10 Reasons Why Your SEO Campaign Isn’t Clicking
If you’ve been doing SEO for a while now, you’ve probably realized that the only thing constant in this industry is change. Google and other search engines constantly update their ranking algorithms to make sure that they serve results that meet user intents as directly as possible. These updates are also geared towards preventing webmasters from manipulating search rankings using tactics that violate their quality guidelines.
And while SEO may have evolved significantly over the years, its core principles remain mostly intact. To this day, the following are still the main drivers of enhanced search visibility and sustainable organic traffic growth:
- Good technical health
- Quality content
- Off-page signals from authoritative sources
- Positive engagement signals
These may sound like simple principles to abide by, but SEO campaigns live and die by how they’re executed. A lot of times, SEOs may have a good idea of what to do coming into a campaign, but once they’re on the battlefield, we can get thrown off track. Here are 10 of the most common reasons why an SEO campaign isn’t clicking despite your hard work and how you could deal with each one:
1. You Set Unrealistic Goals
An effective and realistic SEO strategist knows that he or she can’t win every battle for every keyword related to his niche. Carefully considering which keywords will drive the greatest volume of qualified traffic is an integral part of success. Assessing your ability to effectively go after those same keywords is just as essential.
This is why keyword research is one of the foundational steps in a successful SEO campaign. It gives you a better idea of not just the search terms that will drive traffic but also how competitive the field is. Unfortunately, keyword research happens to be one of the most overlooked steps in the optimization process. Website owners and SEOs may know what keywords will drive profit – they just might not realize how long it will take and what resources will be required to get there.
When you start a campaign, make sure it’s clear to you and other stakeholders what the difficulty level is. You may be putting in good work but if you don’t have the resources and manpower that’s required to win, you’ll be very disappointed.
2. You’re Not Sweating the Details
Having a good SEO strategy is important, but campaigns can fail or prosper depending on the kind of work rendered. Good SEOs are tenacious investigators who are always looking for the next area of improvement. They find fault not for the purpose of pointing out flaws, but to improve on them and gain a competitive edge.
If you’re wondering why your SEO efforts haven’t been paying off, you’ll want to re-evaluate your body of work. Have you optimized small things like image alt text, link alt text and meta descriptions? Have you made sure that your site doesn’t have broken links? Is your XML sitemap indexing status as close to a 1:1 ratio between the pages submitted and the pages indexed? Have you deindexed pages with thin content to conserve crawl budget? Are you consolidating short but closely related content pieces into singular, more comprehensive ones?
These are just a few of the areas that some SEOs neglect because they’re too busy obsessing about sexier aspects of optimization such as link building or social media promotion. While it’s good to be passionate about prime ranking factors, you need to recognize that the collective impact of overlooked ranking elements could be dragging your campaign down.
3. You’re Changing Strategies All the Time
SEO isn’t for people who are accustomed to instant gratification. Due to the fact that search engines don’t scour the Internet for search results in real time and are instead reliant on cached data, the impact of optimization can take weeks or months to manifest. Experienced and competent SEOs trust their strategies and stay the course unless they find compelling reasons to make adjustments.
Changing your strategy a few months into the campaign can cancel out the incoming effects of your initial work. Even if you’re willing to forego past efforts, there’s no telling if the new strategy will in fact pan out.
Knowledgeable SEOs don’t alter their programs just because they read a blog post from a source that claims spectacular results. Keep in mind that SEO bloggers may love to share insights, but they also write to gain mindshare in the community. Therefore, what they show in the article may not be the full picture. You could only be seeing the results from a very exceptional case study or the author could only be outlining part of the steps to achieve the result. While it’s generally good to keep an open eye for fresh insights, you’ll want to take these ideas with a grain of salt before putting them into practice.
When in doubt with a proposed new strategy, err on the side of caution. As long as you put in honest work and your campaign is based on strong fundamentals, it will show positive results in time. Strategic changes every few months can only slow down progress and lead you to quit when you were on to something in the first place.
4. You’re Creating Content for the Sake of SEO
There’s no denying the cliché that “content is king” in the Internet. Humans get on the web to consume it and search algorithms were designed to find and rank the most relevant pages to user queries. It’s not surprising, therefore, that most SEO programs have a major content creation component to them.
The thing is, most SEOs seem to create content in an arbitrary manner. Few ever question why they’re doing it and why they create it the way they do. In a lot of cases, these same people are the ones managing campaigns that aren’t producing results. They’ve gotten so entrenched in the business of SEO that they’ve forgotten the essence of each task in their programs.
As a result, the content that’s generated comes out flat and unappealing. The content may look fine, but if it was created for search bots rather than humans, it’s bound to fall short of its goals. This limits the content’s ability to garner positive quality ratings, natural links and social signals – key elements to organic search visibility.
When creating content, do it with your audience in mind. Stop fussing about word count, keyword mentions and keywords represented. The first step towards creating good content is knowing who it’s being written for and what value it gives them. Write about topics that people genuinely care about and don’t obsess too much about whether or not the content piece represents a target keyword. If you’re writing with the readers’ interest in mind, the keywords will come out naturally.
5. You’re Thinking of Links Too Much
While backlinks are still at the core of Google’s algorithms, this ranking factor isn’t the all-dominating force that it once was. In recent years, Google made some significant strides in leveling the playing field by making the effects of technical SEO, content and localization signals more pronounced. The result is a movement towards more holistic optimization that is based on trust and quality signals that are harder to fake.
Besides, Google has become ever-more selective of the types of sites that it perceives as trustworthy. These days, massing up on links from directories, forums and blogs just doesn’t cut it the way it did just a few years ago. Search engines place more weight on links that were acquired through editorial merit and natural citations. While those types of links can be acquired by outreach, you’ll also need a solid content foundation within your own site to encourage other webmasters to link to you.
Taking care of the little things such as internal linking also amplifies the power of the inbound links you obtain. The more interlinked your own pages are, the better your link equity circulates. This gives ranking power even to pages that don’t receive inbound links directly.
Keep in mind that today’s SEO needs to be a synergy to your other marketing channels. Links are great, but don’t forget the rest of the authority and quality signals that Google is placing more value on.
6. You’re Not Optimizing for Engagement
While there are still lots of unknowns in the subject of how user engagement data affects rankings, most industry experts agree that user satisfaction has a lot to do with search visibility. In a study conducted by Searchmentrics, positive user data was shown to be the second-strongest ranking factor when it comes to correlation with good search visibility.
That means your content, user experience and keyword-to-intent matching have to work together to generate strong engagement signals. Increasing pages per visit, striking ideal times on pages, and encouraging healthy clickstream patterns are at the center of this ranking signal. Ultimately, this implies that you may do well in every aspect of SEO, but if people don’t find your site compelling, you may not be on top for very long.
7. You’re Not Taking Advantage of Structured Data
Structured data has been used by Google and other search engines for a few years now. Today’s SERPs look significantly different from what we’ve had three or four years ago. These days, search results feature all sorts of answer boxes and rich snippets that provide users with added information they can absorb off the bat.
Date stamps, author names, store hours and review stars are just some examples of rich snippets that are triggered by structured data. By showing these details, search listings tend to occupy a little more on-screen space, granting them greater chances at being clicked. In some cases, it even allows pages that aren’t necessarily on the number one organic spot to rise atop the page and take over the coveted Position Zero slot.
If you’re new to structured data and Schema markups, don’t be intimidated. Leveraging them is a matter of adding a few tiny bits of code that help bots understand what a string of text or an on-screen object is. Some CMS themes, such as the Genesis Framework for WordPress, comes with Schema built into it.
If you’re not comfortable handling code, taking on this effort with the help of a web developer makes things a lot easier.
8. You’re Not Doubling Down on Localization
If you’re target market is geographically situated in a city, region or even a small country, your SEO campaign will fall way below its mark if you don’t double down on localization. Google and other search engines have emphasized the value of geographic relevance in recent years and sites that show transparency about their physical locations have been receiving plenty of rewards. Aside from organic ranking boosts, well-optimized local websites have a greater chance of being displayed in the three-pack local results.
Local SEO follows most of the principles used in regular SEO. There are just a few ranking factors that weigh more for websites that target a very specific location. These include:
- Localized On-Page SEO – Mentioning the target location on title tags, meta descriptions, headers and page copy helps search engines establish the connection between your site, its target keywords, the business represented and its physical location. You don’t have to force the issue with mentions, but do it whenever appropriate.
- Name, Address, Phone (NAP) – Prominently displaying your business name, address and local phone number in every page of your website helps a lot. Your NAP should be consistent with local citations, your Google My Business listing and other mentions of your brand online. NAPs are typically displayed in header widgets, sidebars or footers. Don’t forget to use Schema markup to make sure Google understands what this information is.
- Local Citations – One of the key differences between general and local SEO is the importance of local citations. These are mentions of your NAP on other sites with or without links to your pages. Yelp, Foursquare and Yellowpages.com are the most popular examples of sites that list citations from all over the world. Here’s a nice list compiled by Moz that you may want to submit to.
- Google My Business Listing – This is probably the easiest part of local SEO to execute, but it might be the one with the biggest value yield. By this time, you probably know how to set up and verify your listing. You can strengthen its online presence and its influence on your local SEO campaign by doing the following:
- Upload a high-res main image and cover image.
- Upload additional images depicting your actual facility.
- Write a lengthy description of your business, what it does and who it serves.
- Get as many of your customers to review it.
- Make sure your NAP is consistent with the info on My Business
- Add store or office hours information
- If you can, embed the Google map with your business marker on your target landing page
- Local Links – While authoritative inbound links will help any SEO campaign, local SEO can bog it down because of the lack of localized backlinks. Getting these from local directories, non-profits, bloggers and business sites that you’re friendly with can give you a big local ranking boost even if those sites don’t have particularly strong domain authority scores. By participating in local business events, charity events and meetups, you can get in touch with local website owners and cozy up en route to receiving links.
9. You’re Not Minding Your Own Business
There’s nothing wrong with doing competitor research. After all, knowing your adversary’s strengths and weaknesses can help you formulate the right plan to overtake them in the SERPs. However, some SEOs tend to get obsessed over what the current leaders are doing and they unconsciously try to mimic everything they do. From a strategic standpoint, this is a very flawed plan since it doesn’t give you much of a chance to be better than the competition. At best, it allows you to be as good as they are, but nothing more.
SEOs have been known to observe and copy every component of their competition’s campaign. From content ideas to web design and right down to backlink sources, everything can be ripped off. However, copying a competitor almost never works because the conditions that two sites are in are practically never identical. For all you know, your competitor might be doing dangerous black hat SEO that could get them – and you – penalized.
Instead of copying your competitor, focus on your own site’s merits. It’s fine to check what the other guy is doing from time to time, but use the information more as a starting point for optimization ideas than an outright blueprint.
10. You’re Overstretched
SEO campaigns can be big, complex beasts. Technical health, on-page SEO, content creation, off-page optimization and analytics can sometimes require the collective effort of several people working full time on each area. It’s common for SEO teams to stretch themselves thin over a lot of tasks and never get anything done at a high level. This can lead to slow progress and lots of frustration from within the group and the management overseeing marketing operations.
This can be even more true when you’re working as an SEO for an agency where workloads can spike and drop abruptly. When this happens and internal manpower can’t handle all the work, you can keep production at a high level by outsourcing some of the work.
This is a viable option if you know how to choose a partner who can deliver work that’s up to your standards at a reasonable rate. You can then have them handle entire campaigns or parts of it while you still act as the point of contact for your client. Service providers such as SEOReseller are good examples.
SEO isn’t the most exact of sciences and there are a lot of variables that can’t be controlled. What you can always command, however, is your own resolve and consistency in applying quality work. As long as you set the right targets, set accurate expectations and apply tried-and-true methods, you should get traction even in highly competitive verticals.
Itamar Gero has been on the net since the days it was still in black and white. Born and raised in Israel, he now lives in the Philippines. He is the founder of TrueLogic and also launched Siteoscope.com.