The Top 2 Reasons SEO is So Hard to Grasp

The other day I was giving a 2-hour SEO workshop to a group of business owners. I had asked the organizer to send out a survey a few weeks ahead of time that asked the group to share their biggest challenges and obstacles. I do this for 2 reasons:

  1. To tailor the content to making sure I address this particular audience’s needs and collective mindset
  2. To understand the level of SEO neutrality

Here’s what I mean by that second point.

SEO comes with a huge spectrum of pre-conceived notions. Sometimes I encounter people super eager to dive in (not the majority by a long shot), some people super hostile about SEO and resistant to it (these are the people glaring at me throughout the whole opening of a talk), and others ranging from slightly bewildered to extremely confused and mis-informed.

Experience levels are so different these days, I have to understand where I need to start in order to get everyone back to neutral ground. Not hating SEO, accepting it is a necessary evil, and dare I say, embracing it and looking forward to applying the work that will bring them success for their situation.

Why It’s Hard to Be Confident in SEO

The challenges this group gave me were pretty reflective of the spectrum I hear from other marketers, executives, and business owners on why they’re not confident in SEO:

  • Cost
  • Not having a strategy, how to easily implement it for the whole team, not spending time trying to figure it out
  • Knowing who to listen to – everyone has a different opinion
  • Not being able to monitor the results and adjusting in a timely matter
  • Just haven’t started. Didn’t seem like something I could compete in, so didn’t want to spend the time/money/effort.
  • Understanding the basics of how SEO works.
  • I never really think about SEO, so I don’t know if I have any challenges

In a DIY world full of Udemy, Lynda, and an abundance of free articles, resources, and guides, here is what make SEO so hard to grasp despite the seemingly easy advice at your fingertips:

  1. Your keywords dictate your strategy
  2. Your action plan won’t look like anyone else’s

Let’s address these 2 points:

1. Your Keywords Dictate Your Strategy

Here’s what I mean by stating that your keywords dictate your strategy. And by “keywords,” I mean both your perceived keywords you think you’re targeting as well as the real keywords your market is actually searching on. Your keywords are comprised of 3 approaches:

  1. A competitive approach – your keywords are intuitive, they’re searched often, and there is a lot of competition out there
  2. An educational approach – your target market does not actively and frequently Google the terms that are a perfect fit for what your solution offers. They may not even know a solution like yours exists yet.
  3. A blended approach – maybe your service is a commodity, but you’re offering it to a select target market or vertical.

Your keywords (not to mention keyword figures and data) tell you the following:

  • Whether you need to place a heavier emphasis in Local SEO marketing and do the particular set of activities required with Local.
  • If your product, services, solutions and company is a commodity and perfectly descriptive of what you do
  • If your product, services, solutions and company are progressive and nobody searches frequently or perfectly for you

2. Your Action Plan Won’t Look like Anyone Else’s

When you’re evaluating where to start or where to up-level, the strategy for everyone is different. Because SEO success is completely dependent on many things that have to come together:

  • How often does your audience actively search on the keywords that perfectly describe exactly what it is you do?
  • How competitive are those keywords?
  • How technically optimal is your website
  • How new is your business? Do you have a group of raving fans and referral partners?
  • How much are you recognized offline and online as an authority in your topic?
  • How ready is your website to receive and convert traffic?
  • How conversion-oriented is your website? How good is your copy?
  • How good is your CTA (call to action) offer?
  • At what stage of the buying cycle are they coming to your site?
  • How long is your sales cycle?
  • How much education do they need to buy?
  • How mature and sophisticated is your company’s level of marketing
  • How mature and sophisticated are your competitors?

And thus, the reason why SEO can be so maddening. As I always say, SEO isn’t rocket science, but because of the amount of things that have to come together to get the results you desire, it’s not intuitive.

And another final note: there is a time and place when you have to understand intermediate and advanced SEO tactics. Also, when you have to shift to meet the latest trends and Google updates. But if you don’t have a solid understanding of the fundamentals and marketing principles behind SEO success, then you’re putting the cart before the horse.

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Jenny Munn

Jenny Munn is an SEO Strategist who helps organizations get more leads from their website and integrate SEO into their marketing mix. She consults with in-house marketing managers, agencies, and small businesses. Jenny has taught SEO at WordCamp Atlanta, Digital Atlanta, Solo PR Summit, Business Marketing Association, Atlanta Tech Village, and various content marketing and social media organizations.
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