Here’s a newsflash for you. Your SEO strategy isn’t failing because Google’s got it out for you, or because you’re suffering from some mysterious penalty. Though it can be tempting to explain away your website’s failure to advance in the natural SERPs as being caused by factors outside of your control, the reality is that there are plenty of much more mundane reasons that SEO campaigns fail.
Take a look at the following list and apply them to your own campaign frustrations before jumping on the “bash Google” bandwagon!
1 – You’re using outdated tactics
SEO best practices change every day because Google and the other search engines are constantly updating their algorithms. As a result, if you’ve been out of the game for some time, you could be using dated tactics that no longer bring about the results that they used to. For this reason, the first thing to check if you suspect that your campaign is in danger of failing is to see whether or not the tactics you use are still recommended as best practices.
2 – Your website sucks
These days, SEO is about more than on-site tricks and inbound links. To win Google’s attention in the current SEO environment, you need to have high-quality content pieces, a thriving social media presence and demonstrated user engagement on your site. If your website sucks, you’re going to struggle to achieve any of these three factors, as consumers have a sixth sense for filtering out sites that are in it for the wrong reasons.
3 – You don’t have analytics and goal tracking installed
If you haven’t even bothered to set up website analytics, how can you be surprised that your SEO campaign is failing?! Analytics and goal tracking programs give you all the information you need to determine what’s working – and what isn’t – on your site. Operating in the absence of this information is akin to driving a car without the rear view mirror – you won’t know why your campaign is failing until you look into the past to see how your past choices have affected your current performance!
4 – Your niche is too competitive
You can plug away for years trying to get a site in the competitive financial and wellness industries to rank well amongst its better-established competitors, but – unfortunately – you may never see your efforts pay off. Yes, it’s frustrating, but when you’re competing against aged sites carrying well-known brand names, you may ultimately find it easier to generate website traffic using alternative techniques like content marketing or social media marketing.
5 – Your keyword focus is too narrow
In addition to evaluating the overall SEO competitiveness of your industry, take a look at the specific keywords you’re targeting. If your chosen phrases are too narrow in their subject area reach – as in the case of a campaign focusing solely on the query, “women’s blue shoes for sale” – it’s no wonder that you aren’t seeing the volume of traffic you initially expected! Expand your focus a little bit to go after terms that have a chance at reaching a wider audience.
6 – Your target keywords don’t receive enough search volume
Keyword search volume is tricky to measure accurately – but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t measure it at all!
Plenty of campaigns fail because the high rankings their managers sought come from keywords that simply aren’t searched for by regular users. It can be easy to jump to the top of the SERPs for these queries, but if you want these top rankings to turn into actual traffic, be sure that each of the keywords you’re targeting has a search volume that’s consistent with your website goals *before* you start working on your campaign.
7 – You’re building the wrong links
Yes, you’re building links. That’s great. But in the wake of the Panda and Penguin updates, it’s important to be aware that you can’t just build any old links you please.
Those “10,000 links for $10” promotions you used to buy? Out. The spammy profile links that shot your old sites up to the top of the SERPs? Also out. The name of the game now is high quality, natural-looking links, so if you aren’t willing to put in the necessary time (or pay someone else to do so), don’t be surprised when your SEO campaigns eventually fail.
8 – You’re over-optimizing your anchor text
Another post-Penguin lesson that all SEOs need to take to heart is the prohibition against excessively-optimized anchor text. Although there’s no “hard and fast” rule about the level of optimization that’s acceptable these days, it’s a good idea to use SEO keywords in no more than 50% of your anchor text. And even then, the specific keywords you use should vary widely in order to prevent the search engines from dinging your website and your SEO campaign for manipulation.
9 – You don’t understand your target audience
While plenty of webmasters think of SEO as a “step-by-step” process in which specific actions are undertaken in order to guarantee good results in the SERPs, good SEO is much more nuanced.
In fact, good SEO begins with a solid understanding of who your target audience is and what they’re looking for online. Getting to know your ideal customers on an intimate and personal basis is key to selecting the appropriate keywords to target and the right SEO techniques to bring about the results you desire. Merely gleaning a few data points from your favorite SEO tool simply won’t give you the complete picture needed to ensure campaign success.
10 – You aren’t using social media
Really, it’s 2012. If you aren’t using social media as part of your SEO campaigns, you’re being willfully ignorant. The relative weight given to social shares and relative user authority in the Google ranking algorithms is increasing every day, which means that you’re missing out if you’ve decided not to invest in these powerful sites.
11 – You’re ignoring your customers
Pursuing SEO to the exclusion of serving your customers is a recipe for disaster. The way that your customers engage with your website and talk about your brand in the social sphere can give you a tremendous amount of valuable information for use in your SEO strategies – but they’ll only do so if you listen in! Pay special attention to the keywords people use to describe your brand and the ways they navigate through your website, as each of these particular elements may dictate the keywords you target in both your internal and external link building campaigns.
12 – You’re being impatient
Unfortunately, SEO results don’t happen overnight. You can plug away for weeks or months at a time without seeing improvements, only to have your rankings jump a few places just before you were about to give up all hope of ever experiencing SEO success.
There’s no way to predict when your SEO activities will pay off, which means that patience is a virtue that all SEOs and webmasters must practice. Even if you don’t see results in the timeframe you expect, keep plugging away at the best practices described above. Sooner or later, your results will likely be rewarded.
Image: B Rosen