Are you thinking to pursue a career in search engine optimization (SEO)? Are you an aspiring SEO professional, or probably a veteran in the field?
No matter your experience and skill levels are, SEO has been and still is a fairly challenging field with various hurdles and difficulties. Knowing these potential challenges, and especially understanding how you should face them can make or break your career as an SEO practitioner.
Here, we will discuss ten of these potential challenges for SEO professionals, why they might be challenging, and how we can tackle them. Let us begin with the first one.
1. Handing All the Misconceptions and Myths Surrounding SEO
SEO, even in 2020, is a field that is often misunderstood with all the surrounding myths.
For instance, there are still many people that simply don’t believe in SEO, and labelled SEO as a gimmick or even, scam.
On the other hand, many people still think that SEO is a ‘holy-grail’ tactic, a get-rich-quick scheme to somehow cheat the search engine algorithm and get ranked instantly.
Here are some of the common SEO misconceptions that might challenge an SEO professional, and how to tackle them:
- SEO is a scam. This myth is indeed rooted in the dark history of SEO involving sketchy practices and black-hat tactics. However, ‘honest’ and effective SEO practices do exist, and fortunately, there are now various case studies and proofs available to help back up our claims.
- SEO can produce instant results. SEO by nature is a long-term game and we should expect to invest at least 6 months before we can see any significant results, but it will depend on many different factors. We have to convince our clients (and bosses) that we can’t assign a specific time frame to SEO.
- Ranking #1 is all that matters. Just being on the first page of SERP can significantly boost your organic traffic. It’s more important to target the right keywords and the right audience than ranking #1 on unpopular keywords.
- SEO is solely about keyword optimization. It used to be, but no longer the case nowadays. The practice keyword stuffing can get you penalized nowadays. Content quality and relevance are more important.
- SEO is too technical and complex. SEO is not rocket science and is fairly simple to explain even to beginners. SEO is more about hard work and consistency than ‘trade secrets.’
- You don’t need SEO. Website traffic is still very important for most businesses, and SEO remains one of the most effective channels in generating organic (unpaid) traffic. Some many statistics and facts can show the importance and benefits of SEO.
2. Managing Client Expectations
This one is still related to the above challenge of SEO misconceptions. Often, our clients are already ingrained in one or more of these myths and misconceptions, and so they might have unrealistic expectations.
As an SEO professional, we should aim to avoid under-delivering and over-promising a client, so it’s very important to set a correct, realistic expectation from the get-go. Again, many people are still not familiar with the whole concept of SEO, and so educating and informing them are part of the SEO professional’s responsibility.
Here are some important areas to focus on, in managing the right client expectation:
- Defining proper and realistic SEO objectives and goals, including educating your clients that organic traffic, not ranking, is the proper SEO goal.
- Communicating the right time frame, according to the site’s current condition and the SEO objective
- Discussing the right budget, according to the difficulty of the SEO campaign based on the objectives
- Communicate KPIs of the SEO project based on the objective.
- Also important, set the right expectation on how you’ll manage the project, like what time is it appropriate for them to call or text you, how often they should expect an email, etc.
This is not an all-inclusive list, and there might be other unrealistic client expectations that would need to be addressed. However, the main idea is to set the right expectations as early as possible and maintain healthy communication throughout the project.
3. Time Management and Day-to-Day Workflow
While SEO is—as we have mentioned above—not a very complex and technical field by nature, an SEO campaign can involve many different activities: SEO site audit, keyword research, competitive analysis, content creation, technical optimizations, and link building, just to name a few.
An SEO professional must be able to juggle between all these different activities, while also monitoring all the different metrics and KPIs accordingly and adjust the strategy in real-time (if necessary).
It can be a very challenging task, and so proper time-management and self-discipline are more often than not, the most important traits you can have as an SEO professional.
To overcome this issue, it’s very important to establish a proper task management structure in place. Nowadays, fortunately, various software and tools can help with time management and productivity.
Yet, the challenge will also multiply as you grow from being a one-man show to having multiple team members. How you can delegate and spread the workload across your team can significantly affect the success of the SEO project.
Audit your workflow regularly, and aim to continually improve your (and your team) overall productivity.
On the other hand, listen to your team’s insights and inputs from others so you can improve your workflow.
4. Unexpected Algorithm Changes and Ranking/Traffic Drop
SEO is, admittedly, a fairly mysterious subject throughout these years. Nobody knows what’s actually behind the search engine algorithm, nobody knows all of Google’s ranking factors, and sometimes, Google launched an algorithm change with little to no notice.
(That is unless you work at Google, and even then, you’d probably sign an NDA.)
With that being said, no matter how well you’ve implemented your SEO optimizations, there can always be cases when your site is suddenly affected with an algorithm change, causing a significant traffic drop.
No matter how good you are as an SEO professional, you’ll face this kind of challenge sooner or later. Some will be relatively easy to tackle, some others might be extremely hard to bounce from, if not impossible.
Nevertheless, the ability to adapt to these (sudden) changes as soon as possible, and make adjustments to your strategy to adapt to these changes are essential skills for an SEO professional.
5. Staying up to Date With the Latest SEO Trends and Changes
Still connected to the previous point, SEO is a rapidly evolving field. There are more than 3,000 algorithm updates in 2018 alone, and there are a lot of SEO strategies that worked effectively in 2019 that might no longer work today.
For example, SEO before 2011—before the Panda algorithm update—, is mainly about keyword optimization. That is no longer the case nowadays, as the Google algorithm is now getting better at recognizing the context and information on a page besides solely measuring keyword density.
Similarly, since the Penguin algorithm update in 2012, Google is continuously evolving to measure the quality of the backlinks rather than quantity.
More recently and more significantly is the introduction of Google Rankbrain in 2016 and Google Bert in 2019, allowing Google to better measure user experience metrics and the context of a long-tail keyword, respectively.
With that being said, an SEO professional is expected to stay current with all of these algorithm changes, new SEO trends, relevant tactics and methods that still work today, and so on. This can be extremely challenging ,especially when you are also expected to juggle all the different SEO activities(as discussed above).
6. Identifying the Right Tools and Technologies
On one hand, SEO is a very data-dependent field where the practitioner is expected to measure all the different metrics and follow-up with the appropriate optimization.
On the other hand, there are now various tools, software, and technologies that can help us in achieving our SEO objective(s): from data collecting and analytics purposes to competitive research to automating some of the processes, among other functions. In theory, more help should be better, but that isn’t always the case. With all the available tools and technologies, it’s quite often that the SEO professional is faced with choice paralysis. Should we choose tool A for its cheaper subscription fee or tool B with a rather unique feature? That is often just the beginning of all the confusion.
Nevertheless, we should remember that these tools are designed to help, and not the other way around. Take your time to research your options, determine your available budget, and don’t rush in making the right investment.
7. Proving the ROI of SEO Campaigns and Activities
SEO, by nature, is an intangible marketing activity that doesn’t contribute directly to sales revenue. Meaning, measuring the ROI of SEO investment can be easier said than done.
The main contribution created by SEO effort is organic website traffic, but even then, website traffic can contribute to revenue in at least three different ways:
- If the website is directly selling a ‘one-time sale’ product and/or services, for example, an eCommerce site selling a smart home product, then we can simply measure the conversion rate of the website traffic.
- If the website is selling a subscription-based product/service with a recurring revenue model, we can measure MRR (monthly recurring revenue) and conversion rate to measure ROI.
- If the website doesn’t directly sell product/service, then the process might be more complicated and we might need to create a marketing attribution model.
As you can see, this process can be a huge, complicated challenge for any SEO marketers. It’s very important to figure out how SEO will contribute to revenue, depending on the website and the overall business model, and properly calculate the ROI.
8. Maintaining Content Consistency Both in Quality and Quantity
Content is the core of SEO, period.
An SEO professional must also tackle the content marketing aspect of SEO, which can be a very difficult challenge on its own.
Nowadays, you simply can’t rank without a high quality, relevant content, and on the other hand, consistency of your content publication (quantity-wise), is also relevant in providing Google with the signal that you are indeed the go-to source for the topic.
Not to mention, there’s the content promotion aspect that can also provide its challenge.
9. Generating High-Quality Backlinks
We have established that backlinks are still the most important ranking factor in SEO, and on the other hand, the quality of these backlinks is now more important than quantity. Getting too many low-quality backlinks too quickly can get us penalized.
In theory, getting just 3-6 high-quality backlinks for each content per month is sufficient. Sounds great, right?
At first glance, it should translate to an easier link-building activity, since we don’t have to generate as many backlinks as before. However, getting these high-quality, authoritative backlinks can be easier said than done.
With that being said, finding ways and developing a sustainable strategy to generate these high-quality backlinks is often the biggest challenge for SEO professionals.
10. Managing Client Retention
No matter how good your work in executing the SEO strategy is, the relationship between an SEO professional and the client typically involves a patterned lifecycle.
After a couple of years or so, the client might consider the SEO campaign a success and then move on to other campaigns or marketing initiatives. There are also cases when the client called it quits due to financial reasons (i.e. they run out of budget).
Managing and optimizing client retention is often one of the key challenges for SEO marketers. Embrace the fact that you won’t be able to keep all of your clients, but by being a better, more proactive communicator, and of course, maintain the quality of your work.
Ultimately, an SEO professional is responsible for executing a thorough analysis of the SEO strategy and assessing the website’s current performance. This will provide the SEO professional with more opportunities to execute a more effective SEO campaign to handle the potential issues and challenges discussed above.
Also, remember that nowadays some various tools and technologies are designed to help marketers and professionals in solving these challenges. Take your time to research these tools, and don’t let them create another challenge on their own.