If you're handling your SEO in-house, you know how many factors affect your ability to bring your website pages to the top of search ranking positions. If you've outsourced your search engine optimization to an agency, you probably have an idea of how complicated it is (that's why you outsourced it, right?), but who knows if they're doing everything they should be. Whichever camp you're in, a reality check is always healthy to see if you can fix what feels like broken SEO; or, if you're seeing lots of wins in the SERPs, drive even more success from your SEO efforts.
Don't sweat it if you're missing a couple of these important components of SEO; just incorporate them into what you're already doing to be even more awesome. If you're missing most or all of these...well, prepare for a strongly worded conversation with your SEO firm or your internal SEO manager.
7 Signs Your SEO Sucks, and How To Fix It
1.) Your SEO wins are short-lived. A loss or gain of a couple positions is pretty natural in the SERPs (in fact, you may even have different rankings depending on which device you use!), so unless you're seeing changes take place in the top three spots, there's nothing to get too bent out of shape over. However, if you see a bigger slip, like position 3 to position 8 or page 1 to page 2, it's a sign that your SEO strategist isn't thinking long term.
How to Fix It: Maintaining good ranking positions takes consistent effort. If you continue to create keyword-optimized content around the keywords you're ranking for and are working to improve your link-building efforts, you'll see success for more than just a month or two.
2.) Content sounds like it was written by an SEO expert from 1999. There are lots of things from the 90s that are still quite magical in 2011: alternative music, Fresh Prince of Bel Air, boy band choreography. 90s SEO is not on that list. That means if you are trying to reach an arbitrary keyword density percentage, creating keyword dense doorway pages that redirect to another destination, freaking out over your meta keywords and keyword stuffing your meta description field, or engaging in link buying, link farming, or link exchanges, your SEO is way out of date. Not only will these black hat tactics not help your SEO, but they will also fiercely harm it. Google Panda has made sure of that.
How to Fix It: If you're engaging in any of these black hat SEO tactics, stop them immediately. You can turn a new leaf by remembering this whenever you sit down to write content: create content around topics, not keywords.
3.) Your search strategy doesn't consider search terms with competitiveness and conversions in mind. This point is best illustrated with an example. Let's say you're in the medical supply industry and considering the word "wheelchair" as a keyword to target, which receives 40,500 exact global monthly searches. Do you have the resources to rank for a term that competitive? Let's say you do. Is it worth it?
To determine that, consider the value of the keyword "wheelchair." If one of the 40,500 people searching the term wheelchair this month comes to your site, what are the chances they're going to take the action you want them to take? Pretty slim. Why? Because you have no idea what they want to do on your site as it relates to wheelchairs. Are they looking to get replacement parts? Learn to cope with life in a wheelchair? Buy a wheelchair? A motorized one? With the amount of possibilities out there, traffic from the term "wheelchair" isn't going to get you the conversions you're looking for, because the chance that your page is exactly what they need is very unlikely.
How to Fix It: Target long tail keywords that incorporate the head term you would like to rank for. For example, a wheelchair e-retailer might consider the terms "wheelchair rentals in austin," "wheelchairs for sale online," or "wheelchair lifts for sale." All of these long tail terms are far less competitive and will drive more targeted traffic to your website while helping you also rank for your head term.
4.) Your search strategy doesn't consider social media a crucial part. TopRank created a fantastic diagram that illustrated the cyclical relationship between SEO and social media. If you're not posting content you create on social media, you're not giving people a chance to find it. Whether you believe your customers are on social media or not (they are), the fact is that crawlers, industry thought leaders, and your customers' employees are on social media, and these are the folks that will give your content the chance to rise to the top of search engines.
How to Fix It: It boils down to just a few things. Create great content, let people find it on social media, get inbound links, grow social media followers, and amplify the benefits of every piece of content you create as your audience grows.
5.) Your search strategy is not actively trying to build inbound links. Yes, link building can and does happen organically, but sitting back and waiting for it to happen is not how you get to number one; the number of links you'll receive simply is not enough to make a meaningful impact. No matter how great your content is, no one will link to it if you don't put concerted effort into getting it in front of faces.
How to Fix It: Link build by posting your content, sharing other peoples' content, and engaging in conversations regularly on social media. Also, link to other people in content you publish. If you're generous (but purposeful) with your outbound links, it encourages others to reciprocate. Another effective tactic is guest blogging on other people's sites, which gives you control over the anchor text used in the inbound link. And finally, believe it or not, awesome SEO experts ask people for links. Now, we do not endorse email blasting your list and asking them to link to your site. We do recommend reaching out to people in your industry with whom you have a good relationship and, when you truly have a good piece of content that would be a great complement to their site, suggesting they link to it.
6.) Your search strategy harps on design. Design can impact SEO, sure, but quality content, inbound links, and readability are far more important. Rebranding your site, changing the color scheme, and updating your logo are not going to move the needle in a meaningful way. In fact, these changes can sometimes hinder usability and seriously hurt your SEO.
How to Fix It: If your SEO agency or manager is telling you to redesign your site, back up and consider whether all your other ducks are in a row first. Is your content creation machine chugging along at a great pace? Are you confident in your ability to track your SEO progress? Are you rocking at getting quality inbound links? If so, you may be able to entertain the redesign discussion. Otherwise, that should be on the bottom of your priority list. Remember that your site should, however, have a logical URL architecture that makes use of keywords for which you're trying to rank, and include 301 redirects to ensure your site authority is not being split.
7.) SEO efforts aren't being comprehensively tracked. SEO experts (and all marketers!) have to know what they're doing right, and what they're doing wrong. Not so you can bask in the glory of your success (but maybe bask a little; you deserve it) or rail against people who mess up (don't do that one), but so you can make improvements going forward and capitalize on success. If you're not tracking your SEO efforts now, how do you know if your time and money is worth it?
How to Fix It: If you're not tracking your efforts now, start measuring the following metrics to keep yourself on track: monthly listing position for keywords you're targeting, traffic generated from keywords, conversion rate (both to lead and to customer), inbound links, time on site, and bounce rate.
What do you think? Is your SEO soaring, sucking, or sitting somewhere in between?
Originally published Dec 8, 2011 9:00:00 AM, updated July 28 2017