SEO Failure? Where to Point the Fingers

SMS Text
SEO Failure? Where to Point the Fingers

Many companies as well as clients have a difficult time accepting that they may have been the reason for an SEO failure. In most situations, the blame goes immediately to the SEO company, department, or expert, and rightfully so. These are the people in charge of making sure SEO succeeds, so these are the people that will most likely take the blame (and be happy to do it). However, it’s important to realize that just because they are forced (in a sense) to take the blame doesn’t mean they are actually to blame.

The Client vs. The Expert vs. Google: Who Is Really to Blame for an SEO Failure?

If you want to be an informed client or informed SEO expert, it’s important to see all different sides to a failure and consider all different outcomes. Below explains the three different parties that are most likely to be at fault and some of the reasons and instances that might put them in that position:

The Client: Yes, it’s possible!

The clients are always right; except when they’re wrong. Even when it comes to SEO, it’s important that the client is involved in the campaign. It’s completely OK if a client doesn’t understand SEO, but there are a few things a client needs to do in order to make sure the efforts are successful. A few times when a failure really is the client’s fault include:

  • Changes Weren’t Made. In most cases, an SEO firm or expert will make recommendations about how to optimize the website. Oftentimes, these recommendations have to do with changing content slightly to include certain keywords or changing something in the Meta data. If the client completely ignores this advice and decides not to ask its developers to do anything, that’s really not the fault of the agency/expert that worked hard to offer suggestions.
  • A Plan Wasn’t Discussed. Even if a client doesn’t really understand SEO and how it works, he/she surely has some idea about the goals wanted for the company. These goals should be used by an SEO agency and a plan should be laid out ahead of time. The client needs to be paying attention to every step of the process and reading reports that the SEO will send.
  • Stop Efforts Too Soon. When all is said and done, it is usually the client who can stop the SEO efforts for the company. If the client simply too impatient to wait for results (sometimes six months are needed) and pulls the plug too early, it wasn’t for lack of trying on the agency’s part. It’s easy to be impatient in SEO, but that will surely be any campaigns killer.

The SEO Company: Often the problem, but most likely to take the blame either way.

As you would assume, this is where most of the problems lie. SEO departments or experts are the ones who have the most control when it comes to a campaign, so there are several things that could go wrong:

  • Black Hat Tactics. Any black hat tactic that is used—cloaking, keyword stuffing, duplicate content, etc.—is entirely the fault of the SEO department. You can learn more about black hat tactics here.
  • Poor Communication. Those in charge of SEO need to make sure that they are communicating with the client. The client might not always know that they should be asking about a particular method or approach, so it’s your job to keep them completely in the loop. This will often spark questions and will help keep that partnership between client and agency/expert strong. If an SEO simply decides not to communicate a change with the client and the client doesn’t like it in the future, that’s the SEO’s fault.
  • General Laziness. This might seem obvious, but as with anything, an SEO agency or expert can get lazy and just not feel like helping. It’s as simple as that.
  • False Guarantees. Many SEOs give false guarantees such as “Number 1 Ranking in One Month Or Your Money Back.” If an agency couldn’t deliver on this, it’s their own fault because they should know that guarantees are not possible in SEO.

There are of course more detailed reasons that could occur based on the specific situation, but these are just a few of the most common ways that an SEO company might be the reason for a campaign’s failure.

The Search Engine: They don’t mean any harm.

Sometimes SEO campaigns fail because of the search engines. Search engines only rock an current SEO campaigns in order to improve search results for users, so they don’t mean any harm, but they can cause harm because of a few reasons:

  • Algorithm Updates. An SEO could be optimizing a website for certain keywords and doing great, but the minute a Panda or Penguin update hits you might find the website back at the bottom. If the SEOs are building links and optimizing correctly the website should be able to bypass the very negative effects of an algorithm update, but some changes might shake the campaign whether you’ve been following the rules or not, and all anyone can really do at this point is just try and recover.
  • Negative SEO. It is the SEOs responsibility to take action against negative SEO through the disavow links tool and reconsideration requests. Now negative SEO is the fault of competitors or from spam sites that are trying to bring the website down, so you really can’t blame the search engines for this one. However, it is the search engines who are going to take the action of bringing a site down because of negative SEO (particularly if they missed a spam site or directory). This is the perfect example of the “no hard feelings” mentality.

Analyzing Why It Matters and How to Deal With the Blame Game

Understanding who is to blame can help an SEO agency/expert and a client work together to create the most successful campaign possible for that company. If a client knows when he/she would be in the wrong, he/she can try and prevent this from happening altogether. If it does happen, then no time will need to be wasted yelling at the SEOs. The exact same can be said for SEOs when they are in the wrong. Be up front and honest so that the relationship between SEO and client can move forward.

Have you ever had an instance where you haven’t felt like you were at fault when it came to an SEO blunder? What did you do in response (and who were you in the scenario)? Let us know your story and give us your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: patentpracticeliability.com

Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro

Online Content Editor/Writer at HigherVisibility
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a... Read Full Bio
Amanda DiSilvestro
Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!