If you’re a professional marketer or business owner, you know that investing in marketing is a must. And in our digital world, it’s smart to focus on online marketing. Most people find that search engine optimization plays an integral role in almost any marketing strategy. However, that doesn’t always mean that SEO is straightforward or speedy.

As a result, you might invest considerable time and money into an SEO campaign only to discover that the results aren’t what you expected. This doesn’t mean that SEO simply doesn’t work, contrary to what some might say. Rather, it might warrant a closer look at how you’re trying to accomplish the results you seek for yourself or for your clients.

Even among experts, SEO remains a bit of a mystery. While we generally know what works and our expertise allows us to make informed decisions for our customers, the reality is that there are no guarantees. And because the digital landscape is ever-evolving, we need to evolve right along with it. If we don’t, we might start to wonder why our campaigns aren’t as successful as we had hoped.

In rare cases, SEO simply might not be the right choice for a particular client. But it’s more likely that there are underlying reasons for a stalled SEO campaign. Let’s take a closer look at some of the reasons why your SEO efforts might not be living up to your expectations -- and why you shouldn’t give up.

Why Focus on SEO in the First Place?

Before we delve into some of the most common issues with SEO campaigns, let’s first discuss why it makes sense to invest in SEO efforts.

The vast majority of online experiences start with a search engine -- which means where your site appears in search results matters a lot. Around 60% of marketers say that inbound marketing strategies like SEO represent their highest source of quality leads. That’s not surprising, since SEO actually drives more than 1,000% more traffic than organic social media and comes with a higher close rate than other lead generation tools. SEO also offers the lowest cost per lead of any other common lead generation tool, as you can see from the graphic below.

In other words, SEO is both highly effective and incredibly cost-efficient. Those who claim that SEO is dead are probably dealing with other problems that also jeopardize marketing success -- some of which we’ll discuss next.

Why Aren’t My SEO Efforts Paying Off?

Now, we’ll dive into what you really want to know: why aren’t your SEO campaigns getting great results? Underperforming SEO campaigns are problematic because they tend to frustrate clients from investing in this marketing strategy in the future. But if you can diagnose the problem and apply the right treatment, you’ll be in a better position to succeed. Here are just some of the scenarios that might lead you to believe your campaigns are floundering -- and what you can do to change course.

You Lack Consistency

Consistency is key, especially when it comes to SEO. Because SEO is meant to be a long-term strategy, you can’t take a sporadic approach to optimization. Instead, you need to continuously build on what you’ve created. Only then will you start to see real results.

If you publish blog posts only when you remember or you had to take a break from focusing on link-building because your team was stretched too thin, it’s likely that you’ll be disappointed in the results of your SEO efforts.

You can’t simply set and forget SEO. Spending only 30 minutes a week on search engine optimization isn’t going to cut it. In order to get something out of your strategy, you need to put something in. If you aren’t fully committed to SEO, it’s going to show in the end.

Creating a clear content strategy -- complete with an editorial calendar and detailed plans for development, posting, and promoting -- can work wonders. And if your lack of consistency can be traced back to simply not having the resources you need, consider whether you might need to hire or outsource to execute your strategy.

You’re Targeting the Wrong Keywords

Keyword research and selection play a crucial part in SEO. Whether you’re trying to market your own business or you’re working on behalf of a client, you’ll need to choose the right keywords that will actually help move the needle (so to speak) in Google search.

Unfortunately, your lack of success could come down to poor keyword targeting. If you’re helping a business in a highly competitive industry, you need to be realistic about keyword selection. Trying to compete with a multi-million dollar corporation on the same keywords will be next to impossible, particularly if you’re thinking global instead of local. You’ll end up using up all of the client’s marketing budget without any payoff.

On the flip side, you could also end up targeting keywords that really have no search volume at all. Even if a site is ranking well on a certain keyword, that won’t mean much if users aren’t actually searching for it. If the keyword really has no meaning outside your business or industry, it’s possible that your keywords just aren’t capturing user intent. Although lower-volume keywords can be less competitive (and, therefore, help you achieve better results), you need to be careful about going too far in the other direction.

Sometimes, marketers run into trouble when their clients insist on targeting certain keywords. Whether the keywords they want are outside of their budget or whether they don’t have the search volume, it’s important to communicate the importance of keyword selection to your clients. Rather than give in and target keywords that you know won’t yield positive results, work with your clients to make sure everyone is on the same page and has a basic understanding of why certain keywords might be out of bounds.

There Are Unaddressed Website Issues

Your SEO campaign might be a thing of beauty -- but if the client’s website is a mess, it’s just not going to matter. Even small website issues can derail your SEO efforts and make the client wonder whether they’re just wasting their money.

A slow-loading website, navigation errors, non-responsive design, or an unattractive layout can scare web visitors away. You should make a habit of conducting a website or SEO audit at the beginning of a campaign to address any problems. This can allow you an opportunity to make recommendations to your clients and make sure there are no barriers to their success. If this isn’t a service you’re comfortable providing yourself, your white label SEO agency will usually be happy to oblige on your behalf.

Keep in mind that out-of-date websites could hurt SEO campaigns at any time, especially when Google updates its algorithm. For example, Google plans to release its Page Experience update in May 2021, which means that site loading speed, interactivity, security, and mobile responsiveness will be more important than ever. If you’re seeing unexplained dips in your SEO campaign results and can’t attribute it to other factors, it could be that the website has been penalized for failing to adhere to Google’s best practices. Even if your client addressed certain issues when they initially signed on with you, it may be time for a site upgrade in order to see continued growth.

You’re Using Outdated Strategies

Outdated websites aren’t the only thing that could be holding your SEO efforts back. It could also be that you’re relying on outdated SEO strategies.

Because the internet changes so rapidly, Google usually takes a while to catch up. But once they do, you’re going to have issues if you’re still using digital marketing techniques that were at the height of popularity five years ago.

Keyword stuffing, backlink farms, spammy directories, and thin content aren’t going to help you achieve your goals. In fact, they could actually end up hurting your chances of ranking in SERPs at all. Most of these techniques would now be considered to be black-hat, which is the opposite of what you want. Be sure to familiarize yourself with Google’s best practices and to work with reputable partners if you’re outsourcing your fulfillment.

You Care About the Wrong Metrics

It’s easy to get tunnel vision when you’re focused on results. But remember that you can’t boil SEO success down to just one metric -- especially if that metric doesn’t actually support the ultimate goal.

For example, some clients might consider follower count or ad clicks to be the most important metric. If that’s all they care about, they might be frustrated when they aren’t seeing upward movement. Or, alternatively, they might be seeing a lot of growth in those numbers without seeing the number translate to more sales.

The problem is that those metrics are only one piece of the puzzle. If a business’s follower count is increasing but the bulk of those followers are bots or are people who will never feasibly buy their products, it’s a pointless metric to focus on. And if an ad’s click-through rate is high but conversions are still low, that means there’s a deeper issue that needs to be addressed.

That’s why you need as much visibility into your SEO campaigns as possible. Even if a specific metric looks good on paper, it might not be yielding the results you expect. Alternatively, you could be so focused on a certain metric that you’re missing all of the other wins within a campaign. Whether it comes down to your own biases or the clients’ lack of understanding, it’s a good idea to figure out which metrics really matter -- and make sure you have access to the SEO reporting tools you need.

You Compromised On SEO Efforts to Save Money

We mentioned earlier that you’ll only get as much from your campaign as you give. Although SEO is a long-term strategy, that doesn’t mean you can simply stop investing in it and expect the same caliber of results.

When businesses are facing financial hardship, marketing budgets are among the first to get slashed. Even though we know that businesses that continue marketing through financial crisis tend to come out on top, there are certain cost-cutting measures that can’t be helped. If your SEO budget has taken a serious hit, you’re probably going to fall behind in terms of your results. However, you’ll still have all of the work you already put into your SEO efforts -- which really differentiates SEO strategies from digital advertising and other forms of marketing.

Now that many companies are experiencing a bit of recovery, you’ll be in a better position to build on what you’ve already achieved in a consistent way. But it’s good to remind your clients that if they can avoid putting a pause on SEO, it’s best to continue whenever possible. Because SEO is so cost-effective already, it might make more sense to temporarily discontinue other marketing strategies when they find themselves in a pinch.

Of course, it’s possible to compromise on SEO efforts in other ways in order to save a buck. Unfortunately, working with certain fulfillment partners might not yield the results you were promised. It’s true what they say: you get what you pay for. By picking the wrong agency partner, you might end up getting burned.

That’s not to say that SEO has to be expensive in order to work. There are a number of affordable SEO plans available and many agencies (like ours!) love doing work for small businesses -- which means we understand budgetary constraints. But if you’re making your decision solely based on cost and you’re specifically looking for a bargain, it’s entirely possible that you could compromise your clients’ campaign success in the process.

You’re Writing For the Wrong Audience

You may have heard that “content is king.” Even in 2021, that’s still true. Not only do you need to publish new content on a regular basis, but you also need to ensure that content is providing value.

That doesn’t only mean that all of your blogs should be over 2,000 words and provide factual information on a topic relevant to your industry (though those attributes will certainly help!). You also need to make sure that the content you’re creating is valuable to the customer. Even if a business owner writes an in-depth post that they’re proud of, it doesn’t mean it’s digestible for web users or will reflect what customers are actually searching for.

Whether you’re handling the content creation yourself or you’ve entrusted a white label SEO agency to tackle that for you, your marketing efforts depend on content that provides solutions and accurately captures user intent. That means you need to have an innate understanding of the intended audience and make sure the content is geared toward them.

In other words, stop writing for search engines or for readers who will never make a purchase from your client. Google rewards websites filled with content that human users find helpful. If you’re trying to game the system by appealing to search engine bots or the content just isn’t hitting the mark for what potential customers want when they search online, you’re going to be left scratching your head and wondering why your SEO efforts are stalling.

You Aren’t Using Other Marketing Strategies

Remember that SEO isn’t the be-all and end-all of digital marketing. While immensely important, it’s really only one piece of the puzzle.

Investing in SEO can help you achieve results, but remember that those results won’t be immediate. Because it’s more of a long-term strategy, it’s smart to diversify. You should advise your clients to invest in other forms of internet marketing to act as a supplement.

This is especially true if a client needs a lot of traffic in a short amount of time or they’re trying to promote a time-sensitive offer. In these instances, it would be appropriate to add PPC ads to the strategy or invest some time in social media marketing in order to support your SEO strategy.

There are a number of benefits to search engine optimization, you can’t start and end with SEO. Remember that your digital marketing strategies will often work together to make each one even better. That’s not to say that you can’t achieve your goals with SEO alone, but it’s often helpful to compare results between other forms of marketing to have adequate data for your clients to look at over time.

You Have Unrealistic Expectations

There could be a number of reasons that your SEO campaigns are underperforming -- but it could also be that you’re creating problems where they don’t actually exist!

As we’ve mentioned before, SEO is a long-term strategy. Simply put, there’s no such thing as an overnight SEO sensation. If you or your clients are expecting to see major results from an SEO campaign in a week or even a month, you’re going to feel frustrated when those results inevitably don’t meet expectations.

A lot of these kinds of problems can actually be prevented before they ever come up. By educating yourself and making sure your clients understand how SEO really works, you can set clear expectations from the start and make sure that no one feels swindled or disheartened. It’s ultimately very rare to see major improvements right away -- but the best things in life take time.

Don’t let the lack of immediate results discourage you from continuing this important work. If you keep at it, your SEO efforts will pay off. And in the meantime, supplementing those efforts with other marketing work can help your clients keep the faith.

You’re Trying to Handle SEO Efforts Yourself

Many agency owners try to do everything themselves. It’s admirable, but it can be to their own detriment. If you’re struggling to keep too many balls in the air, they’re going to fall -- even if you’re a skilled juggler in your own right.

If your team is small, you’ve taken on one too many clients, or your heart simply isn’t in the area of SEO fulfillment, your campaigns can suffer as a result. You deserve to have a growing business and to focus your efforts in areas you feel passionate about. Unfortunately, when you’ve committed to handling everything in-house, you may find yourself drowning in work with no chance to actually grow your agency.

Not only will your SEO efforts fall short, but you probably won’t be able to achieve your larger goals for your business. At Semify, we believe that growing together creates the freedom to do more, have more, and be more. That means we can help you with the fulfillment side of things, which will free up your time to focus on sales and customer retention. By entrusting us with handling your SEO deliverables, your clients can get the results they expect and you’ll have the opportunity to focus on the parts of your business that really need your attention.

In the end, it’s clear that there are a number of reasons why an SEO campaign might struggle to get the results you and your clients want. It could even be a combination of several reasons on this list. And if you’re able to crack the code, you can figure out the steps to take for SEO success.