prospects and customers on a daily basis. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is one of the primary services we offer.

Most prospects come to us via referral, and as such, they already understand why they should be managing their online visibility proactively. In some cases, though, I come across skeptics. They have been told they need to do SEO, but still can’t get their arms around it.

Not surprisingly, I think every company should have a website and should also work hard to get it ranked organically. In many conversations, I have to educate the customer on the reasons and processes behind a good SEO program.

This post is for anyone who is selling, buying, or intending to manage their own SEO campaigns and programs. All three groups should be embracing SEO, not running from it.

Top 12 Excuses Companies Use to Avoid Search Engine Optimization

What is the most common excuse you’ve heard? Here are the ones we’ve seen repeatedly, and you almost surely have heard one or more of them.

1. What Is SEO Anyway?

This is possibly the easiest objection to respond to. It’s a fair question for anyone not in the internet, digital, or inbound marketing profession.

Everyone starts with zero knowledge of SEO. We all had to learn it through one means or another.

The best response I’ve found is to simply spell out the three main areas of SEO: Technical, On-Page, and Off-Page. Most business people will be able to quickly grasp what they all mean when explained in a single framework.

For non-web savvy prospects, we often have to boil it down even more than that. We will explain what is involved at a high level, but in these conversations, the benefits and expected results play a larger role.

Realistically, anyone who is managing or buying SEO services should take the time to at least understand the basics. It helps minimize frustration and position for a good working relationship between managers and SEO professionals.

2. I Don’t Need SEO

I already shared my opinion on this one. Basically, aside from the obvious benefits of getting “free” traffic from search engines, there’s risk to not doing it at all.

Do you have competitors? Pretty much all of us do, whether direct competition or just close enough to target the same keywords and topics.

Do you think none of them care about SEO? Highly unlikely. This myth not only leaves you with no real path to ranking, but it also lets your competitors keep building a lead. This will matter in the future, so your website absolutely needs SEO.

3. My Marketing Team Says We Don’t Need to Do SEO

Really? Your Marketing team is telling you that SEO won’t help your business?

I hope you are in a brick and mortar that depends 100% on location and foot traffic. Maybe Yelp is enough to drive your business, assuming you don’t mind paying their bounty to show up.

If your marketing team is telling you that you don’t need SEO, you need a new marketing team. They simply aren’t up-to-date on how inbound marketing works for millions of other companies across the land.

4. Our Company/Site Is Too Small For SEO

This one really confuses me. It’s a known fact that solopreneurs have managed to make millions of dollars on the internet.

Tell me again, how is your company or website too small for SEO? If you have one person involved and a one-page website, you can use SEO.

If you don’t have customers yet, how will you find them? How will they find you? What is the purpose of the website in the first place?

No business is too small to need search engine optimization. In fact, the smaller you are, the more upside you have from doing it. Strike this myth from your vocabulary.

5. Time: SEO Takes Too Long

I talk a lot about how people are impatient and overly focused on ROI. Maybe folks are spoiled by the old way of doing SEO, where you could cheat your way to the top. We actually turn away a lot of prospects who are too obsessed with the old way of doing things.

Anything worth doing, is worth doing right. And there simply aren’t shortcuts if you do it right.

Yes, SEO does take time. If you rush it, you open yourself up to a range of manual and algorithmic penalties.

That doesn’t mean you should completely avoid SEO! In fact, others will find it too daunting to take on as well. That’s your opportunity to outperform them.

Commit to SEO for the long term. Build it into your standard way of doing business. Take it seriously. That’s how it works today.

6. Money: SEO Costs Too Much

My response to this excuse is “Yes and no.” Sure, SEO costs money. But so does online advertising or buying leads.

Here’s the thing – SEO doesn’t just magically go away when you stop investing it in. It’s an appreciating asset.

Advertising is great, but it only provides value so long as you feed the beast. This is why SEO is the single most important place you should spend your inbound marketing time and money.

While it might not provide immediate ROI, the upside over time is greater than with any other marketing strategy.

7. Intimidated: I Have No Idea Where We Should Start

Like I mentioned above, it’s okay to be uncertain of what SEO is or how to manage it. Heck, you already have a full time job running your business. Many of you simply don’t have the time to take it on yourself in any circumstances.

This is why we have outside vendors, agencies, and consultants for SEO. That’s what we do – manage SEO on your behalf so you don’t have to learn all the details. You don’t have to spend time keeping up with the latest Google penalties or algorithm updates.

We also provide additional manpower / time to help get it done. As all good consultants know, there’s a tradeoff between time, money, and quality.

Consulting Triangle: Time, Money, Quality

Don’t want to spend money or time on it? You won’t get the benefits.

No time, but you can afford to hire an SEO agency to do it for you? The investment will provide better results.

No money, but you have time to throw at SEO? Great, you can still do pretty well.

The thing is, you have to make tradeoffs to get the value. Most clients of ours see plenty of upside to their financial investments in our services. But like any good marketing, you have to invest before you start reaping the benefits. Marketing doesn’t help you sell product last year; it helps you later this year and into the next one.

8. I Don’t Understand Keywords

Somewhere along the way, the business world got the idea that SEO is all about keywords. I suppose it’s easier to have a simple view than to spend the time learning all the details.

Keywords matter without a doubt, but they are decreasing in importance by the day. Google is using machine learning and artificial intelligence to help better match the intent of the search. This means that keywords have changed.

Bottom line: you don’t need to understand keywords to benefit from SEO. The old way of picking exact match keywords, obsessing over whether they moved up or down a spot in the rankings, and seeing major traffic impact in that level of minutiae is behind us.

Keywords matter, but semantic topics matter more. Keyword ranking is an anecdotal indicator of success these days.

Change your focus from arbitrary statistics like where you show up for one or a handful of keywords (which will only drive less than half your traffic anyway) to overall growth in organic traffic and conversions. Those are real business metrics, and they are true indicators of success.

9. Fear: I Am Afraid of Hurting the Site or Getting Penalized

Given the way Google has been doling out penalties since 2011, this one is very understandable. Especially for those of us who don’t understand SEO, it could appear that there’s more risk than upside.

Sure, if you have no idea what you are doing, you can get yourself in a real pickle. The same holds true if you hire an SEO firm that doesn’t keep up with the latest trends in the industry.

If this is you, your business can benefit from bringing in a good SEO provider. Google has been very clear about what they do and don’t want to see you doing to promote your website. Just like you hire a good attorney or accountant to keep you on the straight and narrow, a top notch white hat SEO agency will benefit you many times over and shelter you from this sort of risk.

10. Off-Page SEO Is Too Hard

First off – yes, off-page SEO is not a quick and dirty way to rank a site. In the past, there were tricks for building links that were scalable and effective. Those days are behind us now.

So yes, off-page SEO is hard. But no, that’s no excuse not to do it. If you have a website, off-page SEO is a must. It still factors in at over half of the algorithm, and can help or hurt you depending on how it is approached.

You can definitely do it yourself, and honestly, no good SEO provider would tell you otherwise. In fact, even if you hire someone to manage a campaign on your behalf, your marketing team should still be pursuing additional opportunities to build quality links back to your website.

So hire a good SEO agency to help guide you and do some of the work. You will find that it is not as hard as it seems when you are planning to tackle it yourself.

11. We Don’t Do Ecommerce

I’ll keep this one short – yes, ecommerce websites absolutely need SEO. I already mentioned how all websites can benefit from it.

Even ecommerce websites can struggle to rank. They are easy to measure with respect to ROI, because you can close immediate sales.

But other websites can benefit in a huge way. B2B companies with a long sales cycle, for example, need to have a lead capture strategy. That then should be followed by a marketing automation workflow to help pull the real leads out from the whole list of prospects.

Heck, content marketing and SEO can help drive awareness of your brand and services, thought leadership, and eventually, hot leads. It’s how we built our own B2B services business over the past seven years.

12. SEO is Snake Oil

Is SEO snake oil? Old school SEO is. White hat SEO is not.

If a firm is promising you a specific spot in the rankings, a guaranteed performance contract, or a minimum amount of extra traffic they’ll drive to the site, stay away. They may be able to get a quick pop of results, but it won’t be sustainable.

You can’t guarantee SEO for many reasons. Competitors keep fighting to outrank you. Google keeps noodling with their ranking algorithm and penalties. Did I mention that Google strictly forbids making guarantees for SEO services?

A white hat SEO will be clear about the levels of uncertainty. They may guarantee improvement over time, but they won’t be overly aggressive. If they are, ask hard questions. You may be talking to someone who will get you penalized.

The onus is on you to avoid buying snake oil, no matter if it’s SEO, order processing software, or outsourced services. Ask how they plan to promote you. Ask what the success metrics are, and be very picky about what they say they’ll use.

When in doubt, ask someone you know in the industry or in marketing. There are snake oil salesmen in a lot of industries. SEO was once dominated by black hat SEOs, but they are a fast dying breed. You simply can’t continue operating if you keep getting clients in trouble with Google. That’s a fact.


SEO is still a somewhat new concept in marketing, but it has become a key piece of your marketing success. Don’t let excuses and myths keep you from doing the right thing.

Hopefully this list helped you clear up any confusion for you or your customers. What other excuses have you heard about not doing or delaying work on SEO?

Featured Image Credit: Flickr user, carbonnyc. CC 0; Public Domain.

Time-Money-Quality image courtesy of Pixabay User geralt. CC 0; Public Domain.