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The 4 Toughest Challenges SEO Specialists Need to Overcome

Being an SEO professional isn’t always boring. In fact, it can kind of be a rush!

The highs are very high, and the lows can be just as extreme. For those considering taking the leap and attempting to become an SEO specialist, there is no better time to start than today.

I often like to say that new SEO practitioners have one distinct edge over legacy players. More specifically, these newcomers won’t have had  a chance to learn bad habits or get too set in their ways.

Sound like you? Then you’re in luck as the rest of the article is not meant for you. Let’s cover the four most common and challenging obstacles SEO specialists must overcome to succeed.

“Internet Tectonics” Are Always Shifting

Everything that you see and “know” about the web is built on top of a superstructure of metadata that you will most likely never see.

How this metadata is collected, organized, and used to display information to users is the foundation upon which the rest is built (the “magma” of the dark web is a subject for another time.)

Suffice to say however that this foundation is constantly changing. Sometimes it shifts slowly over time and sometimes it can change quickly and drastically. An eruption if you will.

The majority of these changes influence how information is collected. There’s no shortage of speculation on how Google goes about this, but one thing that we do clearly understand is the motivation behind it.

At the end of the day, Google wants to ensure that searchers find what they are looking for. That’s why they frequently release changes, like the most recent Penguin update.

More and more spam, irrelevant information, and low-quality sites pop up every day. It’s Google’s job to bury it.

So why does this matter to you? Because you need Google to know that, you are one of the good guys. Act in accordance with their policies, that’s a fair place to start.

Further, keep tabs on what Google is and isn’t valuing and you’ll have a leg up on your equally well-meaning but SEO-ignorant competition.

Getting The Most Out of Your Data

Long ago, probably before you’d even considered working for an SEO company, acquiring extremely detailed and comprehensive keyword data was a breeze.

Google gave away web analytics tools, aggregated that data, and made it available for anyone to search. They even showed you how much traffic each keyword was driving to your site.

Those days are long gone.

It is hard to be bitter because after all, Google has showed us that it is possible to build a profitable business around free cloud-based software. It is leading to a whole new wave of free cloud-based software solutions, Entrata and ZipBooks just to name a few.

Whether you see Google Analytics keyword information as a “bait and switch” or a natural progression of business, there is still hope for finding better keyword information than everyone’s least favorite — [not provided].

First, you should know that keyword volume is not everything. You also need to consider how a keyword will convert once you start ranking for a particular term.

There may be content that you want to write about regardless of keyword volume because you’re an expert on the subject matter. Maybe the effort required to build the content is minimal enough that you should just go for it anyways.

In most cases though, you’ll still want to do some keyword research before you start devoting serious time and effort into ranking for a specific query.

Here are a couple of ways to get around what appears at first blush to be a lack of meaningful keyword data.

Adwords keyword planner

Many people speculate that the reason Google killed keyword data was not just to protect users data (they did this by switching all Gmail users to an https:// connection, thus making it impossible to collect as much relevant data). Some believe that it was also aimed at reducing the ability of companies to effectively target keywords organically, thereby forcing digital marketers to spend more money in AdWords.

To wit – they provide a great tool in Adwords that lets you see what estimated keyword volume would be by location and by match type. There is no reason why you shouldn’t make use of that information to inform your SEO strategy. I will just leave it there.

Search console

Formerly known as Webmaster Tools, this is yet another great tool Google is responsible for.

It lets you see messages from Google regarding your overall site health, and even how often Google visits your site to check for new information. More importantly for our purposes here however, is the fact that you can also see very distinct data on what queries users type in to reach your site, and where you rank for those queries.

The catch? It only archives data for 90 days! So you’ll have to stay on top of downloading the information if you want to see how your rankings trend over a longer time horizon. Keep in mind that you can collect all of this information and even integrate it into your Google Analytics account as a workaround.

Related searches

The last method I’ll recommend here, is to use what searches Google thinks are related. This is a great way to get new ideas for keywords to target

At the bottom of every search engine results page (SERP) you’ll find a “related searches” section. This usually includes a few close variations on the search term that you actually entered, but it can be important to note those as well. After all, if there’s search volume there, then you should consider including them in your overall SEO campaign.

Voice SEO is Coming, Whether SEO Specialists Are Ready or Not

Voice SEO is going to be a doozy. It’s probably exciting for the general public, but could also be terrifying and frustrating to the SEO old guard.

Voice SEO essentially relates to optimizing for searches that people enter into their phone or tablet via speech rather than text. As you might imagine, this balloons the number of search terms that could potentially be entered. It can also affect the average length of search terms.

This is all pretty new and frankly, I don’t have a great answer for how to overcome this one yet. But you can bet that voice SEO will reward SEO strategies that focus on long tail keywords.

We saw the same thing happen when suggested search rolled out (autocomplete). There were far fewer head term searches of one to three words and a whole lot more “complete sentence” searches.

Remember, this is great for Google because the easier they can make longer searches, the more relevant their average search is going to be. This is also great for us SEO specialists, primarily because it’s significantly easier to earn ranks for long-tail keywords than head search terms.

Numbers Still Matter to the C-Suite

One of the biggest challenges I face in my internet marketing career, is having to explain the direct effect that my work is having on my client’s KPIs.

These KPIs can vary from company to company, but it is pretty typical for them to be a focus on growth and signups. If you work backwards from registrations, you’ll quickly notice two more leading indicators (LI) to track: conversions and visits.

This is because you’ll want to show you’re driving traffic to the site. But further, focus on showing your client that the traffic you’re generating is increasing engagements and signups.

The highest quality visitors are still (and will long remain) those that find your site through organic search results. It then stands to reason that as organic traffic grows, you should expect to see conversions increasing accordingly.

Google just released a new tool to both monitor and present data. It’s called Google Data Studio.

Using Google Data Studio you can pull in data from Google Analytics, Google Sheets, and even Google Adwords. 3rd party APIs are going to be supported shortly. That’s definitely great news for anyone that doesn’t want to drop $5000/month on a tool like Domo (you’re not alone!).

Lastly, run A/B tests to iteratively improve user experience. The real trick lies in having the right tools in place to accurately track the results of your changes.

For A/B testing I like the Google Experiments tool inside Google Analytics. It is free, reliable and does all the number crunching for you. It will even turn the test off for you once a winning variant has been clearly established.

Wow, Being an SEO Specialist is Hard Huh…

Yep, I definitely wasn’t kidding around in the introduction!

Hopefully this article gave you a solid lay of the land though. You should have plenty to think about if you’re considering a full-time career in SEO (or if you just want to up your game a bit).

I’ll reiterate it here one last time for emphasis: one of the biggest takeaways throughout all of my years doing this, has been to stay close to Google’s own tools. They’re usually going to set the bar in terms of quality, and they’re tough to beat.

Of course, just having the right tools isn’t going to be enough. If you truly want to be an SEO specialist, you’ll need to have the right combination of tenacity, an analytical approach, and the ability to think on your feet.

Keep all of this in mind, and you’ll be on your way to building your own success in this dynamic and exciting field.

Christopher Jan Benitez is a professional freelance writer. He has helped small businesses achieve their goals by implementing a strong content strategy that emphasizes their unique selling points and promoting created content using effective online channels and methods, in particular, social media marketing and search engine optimization techniques.