3 Quick Ways to Sabotage SEO Efforts

Are you sabotaging your own SEO efforts? As an SEO consultant, I see numerous well-intentioned business leaders make decisions that, in effect, sabotage and trash months and even years of SEO work.

Are you sabotaging your own SEO efforts? As an SEO consultant, I see numerous well-intentioned business leaders make decisions that, in effect, sabotage and trash months and even years of SEO work.

Because of these poorly thought-out decisions, organic search traffic craters and sales decline. This situation is often an indirect result of site owners making decisions without estimating or understanding the impact these might have on the long-established SEO efforts. Tactical SEO mistakes are easier to recover from than ill-thought out business decisions.

Here are three business decisions that can sabotage your SEO efforts:

  • Change your brand name
  • Dramatically shift your product offering
  • Target a different customer segment, while abandoning the previous target audience.

Here is how and why each of these marketing/business decisions can have a long-term negative impact on the site.

Changing Your Brand Name

As businesses grow, shrink and change ownership, there is often a desire to rebrand the company. This decision is usually made many pay grades above the SEO team. The assumption is that altering the name will be simply a matter of shifting the website over to a new address. This is what it takes technically, but it greatly oversimplifies the impact such a change can have on organic search traffic. A quick look at what percentage of traffic is first-time visitors and how dependent your site is on new customers coming in from search will give you the scary truth of how much of an impact a change might have.

If your site is a commerce one, there is more to lose. Google gives brand names preference in the search results, so you will be found for the new name on the door; however, this does not account for the broader loss of name recognition in the marketplace. If you are in a pitched battle for search placement with established brands, you will be giving them a gift; for until your new name is broadly known, you will be a nobody. Searchers do not see your lovely rebranding visuals or associate your once trusted name with the new name. There are ways to mitigate the impacts. Begin with a rebranding strategy that includes a thorough understanding of its impact on your organic search strategy and seek to mitigate upfront any impact. In short, don’t make the change and then ask why organic search traffic has declined.

Shifting Your Product Offering

Most e-commerce businesses change their product offering regularly as the seasons shift and styles change. This type of change is accounted for in the SEO workflow and causes little disruption to the flow of organic search traffic. It is dramatic shifts that can severely interrupt search traffic. You cannot go easily from selling gardening supplies to quilting fabrics without an appropriate segue. Before extinguishing a product offering, try adding the new offering and devise ways to inform your audience that you are shifting. This lets your content, links and traffic ramp up organically without injuring the site’s overall reputation. Organic search is not simply a spigot that can be turned on or off at your whim.

Shifting Your Audience

Search is still accomplished through keywords and hyperlinked text. Your search program is designed to optimize your visibility to a target audience. It has been my experience that search exposes how completely a business is focused on and aware of its audience. The SEO program hones the vocabulary so that the site brings the customers whose needs match your offering. When there is a mismatch of site content and keyword emphasis to target audience, search traffic declines. If there is an ambivalence as to who your target customer is, this will be apparent as well in diminished, sub-optimal results.

Conclusion

There is an overarching theme in this analysis of just a few of the ways you can sabotage your search traffic: Tie search into the major business decisions early on and seek ways to mitigate any negative potential negative impacts before they occur.

10-Point Repositioning Checklist for 2017

The start of a new year is a good time to pause and reflect about your organization’s 2016 revenue performance. At least once annually, it’s smart to step back and consider if it’s time to reposition your brand, story and unique selling proposition — especially if sales are off.

The start of a new year is a good time to pause and reflect about your organization’s 2016 revenue performance. At least once annually, it’s smart to step back and consider if it’s time to consider repositioning your brand, story and unique selling proposition — especially if sales are off.

Of course, there are multiple reasons impacting sales outcomes, such as competition, pricing, the economy, and even distraction caused by the election. But my observation is that it’s rarely just one thing that contributes to an off year. The reality is that several individual reasons — that when added together — play a cumulative role in affecting your success.

My recommendation? Evaluate this 10-point repositioning checklist that, when combined, embody your position, and can have a direct impact on 2017 sales.

Repositioning Checklist

1. Brand Name: Is it easy to pronounce and remember? Does it sound current with the times?

2. Brand Equity: Brand equity, by definition, is the real value of a brand name for an organization’s products or services. Establishing brand equity is essential because brands are known to be strong influencers of critical business outcomes. Does your brand convey value? How long has your brand been around?

3. Tagline: Do you have two or three words that pay off your brand name? If you don’t have a tagline, you should create one. Sometimes, just refreshing your tagline will be enough to breathe new life into your brand.

4. Logo: Is it modern? Are you using colors that bring out the desired emotion of your customer? (Refer to my past column, Stimulating Action with Color, for specific color recommendations).

5. One Word: What is the one word that describes the essence of your product or brand? It’s tough to distill your personality to just one word, but the exercise is helpful.

6. Brand Emotion: Does your brand reflect what you are known for, or would like to be known for? Click here for five steps to shed light on creating a solid branding statement.

7. USP: What is your unique selling proposition? Have you reduced it to a short paragraph that everyone in your organization can refer to when developing new marketing materials? If you need ideas, here are my five proven ways to create a blockbuster unique selling proposition.

8. Your Story: Stories differentiate you from your competitors in today’s culture now more than ever. If you need proof, I recommend reading Seth Godin’s book, All Marketers are Liars (which, by the way, was repositioned with a cover change. The word “Liars” is crossed out and replaced with “Tell Stories.”)

9. Golden Thread: Your story — your position — should have a Golden Thread that weaves throughout your message. What are the two or three words (or a brief concept) that you can continually use to bring your customer back to your core message?

10. Positioning Alignment: Is your positioning aligned with the personality — the persona — of your customer? A persona goes beyond demographic and behavior information. It gets to the intuition and core thinking of the fears, hopes, dreams, and values of an individual. (Much more about personas, and the twelve I’ve observed most in my direct marketing career in my book, Crack the Customer Mind Code available at the DirectMarketingIQ bookstore).

Dive into this checklist with your team, and I can assure you the conversation will be lively, and could produce a new breakthrough for you in 2017.