Search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most popular online marketing strategies, due to its efficiency, approachability, and long-term benefits. But launching an SEO campaign is no guarantee you’ll see the benefits of the strategy. In fact, many well-intentioned SEO campaigns end up failing.
Why is this the case, and how can you do better?
The Basics of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
Let’s start with a primer on search engine optimization (SEO). As the name suggests, this strategy is all about optimizing your site so it has a higher likelihood of ranking in search engines. With the right combination of tactics, you can make your site more visible in search engine results pages (SERPs), which means you’ll generate more traffic.
For SEO to work, you need to juggle many different tactics. For example, you’ll need to improve the technical performance of your site, ensure it’s indexed properly, develop onsite content, and build links using offsite content. On top of that, you’ll need to keep Google’s quality standards in mind, so you don’t face the risk of a manual penalty.
With consistent practice over the course of months (and sometimes years), you can push your site to higher rankings in SERPs.
The Common Reasons SEO Campaigns Fail
So where do most SEO campaigns go wrong?
- Focusing too heavily on one tactic. One of the most important strategies in SEO is link building, which has the power to increase your “domain authority,” and therefore your rankings sitewide. But if you get tunnel vision on any one tactic, it can work against you. According to Link.Build, “A focus on backlinks without the other critical on and off-site elements can cripple even the best link building campaign. If your site is failing to rank, there are likely multiple factors–not just your backlinks–weighing you down.” You need to think about every area of SEO if you want to be successful—not just one.
- Having no high-level goals. SEO can be used in many different ways, and for many different purposes. If you don’t have high-level goals to direct your strategy or help you determine what “success” means, you’re going to be aimless. You need to spend time considering what you want to get out of your SEO strategy, and setting goals for development.
- Choosing the wrong keywords. It’s crucial to choose the right keywords for your campaign. There are three main variables to consider here: search volume, competition, and relevance. Search volume refers to the amount of searches this keyword gets—the higher this is, the more valuable the keyword is. The competition refers to how hotly contested this keyword is—the lower this is, the easier it will be to rank. Of course, you’ll also need to think about relevance—how closely related to your brand this keyword is. Find a strategic balance, or your keywords can compromise your entire campaign results.
- Relying on schemes and tricks. “Black hat” SEO tactics attempt to manipulate your rank for as little effort as possible. These schemes and tricks sound appealing on the surface, but they’re often easily caught by Google—and they can earn you a manual penalty that jeopardizes your rankings for months, or even years to come.
- Focusing on quantity instead of quality. It seems like writing more posts and building more links is always the right move, but this isn’t the case. It’s much better to focus on quality over quantity; sometimes a single, high-value post is worth more than dozens of poorly written ones.
- Making technical errors. Technical errors can completely kill your SEO efforts. For example, if you’re accidentally blocking a page of your site from being indexed, it doesn’t matter how much effort you expend; it’s never going to rank. These are easy mistakes to make, and they’re easy to overlook, even with the right strategy in place.
- Growing too fast. Many newcomers to SEO are eager to rank as high as possible as fast as possible, but it’s possible (and common) to grow too quickly. If you build too many links or accelerate prematurely, it could attract a penalty.
- Ignoring metrics. SEO depends on your ability to measure and analyze your past efforts. Otherwise, there’s no way to tell which of your tactics are working and which ones are falling flat. Google Analytics is your best friend here.
- Refusing to adapt. In line with this, you need to adapt if you want to succeed in SEO. Drop the things that aren’t working, double down on your best strategies, and pay attention to new Google algorithm updates that might affect your work.
Many SEO campaigns do fail, but it’s almost always due to the inexperience and blunders of their practitioners. With a solid overarching strategy, enough experience, and a bit of patience, you should be able to make your SEO strategy work.