Why Does My SEO Suck?

SEO (Search Engine Optimization) problems tend to stem from patchy optimization, lame content, and gnarly infrastructure.  Here’s how to tackle each and improve SEO rankings.

SEO Problem 1:  You haven’t fully optimized your content

Simplest things first – every indexed page and post on your website should be written around a unique keyword (or more likely key phrase).  We don’t want to compete with ourselves, so don’t optimize multiple pages/posts for the same keywords.

>> Related: So, You Wrote Some Content. Now What? <<

Once you know what your unique keyword is, you need to thoroughly embed it within the copy and meta data:

  • Include it in the opening sentences of the page/post
  • Distribute it evenly 3x throughout the copy
  • Add it to SEO title and the URL slug
  • Add it to an H2 subheading
  • Write a meta description that is 120-156 characters and contains the keyword
  • Add crosslinks to your website
  • Add outbound links to other relevant websites
  • Include helpful imagery with alt-tags that contain your keyword – Hot tip:  imagery is far less competitive, and lots of people search Google images looking for documentation, templates, and data viz.

If it sounds like a lot to remember, it is.  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  But there are great SEO plugins that track your progress (the most common being Yoast):

If you’re daunted by the scale of this, focus on your most important pages and keywords first, and just layer, layer, layer each month.  These are also great slow-but-steady projects for (supervised!) junior marketers and freelancers.

And remember, upon creating/updating content, it’s not immediately indexed.  So if needed, ask Google to recrawl your site.

SEO Problem 2:  The content is lame

Real talk:  you’ll never outsmart Google Search with meta data and some random keywords.  Your content has to have quantity, quality, and value, and this is a heavier problem to solve.

Quantity is pretty simple:  your copy should be at least 300 words.  (FWIW, this is the #1 reason form pages don’t rank well – they’re usually really short.)

Can your page be too long?  Not really.  But if you’re writing a 3000-word blog post, you’re better off cutting it into a 3-part series and optimizing for 3 different keywords.

The content also has to have quality, meaning it’s conversational and easy to read.  This isn’t subjective!  Easy-to-ready content:

  • uses Active Voice
  • has variety – i.e. you’re not starting 3 sentences in a row with the same words
  • divides up blocks of copy with subheadings
  • has short sentences and paragraphs
  • includes helpful imagery
  • uses transition words
  • and is easy for an average 11-year-old to understand.  Yes, an 11-year-old.

Lastly, there’s value.  Are you sharing true expertise?  Is it thoughtful, thorough, and helpful?  Google Search is infinitely smarter than any of us… writing valuable content is the only way you’ll be selected for the top 3 SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages).

SEO Problem 3:  You have site-wide problems

I’ve saved the scariest for last:  site-wide problems are easy to find and really hard to resolve.  But these infrastructure problems can sabotage great content and any other efforts to improve SEO.

A top offender is site speed.  You can check your site speed performance in Google Analytics and see which pages are especially slow.  Sometimes a developer can add a plug-in to auto-compress images, or deactivate old scripts in Google Tag Manager.  But often it’s a deeper problem… and I have absolutely paid to rearchitect an entire site to boost organic performance.

Additional site errors can be surfaced by an SEO technician using a tool like Screaming Frog.  These essentially crawl your entire site and catalog everything that’s hurting your domain, including broken redirects, 404 errors, duplicate page titles, etc.  The punch lists are often a couple thousand problems long and have to be tackled one by one. 😬 It usually takes a couple months to fully resolve, but they can dramatically improve SEO performance and your domain health.


Real talk:  you don’t need another data sheet!  This Buyer Journey template maps what content (and what formats) you need for each stage of the buying process.

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