15 Telltale Signs Your SEO Strategy Isn’t Working


Warning: your current SEO strategy may be failing.

That’s true even if you’re handling SEO yourself or your outsourcing it to an agency.

Sometimes, business owners think that as long as they have an SEO strategy, then everything is fine. Customers will visit the site, the company will earn more money, and income will grow over time.

That’s not always the case, though.

Here are 15 telltale signs that your SEO strategy isn’t working.

1. Your Organic Traffic Has Been Steadily Decreasing

The fruits of a great SEO strategy can be summed up in one word: growth.

Your organic traffic should grow over time. That includes new sessions and returning sessions.

Pop into Google Analytics and check your web traffic stats for the past 12 months or so. The line graph that you see should show a definite upward trend.

If it doesn’t, your SEO strategy isn’t working. It’s time to go back to the drawing board.

Start by taking a look at what caused the drop in traffic. You’ll probably find that competitors have moved in and taken some of your spots at the top of the search engine results pages (SERPs).

That means their SEO strategy is better than yours. Grab a tool like SEMRush and spy on your competitors.

Find out which keywords they’re using. Take a look at their landing pages and compare them to your own.

Then, update your SEO strategy accordingly.

2. Your Organic Traffic Drops Dramatically Overnight

If you login to Google Analytics one day and notice a significant drop in traffic over the past 24 hours, that’s another sign that your SEO strategy isn’t working.

Usually, a quick drop in traffic means you took an SEO shortcut to manipulate the search results. Google discovered what you were doing and updated its algorithm to prevent your site from ranking well.

A quick drop in traffic means your SEO strategy isn't working

A quick drop in traffic means your SEO strategy isn’t working

That, by the way, is why you should avoid “quick wins” in SEO. Don’t buy backlinks or do business with unscrupulous SEO agencies that promise you a top rank for a fee. Google will eventually catch up with you.

Instead, play by the rules and you’ll more likely survive algorithm updates.

It’s possible, though, that a quick drop in traffic has nothing to do with a bad SEO strategy. Give your site a thorough audit just to be sure.

3. Your Keyword Rankings Are Steadily Dropping

Hopefully, you’re using tools like SEMRush and Google Search Console to check your keyword rankings. If you find that they’re dropping over time, you’ve got a problem on your hands.

For starters, keep in mind that it’s perfectly normal for rank to fluctuate slightly from day to day. That’s not a problem.

What is a problem is if you see a definite downward trend over time. That could mean a couple of things.

Most likely, your competitors are producing content superior to yours that’s optimized for the same keywords. Take a look at their content and find out why that’s the case.

Alternatively, their content might be better optimized for the keyword. Check your content to make sure the keyword is in the title and opening paragraph. Also, make sure it’s sprinkled throughout the content naturally.

Whatever the case, find out what they’re doing and take it to the next level in your own SEO strategy. That’s how you’ll outrank them.

4. If You’re Not Ranking for the Best Keywords, You’re SEO Strategy Isn’t Working

It’s probably the case that there are some keywords in your niche that are absolute winners. If you’re not ranking for those keywords, then it’s time to step up your SEO game.

Keep in mind: you need to rank towards the very top for those keywords. That’s how you’ll attract the most traffic and convince people that you’re an authority in your space.

If you rank at #1, you can expect to get almost 30% of the search traffic from desktop users and almost 25% of the search traffic from mobile users. The second position drops all the way down to about 15%.

The numbers get progressively worse from there as you go lower in rank.

Put in place an SEO strategy that sends your site to the very top for your most important keywords.

5. You Have a Lackluster Conversion Rate

Maybe your current strategy is bringing visitors to your site but once they get there, they’re not taking the action that you want them to take.

That could still point to an SEO problem.

Why? It might mean that you’re not bringing in the right kind of traffic. In other words, you’re not attracting visitors who are likely to become customers.

Maybe that’s because your keywords don’t carry intent. For example, if you’re selling table saws, your site might be optimized for “table saw.” However, that word doesn’t have a purchase intent.

In that case, consider optimizing for keywords like “discount table saws” or “table saws on sale.” Those keywords will bring in visitors who want to buy table saws.

Go through your keyword tracking tools and look at the most popular keywords that are attracting people to your site. Ask yourself: are these the keywords my potential customers are using in online searches?

If not, update your strategy.

6. Your SEO Strategy Isn’t Working if You’re Using Thin Content

Think you can optimize a 300-word article for a hot keyword and it will quickly rank on Page 1 of the SERPs? Think again.

You’re not going to get far with that kind of content.

Remember, Google is all about user experience. That means it will rank the most helpful articles towards the top of the search results.

Those articles are usually long.

If you’re using a unique or branded keyword and nobody else has content optimized for it, you might be able to get away with shorter content. But that’s the exception rather than the rule.

Instead, you should opt for 10x content. As the name implies, that’s content that’s 10 times better than anything else out there.

If your competitors are using long-form content, produce longer form content. Embed some relevant videos from YouTube. Add some images. Include graphs.

Go for higher quality content and Google will reward you with better rank.

7. You Have a High Bounce Rate

Head over to Google Analytics and check your page metrics. If you find that your bounce rate is unusually high, you’re probably using a subpar SEO strategy.

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If you’re unfamiliar with the bounce rate, it’s the metric that shows the percentage of visitors who leave your site after looking at only one page. You want that number to be as low as possible.

That’s especially true of landing pages that are designed to make your website “sticky.” Those are the pages that bring people in so they can browse around for a bit and learn more about your products or services.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to reduce your bounce rate.

8. If You Have a Low Dwell Time, Your SEO Strategy Isn’t Working

This one is related to the previous point. Once again, you can find the dwell time in Google Analytics.

If it shows people splitting from your site after only a few seconds, you’re not connecting with the right crowd.

Make sure that your titles and your snippets in the search results properly advertise the content on your page. Otherwise, people will quickly bounce away.

9. You Have Too Many Low-Quality Backlinks

An important part of an SEO effort is developing a healthy backlink profile. That means getting links from quality sites.

If you’re getting links from sites with a very low domain authority (DA), you can be sure that your SEO strategy isn’t bearing much fruit.

Even worse, you might have bought links from private blog networks (PBNs). If that’s the case, you’ll probably get caught by the Big G and penalized.

Also, check the hosts where your backlinks are located. If you find a lot of them are coming from porn and foreign sites, you’ve got a backlink profile that’s going to raise suspicion. Again, you’re in danger of getting penalized.

Fix the problem by disavowing the spammy links and guest-posting on high-quality sites.

10. Your SEO Strategy Isn’t Working if You’re Focusing on Search Results Rather Than People

“What can I do to get this article to rank #1?”

It’s understandable and completely forgivable that you’d ask that question.

But it’s an indication that your priorities are in the wrong place.

You shouldn’t produce content for search engines. You should produce content for people.

Then, when you’ve created content that people love, Google will reward you with a high rank.

As we’ve seen, Google is all about user experience. If you’ve got some content that its users will want to see, you can be pretty sure that it will rank well.

11. You’re Using the Same SEO Strategy From 4 Years Ago

The only constant is change. You can be sure that’s the case with SEO.

If you’re using a strategy that worked spectacularly during the first years of the Obama administration, that doesn’t mean it’s going to work now. SEO has evolved quite a bit since then.

That’s why you need to keep up with the latest best practices. Bookmark sites like Search Engine Land and Search Engine Watch so that you stay informed.

Then, as you learn about algorithm updates and read tips from other SEO professionals, update your own strategy accordingly.

12. You’re Expecting Quick Results

When you get into SEO, you need to be in it for the long haul. It’s not a “quick fix” initiative.

If you’re expecting instantaneous results from some winning SEO strategy you picked up from Neil Patel yesterday, you’re going to be sorely disappointed.

Here’s the news you don’t want to hear: it can take six months to a year before your SEO pays off.

If you get results quicker than that, smile and consider it a bonus.

But don’t get discouraged if you don’t.

13. Your SEO Strategy Won’t Work if You Have No Editorial Calendar

What’s the title of the article that you’ll be producing this week?

If you can’t answer that, you likely don’t have an editorial calendar. That means your SEO strategy is lacking.

Make it a point in the near future to do some exhaustive keyword research. Gather dozens, or maybe even hundreds, of keywords relevant to your brand.

Then, create an article title around each keyword. Put each title on your editorial calendar.

That should keep you busy with content marketing for months.

14. Your SEO Strategy Won’t Work if You’ve Gone Cheap on SEO

You might have interviewed a number of different SEO agencies and picked the one that was the cheapest. That makes sense from a cash flow perspective.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t make sense from an SEO perspective.

Here’s another hard truth: great SEO costs a lot of money. Instead of picking the least expensive agency, you should probably have picked one of the more expensive ones.

You’ll definitely take a hit in up-front costs. And, as we’ve seen, you won’t see results for months.

But once that strategy starts working its magic, you’ll see a return. After awhile, you’ll likely see a positive ROI.

A healthy SEO budget is the cost of doing business these days.

15. You Have No Goals

One sign that your SEO strategy isn’t working is if you can’t tell that it’s working. That is, you have no goals.

If that’s the case, start coming up with goals today. You have several different options with SEO:

  • Increased traffic
  • Increased sales
  • Improve brand-name awareness
  • Establish your company as an authority

Think about why you want a strong presence in the search results. Then, you’ll be in a better position to determine if your SEO strategy is working.

Wrapping It Up

After reading this, have you noticed several signs that your SEO strategy isn’t working? If so, determine what kinds of changes you need to make. Then, put in place an action plan to up your SEO game.

Finally, reevaluate your new strategy in about six months. You might need to make some additional changes.

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