5 Reasons You Think Your SEO Is Working (When It’s Not!)

People inexperienced with how search engines work may quite easily fool themselves when it comes to their own company's SEO. Make sure you don't fall for these tricks!
David Victor
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Man surprised at his SEO mistakes!

SEO is a process. While results aren’t always immediate, you can often begin to see improvements in rankings in the SERPs (search engine result pages) within just a few weeks. 

However, you may be seeing some things in the SERPs right now that make you think your website is already “ranking.” 

Unfortunately, what you see is not always what you get.

Here are five very common SEO misconceptions that may leave you with the impression that your SEO efforts are “working”. 

1: Reliance on Branded Searches

Have you ever Googled your name? If your name is even somewhat uncommon, you might see yourself right at the top of the search results.

A search for “David Victor” for example, gives prominence to a renowned climate scientist, while I play second fiddle. Which, truth be told, is probably about right (haha!)

Searching on any proper noun is also known as a “branded” search. The name could be a person or a business, or even a brand that the business sells. 

When you search for your business name, the more unique your name, the better the odds that Google will put you right at the top of their listings.

You could start a business called “ABCDEFXYRQZ Holdings Ltd” and I could index it and rank it overnight on Page 1 of Google.

Huzzah!

But that doesn’t mean your site is “optimized.” 

Instead of doing a branded search to find your company, search Google the way someone would who had never heard of you. This is called an “unbranded” search.

The keywords you use for such an unbranded search are the keywords that bring you new clients. These are the precious new people who’ve never heard of you. And you’ve never heard of them, either. 

For example, if you own a data analytics company named “XRQ Big Data,” instead of searching your company name, search for your company using keywords such as “big data analytics companies” or the names and brands of services you offer, just as a potential client might. 

Like most everything else in business, rankings have a lot to do with what the competition is doing. 

Most likely, there will be little to no competition for a “branded search”. Your brand name is your brand name. You rank for your own brand name.

However, if your competitors are smart, they’re all out jockeying for the top rankings on “unbranded” keyword searches: “best big data analytics companies in the U.S.”. 

That’s the search you want. Yes, you want the branded stuff too, but branded searches are easy by comparison. 

THE TAKEAWAY: Don’t fool yourself and consider the SEO job done because you rank for your own brand.

2: Reliance on Personalized Search Results

If you’re like most of our clients, you likely spend at least some time searching keywords related to your business just to see where you stack up in the search results. 

You also probably visit your own site from the search results on occasion. 

But Google has a trick up its sleeve: personalized search results.

Personalized search results is a way that Google may mislead you into thinking your site is ranking higher than it is to the average searcher. 

Google pays attention to your searches. If there’s a site you visit a lot and then you perform a related search, there’s a very good chance that Google will show you the site you often visit higher up in the search results because it thinks that the site is relevant to you

For example, let’s say you own a financial planning firm in Pleasanton, and you search keywords like “financial planners near me” or “wealth managers Pleasanton,” on Google to find your website. 

Now if you find your website on Page 2 or 3 and click through, then the next time you search, Google will tend to rank your website higher (perhaps even on Page 1!) when you search for those terms or related terms.

And those search results that Google has so carefully personalized may lead you to think that you already rank for some pretty important keywords. 

Unfortunately, because Google connects your searches to your IP address, common fixes such as clearing your cache or going incognito are not going to help completely. 

There is a simple workaround, though: a Chrome plugin called “Nightwatch Search Simulator.” Nightwatch Search Simulator lets you search the internet without Google’s assumptions based on your search history. You can also save searches too. 

Try it, you’ll like it!

THE TAKEAWAY: Personalized search on Google is almost always in play, especially in Chrome. Don’t be fooled by it!

3: Keyword Fixation

Many of our potential clients come to us with some basic SEO understanding, but they don’t understand why their SEO campaign isn’t driving site traffic, and more importantly, why it’s not translating into sales. 

In many of these instances, it’s because the client suffers from “keyword fixation,” which thankfully isn’t terminal. But it will keep their business from maximizing its potential. 

Keyword fixation is when a searcher fixates on the same set of keywords instead of taking a broader approach and anticipating how different potential clients might search. 

If, for example, I were to spend my time and energy only on “digital marketing” as a keyword, sure, I might rank high on that keyword, but I’d also be missing out on many other topical opportunities. 

For example, you know, “SEO”. 

Of course we focus our efforts on the services we offer: SEO, paid search advertising, web design, content marketing and web management, but even that’s not enough.

A great SEO campaign can often seem to “read” potential clients’ minds and anticipate their needs before they even know what their needs are. That’s Google, in the background, making logical connections between topics: “Oh, this searcher might also be interested in this other topic!” This is a great reason for having a lot of content on your website. You need to help Google make these connections, even if you think “Oh, all our clients know our industry inside and out. We don’t need to have content about XYZ.”

But that content is for Google to consume and build those logical connections. Help it do its job, and it will reward you with website visitors who are interested in what your business offers.

THE TAKEAWAY: Don’t get obsessed with 2-3 types of searches only!

4: Ignoring Search Volume

“Search volume” refers to the number of times a specific keyword has been searched over a given amount of time, typically in the last 30 days. If, for example, if Ahrefs shows keyword volume of 150 on “Pleasanton SEO agency”, that keyword has been searched 150 times in the past month. 

Regardless of how relevant a keyword is, if no one is looking for it, you’re truly wasting your time promoting it.

Study the search volume of a topic before writing a blog post or web page. If a blog topic has a low (or zero!) search volume, it won’t reach very many people. 

No one’s looking for it. 

For niche B2B businesses, a search volume of 250 could be a pretty good topic if it correlates to what your company does. If you want to reach a broader regional or national clientele on a broder topic, search volumes can rise exponentially and become a good deal more difficult to rank for. 

  • High search volume + high buyer intent = difficult keywords for which to rank!

When creating content, there are two types of topics:

  1. Evergreen – The search volume stays relatively consistent regardless of the time of year or what’s happening in the news. This Boomcycle learning page is an example of an evergreen topic.
  2. Temporal – Trending or seasonal. That could apply to news, sports, business, technology, holidays or other searches that are hot right now. 

For example, searches for office Christmas decorations will reach their peak volume around November and December. 

And if a recent Google algorithmic update was a trending news topic, we might want to write a blog post on how to re-optimize your content to stay on the right side of the Google algo update! 

Google Trends is a free tool that lets you search for and discover trending topics. You can use Google Trends to discover topics that are on an upward slope, write blog articles that address the trend, and get some PR advantage from it.

Look at Search Volume for More Than One Keyword

Writing an extensive blog post featuring a single keyword is not making the best use of your time or blog space. Use synonomic keywords in HTML header tags (H1, H2, etc.) to help you rank for multiple keywords, all around the same topic.

For example, if you have a records management company, you might want to write a blog post about “digital transformation.” You could include secondary keywords such as “scanning,” “shredding,” “cloud storage,” and “CRM” (customer relationship management). Each of those keywords has 100s to thousands of searches each month.

A New & Hugely Helpful Tool for Content Writers

Here at Boomcycle, we are huge fans of an incredible research and writing tool called Topic, which is a powerful ally when writing about, you guessed it, a topic (okay, you can substitute the phrase “keyword” here). 

Topic can make a good writer sound like they know any topic inside and out! And Topic combines competitive analysis, search volume stats, search trends, AI content generation, competitor outlines, suggested questions to answer, statistics to cite…and more! It’s a crazy, full-featured content outline generator that helps you create highly readable and human-centric blog and evergreen content. 

Check it out if you want to write great blog articles

THE TAKEAWAY: You can write about a keyword with 0 search volume, but be aware that, since no one is looking for it, so no one will find it.

5: “They’re Not Our Competitors”

Unless your business is so niche that it offers services that no one else covers, your business has competition.

And even if you are the only business that offers the services or products that you offer, Google may still throw shade on your website. That means other search results, even if you think they are not related, will rise above yours. This type of “invisibility” is another factor to consider in SEO.

Even if many of these “visibility competitors” are smaller, they might rank higher than your business on specific relevant keywords. Perhaps because their website is more engaging, or they write content more frequently, or they’ve invested more time in optimizing for those keywords, or possibly because Google recognizes them as higher authorities on those topics. 

Whether your competition is bigger or smaller, or completely irrelevant in your mind, if you don’t pay attention to the keywords that are working for them and should be working for you, they’re casting a shadow over your visibility. 

When researching keywords you should determine which keywords are ranking for your competitors. You can of course use a personalized search to research this, and of course there are several (paid) online tools that can help. 

Once you find the best keywords, hold off on the urge to plug them into every paragraph or even every page on your site. 

Google is not a fan of “keyword stuffing,” or using keywords too often or in a way that doesn’t make a lot of sense to the readers. Using a keyword three to five times per post is a reasonable benchmark. Any more, and you risk making your content annoying to your readers. The last thing you want to do!

Great Content Brings Visibility

“Natural”, reader-centric content will continue to do better as Google gets smarter and smarter. New ranking factors include user engagement on your website (a visitor who stays, reads, watches your videos, and clicks around), low bounce rate, and submitting a contact or subscription form.

Of course, Google has a huge job to do, and spammers and hackers will always find ways to (temporarily) beat the search algorithm. SEO is something of a game. You can’t put your sales on hold while Google catches up to the type of content that it purports to want you to create. Sometimes your competitors may beat you with some new Google bug or workaround they found. 

Be that as it may, websites that use ancient SEO tactics like keyword stuffing will never again find themselves visible on Google.

We have tools that help us see exactly which pages are doing well on your competitor’s websites. Establish your topical authority using the keywords that drive traffic to your competitors. 

Above all, be sure to create fresh, new content on a regular basis. A blog post per month is pretty much baseline to show Google your business has a heartbeat. Two smaller posts per month is good too, but make sure there’s something of value that you’re offering your readers. Just saying you’re attending an upcoming conference is barely a blog post at all, and offers precious little unique insights.

You know what you do, and what your customers ask you. Write as you speak!

THE TAKEAWAY: Do good keyword research to find the topics around which to create content — these are the topics your best prospects are interested in!

Boomcycle Digital Marketing Can Help 

Boomcycle Digital Marketing has been helping B2B companies rank on their most relevant keywords for nearly as long as SEO has been an “gamified science”.

If you’re looking for increased visibility, contact us or call us at (925) 364-4517 for a free consultation. We will sit down with you and take the time to learn all about what you do, and how your best prospects think.

Need help building Authority?​

Boomcycle specializes in content marketing, helping your business increase your relevance and authority in your niche.

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