Can SEO Be as Volatile as the Stock Market?

SEO and the Stock Market comparison

Do you play the stock market? If you invest in a favored company or a 401K, you likely understand a bit about the vagaries of the market. They can be complicated, volatile, frustrating, fruitful. Their peaks and valleys represent a white-knuckled ride that can have a significant impact on your bottom-line finances. A lot like SEO.

9 Ways SEO is Like the Stock Market

1) You Need a Solid Strategy

Ask any wealth advisor and they’ll tell you that you need a diverse portfolio with multiple assets, having varied degrees of risk. Same for SEO. Your keywords are your assets. Some are no-brainers. If your school offers a master’s degree program in psychology, that phrase is a given. But what kind of content, phrases and long-tailed keywords will augment your safe investments? What words will be risky winners? What kinds of keywords and phrases will help you hedge your bets?

2) Think Long-Term

Anyone who wisely invests in the stock market understands that it takes time to see results. With the exception of those crazy day traders, investors know that you need to research and understand your investment well and then stay the course. SEO is not an instant gratification investment. But it offers great reward for sound strategy and patience.

3) It’s Basic Economics

Stock prices rise and fall based upon a range of market forces. Supply, demand. That Econ101 stuff from your college days. SEO often seems equally left to the whim of outside forces. Only in the case of SEO, the force is mostly Google and a few other search engines. Once upon a time, the more keywords you could stuff into a 200-word post, the more reward you’d receive in terms of rank. Buying links? Another yesteryear strategy that is SEO poison today. Google’s algorithm updates frequently and without notice.

As often is with stock tumbles, when your SEO values change, Monday morning quarterbacking abounds. The pundits come in and evaluate lost traffic based on their take on events. When lots of sites saw lots of loss in March, every expert—except the one that mattered most (Google)—weighed in on what happened and why. Was it only YMYL (your money/your life) sites that saw the lights begin to flicker on results? Or were they just the easiest casualty to note? Was Google’s latest attempt to appeal to user intent a death knell to 1000s of sites or was there an easy remedy?

4) Fluctuations are the Norm

Volatility in the stock market is nothing new. As unsettling as it is to watch paper profits decline radically in a single day, it’s the nature of the game. Today’s market may seem crazy with 200-point spikes and dips, but you’d need to go back to the 30s for real volatility. While there are certainly measures to take to prevent your keywords from being bumped from top spots, the truth is that fluctuation is normal. More than 80 percent of search engine results pages change daily. What you did yesterday might have crushed it from an SEO perspective. That may not matter much today.


5) Regulators Define the Rules

The SEC maintains fairness and order, protecting investors with the goal of creating a level playing field. Its commissioners are appointed by the President but no more than three of the five can be from the same party. It’s supposed to be nonpartisan. So is Google. Its dropped “don’t be evil” motto offers an inkling to its foundation, but Google isn’t a federal agency. It is, however, the arbiter of the internet. As such, it weilds enormous impact on your SEO investment. But if you want to know how it decides which ranking factors matter today, good luck. SEO experts spend hours upon hours scanning threads to glean info when sites see a sudden loss in traffic. They look to recent Google patents (it has more than 50,000). They scan the Google Search Quality Ratings Guide used by Google’s quality raters. They make educated guesses. All in an effort to appeal to humans, the Google bots work continuously to reward fair play and penalize black hat actors. But understanding how those bots work or interact with algorithms is far from a science.

6) Penalties Are Stiff

Violate SEC regulations and you could lose money and go to prison. Run afoul of the latest Google algorithm update and your site could land in cyberprison— invisible to online searchers. Google doesn’t need to fine you; it can choke off your traffic, strike at engagement, send conversions plummeting. Obey the rules or risk next to everything.

7) Reputation Matters

Stocks have insider trading. SEO has black hat actors with an assortment of tricks they promise will boost rankings but don’t. Much of what they do is tantamount to fraud, but they won’t be hauled off by the cyberpolice. They won’t serve time. Instead, they’ll wreak havoc on your site. Long before we knew them, one of our client’s had an “incident” that took years to recover from. SEO takes time to build a reputation for authority and trust. But it can be destroyed in the blink of an eye.

8) Pay Attention to the Bottom Line

Buy low, sell high. Ah, if only it were that easy. Stocks don’t offer a crystal ball and neither does SEO. I’ve often spoken to clients who just want to know: how do I get to the top of Google? In and of itself, that has real monetary value. And while the easy answer is: pay for it, that strategy is unsustainable for most organizations. Media costs only seem to move in one direction—up. SEO is a more affordable means to get to page one of Google. And while organic leads aren’t inherently better than paid leads, because they’re more affordable, they can increase your overall profitability.

9) Substance Matters

Technical aspects of SEO need to be performed routinely, methodically and with an eye to continually changing updates. However, what matters most is that you provide users with consistently good content that matters to them, and make it easy to find and experience. The “what” is what matters—to humans and robots.

If the ups-and-downs of all this search engine optimization stuff has you more concerned than ever that you might be doing it wrong, you might be. Contact the SEO experts as ESM Digital to learn how to get on page one of Google and stay there.

~Linda Emma