Diminishing Returns for SEO?

Clients sometimes ask when Search Engine Optimization will be finished — are there diminishing returns for SEO over time? Is there some point at which you can quit, because you’re #1 and there’s no more work to be done?

The quick answer: no.  Even when you get very good results (and our clients do), you will lose traction if you quit working on your website. 

Traffic increases…and decreases

In the screenshot above you can see traffic to our lab site. On the left you see the increasing traffic we acquired when we were actively working on this website. You can then see the precipitous and continuing drop when we quit working on it.

This year we’ve done some work on this website, and it is back up to about 10,000 visits per month. That’s a respectable number of visits, but far fewer than we saw when we were posting regularly.

This is fairly simple and straightforward, and it is what we usually see: as long as you continue to work on SEO, you will usually see increasing traffic as increasing numbers of visitors find your website when they search. If you stop working on it, you can expect decreases.

Website Traffic – Haden Interactive


Rankings changes

Google’s search console will show you a lot of information about how people are finding your website through Google search. One thing it shows is your average position for the top 1,000 keywords for which Google shows your site.

The screenshot above, again showing results for our lab site, tells us that our site is at position 20, on average. Google offers our lab site for more than 1,000 different queries, but here they are just talking about the top 1,000. Your site may not be shown for that many different queries, but this site lists the top 1,000. You can tell how many different queries Google has for you by looking in the bottom right hand corner. You’ll find the total number of queries tracked, and it will be somewhere between 1 and 1,000.

For those thousand queries, from “town and country mouse lesson plans” to “how to make a science portfolio,” our average rank is 20.1. 

We’re at #1 for plenty of queries, which means, since we are at 20.1 on average, that we are on the third or fourth page for plenty more. This is a fairly good showing.

However, we also have a client who is at an average ranking of 3.6 for their top thousand queries. Last year they were at #5.

I’m going through this section pretty slowly, because I know that a lot of our readers are not that comfortable with math. If you think about it, though, #5 ranking for the top thousand queries is very good. That means that 1,000 different searches will generally all show our client on the first page. 

3.6 is even better. Consistent work on the website over the years brought them to a very desirable set of rankings. Another year of work made their rankings even better. 

What does it mean to work on SEO?

We’ve said (and, I hope, shown) that there are no diminishing returns for SEO. As long as you work on your website’s SEO, you should see improvements. Traffic and rankings are a couple of metrics you can use to track these improvements.

But what does it mean to work on a website?

Here are some essentials:

  • Identify keywords to work on, and optimize content for those keywords.
  • Produce, publish, and promote fresh, high quality content on a regular basis.
  • Work to gain links for your website from high quality, relevant websites.
  • Keep your website’s technology up to date.
  • Provide a positive user experience for your visitors.

If you do these things consistently, you can expect to see good results, now and in the future. As long as you continue to do the work. 

If this is not the best use of your time, contact us to discuss how we can provide this for you while you take care of mission-critical work for your business.







2 responses to “Diminishing Returns for SEO?”

  1. Nancy Hartney Avatar

    Always, solid information and ideas for improvement. Nonetheless, it’s still lots of work.

    1. Rebecca Haden Avatar
      Rebecca Haden

      Very true.

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