There are a lot of things that can derail your SEO program: a lack of content, low-quality links, being socially inactive, and more. And while I cannot stress the importance of those SEO items, several non-SEO things can ruin your SEO program before it even gets off the ground.
No Internal Seo Champion
As an SEO firm, we work outside our client’s offices while getting the SEO work done. But that means that someone on their side has to be the internal SEO champion that helps keep the wheels turning. After all, I can only do so much from out here! They are the ones approving content, reviewing onsite SEO recommendations, and tweaking social strategies, following through on link opportunities, and so forth. I can do 90% of the work from my office, but that last 10% needs to be handled by someone in-house!
Just because you have hired an SEO firm to manage your SEO program, that doesn’t mean you get to wash your hands of the whole thing. Even though your SEO partner is the expert, you still need to be involved in the process. You know your business, your products, your customers, and your industry far better than your SEO firm ever could, and that information is going to be crucial to your long term success. Without an internal SEO champion greasing the wheels and keeping the project from being bottlenecked, your SEO partner is going to do a lot of work that gets you nowhere.
We used to work with an SEO client that sold enterprise software. They considered IBM, Oracle, and SAP their direct competitors because those companies also sell enterprise software. However, this client was maybe 1/10th the size of those brands, and even though they sell similar products, how many other verticals does IBM exist in? The IBM domain is arguably one of the oldest and most trusted websites online today; they have millions upon millions of pages, dozens (if not hundreds) of thought leadership sites they run/sponsor, and hit so many markets their link profile potential is exponential. Yes, they sell enterprise software, but that is only one drop in their product bucket.
Even when traffic to our client’s site increased, they only looked at how much MORE traffic IBM was getting. If their site got 20,000 visitors a month, but IBM got 2 million, they considered their SEO program to be a failure. Never mind that their site was getting 25% more traffic than it had six months down the road until they hit IBM numbers; they assumed their SEO program was falling behind.
This is why understanding who your REAL online competition is so important for your SEO program. If you own a small retail business, you are NEVER going to have more traffic than Amazon. That doesn’t mean you can’t carve out a solid spot for yourself in the SERPs and make really great strides. Don’t judge yourself and your SEO success by your competition, just look at where you’ve been and where you are going!
Lack of Knowledge
You don’t need to be an SEO expert if you are hiring an SEO firm to handle the bulk of the heavy lifting, but you do need a decent understanding of SEO. First off, you need to know if your SEO partner is doing anything that will get you in trouble. We’ve worked with more than one client who was actually penalized by Google because of the link building work their SEO firm had done. Since they didn’t know any better, it wasn’t until the penalty was weighing them down and their SEO firm was long gone that they realized some serious mistakes had been made.
A lack of knowledge could also get you into hot water if you try to take your SEO program into your own hands. I know more than one site owner that knows just enough about SEO to be a danger to themselves and their site. Their knowledge is several years behind the times, so they are chugging along totally unaware their work is setting themselves up for failure. Again, you don’t need to be an expert, but you need to be aware of how the tides are changing, so you don’t find yourself up a creek without a paddle!