SEO: Expectations vs. Reality

SEO: Expectations vs. Reality

Many individuals think of SEO as a wizard that produces results right away and creates an avalanche of sales instantly. According to experts, the reality may be considerably different. If you also believe that SEO works magic, read this article to discover the important differences between expectations and reality.

SEO Expectations Vs. SEO Reality

SEO is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspects of online marketing. People often think that if they just do “X” or “Y,” their website will start ranking number one on Google immediately. Unfortunately, SEO isn’t quite that straightforward.

This can often rear its ugly head in the marketing agency-client relationship because the client does not understand all of the ins and outs of search engine optimization. 

Because most individuals don’t have comprehensive knowledge of what SEO is or what it involves, clients’ SEO expectations often differ significantly from reality.

With SEO, there’s often an expectation of ranking higher in search engines without having to put much effort into it. It’s not that easy, though, as there are many factors to consider. 

After all, SEO isn’t like buying ads, where you can just pay and see results immediately. It’s a long-term strategy that requires continuous effort to maintain and improve your rankings. 

It takes time for Google to notice and index your content, so don’t expect to see results overnight. Depending on the competitiveness of your industry and the keywords you’re targeting, it could take months or even years to achieve high rankings. 

Additionally, SEO is an ongoing process, not a one-time fix. Once you achieve good rankings, you need to put in the effort to maintain those positions. If you stop working on SEO, your competitors will eventually overtake you in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

To sum it up, SEO takes time, effort, and patience to produce results. It’s important to manage your client’s expectations from the beginning so they understand that SEO is a long-term investment. SEO is a complex process with many different moving parts, so it’s important to have realistic expectations about what it can do for your business.

The following overview will clear up common misconceptions and explain SEO expectations vs. reality.

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Expectation: SEO Will Send the Audience Directly to My Website From Day 1

The reality is different since SEO is a deliberate procedure that takes time to impact your web pages significantly. Typically, it takes 4-5 months–at the very least–before your website appears in search engine results. Experts in digital marketing also claim that SEO results improve over time with significant effort.

Can a website hit the SEO jackpot and get ranked quickly for a high-traffic keyword? Certainly, although it’s about as likely as someone becoming an Instagram influencer because of that video of their dog burping.  It can happen, but it’s more of an exception than the rule. 

However, if you run a firm with a unique niche, SEO may pay off earlier, and your web pages may appear in search results much sooner than 4-5 months.

The trick is that you just don’t know. Some posts or pages may gain traction quickly, others could take months to drive a noticeable amount of traffic and then drive a massive amount of relevant clicks.  Others still will simply putter along driving minimal clicks from the day it’s published to when it’s finally removed from the site. This uncertainty makes it difficult to plan and forecast, so it’s important to understand that SEO efforts can influence but not control organic traffic.

Expectation: More Keywords Mean More Traffic 

Many companies utilize a disproportionately high number of keywords because they believe this will increase website traffic.

However, the relationship between keywords and traffic is not as substantial as it may seem. Selecting the right keywords is more about aligning to the needs of the target audience. If they need information on topics relevant to your company, feel free to provide that information. But generally speaking, deploying many keywords for the sake of the keywords alone will not necessarily result in more website traffic. As always, content quality and relevance come into play.

Pay attention to keyword search intent, and focus on the topics that are relevant to your target market. Just because people are searching for a particular keyword in large volumes doesn’t make it the right target keyword for your website

As a result, you should concentrate more on developing original ideas that have never been addressed or heard. Your web page will rank higher on Google if the topic themes are interesting, more precise, and contain the right keywords. 

Expectation: Link Quality Is Not as Important as Link Volume

Having many embedded links may seem like a smart SEO approach, but as technology develops, so does SEO. And today’s SEO focuses exclusively on high-quality links. The same goes for search engines, which could see an unnatural quantity of low-quality links as an attempt to game the algorithm. If you’re caught, your website may be penalized or even removed from the search engine’s index.

Quality is always more important than quantity when it comes to links. It’s better to have a few high-quality links than many low-quality links. For best results, you should reduce–or disavow–the number of low-quality links and emphasize quality, which will typically have a more positive impact on your site’s domain authority over time. According to link-building experts, connecting to highly credible websites that you and your audience can trust is a good idea.

Expectation: I Can Handle My SEO

As touched on earlier, SEO is a complex process with many different moving parts. To do it effectively, you need to have a deep understanding of how search engines work, what users are looking for, and the ever-changing algorithms of Google and other major search engines. 

Additionally, you need to be able to continuously produce high-quality content that’s relevant to your audience and optimized for search engines. And if you want to stay ahead of the competition, you need to keep up with the latest trends in SEO. 

For all these reasons, it’s best to leave SEO to the experts. A professional SEO agency will have the knowledge, experience, and resources to help you achieve your desired results. Or you can hire in-house experts who can focus on the minute details of search engine optimization. 

Expectation: I Don’t Need to Worry About My Website’s Design

Many people believe that as long as they have quality content, their website will rank high on search engine results pages (SERPs). However, this is not always the case. The design of your website is also an important factor in SEO. 

Your website’s design should be fast, user-friendly, and easy to navigate. If a user can’t find their way around your page or your website, they will bounce off the site. Not only does this negate the value of being found on SERPs, but search engines will also penalize websites with a poor user experience. It’s crucial to ensure that your website is designed with users in mind. 

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Additionally, your website should be mobile-friendly as more and more people are using mobile devices to access the internet. Google now uses mobile-first indexing, so if your website is not optimized for mobile, it will likely rank lower in SERPs.

Expectation: SEO Will Help With Lead Generation Instantly

Another frequent misconception is that SEO automatically or rapidly generates leads for you. This sentiment is untrue partly because SEO’s main objective is to make your web pages more visible to search engines. And while this might bring visitors or customers to your website, it is not guaranteed to consistently result in leads. While SEO may increase content visibility, typically more leads are produced using PPC, Google, or Yelp ads. 

This also depends on the type of content being created. For example, a fun post about Dad Jokes may drive a lot of traffic, but it won’t necessarily convert to leads or sales for your company. 

Although acquiring potential clients is one of the core objectives of SEO, there is a longer and slower burn with organic search. It is achieved by a mix of ensuring that people find your business when looking for solutions to their current needs, be that informational, navigational, commercial, or transactional searches. SEO gives the audience or visitors the option to decide whether to contact you or not.

Expectation: Core Web Vitals Are Not Important in 2022

Core Web Vitals (CWV) are user experience metrics that are part of Google’s “Page Experience” signals and are considered the most crucial factor in SEO. These are a set of standardized metrics that help developers understand how people interact with a web page. 

According to the latest SEO trends, Core Web Vitals is at the forefront of must-do SEO tasks because it has long been a ranking component that’s getting more important over time. Therefore, you want to keep in mind the Core Web Vitals constituents, i.e., 

  • Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) – Largest Contentful Paint (LCP) is a metric that counts the time it takes for the most important part on your site to load – often, your site’s hero section or prominent picture or title of your page.
  • First Input Delay (FID) – The period that elapses between when a user interacts with something on your website (for example, clicking a link) and when their browser may begin processing that event.
  • and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS) – monitors how much the information on your site “shifts” or “moves around” as it loads. This makes it more challenging for navigation, especially if CTA buttons bounce around during the load time.

Metrics that makeup Core Web Vitals will evolve over time. While the 3 mentioned above are essential metrics, here are other metrics that are being measured:

  • Interaction to Next Paint (INP) – Time from user input to the next paint. For example, if a user clicks on a button, how long does it take for the next element to be rendered?
  • First Contentful Paint (FCP) – The time it takes for the first element to be rendered on a page. This is an important metric because it indicates how long a user has to wait before they can start consuming content.
  • Time to Interactive (TTI) – The time it takes for a page to become fully interactive. This is important because users need to be able to interact with the page before they can start using the page’s functionality.
  • Total Blocking Time (TBT) – Total blocking time is the amount of time it takes for all the content on a page to load. This is important to track because if users have to wait too long for a page to load, they will likely leave the website.
  • Time to First Byte (TTFB) – The time it takes for the first byte of data to be received from a server.

Are your websites optimized for Core Web Vitals? If not, SEO statistics indicate that a growing number of websites are becoming CWV compliant so your website might be left in the SEO dust. SEO professionals advise that websites should pass the required percentage of CWV constituents. Google Search Console, Treo, and GT Metrix. are popular tools that measure CWV. 

SEO: Expectations vs. Reality - Core Web Vitals

Expectation: SEO Reporting Tools Are Expensive and Unworthy

It’s tough to cut down a tree with a manual saw. However, it’s much simpler and less time-consuming when a chain saw is used. Similarly, SEO reporting tools will save you countless hours and effort.

Although popular SEO reporting tools like Ahref, SEMRush, and Moz can be expensive, there are cheaper alternatives–always keep an eye on the market. When searching for an option that works for you, remember that an SEO reporting tool should include website statistics, competitor tracking, rank tracking, and backlink management.

Additionally, it is crucial to pick a good SEO reporting tool that is suited for your target demographics, provides precise regional data, and offers excellent local insights.

Latest SEO trends of 2022 to follow

One of the core factors of SEO is that it is ever-changing. Therefore, it is essential to keep updated on the latest SEO trends to ensure successful content strategies, as search engine algorithms may change frequently. Check out the latest SEO trends below.

1. Using Quality Content

Quality content on your website increases the chance of social sharing, organic reach, and rankings in search engine algorithms. Whether the content needs to be long-form or short-form will relate directly to how much information is needed to answer what users are searching for. Content that is directly related to what a user needs, whether it be 300 or 3000 words,  is more likely to be found on search engines and shared on social media platforms. 

Google recently released their new helpful content update which outlines the importance of quality over quantity. As they put it, not meeting some of the criteria below can be a warning sign that you are taking a search-engine first approach to content. Here is a list of things to consider, direct from Google. 

  • Don’t write for search engines, write for actual people. 
  • Don’t produce content on unrelated topics purely in the hopes that it will rank well.
  • Avoid using automation tools to crank out low-quality content. 
  • Make sure you add value instead of just summarizing what is already out there. 
  • No need to add fluff to bulk up an article because you believe Google has a minimum word count. (They don’t).
  • Write about what you know, not target trending keywords to drive search traffic. 
  • Answer the question being asked, and don’t promise to answer it if there is no answer available. (We’ve all seen those “Game of Thrones Season 9” posts.)    

2. Quality Backlinks Still Rule in the SEO Game

In your favor, quality backlinks have the potential to sway the SEO outcome. According to most SEO experts, backlinks are particularly beneficial since they signify a “show of support” from one website to another. Backlinks to your website essentially confirm to search engines that other websites trust your content material.

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However, a bunch of backlinks to low-quality, irrelevant content will not likely survive the test of time or Google’s content guidelines.

3. Core Web Vitals (CWV) Gains Prominence

Although page-speed metrics were not immediately recognized after their introduction, SEO analysts claim that Google is now more regularly harmonizing web pages with the CWV. Making your website a CWV-friendly website makes it easier for users to access meaningful content on mobile devices, which will impact its ranking on all devices.

4. Image Optimization Is a Must

Most website owners pay attention to writing content, but photos must be optimized. Images are inferred to be extremely important in the latest SEO trends. Consider user intent and optimize images to keep them suitable for whatever topic, blog, or website you’re creating. A few essential procedures for image optimization include writing image descriptions, adding alt-tags for photos, scaling images, and modifying image file names.

5. Utilize Schema Markup

When structured data and schema markup is incorporated into a webpage, a rich snippet–also known as an improved description–is more likely to be produced and displayed in search results. Rich snippets (which frequently have higher clickthrough rates than “normal” search results) are driven by schema markup. The bottom line is that you can get more visitors to your website by adding schema markup.

Wrap Up

Since SEO is a sophisticated web (pun intended) of content quality and technical implementation, it is understandable that people will sometimes have inflated SEO expectations. However, if done properly SEO strongly supports the long-term growth and consumption of organic content and produces strategic outcomes for your website. 

In a nutshell, an effective SEO strategy results in more clicks and visitors to your website pages in search engines, but it won’t happen overnight.

Author Paul Stainton

With over 20 years of experience in digital marketing, Paul Stainton is an expert at creating brand value through transformation and eCommerce strategies. He also has extensive knowledge about go-to-market execution and demand generation within B2B and B2C Markets. He is currently the Director of Content and SEO at AgencyAnalytics, a client reporting platform built for marketing agencies.