With the major search engines like Google, Yahoo and MSN seemingly changing their algorithms on a regular basis, it sometimes feels like you're fighting a losing battle trying to keep up with them. We're all constantly tweaking our websites and chasing links in a desperate attempt to grab, or hold on to, that elusive spot on the first page of results for our chosen keywords, so is SEO really worth the effort?
Well firstly if you have optimized your site well, both through onpage and offpage optimization, and manage to obtain top rankings in the search engines, then you can get a great deal of free traffic to your site, depending on how popular your keywords are that you are ranking well for. So yes of course in this instance SEO is most definitely worth spending time over.
The problem, however, is that if you are launching a new site and plan to get the bulk of your traffic from search engines, you may end up being disappointed because it can take many months before you even get close to achieving high rankings. This is particularly true of Google and Yahoo. MSN is easier to rank highly for, but this is negated by the fact that a lot less people use MSN than Google and Yahoo.
This is why when I now launch a new site I'm focused more on receiving traffic from other sources, and concentrating almost solely on building my own list of subscribers. There are endless ways to start getting immediate traffic to a new site and start building your list.
I personally like to post in forums, write and submit articles to article directories and relevant ezines, pay for advertising in these same ezines, write and submit press releases, promote a squeeze page on traffic exchanges (if my site is related to making money online), credit-based safelists (free safelists are a waste of time) and other list-building services. I also like to write free reports and ebooks (containing links to my site) which can be freely given away (and rebranded for greater distribution) creating a viral effect.
I still carry out the standard onpage search engine optimization techniques, and offpage techniques such as getting keyword-rich text links from directories and other related sites, but I now no longer base my whole future profit model on obtaining top search engine rankings. My thoughts are that if they come they come, but whatever happens as long as I keep building a list of subscribers for each of my sites I know that I can always achieve good profits regardless of where I rank in the search engines.
It also eliminates any stress that can occur when the leading search engines change their algorithms. I've seen many instances of long-established websites whose entire livelihood relied on the traffic they received as a result of being at the top of the search engines, but who suddenly saw their sites disappear from the first few pages of results, wiping their profits out almost immediately. Some of these sites had no mailing lists either so they had no alternative profit model in place.
Hopefully you can see that while everyone wants top search engine rankings, it's not the be all and end all, and certainly shouldn't be used to base your whole business model on. There are numerous successful websites online who couldn't care less about SEO, and indeed are nowhere to be found in the search engines. They rely on other traffic-generating techniques, such as viral marketing, joint venturing, or recruiting affiliates, for example, to build and grow their online business.
To conclude, while it's important to spend some time optimizing your website and obtaining links for SEO purposes, spending several hours a day tweaking every page of your site just to please the search engines is not a productive way to spend your time. Instead you should be focusing on building your list of targeted subscribers, using other more immediate traffic-generating methods where you can see results very quickly, and not have to wait several months before you're ranking highly in the search engines.
Just keep adding good quality content to your site, and providing a reason for your visitors to return to your site. This should have the effect of boosting your search engine rankings anyway, without having to spend hours on SEO, because other sites will start linking to you automatically, and the search engines will generally reward your site with a higher ranking if it is constantly updated with good content.
James Woolley is a successful marketer who has several money-making sites in various niches. His latest site is a free internet marketing resource guide, which also includes a newsletter filled with free tips and bonuses: