Engage a business owner or marketing professional in a discussion about search engine optimization (SEO). Depending on the context and the individuals involved, you may receive a positive evaluation about how effective SEO was for their brand. However, you may get an eye roll and an indictment of the method.
One reason for the disparity in thoughts concerning SEO is that individuals have varying levels of experience managing campaigns. While there are several anecdotal examples of businesses that have built their whole marketing strategies around SEO and thrived, millions of people have seen their SEO campaigns fail.
Because it’s nearly hard to quantify the number of businesses that practice SEO (because “practicing SEO” is a subjective phrase based on self-reporting), it’s also nearly impossible to establish definitively what percentage of businesses that employ SEO ultimately fail.
Nonetheless, in my experience, the majority of SEO initiatives fail – that is, they fall short of the goals set by the campaign’s managers. How is this possible?
Expectations are high.
One probable explanation is that when people embark on a new SEO campaign, they have unrealistic expectations. SEO specialists and marketers in general frequently say that SEO is a near-perfect strategy. They assert that it is beneficial to all businesses, is cost effective, and is capable of delivering enormous returns.
While these assertions are technically accurate, they mislead individuals into believing that beginning an SEO strategy is as simple as switching a light switch that immediately begins bringing visitors to your website. If you do not immediately notice results, or if the results are unsatisfactory, you may conclude that the campaign was ineffective.
This is also why a large number of marketers leave their SEO campaigns prematurely. SEO is a long-term approach that can take months, if not years, to bear fruit. If you resign after a few weeks, you’re doomed to failure.
Certain campaigns fail as a result of a lack of effort on the part of those responsible for their execution. Perhaps they believe the technique is hazardous and so do not wish to invest a great deal of time or money in it. Or perhaps they lack the essential skills and experience to create high-quality content, generate links, and optimize their website.
In any case, SEO is not a technique that can be implemented with minimal effort. The only way to achieve respectable results from a campaign is to make a concerted effort to create a vast volume of excellent material. It is human instinct to scrimp and then blame the strategy for one’s own shortcomings.
Any business owner should appreciate the value of conducting competitive research and comprehending the competition’s impact on their business operations. However, far too many of those business owners overlook the competition while developing an SEO strategy.
The reality is that the majority of sectors and keyword phrases are already dominated by established competitors who have spent years establishing sufficient domain authority to rank highly in their target marketplaces. If you want to disrupt these guys and dislodge them from their established places, you’re going to need a large investment (and a targeted strategy).
Alternatively, you may devise a strategy to circumvent the competition. For instance, you may target a different demographic niche or carefully target a more obscure collection of keywords and phrases that none of your existing competitors are using.
In any event, if you don’t have a strategy for dealing with the competition, your entire strategy will be jeopardized.
Scams and Blackhat SEO
Additionally, many firms fall victim to frauds and companies that engage in “black hat” SEO. If a business owner lacks personal knowledge with SEO, he or she is likely to hire an external firm or contractor to assist in completing the work. Naturally, they’ll go toward specialists who are reasonably priced — and/or who make bold promises.
Unfortunately, these two paths frequently lead to non-native English speakers, link scheme abusers, and “experts” who are unconcerned about your brand’s long-term reputation. While you may experience transitory results early in your engagement with this type of organization, you will soon face a penalty — or your rankings will revert to their “normal” levels. It’s a depressing experience, but one that can be avoided.
While it is unfortunate that so many SEO strategies fail, this does not have to be the case. If you’re patient enough to commit to SEO for the long term, if you have a strategy for competing, if you do all possible to develop outstanding content, and if you remain with experienced and ethical third-party providers, there’s no reason SEO can’t work for your company.