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SEO Risks May Lead to Poor Results and Dashed Hopes

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Search engine optimization requires risk management like any other business initiative.

Managing expectations is one of the first steps in any risk management.

In the case of SEO, a typical business uses either internal staff or external vendors to implement the SEO program.

Whether the project manager is a vendor or internal staffer, it it critical that that person explain the risks to management or the business owner.

A great effort increases the probability of increasing SEO ranks. But certainly doesn’t exist.

Owners and managers should know that no vendor or staffer can guarantee results with an SEO project.

They also should keep in mind the following specific risks.

SEO Risk #1: Too Much Competition

The number of new Websites and Web pages continues to grow at high double-digit rates every year. Competition for audience and revenue is intense.

A business that targets keywords that already have millions of pages indexed might find that a great SEO effort boosts a page from 50th place in Google results to 30th place.

Yes, that’s quite an improvement. But 30th place will produce few if any clicks.

This risk is easily managed by targeting keywords with low competition and a much better chance to getting to the top three positions on page one of Google and Bing.

Risk #2: Incompetent Staff and Vendors

Most of the clients I have acquired over nearly 10 years as a Virginia-based online business consultant have come as a result of taking over sites from incompetent staff or vendors.

These people often have little experience or knowledge about search engine optimization. Many times, they claim to know more than they actually do.

Business owners and managers can lessen this risk by doing some basic reading about search engine optimization — after all, it’s a necessary business skill like marketing and accounting — and then using that basic knowledge to ask the right questions.

When in doubt, start with a small test budget and campaign to observe the results. If they results are good, expand the budget and give the project manager more responsibility. If the results are bad, move on to someone else.

Risk #3: Spending Too Much Money

Any experienced business owner or manager knows the risk of spending too much money and not getting a solid return on investment.

A good SEO vendor or knowledgeable staff person could produce strong improvements in the site’s search rankings.

The new rankings deliver plenty of audience to the site, and they convert into paying customers. But the revenue from those new paying customers simply might not be high enough to cover the cost of the original investment.

Again, start with a small budget, track the results and reach a comfortable return on investment. Then expand the budget and set another end date for a review of the ROI.

A test budget is a safe way to judge staff and vendors based on what they cost versus what they deliver.

Risk #4: Great Audience, Poor Conversions

A common SEO risk is a combination of great results and poor conversions because of a weak Website.

Imagine keywords that jump in the rankings and send a much larger audience to the site.

The site owner wants to capture leads with a contact form and phone number. Both the contact form and phone number appear at the bottom of long pages. Site visitors don’t like to scroll, so they don’t see the form or number.

It should be no surprise that conversions are poor because the site was not prepared for the growth in audience.

First build a great site. Then spend the money on marketing.

Risk #5: Site Changes That Destroy Rankings

A major SEO campaign produces fantastic results. Audience, conversions and revenue all jump.

Time passes by. One day someone makes an innocent decision about changes for the site such as:

  • Changing content on key pages
  • Changing the domain name
  • Launching a new CMS and site architecture

Overnight, pages with carefully crafted keywords have lost those keywords. The new domain name means critically important links to the site may not work anymore.

Pages move to new directories and URL addresses because the site has a new content management system and site architecture.

It is not an exaggeration to say that quite a few sites have lost 30 to 50 percent or more of their search engine audience because of the above changes.

Any changes to the site should be done carefully, especially any changes to the most important pages with the largest amount of search audience.

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