In my last post, Why Increase Investment in SEO?, I wrote that the business case for increasing investment in SEO activities – new customer acquisition – makes it worth addressing and overcoming the most common concerns marketers have about SEO. But even when the intent and investment is present, there are five reasons many companies fail at implementing effective SEO campaigns:

1. They are focused too low in the buying funnel

Many companies fail to leverage SEO for new customer acquisition because they are entirely focused on the bottom of the buying funnel – getting the lead or making the sale. Their keywords, their content, and their metrics are all focused on the bottom of the funnel, and they neglect the higher funnel awareness and consideration phases of the buyers’ journey.

The top of the funnel is where new customers are introduced to a brand when they are conducting their initial research to identify a need, clarify an issue, or solve a problem. Searchers at the top of the funnel tend to use queries that may be more problem oriented than product or solution oriented, such as “how do I make my sales team more efficient” rather than “crm software solution”. These queries may be broad and non-specific, and likely have low conversion rates. But being visible for searches at the top of the funnel means that potential customers are finding your brand very early in their buying process, and you have the opportunity to set or guide the conversation.

Leveraging top-of-the-funnel searches for new customer acquisition means being visible for top-of-funnel searches, which is directly related to having content that matches these searches and provides value to searchers. Similarly, the conversion goals and metrics used to track performance and success must be tuned appropriately – at the top of the funnel a conversion or sale is not the appropriate goal, but a whitepaper download, a conversion that supports further engagement, might be.

2. They talk about themselves instead of the searcher

Potential buyers want to know how you can solve their problems, and they expect you to know what their problems are and why they are important. They don’t care about your award-winning industry leadership.

Content and language that are focused only on product or solution features, benefits, and value propositions does not match well with how most potential customers talk about (and search about) their problems, needs, and frustrations. By talking only about yourself, you are not only not speaking the potential customer’s language, but you missing out on the opportunity to be visible for their searches.

Many companies have a wealth of information about how customers actually talk about, and search for, their problems and needs, but they don’t leverage it. Call center recordings, chat logs, comment cards, online reviews, and even internal site searches on your own website can help you understand the language potential customers use and the content topics they care about. Match them, and you’ll become more relevant to the searchers as well as the search engines.

3. They don’t let data be the deciding factor

Many marketers talk-the-talk about being data-driven, but aren’t walking-the-walk and using data to make marketing decisions. For some, it is because they don’t have the right analytics in place to get the data they need. For others, it is because they can’t let go of preconceived notions about “what works” or what “feels right.”

Any successful SEO campaign must be built on a solid foundation of website analytics tracking, reporting, and analysis. But there is a misconception that data are all that is needed, and that the answers will be easily apparent. They won’t be. Interrogating the data with eye to data accuracy, precision, and validity is a start. Analysis with context and purpose is also required.

Data also have to be reported and communicated in ways that make sense to business stakeholders in order to get their support for data-based decision making. Reporting on how increased user engagement led to a rise in average order value will be much more impactful than showing nine quarters of bounce rate improvement.

4. They neglect the details – and details matter in SEO

A brilliantly crafted organic search strategy is worthless if a poorly-written page title fails to get the searchers attention on the search results page. An engaging and powerful piece of content will never be seen if a misplaced meta tag is preventing the webpage from being indexed by the search engines.

While abiding by the saying “don’t sweat the small stuff” might work for other marketing activities, SEO is all about the small stuff. Identifying, managing, and executing against the sometimes very technical tactics of SEO-focused website optimization is critical to long-term success of the organic search channel. This means having the right people, either internally or at an agency, in place to keep an eye on your SEO details.

5. They aren’t committed to the process of SEO

There are no shortcuts. SEO takes time, and the SEO process is cyclical. A website is not optimized once and then left alone for months at a time. While some technical issues can be solved with one-time fixes, the act of measuring organic search performance, identifying optimization opportunities, implementing recommendations, and measuring performance again, is repeated over and over again. Anything less usually results in SEO campaigns that don’t move the needle for organic search channel goals.

Tiffany Pullin

Tiffany Pullin

In my next post I’ll share a case study about how a medical college improved its organic search performance and increased the number of potential new student leads.

This post was authored by Tiffany Pullin. Are you failing at SEO? If you think you are, or just want some additional perspective, contact us. We can help make organic search a more productive part of your overall digital marketing strategy.