Truth be told, I spend a lot of my time talking with clients about why most SEO campaigns fail. It may sound weird for an online marketer to say such but it’s true none-the-less. And it’s not just do it yourself SEO campaigns that bite the dust, a large percentage of “expert” SEO campaigns crash and burn before they ever leave the ground. Why? Because SEO in and of itself is largely comprised of “shoulds.”
What do I mean? The success of most SEO campaigns is predicated on the concept that SEO should ultimately result in increased revenue. More specifically, a good SEO campaign should improve a website’s rankings in the search engines. Improved rankingsshould equate to more traffic to the website. That increased traffic should create more leads, and ultimately those additional leads should become paying customers. That’s a lot of shoulds, and if you really break it down it all equates to a lot of areas where your SEO campaign can break down and fail.
Here are 5 areas your SEO campaign can fail:
- Taking a One Size Fits All Approach
I hate SEOs who prepackage SEO services and offer cookie cutter approaches to all of their clients. At its core SEO is still marketing and no professional marketer in his right mind has or would ever tell their client that they can deliver results without knowing anything about that customers business, competitors, or market. Imagine an advertising agency pitching the same exact commercial concept to United Airlines, Pepsi, and the neighborhood corner market. Its pure insanity and yet SEOs do it all the time – offering the same packages over and over again. These SEOs aren’t offering marketing – they’re offering a place for you to deposit that money they think is burning a hole in your pocket.
I’m not saying that all package deals are bad. In fact, at CookWheelwright we’ve run package promos incorporating SEO before and we’ll probably do it again. However, my problem is with prepackaged SEOs that essentially promise the same results to everyone, regardless of competition. Any marketer worth their weight in salt will tell you that the amount you need to spend on SEO is largely dependent on the competition in your industry. Trying to cram your SEO campaign into a one size fits all mold is simply setting your campaign up for disaster.
- Targeting Obscure Keywords
Keyword targeting is possibly the most important aspect of a successful SEO campaign. Choosing the right keywords can be the difference between thousands of leads and a handful. Most small businesses can’t afford to compete for the top keyword rankings, but too often they are encouraged to target keywords that drive little to no relevant traffic to their website. Too many times I see SEOs go after what they perceive as low hanging fruit when in reality it’s nothing more than dead wood. Just because a keyword is easy, doesn’t mean it’s worthwhile for the customer. Too many times SEOs will target these keywords to help bolster their results and justify their budgets.
My advice to small businesses is to stop focusing on rankings and instead focus on the traffic volumes contained in your monthly analytics reports. By focusing on traffic you can effectively skip one of those “shoulds” and place more ownership on your SEO to deliver real-quantifiable results.
- Focusing The Campaign on Off Page Optimization
There are two main categories to SEO, on-page and off-page optimization. While on-page is all the elements contained within your website that contribute to the rankings, off-page is all the external elements Google takes into consideration. Off-page optimization is much easier to perform and historically generates a quicker response in the search engine rankings. As a result many SEOs focus most all their attention off-page.
The problem with focusing on off-page optimization first and foremost is that even if you succeed, you fail. I liken it to opening a storefront, putting up eye catching neon signage, and placing billboards around town but forgetting to stock the shelves. Sure, people are probably going to show up, but what are they going to do once they get there?
A strong SEO campaign should focus first on building the core strengths of the website. This includes ensuring that the right meta-tags are in place and the content on the page is easy for the search engines to crawl and index. When you build a house you start with the foundation, building a website is no different; start with the on-page elements before you add the windows and doors.
- Writing for Robots
Another area where the shoulds usually fail is when SEOs advocate writing content for the search engines. Your website has two different types of visitors, crawlers (software) and people (liveware). Too many times SEOs get caught up in manipulating content for the crawlers and forget their natural audience. Content written specifically for robots is unnatural and confusing, and leaving your visitors confused and unhappy is a sure way to see your site bounce rates rocket.
Web content should be written with the customer’s needs first. Your keyword strategy should look and feel natural in the body of the text. There should be a clear call to action and the content should be pleasant and engaging. Manipulating the search engines by alienating your audience is simply cutting off your nose to spite your face. Don’t let your SEO talk you into focusing your content strategy on the search engines alone – make sure your content strategy reflects the overall marketing strategy and message you convey in all your marketing pieces.
- Short Sighted Goals
It’s difficult being a small business. You are often required to do infinitely more with infinitely less time and resources. These demands often put small business marketers in a situation where they can’t or won’t wait for results. Unfortunately this “need results now or else” mentality is the number #1 results killer for most SEO campaigns. SEO is not a short term marketing strategy. It’s a long term venture that requires a steady hand and consistent dedication. The average SEO campaign will not see results for 3-6 months. However, many small businesses evaluate their success in 30 day terms. If they don’t see immediate results they pull the plug or start making drastic changes to the campaign.
You don’t want to enter a workhorse in the Kentucky Derby and you don’t want to enter a quarter horse in a marathon. If you’re in a position where you need immediate results, SEO probably isn’t for you. If you can’t spend six months organically building your website traffic you might be better off undertaking a more traditional outbound marketing strategy like email marketing or paid search (PPC). These types of campaigns are designed to provide immediate short term results – albeit at a much higher cost per acquisition than long term inbound strategies.
Take care to avoid these 5 common SEO mistakes or instead of talking about how you campaign should generate this much return you’ll find yourself taking about how it would have generated that much return if only someone on your team had avoided one or more of these pitfalls.