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  • Writer's pictureJeanie Croasmun

Your SEO Content Isn’t Working? 3 True Stories That Explain Why

Updated: Apr 26, 2023

Something isn't adding up: you're creating a ton of SEO content but you're still not seeing results you were hoping for. Traffic may even be UP but they're not actually buying anything. Or maybe you're winning every stinking long-tail keywords but nothing else is happening.

Is it you, your product, just a terrible market? Do you just need to pump more, more, more into your content program? Ima say "no" to all of this. The problem could be ... SEO content. But don't take my word for it (there's far too much blind faith in SEO already) — read these true stories of how a good idea (content) can go bad with some very misguided SEO.

Problem 1: You're Using SEO to Reach the Wrong Goals.

A professional services firm, let's call them Company A, is amazing at providing services. But their space (HR) is chock full of big-budget competitors that slay core terms like "human resources" and "HR services." Company A is pretty small and with the competitor field being so deep, getting clients and growing was a problem.

So the business enlisted an external marketing agency to help them change the game. The agency's solution was comprehensive and rightfully pricey. And it was heavy on "SEO content." The plan was to bring more traffic to the site by rewriting and condensing existing content and creating new content to fit evergreen pillar pieces.

One year after the agency started, the site traffic needle had moved ... in the wrong direction. Since Company A's new agency had convinced them to move their site to a different host, which would contribute to lower traffic, we reviewed trends: were a larger share of site visitors engaging with content? Were they sticking around longer? Were they coming back? Was referral traffic up?

Here's what I found:

  • New users were now a bigger percentage of the visitor and views pie

  • Return visits were down about 20%

  • Referral traffic had trickled to almost zero

  • Pages per visit decreased

seo content takes a big dump on traffic.
Page views were down YOY — especially in return users

Problem: SEO content vs. SEO-optimized content. Technically, the updated "SEO content" was bringing more new visitors to the site. But it wasn't keeping them there. And it wasn't bringing those visitors back. The traffic was largely one-and-done with bounce rates hovering near 90.

If Company A offered a low-risk, low-pricepoint product, this might have been a-okay. But almost anytime you're in a B2B world, the sales cycle is long. Services, including switching the business your outsource your HR to, require more than a single blog post to convert a lead, and getting a site visitor to come back or give up their email for more info requires more than an article that teases 15 different ways to lower the cost of employee benefits but gives no real meat to any of them. What was missing was the brand building — site visitors had no idea which site they were on and no enticement to learn more about this or another topic. They grabbed info quickly and moved on.

The bigger issue was that Company A's traffic before they hired the agency was decent; in fact, it had been growing at a pretty fast clip over the previous 2 years. Return visits were neck-and-neck with new site visitors. Referrals from high-authority 3rd-party sites were low, although their content was regularly shared by a respected industry leader. Conversions, however, weren't keeping up. Rather than fix the real problem—the site needed to work harder to convert (and content is great for that!)—the agency decided to just bring in more visitors and assume that conversions were at 5% now, they would also be at 5% in the future, and went heavy on SEO content.

That wasn't the case. Conversions-per-visitor tanked. And the content that was SEO-focused rather than SEO-optimized was also turning off the loyal audience, too.

Solution: Ensure your content targets the RIGHT goal. In other words, don't adopt an acquisition strategy to try to increase conversions.

Problem 2: Your Content Is Great But the Audience Is Wrong

What do you get when you put $1M each year into SEO salaries, outsourcing, and tools? If you're a mid-size, mid-stage fintech, the answer is ... a lot of blowing smoke. This is the story of an SEO program with great intent and a virtually unchecked budget that was utterly misdirected.

In this story, Company B found itself in the situation of rebuilding its SEO team after a mass migration out of the org. The new SEO team put all of its eggs into "SEO content." This fintech solely served the B2B space, so there were big, big, big names to contend with, like the SBA, Investopedia, NerdWallet, Amex/Kabbage and more. But the SEO team found some equally big terms that the competition was ignoring. BINGO!

Problem: Those words ... weren't being searched by Company B's desired or existing audience. While the SEO team was right — those terms would bring more people to the site, they failed to consider who those people were for the following reasons.

  1. the searchers were consumers, not the B2B audience Company B wanted. For example, a concepts like "how to improve your credit score" attracts consumers looking to boost their personal credit, not their business credit.

  2. the SEO team didn't consider search intent. When the SEO team's leader wanted to attract owners of construction businesses with loans to run their business, they used the term "construction loans." Guess who searched? You got it: people building homes. And when they landed on a page offering them a loan to make payroll or pay for supplies, they scored a fast exit.

Ultimately bounce rates soared to an average of 97% on the new team's content. Ultimately, traffic also dipped, although that took a bit longer. And finally, Company B was pouring more money and effort than ever into a failing SEO program. It impacted their link building efforts, too, when the team targeted a concept and terms heavily searched by students and academia but, again, not business owners.

Solution: Before targeting a keyword, figure out audience intent. How? I personally use SEMRush to find out who's ranking in the top 3-5 for a term and then I click through to the ranking pages and actually read what site visitors are consuming. Honestly, it's SEO 101 but they don't really teach this in college. I learned it the old-school way: hands-on when I got into the field in 2013.

Problem 3: Your SEO content is ignoring core terms in favor of long-tail keywords

In this story, an internal SEO team for a tech firm, Company C, decided to forego core terms and focus on long-tail keywords. The reason: the SEO team was certain it could show better results targeting terms that weren't super competitive. And it's true: the SEO team quickly ranked in the top 3-5 spots for these long-tail keywords.

Problem: Those words ... brought in almost no traffic. Frequently the long-tail terms they targeted had 90 or fewer searches per month worldwide and plenty in the 20-30 search/mo range. And, no, Company C didn't convince 100% of those searchers to click on the content or the site.

Long-tail keywords are great as additional terms, not the focus of your content and SEO efforts. If you're already ranking at or near the top of search results for the core terms, your must-win terms, then it’s time to target long-tail terms, too. If you're not on the core-term's radar, however, you're going to spend a ton of money speaking to some obscure segment of the audience. Period.

My approach to long-tail keywords is to ensure your core terms incorporate the long-tail terms instead so that you capture the long-tail searchers AND the audience and visitors you really want to reach. The SEO team would tout their improved rankings on targeted terms ("We've already shot up to the top 3 for the words we targeted last month!") but never included how many searches per month those terms received, how much traffic was being generated for the site from those or the core terms, nor what was happening to core terms. And an even bigger issue: Company C's C-team didn't asked SEO for a deeper dive.

Solution: Always get the whole picture. I share reports from SEMRush and Google Analytics with clients monthly or more often, if needed. And if you're ever being sold on a strategy that targets long-tail keywords, find out how you're targeting core terms, too. Ask for rank reports on a monthly basis and track core terms over time, too.

One more thing: if you're ever given reports that don't allow you to drill down and learn more (Company C's SEO team ONLY shared screenshots — never detailed info), run.

SEO isn't difficult and it's definitely not mysterious. But it's frequently pitched that way ... sometimes for self-serving reasons.

BTW, if you see your business in any of these stories, let me know. I'd be happy to do a quick and FREE — YES FREE!!!! — audit of your site's content, related traffic, and your goals, and let you know where I see room for improvement. You can reach me at

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