You’re presumably reading this because you want more: more traffic, more sales, more effective methods of reaching your marketing goals. Search engine optimization can help you reach those goals, but some marketers throw excuses in the way to explain why SEO cannot benefit them.
I have access to the analytics for many companies of varying sizes, from household brands to scrappy startups. Depending on the amount of resources the companies spend on other marketing channels, SEO drives 20 to 70 percent of their traffic in any given month.
If SEO isn’t pulling its weight for your site, which of these are holding you back?
‘I Don’t Understand SEO’
The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one. If you don’t understand SEO, there are many ways to learn. Some SEO educational opportunities are even free, as I recently wrote in “5 Free Ways to Learn SEO.”
Reading a step-by-step guide to SEO won’t make you an expert overnight, but it will familiarize you with the important concepts and enable you to discuss SEO more intelligently.
Hiring an agency or internal staff member to manage SEO for you is another option. You’ll want to be educated enough in SEO to manage them effectively, but finding someone you trust to manage the organic search channel for you can quickly move your site’s SEO in the right direction. In addition, insist that they explain concepts and tactics that you don’t understand. In this way you’ll grow your own knowledge of SEO while you get a feel for your SEO professional’s own level of expertise. Don’t be afraid to investigate anything that sounds fishy in the search engines.
‘I Can’t Compete with the Big Brands’
It’s true that search engines prefer larger brands in search results, primarily because searchers tend to click on sites they recognize in search results. It’s a self-perpetuating cycle that can be difficult to break in to, but it’s not impossible by any means.
Keep in mind the advantage smaller sites have: agility. Big brands take months to make the ponderous changes needed to optimize their sites. Can you optimize with more iterations more quickly? In doing so, you’ll learn faster what works and what doesn’t.
Look for their weaknesses. Does your big-brand competitor have weak or no content? Poor title tags? Suboptimal navigation or internal linking to key products or categories? Then do those things better on your site, with a focus on the keywords you want to win. Remember that focus means more than “I thought about the keyword.” Focus means “I used the keyword optimally in the places that matter for SEO without just producing a bunch of spam.”
Also consider optimizing the search result text itself. If searchers prefer to click on big brands, what can you do to lure them to click on your site in the search results instead? Can you get a visual advantage with rich snippets? Can you include a unique benefit or appealing call to action in your title tag or meta description that will display in your search result?
‘I Don’t Have the Staff’
Lack of staff to manage SEO usually means that SEO isn’t considered a priority by senior management, or that the staff you do have doesn’t understand SEO. If it’s the latter, go back and read “I Don’t Understand SEO,” above.
If it’s the former, and senior management doesn’t understand the benefits of staffing SEO, put together a brief presentation that explains how your site’s organic search is performing today, an estimation of the visits and conversions it could be driving with SEO and why it’s not performing today.
Read “4 Simple Visuals to Explain SEO,” an previous article, to help them understand why your site isn’t driving as many visits and traffic as it could. These four tools have helped jog every client I’ve worked with out of the rut of seeing their site purely as a beautiful and user-friendly representation of their brand. Naturally, a site needs to be a beautiful and user-friendly representation of the brand, but is also needs to be able to drive organic search visitors to enjoy that experience and purchase products.
‘I Don’t Have the Budget’
SEO requires a budget, even though there’s no ad network or vendor to pay. Staffing and development and agencies cost money, and if you don’t have it that’s a hard point to argue. But consider that you could have a larger budget if you could drive more traffic and sales. Look at your web analytics. Is natural search driving the traffic and conversions it should?
Look at Google Webmaster Tools. Are there keywords that should be driving visits that aren’t? Are you getting impressions but not clicks? For more ideas about measuring SEO performance in an effort to determine how much better the site should be performing, see “SEO Performance Reporting in the Datapocalypse.”
Another twist on the lack of budget issue is the fear of throwing your budget away on a disreputable SEO professional. While this can be a problem, consider checking with your network of peers to find agencies or employees that they’ve worked with in the past with good results. For a complete list of things to look for in a reputable SEO agency, see “10 Tips to Hire a Great SEO Agency.”
‘The ROI Isn’t High Enough Today’
Return on investment is the only legitimate reason for putting off a major SEO initiative, like a platform change to resolve deeply engrained structural SEO issues. If the cost of making the improvements needed truly outweighs the potential benefit of making those changes, the smart marketer will wait until the ROI situation changes.
Keep in mind, though, that the major changes that would improve SEO will likely also represent an opportunity to improve user experience, conversion, and other important site elements. When bundled together with these needs, the ROI may swing more favorably.