Why is SEO So Difficult? Top Factors for SEO Success
As a digital agency that specializes in search engine optimization, the experts at Blue Compass get asked a lot of questions about SEO from businesses looking to improve their online presence. They want to know about SEO best practices, what they can do to outrank their competitors on Google, how local SEO works, the list goes on and on. Our experts are always prepared to answer search engine optimization inquiries in presentations and in our SEO Guide, but what businesses and marketers really want to know, is how to do well at SEO without necessarily being an SEO guru. We'll cover a little bit about why it can be so challenging to compete in the online market, and steps you can take to improve your search engine optimization skills.
Why is Search Engine Optimization So Difficult?
There are so many factors that go into SEO that this is one of those questions that doesn't have one right answer. You need to take so many things into consideration - from the content that is on the page to outside resources that boost your businesses credibility - that it makes it really hard to solve the SEO puzzle.
A few of the components you need to consider:
- The keywords on your page
- How is the page coded
- The set up of your content management system (CMS)
- Are you using technical codes, like schema
- How are you using outside resources like Google My Business, Angie's List, Better Business Bureau, etc.
Our team loves working on any SEO challenge, but we struggle with the fact that there’s no one right answer to any problem. Unlike math where there’s a single right answer - you’ve done it, you know you’re done and you can put it away and move on - SEO is ever evolving and there are so many things you can do to get to a similar, same or better outcome.
When our team sees success, one of the things we like to discuss is how did we get the result and is this replicateable. Sometimes a different content management system is not as replicateable for the same solution. We can go in so many different directions with everything we try from an SEO perspective that it can be really difficult, and there are a lot of grey areas in SEO. Every person’s approach and every website is so unique that it’s hard to understand why you got the outcome you did anytime you try something.
We know the frustration of SEO - so many organizations feel like they have a great service or product, they have a wonderful webpage – but they go out and search, and their competitors are ranking well above them while they’re on the third page. That can be so frustrating. We know for a fact that Google’s algorithm, that determines what ranks higher than other pages, is incredibly complex - it has over 200 components that it looks at. Which mean there is not something we can give you that will provide a quick and easy solution. Sometimes organizations come to us and want to do just a quick SEO project – 10 hours to get us to rank better. But can a project like that be successful?
There’s definitely something you can do within 10 hours, but 10 hours is not going to lead to long-term success. If you want long-term success with SEO, you need to continue to evolve and continue to work on it. At the end of the day, SEO is not a set-it and forget-it tactic. It’s not something you can do once and check it off and be ready to go. It’s something you have to continually work at and improve on because that algorithm that we talked about is changing every couple weeks, every month even. Google is making updates, therefore your website needs to update and you need to shift your content and your practices with it.
What's The Most Important SEO Factor?
Another thing people ask us is, “what’s the most important thing I can do for my website to make it a little more favorable to Google and make it rank a little more successfully?”
You can do all 200 of those things that are in the algorithm – but we recommend you start by thinking about what your user needs. Think about what is going to provide the best experience for somebody coming to your website and try to deliver on that. And unfortunately, that is one answer but it involves content, it involves the layout of the page, it involves the code, it involves your meta title and description. At the end of the day, we see the most success on websites where we’ve continually been looking at what’s going to make the experience better for the user, we like to consider:
- What’s going to help them have a clear path to the page they need?
- What’s going to help them convert on the page?
- How can we provide them all of the resources they need from a content perspective?
How Can You Make a Web Page More Valuable?
One of the things that we always try to keep in mind here at Blue Compass is that Google’s entire purpose is to provide valuable results for its users. Just thinking about the user and your target audience is really the key to SEO these days. Years ago, it was more about trying to get backlinks or trying to put in the right keywords – and that still has some power, but when it comes down to it, just providing value to your audience at a high level is the best thing you can do for search engine optimizations.
Search Engine Optimization Website Audits
One of the things we do here at Blue Compass is audit websites to see what’s working, what’s not and what the low hanging fruit are that could be fixed quickest to help improve search results. Some of the things we find most often include:
- Redirect errors. Usually with any website, if it’s been around for more than a year and it has more than one person updating it, there’s some older content or older links that we can help clean up and refresh. Not even big overhauls. If we’ve changed the URL of a page there’s a redirect in place so you can still get to that final destination, but you have to go through the bots and users have to wait a couple extra seconds to go through those steps.
Finding all of those pieces and really setting a clean foundation from a technical SEO perspective is a great way to take care of some of the smaller errors. Simple things, for example, like when you have a redirect in place – a bot has to crawl two URLs instead of just one. So, you’ve now cut out another page of your website that they could be crawling because they have to crawl that redirect. Taking the time to maintain that, making sure your navigation is set up in a way that directs user to the exact end result instead of passing through those redirects – those are ways you can spend a little bit less time, do some bigger clean up and have a better result within Search Console and get better metrics. It's not really a quick solution, but these are ways we help sites when after audits to see some benefit quickly with some technical maintenance.
- Page load speed. This is one of the factors that Google looks at, and from an audience perspective, the faster your page loads the better the experience is for users. If someone is on their phone and they’re waiting too long for that page to load, they are very likely to take off and leave. So, the faster you can make something load, the better. That can get very technical and come down to codes, but one of the simplest things we often encourage website owners to do, is eliminate the big image file sizes. Sometimes we’ll see images on webpages that are 1mg, 2mg, 6mg – that’s really, really big. In general, we try to keep images under 100k, 100 kilobytes, which does help with load time. Headshots are sometimes the biggest offender of this because it shows up small, but when you get a headshot, it’s a gigantic image that could take over a full screen, it’s super high resolution and we often see a lot of compression come into play on headshots.
- Copy issues. Another thing that we often see is within the content on websites. We recently saw a site that was getting ready to launch, and it had maybe 400-500 words of copy on the entire site! It’s not a big site, but that’s not a lot of copy. One of the things that to consider is called dwell time or session duration. In general, the longer someone spends on one of your web pages, the more likely Google is to increase that in rankings because it sees that people are spending a lot of time on it and having a good experience. If you want to bring more value and keep people on your pages longer, try to provide really good, helpful copy that’s interesting to users. More copy is better than less copy.
Lately, over the last few years people have wanted to cut down on the content on their website. They want people to get in, see what they need and get out. Unfortunately, that mentality, while it might work for some mobile users, does not work for search engines. If you’re not able to talk about the content and you’re not able to add value for the user – how are Google and other search engines supposed to know that this page is reliable and a good resource? At Blue Compass we say, if it does not have 300 words, Google is not going to consider that valuable. There are a few exceptions to that rule when it comes to the contact page or the homepage, but anything that is interior or talks about your product or service or even blogs need have 300-words minimum and should probably be in the 650-850-word count to start adding value by answering multiple questions about a single topic.
- Additional landing page elements.
- Quality images that are unique (not stock photos), add interest throughout the page.
- Embedding helpful videos, usually from YouTube, helps with session duration and further explaining a product or service.
- Linking to relevant pages shows users other resources on your website, helps bots figure out which pages are related and can boost ranking value.
Boost The Value of Your Website With Search Engine Optimization Services
These are just a few things that you can consider when you’re working through your search engine optimization journey. We’ve been there before; it can be difficult. The good news is there are so many things you can do to make your website more valuable. So, if you ever need help with your website or with search engine optimizations, we have an awesome team of experts here. Simply reach out to us, we’re more than happy to help.
Mac & Cheese
Mac and Cheese is on the Digital Bark-eting team at Blue Compass. He loves greeting his team members when they arrive for the day, encouraging fun breaks during the workday and taking naps in various places throughout the office. He also enjoys saying hello to clients and other visitors - especially the mail carriers who bring treats! Mac is an important part of our team of digital experts at Blue Compass, where we help brands succeed online through web design, development and digital marketing strategies.