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6 reasons why SEO fails, and how you can succeed at it
Columnist Trond Lyngbø believes that SEO can be a powerful addition to your marketing mix, but its success will depend on how intelligently you invest in it.
Have you ever watched in awe as a juggler effortlessly keeps multiple balls in the air? Dexterous and agile, he tosses them high, flicks them around, even does fancy stuff with them… and still, not one of them bounces on the ground!
You come home and decide to try it.
But even with two balls, it doesn’t work the same way. You fail. And fail again. “Juggling is tough,” you tell yourself. But it isn’t. Not if you learn how to do it. And then practice doing it.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is like that, too. Without knowing how it works, you’ll fail. Often spectacularly.
Here are six ways that could happen.
1. Being out of date
Even big corporations handling high-volume online sales often work with SEO dinosaurs — “experts” who learned their craft 10 years ago and then stopped updating their knowledge. In a fast-moving field like search marketing, this approach won’t work.
An SEO strategy implemented without up-to-date knowledge is problematic on many levels. First, there is the obvious issue that you may not be able to outperform competitors that are utilizing more cutting-edge tactics.
But, more pressingly, there is also a risk involved in using outdated tactics. Many tactics that were once considered acceptable in the SEO world are now considered spammy or “black hat” — meaning you could incur a penalty that removes all or part of your site from search results. Depending on how much you depend on organic traffic for sales and leads, this could have a disastrous impact on your business.
A good SEO practitioner will stay updated with cutting-edge technologies and be aware of trends and shifts in the marketplace.
2. Low ambition
Because excellent SEO can be costly, it’s difficult to justify the expense when you only have modest goals. When business leaders realize how much effort goes into achieving world-class results, they prefer scaling down their targets. Settling for less. Accepting mediocrity.
That’s a sure way to fail at search marketing.
Unlike many tactical forms of marketing, SEO gets more and more powerful over time. It’s likelier that an ambitious plan to dominate search results in a niche will have a greater positive impact on your business than a half-baked attempt at securing a “top 10 slot” on Google for a few keywords.
3. No stamina
As a former amateur boxer, I know it doesn’t matter whether or not you win the first round. What’s really important is that you endure to fight the other rounds — and can remain standing at the end of the bout.
A key requirement for SEO success, too, is your ability to stay the course. Your budget should be adequate and spread out intelligently over the duration of a campaign. If you’re tactics-driven and spend it in fits and starts, or stop before you’ve gained traction, then you will inevitably fail. Following a flawed strategy, or not doing what is necessary, will gradually undermine your search rankings and profitability.
In boxing, if you underestimate your competition and become careless, you’ll get hit by a haymaker and knocked out early. In a way, boxing is better — because you’ll get immediate feedback. In search, you often won’t know how badly you were hit until several months later.
4. Set-and-forget mentality
Among the things I find hardest to explain to new clients is the reality that SEO is not a one-time solution. It’s an ongoing process.
Misguided by the wild claims of inexperienced or unscrupulous vendors who promise “off-the-shelf,” quick-fix solutions, many decision-makers think about SEO as merely a sequence of steps to be taken once — and never repeated. That attitude condemns your SEO strategy to failure.
The biggest strength of SEO is that it becomes more effective over time as long as you continue to maintain it. To abandon the effort will limit the extent of your success — after all, your competitors will never stop trying to beat you.
SEO tactics that are implemented correctly will bring in results for weeks, months, and even years later… but only when you nurture your success continuously.
5. No tracking or accountability
Everything you do in pursuit of an SEO strategy should have a measurable impact — and someone on the team should be held accountable for tracking success.
When things don’t give the desired result or outcome, you should be able to see it early. Without analytics data and an ongoing review process, it’s difficult to track KPIs and measure progress. This is where so many SEO failures happen.
A clearly defined road map, with tasks assigned to specific team members, can streamline and enhance your SEO plan.
6. Failing to see the big picture
Above all else, a good SEO consultant’s role is to understand clients’ needs and educate them on how SEO can help them achieve their goals. Sometimes it is important to remind ourselves that meeting business objective is what really matters — not obtaining high rankings or creating perfectly optimized pages.
SEO strategy is about constantly moving the needle. Generating more money for the client’s business. Acquiring more customers. Making more sales. Retaining current rankings and traffic. And keeping clients happy by delivering results.
Good, sustainable SEO takes time to deliver the greatest impact. Without trust and confidence in your SEO team, you’ll be tempted to bail out. So be smart and stay focused on the ultimate outcome. That’s how you’ll avoid failing at SEO.
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.