If you’re a savvy small business owner, then you know that it’s important to have an online presence in this day and age. Sure, some businesses survive without their own website, but as time goes on, more and more are recognizing the value of establishing a little corner of the Internet. With your own website comes a lot more work, however, and there’s no point in having a website if none of your customers can find you.

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is one of the cornerstones of online marketing since it’s one of the most important ways consumers find new businesses online. SEO involves optimizing your online content with relevant keywords. This will help rank your business higher for specific online searches.

Despite the potential of SEO, however, it’s not something many small businesses invest in—one study revealed that only 17% of small business owners are willing to invest in SEO. If you’re trying to figure out your online strategy, you may be wondering if investing in SEO is worth it for your business. Here are some factors to consider when making a decision about your online marketing tactics.

Is Your Website Polished?

For SEO to be successful, you need to have a polished website for customers to visit. Before you even think about search engine rankings, make sure your website is appealing and relevant. There’s no point in wasting money on SEO and search engine marketing if your website isn’t ready to go. Think about it—if you’re a potential customer and you click on a search result, you expect to see a credible website that meets your expectations. Make sure you deliver that to your customers before you focus on SEO. Your customers will have strong opinions right away, so be sure you are presenting an image you can be proud of right away.

Think About the Potential Impact

Only the first few results in search engines get the majority of organic search traffic. In order to compete, you’ll need to put some significant effort into SEO. It’s not worth it to put in a little bit of effort here and there; you need strategy and consistency. However, the benefits of a good strategy can be substantial, especially if you have the website infrastructure to support selling products online or giving customers a quote then and there. Successful SEO can drive traffic to your website, leading to more sales and revenue over time. Once your website ranks higher in searches, you’ll build more credibility, brand awareness and exposure. All of these factors can snowball into more organic traffic and word-of-mouth exposure.

Consider Your Business Type

Do you operate on a mostly local level? If so, then local SEO might be a good option for you. Google has been shown to slightly favour local small businesses, and focusing on a local search will give potential customers highly relevant results. With competition growing ever fiercer for worldwide rankings, local search gives smaller businesses a chance to compete. Using location data from mobile devices, local search delivers results to potential customers on the go, right when they need them.

Should You Hire Someone for SEO?

Understanding SEO and developing a successful strategy takes a lot of time and energy. You need to know your customers, what they’re looking for, and the competition for the keywords you’re considering. You need to optimize your website’s SEO and you need to consistently put out content that incorporates relevant keywords. If you’re like most small business owners, you’ve got a lot on your plate. SEO isn’t easy to understand and comes with a steep learning curve. It might make sense to outsource the work to an SEO agency or a freelancer. You’ll get better results, and you’ll be able to spend your time working on other projects.

A Long-Term Strategy

Search engine optimization can make a lot of sense for your small business. However, you will need to invest sufficient time and money into it. It can take months to see any meaningful results, and it’s important to be patient with developing and understanding SEO strategy. If you pursue SEO the right way, you might just find you become the first choice for customers.

Andrew Deen has been a consultant for startups in almost every industry from retail to medical devices and everything in between. He is currently writing a book about scaling up business and his experience implementing lean methodology.