While perfectionism in business is a lofty ideal, it’s obviously not a practical objective — because some decisions turn out to be regrettable instead of rewarding, the unforeseen and unexpected can become jarring reality, and well, to put things plainly: “$@#! Happens”.
However, there are many things that businesses have firmly within their control, and one of these should be their SEO success. Yet despite this expectation, a surprising number of businesses — in my experience, it’s around 95 percent — are not getting full value (or in some cases, any value!) from their SEO investment. That’s not merely annoying, but it’s flat-out unacceptable.
What’s behind this widespread underperformance? Generally, it’s rooted in one, some or all three of these massive SEO mistakes:
- Not understanding how SEO really works in the first place.
In the old days — we’re talking circa 2005 or so — businesses could load up their website with SEO’d content (and frankly, it could be pretty bad), and within a few months they’d rank for at least some of their keywords; or possibly even all of them if they weren’t aiming for highly competitive terms and phrases.
However, these days the formula for SEO success is completely different, and incorporates a variety of off-page and social media elements. Basically, it’s a much tougher and more expensive game to play than it was in the past, but many businesses are still using an outdated and invalid playbook.
- Not strategically selecting keywords.
Most businesses take an experimental, ad hoc “hit-and-miss” approach to selecting keywords. That is, they have (or think that they have) a general idea of what keywords the should be aiming for, and then they wait and see whether they start ranking. This isn’t just risky, but it’s reckless.
Keyword selection must be strategic, which means that most businesses need to conduct at least some meaningful degree of market research and competitive analysis to see not just what their target marketing is searching for, but when, how often, and of course, why.
What’s more, Google has repeatedly signaled that although rankings are for web pages and not for websites (which is a very common misunderstanding!), the focus is on keyword themes vs. specific keywords. That is, Google wants to see that a business is not hunting for keyword points, but instead is invested in delivering quality, relevant content that naturally and organically captures certain long-tail keywords such as “pharmacy point of sale software”.
- Not playing the long game.
I’ve saved the most common — and the costliest — error for last: not playing the long game. No, this doesn’t mean that climbing up the search ladder takes years. But it certainly doesn’t take days, or sometimes even weeks. It’s a marathon not a sprint.
However, many business decision-makers who are actually on the right track with their SEO strategy — i.e. they’re building a solid foundation of keyword-optimized on-site content and crafting an ecosystem of off-site content — run out of patience and pull the plug. Ironically, this is usually just before they start to generate significant, measurable results.
Obviously, this doesn’t mean that business decision-makers should close their eyes, cross the fingers, and hope for the best. If things aren’t working, then naturally changes need to be made. But SEO isn’t a transaction. It’s a process. There is no overnight success, and those bizarre emails with promises of “top rankings in a week!” get shoved into SPAM folders for a reason.
The Bottom Line
If your ROI history with SEO has plenty of “I” but precious little (if any) “R”, then you aren’t alone. But there’s no strength in numbers here. You need ensure that your SEO spend is profitable instead of precarious, and steering clear of the above massive mistakes will play a big role in putting you on the right track — and surging you ahead of your competition.