Unlike paid traffic, SEO is not an instant faucet of growth; therefore an SEO foundation must be poured long before a site actually needs the traffic. At the same time, SEO is not a simple side project and an SEO focus immediately upon the launch of a company risks diverting resources from other channels that will help a company to scale.
The challenge is figuring out the precise time when to start focusing on SEO. In a perfect world, the answer is to build that SEO foundation 6 months before it will be needed. “Needed” in this case is when the marginal cost of paid marketing starts to rise. Knowing when this will occur requires a view into the future which is impossible, so we need an alternative way to plan for this eventuality.
The best way to invest in SEO without really going all in to build in best practices very early on that will enable a pivot to SEO as soon as early signs appear that it is necessary.
Most importantly, SEO efforts should not be hindered by making mistakes that will be hard to unwind later on. This means not building on a site structure that is completely unfriendly to SEO best practices. This also likely means not using hosting and a CMS that will be expensive to modify for SEO.
Once the marginal cost of new users/customers from paid search turns south, this is when a company should really start investing in SEO. If they have not yet built out a taxonomy for content this is where they should start.
In addition, there needs to be some time set aside for building an SEO roadmap so SEO isn’t done a haphazard way, but is managed like any other product or acquisition channel.
Most importantly, this is when effort should be allocated towards content investments that are strategic for the business and not just blog posts.
In short, SEO efforts should begin immediately on the launch of a product but this is not always realistic due to the need for immediate growth. The second best option is to prepare for SEO growth, so it is available as soon as it is necessary.