24 Ways To Make Life Hard For Your SEO Team

While the industry is maturing, SEO still remains a largely misunderstood discipline. There are three main reasons for this:

  1. The search engines keep the details of their ranking algorithms private.
  2. There is a lot of bad information and misperceptions that are presented as SEO wisdom online.
  3. The algorithms search engines use are frequently changing.

As a consequence of this landscape, it takes real working experience to develop strong SEO skills – you can’t get them without it. Making changes and seeing what works and what doesn’t is simply a must. Even if your SEO team (or SEO agency) has that experience, there are a number of things that you can do to make life difficult for your SEO team.

Let me count the ways …

1.  Focusing On “SEO goals” Instead Of Business Goals

Too many enterprises get focused on goals that are artificial. For example, they focus on building 100 links per month. Seriously now. I can get you 100 links per month for $400 or less and they probably won’t do anything at all for you.

Other bad goals are specific rankings or PageRank increases. Your top level goals should nearly always be: increased relevant, non-branded search engine, traffic (NBSET), and increased conversions from NBSET. Align the SEO team goals with your company goals.

2.  Doing SEO In A Vacuum

SEO impacts a lot of different disciplines. The SEO team needs to be in close coordination with many parts of the enterprise, and those parts of the organization need to be aligned with the goals and what is required to meet them.

3.  Poor Communication With The Dev Team

One common problem is the lack of a strong communication channel, and strong trust between the dev team and the SEO team. One classic example is the 301 redirect. Most tools it seems default to 302 redirects, and the developers need to really be on board with why a 301 is preferred and understand that they need to check and verify it themselves.

4.  Poor Communication With Marketing

Love those pesky marketing folks, really, I do. But sometimes they can make decisions not realizing that what they are doing is blowing up the SEO efforts. I have seen situations where the marketing team insisted on titling pages of their site with their fancy product brand names that don’t have the slightest relationship to a phrase that users ever search on.

5.  Poor Communication With The Exec Team

This is one of the easiest way to throw a wrench in your SEO efforts. One enterprise I know decided to design their site for the C-suite. As a result, they promptly ripped most of the text off of their pages and slimmed down the site into a corporate brochure. Great way to make it very difficult for search engines to figure out what is special about your site!

6.  Poor Education At The Exec Level

It turns out that communication is not enough. The execs need to know enough about SEO to understand what they don’t know, and how and when it matters. Once they understand that, they will be far more likely to get SEO advice about the impact of a decision when they need it.

7.  No Centralized Coordination of SEO

Putting your SEO team in a position where they have to separately sell multiple groups in your organization is really going to hamper their efforts. Having good communication with marketing, development and the execs is necessary, but you also need to streamline it so it is efficient.

8.  Being Over-Focused On One Specific Goal

This happens often, and one of the most common hyper-focused goals is driving traffic on one specific keyword. This narrows your SEO efforts in a way that is too artificial.

In an environment as fluid and undefined as SEO, it is best to allow some freedom to pursue the areas that bring you the fastest/largest ROI. It is usually very difficult to discern where that will come from in advance.

9.  Making Decisions That Impact SEO Without Knowing It (Or Checking)

This is obviously related to the communication and education related problems. However, even if the communication channels are open, it still happens that people make decisions and don’t have the discipline to first ask if there is an SEO concern with the decision. Instill the discipline in your team to ask that key question before committing to that new “great idea” someone has.

10.  The Developer “Knows” SEO

Just like those marketing folks, I love the dev team too. But, it does happen that there are developers who say they know SEO, trust them, everything will be all right. One CTO I encountered insisted that 302 vs. 301 redirects did not matter because there was no way that the search engines would be so narrow in how they interpreted redirects.

Unless that developer has worked full time on SEO for 2 years or more (and I do mean FULL time), they don’t know SEO. They may have learned some things about it, but that is not the same thing as being an expert.

11.  Doing SEO “After The Fact” – Do It Right Or Do It Over!

The most common variation of this mistake is launching a new website or a site redesign and then bringing in the SEO team. What do you mean the CMS I picked is SEO hostile? What? The title tag for every page on the site is required to be the same? There are session IDs on the URLs? Yup, I have seen all of these mistakes and more.

12.  Not Starting SEO Soon Enough (Due To Scope Of Dev Impact)

Even after you get the idea that you must involve SEO planning up front, there is still an issue of not starting soon enough. What if the SEO input leads you to realize that you have to re-architect the site? Far easier to let development know that before they are well down the path. Consider SEO a key part of the product/site requirements definition process.

13.  Keeping Social Media & SEO Separate

Today this is in fact the norm. Yet, there is a huge amount of interaction between social and SEO. For many sites, the best link building strategy going is a combined SEO and social media strategy. Operating these two disciplines in two different silos is a great way to lose a lot of leverage.

14.  Not Coordinating Content Between Social Media, Blog, PR & On-Site

The leverage in having all these disciplines work in conjunction is enormous. However, to make it work, you need to have a consistent, reinforcing, content plan across them all.

15.  Not Leveraging Your PR Efforts

Effective PR can be an awesome tool for generating lots of links and social media activity. Developing a consciousness of this in the PR department and getting them to understand how they can drive SEO and social goodness is a huge win.

16.  Picking A CMS Without SEO Team Input

This is one specific problem that happens frequently enough that I felt I needed to post it here as a separate item. Please … don’t do it.

17.  Finalizing A Site Architecture Without SEO Team Input

This is similar to the CMS line item. There is a lot of useful input that the SEO team can have here. Don’t let the SEO input be the sole source of input to a site architecture as usability and user experience factors are a big deal here, but an awareness of keywords that matter is important to take into account too.

18.  Listening To Bad Or Outdated Advice From Others

Once someone gets to know a little SEO they may start to check out other sources of information. News shocker – but not everything you read about SEO online is accurate.

For example, the article about meta tags on About.com still indicates that keyword meta tags are used by search engines.


You can also read hundreds of articles saying that SEO is dead.

Just bear in mind that we are in the age of irresponsible journalism where far too many people grasp the power of the headline without having an understanding that influence comes with some level of responsibility.

19.  Pursuing A Short-Sighted SEO Strategy Such As Low Quality Links

One of the most frustrating things in SEO is seeing your spammy competitor outrank you while cheating at SEO. Eppie Vojt published a nice case study on SEOmoz about the tactics one spammy site used to rank for the term “car insurance”. I am sure someone at Geico was saying WTF?

Unlike the example in the SEOmoz article where the site got banned from the index, there are many examples that can be shown where these cheaters just keep on ranking. It gets frustrating, and you can get the “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” thing going on in your head. Don’t do it.

You don’t want to build your business so it is at odds with Google’s goals. No happy ending there.

20.  Thinking SEO Is More Important Than The End User

This is a way of living in Google’s cross hairs too. SEO is one marketing discipline, and there are many others. Given end users good, valuable “stuff” is one function that can’t be ignored. And Google and Bing are both hard at work on methods for determining what the best “stuff” is and favoring that in your search results.

21.  Constant Tinkering

This is a serious problem in many organizations. I have worked with people that are so wrapped up in tweaking the site over and over again, and their energy would be much better spent on the inbound components of SEO, such as link building, social media, PR, etc.

22. Not Understanding The Broader SEO Landscape

It is important to understand that the landscape is constantly shifting. We had Panda occur on February 24, 2011; Search, plus Your World launch on January 10, 2012; and on January 19th, 2012 we had the Page Layout algorithm which attacked ad heavy sites.

Even more recently, Google’s Amit Singhal was talking about semantic search saying it will impact 10% of results, and Matt Cutts was heard at SXSW saying a major update targeted at over-SEO’ed sites is coming.

Head spinning? The landscape is going to continue to shift. Make sure that you are not mired in specific details of today’s algos and the great majority of your effort goes to tactics that will stand the test of time.

23.  Obsession With SEO

This is one of the things that can lead to tinkering. SEO is important, and you need to pay attention to it. But, it is not life itself. Know what I mean?

24.  On-Page Only SEO

I have seen a lot of this. Major organizations learn that SEO matters and the first thing they do is focus on on-page SEO. Getting started is good, but on-page largely defines relevance for the search engines, and not ranking.

It is often hard for enterprises to deal with the link building side of things because of the problems in coordinating with other marketing disciplines such as PR and social media. Link building does not replace PR or social media or have to be at odds with it. Getting these things to work together brings a lot of leverage, so make sure you go past the “on-page only” stage of SEO awareness.

That’s my list for today! I am sure that there are many other aspects I have overlooked in the above. Please share your ideas/examples/frustrations in the comments below!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Enterprise SEO


About The Author: is the president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy outside of Boston. Eric publishes a highly respected interview series and can be followed on Twitter at @stonetemple.

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  • http://www.scismmarketing.com/ Eric Scism

    #17 happens all the time! I hate when the design / dev doesn’t communicate what they’re doing then you have to go back in and fix the site structure and URLs and re do a lot of work. Giant waste of time.

  • http://ericburnettonline.com Eric Burnett

    Great Post, I love all the value you have here on this blog…

  • Scott Clark

    Broke my mouse button clicking on “Like” on this one.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1113722895 Jason Danzi

    Excellent article with very in-depth information. Thanks!

  • http://bet-the-nfl-super-bowl.com/ Super Bowl

    I agree that tinkering with something that is working is a terrible idea. The only problem is with the all the changes happening now is search, people need to tinker. Hopefully making changes now for the long run will benefit sites down the road.

  • Joe Rega

    Great article Eric! You raised a lot of great points here. The only one I “slightly” disagree with is
    #23. I think a “healthy” obsession with SEO is fine, attending conferences reading articles (such as this one), but yes you are correct that we should wait to see if our methods are working before we make any changes.

  • http://www.sebastiancowie.com/ Sebastian Cowie

    I think you’ve touched on a number of great points here Eric. Automation and obession are 2 things that will kill off a number of seos that simply dont want to keep up with the latest trends. SEO s becoming more of a creative process and less of a paint by numbers/deliverables game.

  • Eric Enge

    Hi Joe – the operative phrase was a “healthy obsession”! With that, I agree

  • http://twitter.com/TheNextCorner Dennis Goedegebuure

    LOL at #10,  I’ve seen and heard worse! I once heard somebody say he/she knew SEO because they built a search engine… !
    Last time I checked, Google SEO score card was pretty bad…

  • myra_mae

    @twitter-2432811:disqus why will you waste your time doing a job that you dont like it’s a waste of time..why not try online job…
    we need Data Entry Specialist…earn $70 an hour..go to our site for processing U.S and U.K residents 
    are prioritized…

  • http://profile.yahoo.com/7T23OGAWLLPBEE7NURQBDCOW3A Mary

    Love your post. Finally a real SEO who speaks out –and makes sense. Thanks for bringing up attention to the fact that there is so much incorrect information out there (article publishing rat race), the link building madness, the quantity over quality, and all the Self proclaimed SEO professional titles–the last title I heard was a guy who called himself THE WORLDS EXPERT SEO, and he has only been doing this for a yea., Really. 

    Eric touches the button line of SEO. And the button line is that you need years of experience if you want to come close to get it as an SEO. Period. –finally an article worth reading. Remind me of the good old days of SEO. Thanks.

  • http://www.facebook.com/tomecceservices Barry Ecce Serv

    Mary is absolutely correct, anyone who says to be an SEO expert perfectly knows this title is a total BS. The only reason one could call himself expert on SEO is if Google comes knocking his door, and tells him what are the factors they use to rank sites. Is never going to happen. So lets call our jobs for what it really is. SEO period (we tried to optimize and rank sites to the best of our knowledge, intuition and experience). I have been doing this for six years, and I will never call myself an expert on SEO. On SEM  Im an expert. SEM is an Objective online marketing field. SEO is subjective, so I’m no SEO expert (no one is). I’m just a navigator and an explorer my friend :)

  • http://www.TrondLyngbo.no Trond Lyngbø

    Excellent article, Eric.
    You nailed it! :-)

  • russofford

    Very interesting concept / way to put it:

    24.  On-Page Only SEO

    “…but on-page largely defines relevance for the search engines, and not ranking.”


  • http://twitter.com/yoursdisgusted slipperyslope

    It is a somewhat  one sided view of the SEO/Client relationship, which will no doubt get a lot of applause from the SEO community.

     In my view, a lot of the problem IS  the SEO community itself, which is bad at explaining what matters to clients, and part of that stems from  trying to shroud simple things in mystery, and the lack of admission of what it does not know.

    Worse still as your rightly point out developers claiming they “Know” SEO are steering too many in wrong directions, and with so many sharks and charlatans both in and out of the SEO industry, and incessant spamming by apparent SEO’s offering to help webmasters  it is hardly surprising that  industry does not know who to trust,.

    The industry has an image problem, and a lot of the problems follow on from that.

  • Eric Enge

     slipperyslope – I fully agree,  Many problems come from those who call themselves SEO experts.  There are people who are experts who don’t do the work, there are those who take huge risks without informing the clients, there are those who propose risks that the client should not take (even if they DO inform the client), and there are those who are outright incompetent.

    Could be a great topic for another article.

  • Mike Vandepeer

    And you have of course tested  all of this and not just regurgetated…. vomited up stuff you hear from around the traps.. ??

    try 18…Listening To Bad Or Outdated Advice From Others

    search engines don’t use meta keywords.. is what i think you are trying to say….

    Try this .. build a page about a topic, a decent page say 500 plus words with images etc.. dont mention the keyword in the meta tag.. or even on the page… (so write about gardens say and specifically about screening trees.. (thinking about say “candle pines” as the keyword) but dont mention candle pines sany where except in a well constructed meta tag set.. which uses say
    title      “great screening trees for your garden”
    keyword   screening trees, candle pines,
    description : choosing great screening treef for your garden …

    and guess what happens (8 times out of 10) the page shows up for; wait for; it drumroll “candle pines”..
    and depending on competition, relevance local search all the other things
    : on and on..it can show up on the front page with no backlinks, no other on page or off page seo.. juist 1 mention of the keyword,,,
    IN THE KEYWORD META TAG…. so whose right – whose wrong..
    TEST TEST TEST..  why wouldnt you use the keyword meta tag….

    now sure you cant take out the meta tag “candle pine” and insert “kitchen sink” and expect it to show up for kitchen sink..
    but so often by simply adding a highly related keyword meta tag this occurs
    and so often i have to battle business owners who are believing the people who believe the search engines and other seo’s that the first thing i look for is keyword meta tags on the site..

    if they are missing.. i know i’m in for a fun easy ride..

    Now i’m not saying they are a sweet way to the top.. But in local markets, with low real competition and business owners who have no seo on their site (built by some “internet-seo expert”) and with the site not showing for any keywords  (any keywords related to the business = things that they sell)
    putting in a couple of meta tags, waiting a couple of days wacking a couple of backlinks and then in a couple of days being on page 1 or 2 for a couple of “relevant to business sales” keywords is a sure way to cement a new relationship..

  • logan9497

    Great article Eric. I always think of #13 as social search optimization, optimizing your posts on your social networks

  • Rajesh Dhawan

    I think a part of the problem is the fact that most ‘Business Owners’ do not have a tangible way to record measurable gains that have been brought about by SEO efforts. The only thing he is interested in is seeing immediate rank improvements. Add to that the fact that the small business owner really does not pay any thought to the questionable SEO practices that could be resorted by someone who is giving him 50 x PR-4 links for $200. 

    It is actually funny because the ‘Business Owners’ want results in terms of rankings, and choose to ignore any sane advice in terms of building long term ‘Brand Equity’ and maintaining that ‘Brand Equity’ through SEO efforts. A good business would be worth its Brand Value that has been created after years of hard work.

    At the end of the day, I let a ‘Business Owner’ decide the worth of his Business. If his site is worth a ‘business value’, he will never take a short-cut. If his aim is to make $200 off affiliate sales, then he can definitely go the $200 for 50 PR-4 links. It is to each one’s own goals.

  • http://webmasterlabor.com/income-generating-websites-for-sale.html Income Producing Blogs 4 Sale

    #2 is the most important factor to me. You can’t do SEO separately from other key marketing and business goals. It can’t be done. SEO must be part of a HOLISTIC strategy.

  • http://keywordjump.com/ seo company

    Seo can be simply compared to an strategy. The promotion broker engages each technique in his or her pet to gain the visitors of prospects and thereby, increase earnings. As far as Net based marketing is worried, different amazing Seo methods are used by internet internet marketers so that their web page continues to be at the top pages of a Look for Website page.

  • http://tinybigideas.com/ Craig Thomas

    SEO is easy, stop making it seem like a credible job with long term prospects – A developer.


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