Many of the clients I speak to about SEO are skeptical — for good reason. “I tried it, and my SEO didn’t work.” I hear it all the time. So what went wrong? Is the internet broken?
I spend a lot of time picking up the pieces after incompetent or unethical SEO companies have fleeced hard-working business owners. Here’s a list of the most common issues I see, and correct, for companies that complain that SEO doesn’t work.
If your website has a bounce rate north of 70%, it’s unlikely that more traffic is going to make much of a difference. Here are the most common website issues we see:
- High bounce rate
- Cumbersome checkout process
- Excessive site load speed
- Website not mobile optimized
- On-page over-optimization
- Google Penguin or Panda penalties (these are the worst — because they’re often triggered by the previous SEO company…)
The take-away? If your site is actively working against your users, more traffic isn’t going to solve your problem. Take a look at your bounce rate and conversion rate before you spend a penny on SEO.
Usually you know if you’ve been hit by a Google penalty (Penguin and Panda are the latest members of the zoo to wreak havoc on websites across the world…) The symptoms? Sudden downturn in traffic that aren’t otherwise explainable. A cash register that just stops ringing one day.
Both Penguin and Panda penalties are most frequently triggered by a type of shoddy SEO work we call overoptimization. So more SEO isn’t going to get you out of Google’s penalty box. No — what you need is an assessment of your on-page and off-page optimization, particularly your linking profile. Panda targeted website content; Penguin nailed sites with irregular or suspicious inbound linking.
We offer a Google penalty recovery service to help you assess whether your website has been penalized, and to help you recover.
Targeted keywords too competitive
If you’re selling auto insurance, or timeshares, an off-the-shelf SEO plan at $499 a month isn’t going to get you on page 1 of Google. These and many other industries are just too competitive for your voice to be heard.
When we work with a client in a competitive niche, we’re very selective in the keyword phrases we choose to target. In order for your budget to make an impact you have to balance the competitiveness of a keyword phrase with its relevance and the number of monthly searches.
If you aren’t sure whether your niche is competitive online, just Google your primary keyword phrase. If page 1 is full of Fortune 500 competitors, then yes, it’s competitive. We’ve got some work to do.
I help clients in all industries get on page 1 for their targeted (not necessarily the most competitive!) keyword phrases. I collaborate with clients on developing and refining a targeted, feasible keyword list. If you’re in a crowded niche and struggling to be heard, give me a call. I can help you, too.
Keyword search volume low
In my article #1 in Google and No One Cares, I talked about this potential hazard of keyword selection. If you’re working with an unethical SEO company they may provide you with a list of keyword targets that no one searches for. Remember, it’s easy to be #1 when no one’s searching…
To put this another way: once I was interviewing a candidate for a senior SEO manager position. Let’s call him Griffin P. Haversham. I asked him to tell me about clients he’d helped. “I’m an SEO ninja,” he boasted. “I can prove it. Just Google my name.”
Sure enough, he was #1 for the search “Griffin P. Haversham.” But who cares? How many people, other than himself and maybe his parents, are searching for him on Google? (If his name had been John Smith, I would’ve been impressed.)
Remember: it’s easy to rank #1 for keywords no one is searching for. And unethical SEO companies know this, and will use it against you.
In my article 3 Pillars of SEO, I designated relevance as the third pillar. Relevance means that the keyword phrase your visitor searched for is aligned with your website’s purpose — that clicking on your search result is likely to answer the searcher’s question or solve her problem.
If your traffic is coming from irrelevant keywords, it won’t matter how much of it you get. You won’t get the lead or close the sale. Instead, your visitor will bounce, and click on the next guy, who’s much more likely to be able to help them.
SEO: it really does work
I hope this article doesn’t frighten you away from SEO. But it should illustrate some of the risks you run when working with a company on any SEO projects — because it really does work, if you make smart decisions and work with an ethical company.