Why 80% of CMOs Are Increasing or Maintaining Their SEO Budgets

by The Creative Alliance

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Successful companies continually evaluate their marketing tactics and adjust as needed. That’s a good thing. However, combining that tendency with an uncertain economic environment and some prudent belt-tightening can lead to marketers ditching sound strategies they really shouldn’t.

One practice we commonly see on the chopping block is SEO (search engine optimization). Businesses looking to reduce their marketing budget in response to economic challenges may think, “Our ranking with search engines isn’t essential. We’ll resume our SEO efforts when the economy comes around.”

Unfortunately, many find they lose valuable ground to competitors during that pause, and it takes quite a while to regain it. A more effective approach—and the one used by approximately 80% of CMOs at billion-dollar companies, according to Gartner—is to maintain or even increase your SEO budget when the business landscape becomes a little unsettled. Doing so helps you hold your ground and positions your company for a surge when the economy rebounds.

But if you’re a marketing decision-maker, how do you convince others (particularly your boss) of SEO’s value? We offer a roadmap below.


We recommend that you do the following to help ensure your company continues to benefit from search engine optimization, even in the face of financial headwinds:

Ensure everyone understands SEO practices.

The acronym is used so often in marketing conversations that it’s easy to assume everyone (including non-marketers) fully understands the processes involved in achieving and maintaining a high search ranking. But the reality is that many people don’t.

It’s crucial for them to know that success in SEO takes time, and that gains can be lost as quickly as they’re made. In other words, search engine optimization isn’t a switch you can flip on after a pause and simply continue where you left off. The minute you decide to stop focusing on SEO, the benefits from your past efforts are essentially lost.

Explain SEO’s value.

If asked to describe SEO in a word, nobody who understands the concept would select “sexy.” A better choice would be “essential.” That’s because people continue to use the internet as their primary means of researching products and services. There was a time when people thumbed through the phonebook (remember those?) or got in their cars and drove around town comparing offerings. Fortunately, those days are far behind us!

Yet, despite the importance of web searches, few people will go beyond the first page of results, and virtually nobody ventures on to page 3 or higher. So, if your website doesn’t rank well, it’s effectively invisible to your target audience.

Point out that your competitors are ranking.

If you were the only company with the products and services you offer, people might go further into the search results to find you. But you probably aren’t. And if your competitor’s website ranks well and yours doesn’t, you’re facing an uphill battle to attract visitors and make sales or close deals.

Address SEO myths.

It’s predictable (if unfortunate) that people start “taking shots” at marketing tactics that consistently deliver results simply because they’ve been around for many years. After all, we’re all wired to look for the “next big thing.”

The result is that myths crop up and may be deemed “fact” if you don’t debunk them. Here are three common criticisms of SEO:

Myth: Changing algorithms make SEO efforts pointless. It’s true that Google and others continually tinker with their search engines. But a solid and consistent SEO strategy shouldn’t (and doesn’t need to) try to anticipate an algorithm’s evolution. The changes made to search are always focused on helping users find the content that best answers their questions and meets their needs. If you continually produce and promote helpful material, the search engines will find you. They have to, or people will start using a different search tool.

Myth: You can maximize your search ranking by meeting a few technical requirements. Yes, your site must be technically sound to rank well. That means it loads quickly, has very few (if any) dead links or broken redirects, uses a simple URL structure, etc. However, that’s just part of the equation. Search engines drive people to sites that function correctly and provide the information the searcher wants.

Myth: SEO success is unmeasurable. It’s true that SEO is a bit of a horse race as companies jockey for the lead. But the fact that your position may fluctuate somewhat doesn’t mean you can’t assess it and continually work to improve it. If you don’t, and your company is consistently off the first few pages of results, the measurable result you’ll likely see is a significant decline in web traffic, leads, sales, and revenue.

Make SEO tangible

Whether you’re trying to gain support for a new or existing SEO initiative, the proof is in the pudding. Two actions you can take to help decision-makers see what’s at stake are:

  1. Conduct a technical SEO audit. This process can reveal items that are hurting your ranking and demonstrate that improvements are within reach.
  2. Choose a target and pursue it. That could mean supporting a new offering or just choosing a few keywords and tracking your progress as you climb the rankings for them.

Ultimately, you want your company’s leaders to see that SEO is a reliable tactic rather than a nebulous or outdated concept.


They say a rising tide lifts all boats. One of the challenges in getting or maintaining support for SEO activities is that the reverse is true: a falling tide drops all boats. In a difficult economy, every company will see its revenues decline. That’s virtually unavoidable.

What you need to make clear is that nobody is promising that ongoing SEO work will keep your business from experiencing the same effects as your competitors. Instead, being ranked for your essential keywords means that while there may be fewer people searching, those who are will see your website high in the rankings and check out your offerings.

For help developing and implementing an effective SEO strategy, monitoring your results, and staying on top of SEO trends, contact The Creative Alliance.