9 SEO success obstacles to be mindful of and avoid • Digital Dot

9 SEO success obstacles to be mindful of and avoid

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) may be the single most valuable digital visibility business practice you can engage in today. With planning, patience, and proper execution, SEO can allow your content to rank high on Google and generate organic traffic. It’s far from easy, however, and many SEO success obstacles stand in your way. Among others, competition is stiff, Google’s ranking factors do change, and SEO needs time to pay off. As an established New York digital marketing agency, we have dedicated ample content to this subject for these very reasons.

Today, let us do so again – by highlighting the most notable challenges you can expect to face and offering suggestions on how to best meet them head-on.

SEO success obstacles to keep in mind

As with all business and marketing practices, SEO comes with many, often business-specific challenges to keep in mind. Still, some obstacles are more universal, more prominent, and more impactful. In this group, we identify the following 9, in no particular order.

#1 Keyword research and keyword targeting

Perhaps the single most crucial SEO practice comes in keyword research. Keywords will fuel your content, match their search intent, and seek to offer them value. In brief, they offer way too much value to overlook or cut corners with. However, keyword research challenges marketers because of this scope; where do you begin, and how do you target keywords properly?

For the first part, you may consider thorough, effective keyword research tools like:

  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Ubersuggest
  • Ahrefs
  • Serpstat
  • SEMrush

For the second, you may consider the following key principles:

  • Match your users’ search intent. Remember, keywords represent what your audiences are looking for; your content should reflect that, not just include keywords for SEO.
  • Embrace long-tail keywords. With such stiff competition, long-tail keywords will often offer a more reasonable and achievable alternative.
  • Target keywords through both SEO and paid marketing. If you’re engaging in Pay Per Click (PPC) marketing, use it to target keywords you can’t organically rank for.

As the heart of SEO, keywords should always have your undivided attention.

#2 Audience insights

Next, SEO success obstacles very commonly include audience insights. Naturally, audience insights are crucial to success; how can you perform well if you don’t deeply understand who you’re targeting?

This need also presents a challenge, however, as audiences become increasingly elusive. Third-party cookies are also fading out, as the aforelinked article outlines. Across channels, reliable data is becoming harder to come by.

To tackle this, among other practices, you may:

  • Use Google Analytics. This handy tool will allow you to understand user behavior on your website, and adjust your strategies accordingly.
  • Explore heat maps. A potent Google Analytics ally, third-party heat maps will also reveal user behaviors to help you identify potential content shortcomings.
  • Survey your audiences. Modern audiences will often engage with brands frequently and honestly, making direct surveys another excellent insights collection tool.

Finally, you may also consult PPC platforms’ analytics to further inform your SEO efforts. Such platforms as Facebook offer deep, actionable insights you may use.

#3 Outdated websites

On the subject of your website, a host of issues there can also present SEO success obstacles. From its technical health, an SEO factor in itself, to its efficiency and design, an outdated website will always underperform. And as a web design company NYC has trusted for years, we cannot emphasize this last point enough.

Needless to say, updating your site is an SEO imperative:

  • Mind loading speeds. Google finds slow speeds increase bounce rates, which directly devalue your SEO score.
  • Inspire trust through design. Similarly, a professional-looking website will inspire trust – and produce engagement signals Google values highly.
  • Consolidate your site structure. Finally, a solid website structure will help Google index and contextualize your content quicker – and your audiences to navigate it.

For a visual example of proper site structure, consider the following (courtesy of GlooMaps):

An illustration of an SEO-friendly site structure.

#4 Off-site activities

Your site is only half the battle, however. In fact, an entire SEO subset depends on off-site activities; off-page SEO. This we have covered extensively in our ultimate off-page SEO checklist, if you need a deeper dive into it.

Still, off-site activities take ample time, effort, and resources. They may often discourage marketers because of this and ultimately lead to failure. To address these SEO success obstacles, you may:

  • Conduct thorough research. Knowing what works, what doesn’t, and how to best approach each practice will be invaluable.
  • Prioritize. Google has over 200 ranking factors to cater to, as Backlinko finds, so you may best prioritize instead of overextending.
  • Expand your network. Whether outsourcing the content or maintaining relations with your peers for link-building, a robust network will also help alleviate SEO burdens.

In all cases, remember to not overlook local SEO. You may by all means prioritize individual practices, but it should always remain on your list. For more information on backlinks specifically, Google’s John Mueller offers additional help in the following video.

#5 GBP and local SEO

On that subject, another crucial SEO challenge lies in another SEO subset; local SEO. This subset leverages Google Business Profile (GBP) and, as the name suggests, caters to local search. In doing so, it offers unquestionable value to local businesses. However, delving into yet another set of practices also presents a challenge for marketers.

Here, too, you may work smarter instead of harder:

  • Integrate GBP into your content strategies. Across all channels, you’re addressing the same audiences – so use your existing insights to your advantage.
  • Cross-post content. Content that fits your social media marketing will fit your GBP too, especially if it offers clear local value.
  • Engage with audiences for more insights. GBP activity, reviews, and content engagement will also allow you to gather more audience insights to fuel general SEO strategies.

For a deeper dive into this extensive subject, you may also consult our article on building strong local SEO strategies.

#6 Staff and budget constraints

These aside, SEO success obstacles will often come from within your business; budgeting, priorities, expectations, and so on. Ask any New York City SEO expert, and these factors will inevitably come up as challenges to overcome. Unfortunately, these factors are often very case-specific, so for this second section, we cannot offer digestible checklists to go through.

As regards staffing and budgeting, you should ideally convince decision-makers of SEO’s value. Doing so should allow for proper staff and resource allocations, while still minding the business’s limitations. This should ideally present few challenges; simply consider the correlation of click-through rates (CTR) and ranking position:

A graph on CTR’s correlation with Google ranking positions.

As you do, you may also explore your options for professional help – and we do not suggest this just because we’re an SEO agency ourselves. Most DIY SEO projects begin with the intent of saving money but typically end in failure. SEO is too vast to tackle alone, as our experience has repeatedly shown.

#7 Aversion to change

Another SEO challenge comes with an aversion to change. Managers, content creators, and others within a business may simply not want to change and optimize for SEO. While an understandable sentiment, half-measures will always undermine successful SEO.

Here, too, you will need to get all relevant staff on the same page. Negotiate, by all means, and find compromises when you encounter resistance. But as you do, you must convince them that change is warranted, if it means securing a robust SEO foundation.

#8 Seeking quick results

Next, most of these SEO success obstacles will often overlap with one’s time frame expectations for results. Unfortunately, many marketers and decision-makers expect quick results and will scrap projects that don’t produce them. This point too you’ll have to drive home; SEO takes time, both before and after implementation.

Indeed, it takes time for your keywords to land properly and for content to resonate with audiences. It takes time to establish yourself as an authority in your field. And, perhaps most importantly, it takes Google time to index, rank, and evaluate your content clusters. To illustrate this, let us cite Google’s John Mueler again, as he stresses the need for a long-term commitment.

#9 Keeping up with Google

Finally, Google’s ranking factors also require consistent monitoring. Understandably, Google has never been fully transparent about them either, which requires even more work on the marketers’ part. This may discourage many, but keeping up with the latest SEO developments can separate success from failure.

To do so, you may follow Google themselves; consider Google Search Central’s YouTube channel, social media platforms, and other channels. You may also find researchers, marketers, and SEO experts to follow and draw inspiration from their work. But in all cases, remember to scrutinize their work; SEO changes all the time, and so do its guidelines.


In closing, those are our picks for the most substantive SEO success obstacles you may encounter. They will range from fundamental keyword research to an outdated website, and from lacking audience insights to overlooking local SEO. Often, they will also include internal business perspectives, priorities, and decisions, which will need careful handling.

While brief, we hope our suggestions helped you meet these challenges and overcome them. Should you need additional help with your SEO strategy, please don’t hesitate to contact Digital Dot. Our team will be happy to help you on your journey to SEO success.

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