We’re fortunate enough to have built strong relationships with many of our clients. One of the benefits in building better relationships is the opportunity to receive more candid feedback when program strategies and tactics don’t go as expected.
This type of feedback was recently received when a deliverable failed to meet our client’s expectations.
To paraphrase: we did not provide enough clarity in our recommendation. It required a greater sense of applicability in association with our client’s target audiences and the direction we expected them to take in execution.
This experience got me thinking about the type of mistakes in SEO program management that, when left unattended to, lead to poor performance and programs that ultimately don’t get continued and renewed.
While factors are always client / program-specific, here are six mistakes B2B SEO professionals make that must be avoided for SEO programs to be successful in the long run.
Failing to Communicate Expectations
It all starts with an understanding of program expectations. It is important for everyone involved to understand what we are trying to accomplish and how we will demonstrate “success” in program performance. Questions to consider:
- What are the SEO factors that we need to focus on improving first and most?
- What is our organization’s role in tactics that may impact SEO improvements, like content marketing and social media?
- What is our organization’s role in tactical execution of approved SEO recommendations?
SEO program expectations are just the start. It is also important to communicate expectations with individual recommendations, tactical and strategic. This was the underlying problem in the scenario above.
When crafting tactical SEO recommendations, consider the following:
- Are you establishing objectives when developing an SEO recommendation?
- Are you providing enough direction in how an SEO recommendation will be implemented if it is approved?
From the agency perspective, we need to provide as much direction as possible when making SEO recommendations. The larger – or more impactful – the recommendation, the more detailed of an outline will be required.
Failing to Have a Back Up Plan
I’ve certainly made SEO recommendations that seemed like great ideas but ultimately failed to get client buy-in, regardless of the amount of detail and instruction provided.
In some cases factors beyond everyone’s control prevented implementation. In other cases, the recommendation simply could not get prioritized within the broader scope of a marketing strategy.
When this happens, it is important to have alternative recommendations ready.
In one scenario, our recommendation to move a client’s blog from a sub-domain to sub-directory on the main site was rejected. This was because the infrastructure required could not be prioritized quickly enough from our client’s web development team.
In this case, while blog posts are still an important component of our SEO-centric B2B content marketing strategy, we shifted focus to prioritize more comprehensive best practices pages on the main site. These assets were meant to obtain both Google Answer Box visibility and act as a destination for more competitive, but also more informational, strategic keyword targets.
Failing to Stand Your Ground
On the other hand, there are times when the failure to get recommendation buy-in will represent a true “showstopper” for a SEO program. Lack of implementation may have a significant adverse impact to performance, prevent the ability to develop future recommendations, or both.
In another client scenario, we identified a series of page templates creating duplicate content issues across site architecture. This duplication was negatively impacting SEO performance associated with keyword targets directly associated to these templates. Unfortunately, it was proving difficult to get buy-in for changes because the page templates also impacted complex organizational attributes.
In cases like this, SEO managers need to reconsider how a recommendation is presented and how to address concerns that factor into preventing approval.
It took three different variations of our recommendation to finally gain client buy-in. We ended up having to integrate much more comprehensive (and only indirectly related tactical recommendations as well) in order to resolve duplicate content issues with the associated page templates.
The good news was that we FINALLY were able to get this recommendation implemented. While this was done in coordination with a series of additional approved recommendations, organic search traffic is up 24 percent year over year, over 400K additional visits.
Failing to Think Outside of Box
I’ve seen SEO managers make this mistake more often when collaborating in long-running SEO engagements. The tactics that have led to success get repeated without taking into account context or a changing landscape with the search engine or the client’s audience / industry.
In a third client scenario, we’ve been running a complex program developing blog posts and news articles under a strict schedule of production on a weekly basis. Performance has certainly improved when comparing year-over-year metrics but this is based in part on tactics designed to leverage content that had done well historically in coordination with new content developed under a consistent scope of work.
Factoring in the observation from Google that a few strong pages will be more valuable than many weak ones, we’re considering revamping our scope to consolidate efforts to create more comprehensive, in-depth content marketing assets moving forward.
While we’re still capitalizing on tactics already demonstrating greater performance improvements, this shift in thinking has been well received and will hopefully lead to more significant growth down the road.
Failing to Monitor The Competition
When confronted with all of the responsibilities already discussed, it is also easy to get so entrenched that the SEO team forgets to keep tabs on the competition. But don’t assume competitors are sitting idly by.
It is critical to stay on top of both the competitions’ SEO performance and the tactics being executed. Some of the more important elements include:
- New content being developed across competitor websites, blogs, and online assets.
- New keywords the competition is starting to gain visibility for / improving in organic search position.
- New links being acquired and the tactics associated with their acquisition.
Beyond the fact that it is a mistake to assume the competition is being complacent with their SEO programs, ongoing review should help in developing new recommendations and ideas as well (i.e. thinking “outside the box”).
SEO recommendations are also more likely to receive buy-in when supported by competitive examples.
Failing to Connect SEO to Business Performance
And finally, the most obvious mistake (but perhaps the hardest to overcome) is in failing to connect SEO program results to strategic business performance.
This is not to say every SEO tactic will lead to a new sale or increased revenue.
From direct conversion metrics to organic search trend analysis to program productivity communication, SEO performance benchmarks must always consider how tactics connect the dots to strategies and program goals, and seek to communicate these efforts.
In the end our client decided not to pursue the recommendation, despite the fact that we refined both the presentation and supporting context to provide further clarity in direction. However, the revamped recommendation was well received and will be reconsidered if circumstances change.
Of course, recurring mistakes like these can be the undoing of a long-running SEO program. We’re fortunate to have been given another opportunity to communicate expectations and better tie tactics to broader business objectives.
For B2B marketers working with SEO partners, hopefully these mistakes aren’t happening or are being quickly addressed. If that’s not the case, maybe it is time to consider new partners for B2B SEO program management.