The #1 Reason People Give Up on SEO

Every once in awhile I have an epiphany when it comes to SEO and connecting a struggle I’m seeing out there. This epiphany in particular hit me while I was in Phoenix attending a conference and listening to a keynote session on Digital Marketing Transformation.

I was nerding out on the talk and happily tweeting pithy quotes when a bullet on the slide caught my eye. This is what it said (hint it’s #5):

SEO progress - little wins

“Big wins are rare, but little wins in aggregate can be significant.”

(cue the angels singing from heaven).

Why This is So Important

Over the past several months I’ve been doing more hands-on Paid Search freelance work in addition to Organic. SEO often takes a long time to come together and of course it’s important to be pursuing traffic from diverse sources. Paying for impressions, clicks, and conversions to get visibility in front of your market (at the exact moment they’re searching with with queries relevant to your business) is a no-brainer for many businesses. They use PPC successfully until Organic SEO kicks in (and then even after that depending on budgets).

One of the key learning points PPC professionals are trained to understand is that big PPC wins rarely come out of the first few weeks. We spend a ton of time on strategy and account set up. But, it’s just not likely we’re going to knock it out of the park on the first go round. (After all, as marketers, we’re looking at the data, making our best educational guess, acting, assessing, and then doing it all over again).

PPC wins rather, come out of small tweaks that add up over time.

It’s the same with SEO.

How “Little Wins in Aggregate” Translates to SEO

The reality around SEO outcomes are often misaligned with expectations.There are usually a few problems I see:

  1. There are multiple factors that have to come together over time. It’s rare that a one-time set of prioritized action items executed on the first get go-round will significantly move the needle.  You may or may not have heard that there are over 200 signals Google uses to determine ranking, right? There is just too much to know and do, limited resources and time-strapped marketers, constrained website functionality, and vague – or worse conflicting – information out there to get it right the first time.
  2. Marketers give up way too early on SEO before they really get started. An on-page foundational refresh, along with creating ongoing content and starting to gain purposeful backlinks is only the beginning. Many people fail to see significant results in the first few weeks or months, and so go back to their old habits–which often don’t include doing SEO. Or they fail to celebrate the small wins and are disappointed by the lack of big results and big numbers. And they chalk it up to “well, SEO doesn’t work.” #thismakesmesad

The truth is, incremental gains just aren’t sexy or impressive to report on; but they are critical to progress.

While I’m not saying big wins can’t be gained on initial SEO attempts, I am saying it’s the exception rather than the rule. Quick SEO progress usually comes when you fall on the far extreme of spectrum factors like:

  1. How authoritative and big of a player are you in the space already?
  2. How savvy and established is your competition?
  3. How sophisticated is your overall marketing plan and digital effectiveness in other channels?
  4. Are any critical Technical SEO issues holding you back that can be  identified and overcome quickly?

Here’s What I Wish Marketers and Executives Knew About SEO

SEO big wins are rare, but little wins in aggregate are significant. SEO wins come out of small tweaks that add up over time.


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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.


  • Great article Jenny, very informative.

    Do you think social media marketing now days is more beneficial than SEO?

    Kind regards,

    • Jenny Munn says:

      Apologies Filip, I just saw this!

      I wouldn’t say social media marketing is more beneficial – it is complementary. There are so many searches done on Google per day (over 5 billion) that it is important to be seen and visible and have a strong SEO presence. Do you agree?

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