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5 Big Reasons (Plus A Few More…) Why Your SEO Isn’t Working


5 Big Reasons (Plus A Few More…) Why Your SEO Isn’t Working

  Sam Carr       Mar 21, 2017    

  Back to SEO
SEO is an essential part of the marketing strategy for pretty well any business: that’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. SEO allows you to make sure that people who are looking for your products or services can find you online, and a great SEO service will ensure that your business is at or near the top of search engine results pages (or SERPs) for keywords and phrases that are relevant to your company. Why is that important?

Well, according to the oft-quoted study by Forrester Research, 92 percent of internet users start their online search with a search engine. What’s more, 59 percent of people use their favourite search engine on a regular basis. And although Pay-Per-Click (PPC) advertising provides a different solution, with instant results and a results-driven model, SEO is easily the most cost-effective route over the long term. What’s more, only thirty percent of internet users click on PPC ads. It’s an unavoidable truth that SEO is here to stay.

But of course, a great SEO campaign isn’t easy to set up, with lots of falsehoods being peddled out there which can send you in the wrong (and expensive) direction. So even with a genuine intent to do well, your SEO may be failing to deliver.

So if your SEO isn’t doing what you hoped it would, I hope that this article will give you some help in rectifying the situation.


Maybe It’s Not Your SEO

First off, let’s just consider the possibility that your SEO is actually working OK. Your rankings may be good (perhaps not number one, but certainly top five) and you are generating traffic from them. But the only result that you are actually interested in is the number of sales enquiries you get. So if you are spending your budget, and the rankings look good, but your sales enquiries aren’t moving, don’t automatically blame your SEO.

Take a look at your site, and answer the following questions:

1) Is your website easy for users to navigate? If customers can’t easily find what they are looking for, they will click off and instead look elsewhere. Your “selling pages” should be just one or two clicks from the Home page, and the links to them should be clearly displayed.

2) Is your brand message clear? If you don’t communicate what you stand for, and define your Unique Selling Points (USPs), you aren’t giving people a reason to choose you. If you give a great service, or offer the lowest prices, make sure you say so – and prominently.

3) Is the content well laid out? If your pages are cluttered, with elements fighting with each other and navigation links hidden, people will “zone out” and go somewhere else. Remember the old adage: less is more … and make sure you follow that line.

4) Is your website attractive? Pages must appeal to your target audience. In many cases, this means being clean, well laid out and professional, but some markets demand vibrant colours and high-energy messages. Others need a high-authority, even scholarly, feel. Think about the people you are selling to: would they like what they see?

All these factors (and more besides) combine to affect conversions – i.e. the number of people who have enough confidence in you to enquire about what you do. And Google will monitor this, seeing how long people spend on your site, how many “bounce” after briefly viewing the first page they see, and even how many complete enquiry forms. If these metrics are good, and people actually “engage” with your site, this will actually help to improve your rankings.

Quantity Not Quality

One of the biggest mistakes you can make is favouring quantity over quality. In the world of SEO, content is king. But don’t misinterpret this as a need to generate masses of content regardless of how good it is. In the days of “old school SEO” it was possible to generate hundreds, thousands even, of sparsely written, template-driven pages that closely resembled each other and were optimised for different keywords by simply inserting them strategically into different elements of the page.

But Google’s Panda update, first launched in 2012 and updated since, rightly wrecked this notion, and actually penalised sites for poor quality. Nowadays, you need to populate your site with high quality content that people want to read. This includes pages on what you do, who you are, and so on. But it also means publishing useful articles that help people to solve their problems (like this one, I hope), questionnaires, attractive infographics, and so on. This kind of content is often referred to as “link bait” and provides a great foundation for high quality backlinking, which is discussed in the next section.

Take a look at your site: do your pages actually engage people? Are they likely to make your target customers to the point they will bookmark, or at least return to them? If not, you really, really need to do something about it.

Analyse your website

Bad Backlinks

Backlinks are the clickable links that other website owners place on their websites that point to yours. Never heard of it? Then no wonder your SEO is failing. Think it’s easy? The same applies. This is the single most important factor in SEO, and the only reason I have not placed it first in this article is because it requires the other factors to already be in place.

This article is not about the theory of backlinking, but you must understand that the strength of your internet profile is inextricably linked to the quantity (yes, and quality…) of the sites that choose to link to you. And a high profile site will get better rankings than a low profile site. Never lose sight of that fact.

In the “old school SEO” world, it was possible to manipulate rankings by paying for links from low-quality directories that were themselves artificially boosting their own rankings by dubious means. The situation was getting out of control, and by 2012 there were many millions of directories out there, with the sole purpose of charging people for links that would, on an aggregate basis, distort search engine results in their favour.

So we had the Penguin update and as with Panda, Google not only changed the way it dealt with ranking signals, but it penalised sites that it felt had “artificial link profiles”.

Take a look at your backlinks. This can be done through a number of online tools, but most simply through your own Google Search Console. Firstly, do you have a good number? And secondly, are they from quality sites? If the answer to either (or both) is no, then you have a serious problem to deal with.

Creating a relevant and targeted backlink strategy is an undertaking that, done properly, will be unique to your business. But suffice to say that it involves the creation of high quality content that will attract links (that’s why it’s called “link bait”) and a high energy activity of outreach, where you locate and communicate with the owners or managers of relevant websites, and persuade them to link to you. It’s a slow and labour-intensive process that takes months to produce results, but if you’re not doing it (or getting someone to do it for you) then no wonder your SEO is failing.

Using Keywords Poorly

This “bad practice” can occur at two extremes.

1) Keyword stuffing. Firstly there are the “keyword stuffers” who place keywords everywhere on the page in the deluded expectation that this will “optimise” their page. You can easily spot them: a keyword-stuffed page for, say, Blue Widgets, will have these keywords everywhere: in the main title, in sub headings, and repeated infuriatingly often within the body copy with sentences like “We provide high quality blue widgets for users of blue widgets, so if you want widgets, and the colour is blue, then get your blue widgets from us.”

2) Ignoring keywords. At the other end there are the “keyword ignorers” who don’t actually pay attention at all. If they sell Blue Widgets, you’d hardly know it from the page: the words may occur here and there, but maybe not together, and the content could be about the features, the prices, or even some self-indulgent copy about the company. Don’t be afraid of giving Google the information it needs to determine the topic of your page: just do it naturally, so your pages read well to the human visitor.

You also, as a very first step, need to get your keyword research right, and this involves striking a balance between two considerations, each with two primary elements:

1) Viability. You need to strike a balance between the following:

a. Achievable. Make sure that rankings for the keywords you choose are achievable. Don’t choose something that’s ultra-competitive where the SERPs are dominated by big, established sites. In the first instance, pick a niche that you may be able to dominate.

b. Worthwhile. Don’t pick something that seems too easy …you may find yourself at number one on Google for a phrase like “essential widget features” that people never search for.

2) Simplicity. Pick a manageable number of keywords.

a. Size of list. You will get better results by focusing on a few keywords and doing the job well, rather than using a scatter gun approach with dozens of keywords.

b. Keywords per page. Certainly at the start, just focus on one keyword phrase per page: it concentrates your efforts and clearly defines the topic which will help Google.

Google search

Failing to Use Analytics

Any marketing activity has measurement at its core. You try things, you monitor and adjust. You cut out what doesn’t work, and you increase focus on what does.

An obvious first step is to measure the rankings you achieve, and this can be done through a manual search (although that is usually biased through automatic personalisation of your searches) or with external tools.

But you also need to measure the number of visitors you get from your SEO visitors, because ranking well for keywords that people don’t search for will produce no benefit at all. So a good analytics package, that shows the number of visitors you have, their behaviour on your site, and how they found you, is an essential part of SEO. There are lots of choices out there, but the easiest, and most widely used, is Google Analytics, which has the added bonus that it’s free (which always helps). You are also able to see things the way Google does, which can’t be bad. OK, let’s not kid ourselves that Google gives away the whole show, because it doesn’t (and neither would you…) but it gives us enough to place itself well ahead of the rest. In my opinion …

Your site should be constantly evolving and growing. You need to introduce new features and strategies to boost the power of your SEO campaign. You should be analysing performance of the site, so you understand what is and isn’t working. If you are not using any form of analytics, you are marketing your business blind, and this will hold you back in many ways, especially your SEO. So fix it.

Other Issues

There are other issues which get wide publicity and are worth a mention because they have a minor (but measurable) impact on SEO results.

1) Social Media. I have placed social media first in this section because of the attention it gets, and it cannot be denied that, for the right market, social media is an extremely effective marketing tool in its own right. But for many markets, it’s largely an irrelevance, and as a means of boosting your rankings, don’t get carried away. Setting up your social media profiles, seeking out the right people to contact, and then regularly engaging with them so they in turn promote your content, takes a great deal of work, and if SEO is you main focus, there are more effective ways of getting results.

2) Black Hat SEO. Just so you know, this term originated from the old Wild West cowboy films, where the “good guys” wore white hats and the “bad guys” wore black hats. Something you can impress your friends with? Anyway, I’ve put it here because it needs to be mentioned, but honestly, if you are into any kind of spam practices like joining link networks, backlink manipulation, over optimisation or any other “get rich quick” schemes, then you are deluding yourself.

3) Impatience. If you are checking your rankings every week, and making adjustments in response to any kind of fluctuation, you will be working extremely hard for possibly no effect. There are time delays that determine Google’s reaction to changes (backlinks are thought to take 10 weeks or more to even start to show an effect). The answer is to choose the right strategy, and stick with it.

4) Poor Prioritisation. You may be working on jobs that interest you, like adding alt tags to images or tweaking your description meta tag, instead of the really important stuff like promoting your content to build a solid backlink profile. Everything has its place, and its priority, so make sure your efforts are directed in the most effective way.

5) Low Budget. Get real. Good SEO takes time and financial commitment, and if you think it can be done on a shoestring you won’t get anywhere. Spend the money on a holiday with a hot friend: you’ll have more fun.

6) Slow Load Times. Internet users are not patient, and in the era of superfast broadband, they expect everything to happen instantly, even when using a mobile. Google recognises this, so site speed can affect your rankings.

SEO is a critical part of any online marketing or promotional campaign. And if it’s not working at the moment, you can always turn a bad SEO campaign around, so if you take the time to do this, you will see the results your efforts deserve. Good luck.


Jul 17, 2017 at 07:07:37
Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on blogs I stumble upon on a daily basis. It will always be interesting to read articles from other authors and practice something from their websites...
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