Over the years I had plenty of SEO projects from small businesses to enterprise (in collaboration with other SEOs) and from publishing websites to ecommerce websites. As in life, some were successful and some failed.
Due to a certain context, I asked myself what were the reasons that make a project a failure and why other projects keep growing in time, no matter what animals Google is unleashing from the cage.
So far, here are the main reasons that I managed to find:
As an SEO consultant you are highly dependent on other contractors. Front end development, backend development, marketing teams, social media management and so on. All of these being a part of a bigger puzzle that has as a complete image your client’s success.
If one of the pieces is missing, everything falls apart or gives an incomplete one. And very often that is the case. From developers that do sloppy jobs to social media managers that just post to various channels and have no comprehension of what brand and reputation management means.
Before taking any new SEO project, make an assessment with whom will you work. If something might lead to future issues than it will. Inform your client, make recommendations or just pullback. Even if you are not directly responsible for others, the frustration will drive you mad or will make you to jump to wrong conclusions that will impact your other clients
Online as a cheap lifeboat for a dying business
There are plenty of different sites and businesses. But from the ones that fail online, a majority are those without a plan B. Are those businesses that are seeking refugee in online as their last resort or they are on their last breath.
SEO is not only an ongoing effort is a process where results take time. If the business cannot sustain itself until the results show and the budgets are tight, pull out immediately. There are jackals that will rush in with snake oil solutions and will bring it to a quick end. If you stay, you are both prolonging their agony and put your time in a dead-end project.
When taking a new SEO project, have an honest discussion with the business owners. Ask them what do they expect from you and what happens if the results don’t show sooner than one year. The answer you will get, will tell you if to take the project or not.
SEO traffic as a holy grail
Many business owners have a few misconceptions about organic traffic:
- Organic traffic is free: NO IS NOT! Organic traffic requires strategies, requires development, requires content and requires ongoing efforts. And none of them are free.
- Once organic traffic keeps coming it will continuously grow by itself and nothing else is needed. No marketing budgets, no social media management, no lead nurturing, no up sell/cross sell strategies.
These 2 common misconceptions are tightly related to #2 but can also be the result of lack of information. Try to explain and to educate the client why the above are not true. If you succeed you will have a great partner in the future
There are cases when the business owner is knowledgeable, has enough budgets at his disposal and works with other great professionals but there is a problem. The product(s) / services offered are of poor quality. A bad product / service can be assessed on 3 axes:
- The product itself: the product is of poor quality and there is no recurrence from customers or no recommendations. This is worst case scenario and no marketing campaign can save it. The bigger the budgets the bigger the fail
- Pricing: When your client is just a reseller, he is directly competing with tens or hundreds other businesses selling the same product with lower margins. In the case of unique products both high or low prices, if not based on proper research can harm the business on the long run. A bigger price can scare customers while a too low price can create a bad reputation for a quality product.
- Poor service: a good business is not only about product and pricing. Service also matters. Bad service for an affordable good product can lead to disaster and many negative Yelp reviews are a testimonial for this
A business owner once told me that you can always excel only on 2 out the above 3 factors. That means that a good product with good service (Apple) comes with a big price (that users are willing to pay) or that a cheap product with great service is of poor quality.
Try to understand the business before committing. If their business model is rotten so will be your work and your time investment will not pay off in the long run
Lack of involvement from the business owner
Perhaps this should be the #1 on the list. There are business owners that are willing to pay without being involved in the process. In those cases, you are just going blind and there will be no direct satisfaction in what you are doing. Is like working on the engine room of a ship with an absent captain. You will keep doing your job without knowing who is in charge and where you are heading. And most of the times you will be heading toward shallow waters.
The above are the main reason why some of my projects failed or stagnated. Others show also some valid points:
What do you think where the causes in your project?