There Might Be Nothing Wrong With Your Marketing
Sometimes there's nothing wrong with your marketing; there's just nothing right.
Working with hundreds of companies and websites over the years, I discovered an unfortunate reality: Captain Picard was right.
"It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not a weakness; that is life."
- Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Season 2, Episode 21 "Peak Performance", Star Trek The Next Generation)
I'd like to alter that quote a little: "That is SEO."
Sometimes you will make absolutely no mistakes and still not rank as well as you think you should or even rightfully deserve.
Failing to Stand Out: A True Story
I was working with a new client last week who expressed extreme frustration over the current state of his SEO. He has been in business in his community for many years yet never manages to achieve ranking success.
Just a month ago a new competitor moved in to town and within a matter of days was appearing for searches for the exact keywords my client has wanted for years.
Frustrated, defeated, and at a complete loss for what to do, he fired his SEO company and began a search for someone new to "optimize" or "fix" or do whatever it takes to turn things around.
Upon giving him my initial report, he was a little confused.
He was glad to see that I had outlined a clear strategy for how to move forward, but I hadn't identified anything necessarily wrong with what he was doing. I didn't identify any obvious flaws, errors, or mistakes committed by his previous company.
"Can't you optimize some keywords or content," he asked?
I then had to explain very... softly... that there wasn't anything to optimize. There wasn't a magic wand I could wave or a tweak I could perform. There wasn't a directory I could submit him to or a tag to implement that would be an "aha" moment for him.
My client was doing nothing wrong. He broke no rules and was vulnerable to no algorithms. He simply wasn't doing the right things.
He didn't deserve to rank. His competitors were better.
Google's search engine results are essentially websites they recommend -- at least that's how it's supposed to work. Assuming the system has integrity, we must stand out from the crowd in some way.
What are the 'Right' Things to Do?
If any of the above resonates with you, I hope you're wondering what you can do to turn things around for your business and website.
Actually Be a Better Company
I'm starting with this one because I think it's the harshest truth. Are you better than your competitors? No really, are you?
If you can't honestly say that something about your company stands out and provides a value, service, or reason to rank above your competitors in Google then there is nothing you can do to trick and fool Google into thinking otherwise.
If you ARE a better company already, or have the required value proposition, then read on.
Master the Art of On-Page Optimization
Although most people have at least an intermediate grasp of the technical SEO fundamentals, it's always a good idea to brush up on your on-page optimization.
I'm a firm believer -- because I've seen the factual proof -- that technical on-page optimization matters less than almost everything else, but that's because it's something everyone can can learn from a guide and do too. In a vacuum, we're all optimized.
Create Unique & Valuable Content
Creating unique and valuable content isn't easy. You have to identify exactly what your potential future visitors are searching, the reason why, and provide solutions.
You can do this in a number of ways.
The first is to know your customers. I can't help you with this one. You have to do your research and ensure you actually have a viable business model where people search the internet for what you do or provide.
The second is to understand the types of things people are already interested in and sharing. Sometimes I look at Buzzsumo to understand the big trends and what gets shared most. Simply type in your topic and you'll find the people who are 'winning'.
Another site you can use to see what people tend to search is Answer the Public. AtP has a broader look at the types of questions people are asking when they search.
Always remember, you're optimizing for PEOPLE not Search Engines.
"Optimize your website for people, not search engines." - Doug Lundberg
Get More Links
This is going to tie in directly with creating content that people actually want. When you drop a value bomb or create something super insightful or helpful, people tend to link to it from their websites or social media. These links, over time, accumulate and produce the strongest, longest-lasting SEO impact.
If you are a local business or one that can obtain reviews in a Google My Business listing or a Yelp profile, then you need to focus on obtaining reviews. Reviews do impact organic and local SEO algorithms.
Reviews also impact perception which drives click-through rate, which then drives search engine optimization.
The more you do the 'right' things, the easier it will be to see results. It's not enough to simply avoid the problems and do nothing 'wrong'.
Avoid the Problem Hunt
I'm going to end by reminding you once again to avoid the witch hunt. Avoid trying to find problems with your SEO.
Search engine optimization has become a bit of a finger pointing game, especially among enterprise level companies.
I see it all the time. A new SEO company will point at the previous and say, "they didn't optimize your content enough." Clients will come to me frustrated that no one has been able to optimize them better than their competitors.
Stop looking for the problems, and start implementing the solutions only you can provide. In most cases, you're doing nothing wrong. You simply haven't started doing anything right.