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I’ve been fortunate that most of my SEO clients have been long term – 2 years or more. A friend – someone who’s not in digital marketing –  asked me recently, “but after you SEO their website, isn’t your job done?”

Which brings up a great question: when is SEO done? Is it ever really done? Is an ongoing SEO engagement, especially past the 2-year mark, providing ongoing value, or is it just “milking” the engagement?

I think those are fair questions to ask, no matter who you are – client, SEO consultant, or otherwise.

When Is SEO Done?

Truly, SEO is never done. People are often under the misconception that you “SEO a site and it’s done.” This misconception takes many forms, such as the very-frequent situation where a business develops a website and when it’s done someone says, “Great – now, how do we SEO this thing?” not realizing SEO should be baked-in, not sprinkled-on. I totally understand; I once held that misconception myself.

Another common misconception is “We’ve hired an SEO agency, they’ve SEO’d the site, we’re done.” That’s a lot like saying “I went to the gym for a couple of years; now I’m done working out.” Your savvy competitors who know that SEO is a marathon and not a sprint will clasp their hands in glee when you stop your SEO efforts.

Early Wins vs. Ongoing Benefit

At an engagement’s start, for sure SEOs are going to look for the quickest wins, the biggest bang for buck, the changes and fixes that will have the biggest and fastest impact.

Those early wins vary from client to client. Some websites have huge technical problems that are in dire need of fixing. Other times clients will have content problems. Other times clients are under a Google penalty and need help getting out of the Google penalty box. Those are a few examples of broad areas where early wins are to be had.

One way to think of early wins is doing “triage.” Triage is defined as “the assignment of degrees of urgency to wounds or illnesses to decide the order of treatment of a large number of patients or casualties.” If a client’s site has “serious bleeding,” then emergency measures need to be put into place right away.

After triage is performed and the early wins are out of the way, it’s time to holistically address the rest of the site.

But what about two years in or more, after emergencies have been addressed and the rest of the site has been addressed? What then? Time to stick a fork in SEO for that client?

The Long-Term SEO Big Picture

Why should a client stay with an SEO agency after 2 years? Why shouldn’t a client just squeeze all the SEO goodness out and call it done? Are there really any good reasons to continue an SEO engagement?

I can think of a few reasons (and I hope you’ll share your reasons, whether you’re an SEO or not, in the comments below).

Competition Doesn’t Sit Still

As I alluded to above, I’m 100% positive that your competitors would throw a party if they found out you’d stopped your SEO efforts. It’s likely your competitors will not be stopping their SEO efforts. Do you really want to let your competitors get the edge on you?

Developers Don’t Sit Still

I’m using the term “developers” here generically to refer to the people who make changes to your website, especially on the technical side. Internally your team may be work in groups called IT, Engineering, or you may have a webmaster, or a “Dev Team” – developers is a good catch-all term here.

Developers are typically not SEOs. It’s very, very common for developers to make technical changes, site structure changes, or other changes such as HTML tag deployments that impact SEO. I’ve seen developers make a 1-minute change that tells Google to pull all pages out of their index, which is not good if you want people to find your site using Google.

Making changes that negatively impact SEO is not necessarily the developers fault, simply because developers tend not to be SEOs or think about SEO considerations. Having a seasoned SEO on your side means you have someone watching for problems, and helping you through technical changes so your site doesn’t suffer from unnecessary problems, or even disasters.

SEO Never Sits Still

Ask an SEO professional, “things in SEO don’t change very often, correct?” After they’re done laughing, they’ll probably tell you things changed last week, yesterday, or even 5 minutes ago. Google is constantly changing things. And it’s not just Google; new technologies or new ways of creating websites come along, developers use them (lookin’ at you, Single Page Applications), and they have definite SEO consequences.

You Shouldn’t Sit Still

One word: Kaizen. It’s a Japanese word referring to the concept of continuous improvement in business. In the West we say, “don’t rest on your laurels” and “a rolling stone gathers no moss.” Savvy, seasoned SEOs can help you with this continuous improvement. If your business changes its messaging or offering, you’ve probably got new keywords to target, new content to write, new pages to build, etc. (or you should). Our most successful clients constantly evolve, and with this comes the need to adapt your SEO plans.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are lots of good reasons to continue your SEO efforts past the 2-year mark. You should always look to improve your SEO and ensure you’re not caught sleeping by your competitors. Google is continually changing things, so you’ll want to be sure you’re not missing out on any important changes. Your development team is also making changes that can negatively affect SEO, so you need to be on top of that as well. Think of SEO as a marathon and not a sprint. Remember, you don’t exercise for a year or two and call it good; good fitness – SEO and otherwise – is an ongoing effort.