This blog is the second of two on the psychology of New Year's resolutions. Last week, with reference to a recent New Yorker post, we asked the question: "Why do so many business owners have such a hard time making the decision to begin an SEO campaign?"
We tried to answer this question in terms of relapsed resolutions, and the three key reasons Maria Konnikova's post suggests resolutions often fail: Overestimating abilities. Underestimating time and effort. And an exaggerated view of change.
This week we'll try to answer the question from the perspective of "loss aversion"--the idea that humans strongly prefer avoiding losses to acquiring gains. In another intriguing post from the New Yorker, Adam Alter writes of a game he offered gamblers on the Atlantic City boardwalk:
"I would toss a coin. If it came up heads, I would give them ten dollars; if it came up tails, they would give me ten dollars. This is a perfectly fair gamble—fairer than many casino games, which are designed to favor the house—but the appeal of winning ten dollars wasn’t enough to overcome the potential pain of losing ten dollars. Almost all of them said that they would prefer not to play."
It turns out that this aversion to loss also applies to income gains and losses. For many, when making financial decisions, the fear of losing money far outweighs the potential gains.
This fear speaks directly to our purpose in writing The Organic SEO Blog. By trying to demystify the process of natural website optimization we've hoped to make SEO more accessible to more people--especially small business owners.
Many SEO blogs write for other SEO specialists, and are full of technical jargon that confuses the average business owner. We've written this blog for those who don't care to know the difference between a meta tag and and a widget. We do this because the decade-long experience of our blog's sponsor, Alex Stepman, has proved that business owners are often: 1) fearful of making the investment to build a website 2) and doubly fearful of making the investment to optimize a website.
In the first case, business owners simply cannot see past a $999 investment to the demonstrable advantages of joining the world of e-commerce. If you sell a unique, worthwhile product at a fair price you deserve customers. A physical location might attract customers, but a specific location is not the best way to attract specific customers. Rather, a website tailored to your unique customer-base can expand your reach exponentially. With a website, you are not bounded by geography. A website is a world-wide business.
In the second case, business owners simply cannot see past the initial investment to the clear long-terms advantages of SEO. Yes, with SEO, the advantages may not be readily apparent--not in the first few weeks or months. But over time, SEO, if performed correctly, always provides a demonstrable advantage. In reality, it is an intuitive and inexpensive form of advertisement that reduces your operating costs.
Loss aversion, then, is a crippling problem for business owners who refuse to invest in SEO. Inevitably these business owners will lose more money by refusing SEO. Without SEO, a website will lag behind other websites in the same industry--websites whose owners understand that organic SEO, if performed correctly, is no risk at all.
As we enter 2014, you have the opportunity to fruitfully analyze your business. How can you improve? Are you lagging behind the competition? Why?
Often the answers to these questions have less to with the quality of your product or service and more to do with fear. Loss aversion might just be keeping you from making the decision to catapult your business to the next level.
So what can you do? Adam Alter's post suggests "broad-bracketing", which is "...a good way to think about life decisions." Alter writes:
"It’s unwise to focus on each financial decision in isolation when you’re constantly drawing from the same pool of funds. Instead, it is better to consider the effect of each decision on the others, and how these decisions affect you cumulatively over time."
In terms of SEO, it might be helpful to think about all of your business expenses. Marketing is essential to all forms of business. How do you currently market your product or service? In what ways do you spend money to let others know about your business?
At The Organic SEO Blog, we hope to teach you about the advantages of organic SEO. As Alex Stepman says, "If you build a website that is well designed and optimized for search engines, you will not have to look for your customers—your customers will look for you."
So what are you waiting for? Don't let fear blind you to the clear competitive advantage of organic SEO!