Your SEO Problems May Have Nothing to Do With Your Website

by Joyce Grace

Last updated on January 17th, 2018

Whether your business is small, big, been around for ages or just starting out, a well-optimized website is one of your best marketing investments.

But have you noticed? SEO isn’t always fool proof.

Sometimes, no matter how smart your tactics, you simply can’t make it to a page-one ranking in the SERPs.

Well here’s the thing: Sometimes, it isn’t the keywords or optimization strategies that are at fault. It has more to do with the one thing no one ever questions: the owner.

You see, there is the technical and then the human aspect of dealing with SEO.

Sometimes businesses form internal habits that affect productivity, both offline and on. In the online world, it can affect the success (or lack thereof) of a company’s website.

When a site ranks poorly, it could be a problem with internal, cultural, and organizational limitations. They prohibit experts from doing their job, and from taking action to execute on SEO activities.

Which simply means, if your website just can’t make it to page one of the SERPs, it may not be your SEO’s fault.

Below we’ll outline the symptoms of bad company culture habits that can affect SEO rankings.

If you think your company, or your clients, have any of these symptoms, it might be time for a re-think on what’s more important: preserving the culture, or advancing the business.

Bad SEO habit #1: Being ‘married’ to your website and overly controlling

groom putting ring on bride's hand
Source: Bigjom

This can be the most significant factor that affects rankings because it encompasses so much of SEO.

If SEOs are limited by what their clients will allow them to change on their website, then everyone involved should be prepared for a ‘long, cold winter.’

For example, some people have a big problem using high-value keywords on their website. It’s strange, but it totally happens.

Common fears include…

Fear #1

If I use a specific city name, then all the people in the surrounding suburbs will think my company doesn’t service them.

This is not logical since, for localized services, using no city name means you will rank for nothing, rather than rank for something. Besides, you can try to optimize for other geographic locations later.

And there are strategic ways to capitalize on low-volume, city-name search words. This article will tell you how.

Fear #2

If I change the word I normally use to a synonym that is more searched for, then no one will recognize my brand anymore.

This is also not a valid fear. Synonyms are not that big of a change (think “cars” versus “vehicles” or “restaurant” versus “eatery”).

Even if the wording switch were to happen in a very significant place, like a company name or slogan, you can still preserve your brand. Companies change their names all the time. They simply let their audiences know about the change until people get used to it. (Think SEOMoz’s change to Moz.)

Besides, the colors and company logo can stay the same for visual recognition. The point is that, in the long run, you’ll know you’ll attract more search traffic because more people search for one word over another.

Not only that, SEO will bring in more exposure, so people will get to know you anew after using a more keyword-friendly term anyway.

Fear #3

It sounds unprofessional, like we’re using keywords on purpose.

Well, that’s kind of the point. Of course we don’t want to sound unnatural in our writing, but we do need to use keywords if the search engines are to understand what the site’s pages are about.

There is a way to do this with finesse and a little creativity. See this article on writing for SEO without sounding like it.

If your hired SEO is not a great writer, you can find ways of inserting keywords into your own content. That way it will sound the way you want it to.

But if you don’t take the time to do this (which is one of the main reasons you probably hired an SEO in the first place), then your ranking will not change.

Fear #4

I need to get this approved by the owner/manager/public relations department/board of directors.

When the company or organization is large and all decisions are made by committees or layers of stakeholders, an SEO has to wait… and wait… and wait… to make even the smallest change.

He may only want to change heading tags. But first, a bunch of folks who probably know nothing about technology have to have a board meeting, discuss the change to death, and finally vote before saying “aye.”

This is ineffective because it takes twice, if not three times as long for any progress to happen with search rankings.

SEO is a fluid process. Success depends on your SEO being given freedom and release from liability to make changes to the site that will benefit the site’s ranking.

Most careful personalities performing quality SEO know not to say defamatory or inaccurate things on a company’s website, so in the event that something may not be entirely up to par with the company’s tone and brand, it’s no big feat to catch those wording glitches later and simply make changes as needed.

But holding up the process because of approvals will only demotivate all parties involved in the SEO efforts.

The most successful SEO projects can only happen when the business owner says to the SEO, “I trust you, I’m not married to anything on my website. I only care that my logo stays in the top left corner and we maintain good design standards. Do what you need to do to make this site rank.”

It’s awesome that way. No micromanagement means effective results sooner.

Bad SEO habit #2: Not wanting to spend money where it’s needed because it feels like a waste

money shred
Source: Tax Credits

Sometimes, to help a website’s SEO performance, time needs to be spent in areas that are not part of ‘usual’ SEO practices.

For example, sometimes re-development needs to be done in some areas. This can cost money and can feel like an annoying use of funds if the company already spent a lot to have their site made.

But what else can be done when menu items are all encased in H1 tags, there are duplicate-content-creating archives invading the site, a slideshow uses Flash animation, or the page layouts make no room for sufficient content?

Other times, it’s a matter of content scarcity—more high-quality content simply needs to be written.

For some reason, clients can feel like this is a waste of funds. Maybe it’s because they feel they are capable of doing it themselves… even though they don’t have the time to do it. Recognizing time shortage as a reason for delegation is equally important as outsourcing for lack of skill set.

Then there are the times when the site is made in a way that makes content updates very time consuming.

Time is money when hiring an SEO. Good SEO requires constant updating of site material, so it’s best to use a CMS.

If the site is hard coded in HTML or PHP, the time it takes to add pages, change meta tags, format content with HTML tags, modify URL structures and insert links will be astronomical (to give only a few examples).

It won’t be worth the rate-per-hour of the SEO when the site should be re-built into a content management system. This allows for more effective, faster SEO execution.

If the client is not willing to pay for these site changes, search ranking (not to mention conversion rates) can be delayed or halted, regardless of how talented the SEO person is.

Bad SEO habit #3: thinking you know more SEO than your SEO

seo 570
Sean MacEntee

Sometimes, you can learn something about what makes a site rank, or not rank, from an SEO.

It can be surprising and maybe you don’t agree with it. I’ve had instances where I showed clients SEO rules stated directly on the Google Webmasters site. Their reaction? “I disagree with Google.”

It’s unfortunate that Google seems to have a monopoly on ‘calling the shots’ when it comes to determining what is good or bad for ranking within their domain. Still, you can’t argue with them.

If you want to increase your potential to rank well on search engines, you need to follow guidelines, whether you agree with them or not.

Bad SEO habit #4: not willing to participate in or learn SEO

learn seo

When it comes to SEO, it takes two to tango. Sometimes more than two.

It’s easy to think, “I hired an SEO, they’re going to take care of it.” But that’s not the case. SEO is a lot of homework for a site owner as well.

Think of when an SEO sends you a write-up of a Web page that you need to approve. If you never write back to say “go ahead and post this,” then how can you get the result of that page ranking?

Other times, being able to execute on tasks means that a database or some tech guy at a company needs to release restrictions on the site so that work can get done. For example, being able to upload a robots.txt file via FTP or, if using a WordPress site, the ability to install an SEO plugin or publish new pages.

Then there are times when, as a website owner, you (or your staff) are more active on your site, and are constantly uploading your own blog posts, images, page content, and so on.

In those cases, it’s good to learn from your SEO how you should be including keywords, how not to keyword-stuff your meta tags, how to create properly-named alt tags on images, how to decide on URL naming structures, and so on.

Otherwise, if you constantly add content that the SEO has to go in and fix later, that can double the time and money spent on the site’s marketability.

Conclusion: it’s time to let your SEO make things happen, or give up on SEO

As mentioned above, change can be hard to accept. No one likes it; it’s uncomfortable, unpredictable and poses mental, if not also financial, risk.

But if we remain afraid of change, we won’t be able to keep up with the pace of our online world. The Internet demands that we accept new methods of doing business faster than before.

And then the Internet seems to change its mind a lot too (don’t we hate that?). What’s hip today may not be what all the kids are doin’ tomorrow.

This is all the more reason to hire an SEO that you trust. They will have the expertise and the time to keep up with it all. Let them make the executive-level decisions they need to make.

Could they make a mistake? Sure, they’re only human.

But it’s better to try and fail, than to not have tried at all. Even if it has to be through trial and error, your website will find its way to success eventually.

Read other Crazy Egg articles by Joyce Grace.



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Joyce Grace

Joyce Grace writes about WordPress, SEO, marketing, and other related topics at ManageWP, the WordPress management dashboard for managing any number of WordPress sites. In her other life, she runs a small Internet marketing business in Vancouver, Canada, where she helps clients market their companies online by performing SEO, copywriting and making websites.


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  1. Anonymous says:
    October 27, 2014 at 9:49 pm

    Thanks for nice post updates of google algorithms

  2. knight says:
    May 25, 2014 at 6:48 am

    Thanks for the guidance on seo,after the updates of google algorithms seo seems to be a collective approach giving importance to onsite,social media and offsite to gain a good positions

    • Kathryn Aragon says:
      May 25, 2014 at 7:09 am

      You are so right, Knight. SEO isn’t a stand-alone tactic. It’s got to be integrated into your whole digital marketing plan. Thanks for sharing.

    • neil says:
      May 25, 2014 at 11:48 pm

      Knight, great points. Thanks for the feedback. We look forward to hearing more from you 🙂

  3. Beulah says:
    April 11, 2014 at 3:56 am

    Nice Article On SEO !
    I have a doubt regarding the URL structure. Is there any problem if URL is large till 75 to 79 characters ??

    • neil says:
      April 11, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Beulah, there isn’t a huge problem. However, you really should keep it short and simple.

  4. Bhavesh Patel says:
    February 12, 2014 at 12:54 am

    Hey Joyce Grace,
    Nice post.!!! all the points are valid and worthy if we take it seriously. Many of us are doing the same mistake and still they wishing for the good result. Any way Grace thanks for the post 🙂

  5. Mike says:
    February 10, 2014 at 2:07 pm

    The other thing we notice is clients alway looking for that “1 trick pony”.. I had one the other day ask if they paid for a platform that gets them more online reviews will this boost all of their SEO..

    They were thinking this one thing vs a holistic approach and good overall marketing strategy that builds brand equity would do the trick…

    • Joyce Grace says:
      February 10, 2014 at 5:15 pm

      Hi Mike! This gave me a chuckle! I should have probably mentioned that. I have a note in my SEO reports about this because SO OFTEN I get asked things like “sooo, should I change my domain name?” and I have to say that it’s not one thing that will affect your entire SEO ranking. These are like ingredients to baking a cake – they’re all necessary!

      Here is another good one: last week someone wanted me to add more photos to their media archives (note, not the posts themselves, where the photos already existed), so they could boost SEO ranking on all their duplicate and barren content. I was like what?! Where did you get this from? lol

  6. Andrew Buys says:
    February 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

    Hi Joyce, SEO has been proving difficult in my niche of luxury yacht charters. In spite of all the work we have done, including over 125 articles on our wordpress blog and our main site, we’re still missing out to our much larger competitors. If I abandoned my SEO, will my site plummet?

    • Joyce Grace says:
      February 10, 2014 at 5:13 pm

      Hello Andrew Buys, thanks for the comment. I don’t know that any SEO would be able to give you an absolute answer for why you’re not ranking, nor could anyone predict what would happen if you stopped investing in SEO. There are a million reasons why you could be in the position you are in. I think there are great articles here on this blog and around the web that might help you. Or you could have a well-done review done on your site. I do these for my clients but don’t want to recommend myself since I am biased now 🙂 They take a very long time to figure out. I believe that the team over at does SEO reviews of sites. That could be a starting point for you.

      This article is sort of on another topic though. If you think your company internally puts limitations on your SEO, then it may be time to consider whether you want SEO as part of your marketing strategy at all.

      • Andrew Buys says:
        February 11, 2014 at 8:51 am

        Hi Joyce, thanks for the feedback. I discovered you in my search for ideas and I’ll keep keeping on.

  7. Justin McGill @ Workado says:
    February 9, 2014 at 10:58 am

    Such valid points across the board. Especially the clients sometimes feeling they know more than the SEO. I think as company’s continue to get burned by shady SEO, they are naturally starting to dive further into it themselves to prevent being harmed by old SEO tactics.

    • Joyce Grace says:
      February 10, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Hi Justin McGill! Thanks for the comment. I think you’re right. I have people who come to me after they’ve used another SEO, or they start reading about things online and want me to start implementing things for them. More often its that they see their competitors doing something (even if its an old strategy that was done years ago), and they want me to do the same.

      The hard thing is that they don’t get that the one article they read about that one thing isn’t going to make or break their ranking. They want to rush the process and just don’t see the value in the long-term strategies that I begin implementing for them (like producing valuable content). This is despite any research or articles I show them.

      I think the best thing is to educate, educate, educate. I now do major reporting and research before I begin SEO for anyone so they can see where the strategy is headed, and how I came to the conclusions of what I think would be best for them.

      I also prefer if the client is included in the process. Then they can see what it takes and also feel like they are participating and not just ‘waiting’ for their SEO to make something happen magically for them.

      Anyway….just some thoughts!

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