Impact of stopping SEO investment

What happens when a business stops investing in its SEO?

As with any B2B vendor-client relationship, there are times when the fit between our strategies and a client’s evolving needs might not be perfect. When this happens, the Nexus team’s top priority is to ensure your business remains positioned for continued growth and SEO success.

However, sometimes we encounter a different scenario:

Sometimes, clients with whom we’ve had productive working relationships need to consider pausing their SEO engagements due to financial constraints.

How do we navigate these situations? What are our recommendations to clients facing these decisions?

Finding alternative solutions and taking steps to preserve SEO gains are critically important. We want to share our thoughts on the potential risks of pausing SEO efforts and share the alternative approaches we often recommend that will help safeguard your business’s online visibility and growth:


Understanding SEO Results & Growth

One common reason clients consider pausing their SEO campaign is the perception that results are happening fast enough.

It’s essential to understand that SEO, by its nature, is a marathon, not a sprint.

Most businesses do not see immediate results because their websites have yet to achieve peak ranking for their target keywords. This is normal, and it’s why encourage our clients to consider longer-term engagements when we begin working together.

Here’s our take: Being on the second page of search results, or even the lower end of the first, means you are on the cusp of breakthrough success.

Click-through rates (and therefore conversions) increase dramatically between the second page of results and the top organic spots on Page One.

But moving upwards requires consistent effort, not just in the initial content creation, but also in ongoing link-building and optimization of the domain’s content as a whole.

The risk of pausing your SEO efforts at this point is that you’ll stall out the valuable momentum that’s gotten you to Page Two. By stopping prematurely, you’ll risk undoing your progress and could see a gradual erosion of your website’s organic visibility.

The “Cruise Ship Effect”

Time for an analogy (bear with us): SEO is a bit like operating a cruise ship.

Cruise ships and SEO engagements are slow to start and even slower to come to a complete stop.

When you initiate SEO strategies, the results do not manifest overnight. Similarly, if you pause these efforts, the impact isn’t immediate, but the long-term consequences can be significant.

Consider an experiment we conducted on one of our own websites:

After consistently applying SEO strategies until December 2022, we decided to pause due to full utilization on client hours.

Initially, the effects were not evident. In fact, performance metrics like website clicks even hit record highs in January 2023!

However, as time progressed, the lack of ongoing SEO efforts led to a slow but very steady decline in performance. Twelve months later, the website had experienced a significant drop, going from an average of over 250 clicks per day to just 90.

The Challenges of Restarting SEO

Let’s say the cruise ship grinds to a halt—it takes a lot of time and power to get it back up to full speed.

Deciding to resume SEO after a pause brings its own set of challenges, too, and requires careful expectation setting.

The foundational SEO work done previously (like creating optimized content and starting to build a backlink profile) remains valuable, but regaining forward momentum becomes significantly harder. This is for three key reasons:

  1. During the pause, your competitors will almost certainly have strengthened their online presence.
  2. Google continuously evaluates websites based on numerous ranking signals. A prolonged absence of fresh content, new backlinks, and technical optimizations sends negative signals to Google, reinforcing a cycle of diminished visibility.
  3. Content previously created for your website may now be outdated to the point of appearing irrelevant to Google, requiring an additional investment of time to catch up.

Simply put, it’s an uphill battle. Restarting your SEO efforts means not only fighting to regain lost ground from competitors but also re-establishing your website’s authority, trustworthiness, and freshness in the eyes of Google.

The Financial Implications

On the surface, pausing SEO initiatives might seem like a prudent decision, even a necessity, during times of budgetary constraints. But as with any major business decision, it’s critically important to consider the long-term effects.

Organic search is a cornerstone of lead generation for many businesses today, driving traffic and conversions at a cost significantly lower than paid advertising channels.

By cutting organic SEO efforts, businesses risk becoming overly reliant on paid advertising. Over time, paid channels often prove to be far more expensive and less effective at generating sustainable growth.

SEO vs PPC: Is Organic Or Paid Search Better? A 2024 Guide

Think of it like this:

  • Paid advertising requires constant per-ad investment and is heavily siloed, meaning success in one campaign won’t have much direct impact on the next aside from any lessons you learned. Growth through paid channels requires increasing amounts of investment.
  • Organic SEO also requires ongoing investment but is a holistic and somewhat self-perpetuating process when done well. Achieving top ranks through high-quality content, link-building, and other best practices will improve your entire website’s standing with Google. This leads over time to higher ranks and more engagement across the board. It’s a consistent investment that doesn’t require major spending increases to sustain its performance. (Not to mention, top organic search results tend to have much higher click-through rates than expensive paid ads!)

So, if you’re faced with budgetary decisions and need to weigh your SEO options, what are the different routes you can take?

Alternatives to an SEO Pause or Wind-Down

There are always options for businesses that understand the risks of pausing SEO but are dealing with budgetary constraints.

We recommend two strategic alternatives that allow for the continuation of SEO activities at a reduced scale. These will help safeguard your online presence and ensure that the engine of growth doesn’t shut down completely.

1. Scale Down, Don’t Shut Down

Reducing the scope of SEO efforts to essential activities can maintain your site’s visibility and ranking without the full cost of an aggressive SEO campaign. Remember, it’s always easier—and more cost-effective—to maintain a stable ranking than to recover from a decline.

This scaled-down approach focuses on maintaining the core elements of your SEO strategy, such as quick content updates, basic on-page optimizations, and maintaining the technical health of your website. At Nexus Marketing, we call these bundles of activities “maintenance packages.”

2. Collaborative Adjustment of Spend

We’ve been through all kinds of journeys with our long-term clients and know that ups and downs happen. We can be flexible.

If needed, we’re open to adjusting our engagement terms to accommodate a client’s current financial situation while still maintaining the momentum of its SEO campaign.

This approach has helped numerous clients navigate lean periods, only to emerge stronger and ready to ramp up their SEO efforts when conditions improve. If this approach sounds like the correct fit for your business while it works through constraints, ask your Account Manager to present some options.

Success Stories of SEO Scale-Downs

We’ve seen time and again that scaling down rather than pausing leads to more successful SEO outcomes.

We’ve supported nearly a dozen clients through periods of financial constraint by adjusting their SEO strategy to a maintenance mode. These clients were able to keep their rankings stable and, once their business situation improved, quickly scale their SEO efforts back up.

This approach not only preserved their online presence but also positioned them for rapid growth and resurgence as soon as they were ready to invest more aggressively in SEO again.


TL;DR: The decision to pause SEO investments can have far-reaching implications for your business and shouldn’t be taken lightly.

While the immediate effects might not be visible, the long-term negative impact on your website’s traffic, visibility, and overall online presence can be significant. Immediate financial savings could also quickly become overshadowed by the increased costs and decreased effectiveness of heavy reliance on paid channels.

At Nexus, we advocate for a balanced approach. Scaling down to a maintenance level of SEO activity is a viable alternative that allows your business to continue leveraging the benefits of organic search without the full investment.

This strategy ensures that your business remains competitive and ready to capitalize on opportunities as soon as they arise.

In these challenging times, it’s more important than ever to make informed decisions about your SEO strategy. By understanding the potential risks and exploring viable alternatives, you can navigate financial constraints without sacrificing your long-term online success.

If you have any questions about our advice in this guide or how to navigate your business’s marketing challenges, please don’t hesitate to contact your Account Manager. We’ll be happy to chat through our philosophy and what your best options will be.