Search engine optimization (SEO) has been hailed as a cost-effective and long-term beneficial strategy to help almost any online business succeed. Thanks to SEO, many businesses that might have otherwise failed had the chance to gain national-level visibility, and even small companies have seen surges in traffic and interest thanks to a handful of optimizing tweaks.

But if you’re starting a low-budget home business, is SEO really enough to provide a groundwork for your success?

The Benefits of SEO

SEO is primarily used as a way to generate traffic to a website—which obviously means you need a website to serve as a destination before you can utilize the strategy. The SEO process involves making onsite changes to your website to increase its visibility and relevance to search engines, then building your reputation offsite with inbound links and brand mentions. Slowly but steadily, the pages of your site will rank higher for queries related to your brand, and those increased rankings will lead to far more traffic.

The strategy is advantageous because it’s scalable—both small and large businesses can use it, by taking advantage of different target keywords and different audiences—and because it’s relatively cost-effective.

What SEO Can’t Provide

The problem is, traffic and visibility alone won’t be enough to support your business. These are just some of the things that SEO can’t provide, and without them, the value of your SEO efforts will be negligible:

  • A productive working environment

No business is truly hands-off, and since you’ll be working from home, you’ll need to have an environment that allows you to remain as productive as possible. If your home doesn’t currently have a space that you can convert into an office, you should consider moving to a new location; having a dedicated space for work allows you to switch between “work mode” and “home mode,” so you can focus on work during active hours and truly relax during off hours. If you aren’t used to working from home, this is going to be an adjustment for you, so spend some time experimenting to see what kind of environment works best for you.

  • Solid consumer demand

People may be able to find you when searching for keyword terms related to your brand, but do they actually want what you’re selling? If the consumer demand isn’t there, or if your content doesn’t give people a satisfactory answer to their questions, they’re going to leave after spending just a few minutes on your site. All that additional traffic won’t help you at all if that traffic bounces prematurely. You’ll need to do some market research (and competitive research) to understand what makes your target audience tick, and give them something they really want.

  • A revenue model

Next, if you want your business to succeed, you’ll need a way to strike a profit, since traffic alone won’t be enough to drive revenue. For some businesses, the profitability is simple; you’ll sell products for more than it cost to make them, and pocket the difference. For others, you’ll need to get creative, relying on affiliate links or advertising to bring in cash. There are dozens of potential revenue models that you could rely on, but you’ll need at least one if you want to turn your traffic into money.

  • A conversion strategy

You’ll also need some kind of conversion strategy, even if you aren’t selling products online. “Conversion” can refer to a number of things—all that’s required is that your target customer takes an action that puts them closer to your brand and closer to driving revenue to your business. For example, that could mean purchasing a product from your site. It could also mean signing up for an email newsletter to keep them reading your content, or playing a specific video that contains an affiliate link. Without a conversion strategy, your traffic will be fleeting and unprofitable, so make sure you have a plan to secure those conversions before you begin working on SEO.

Your home business can certainly benefit from SEO—but only if the rest of your infrastructure is planned and successfully in place. SEO isn’t a strategy designed to build a business from the ground up, but rather to promote and develop what’s already there. That being said, almost any business can benefit from achieving the higher visibility and increased traffic that SEO provides; you just need to have the moving parts in place that make that traffic valuable.