So, you've been investing time and money into SEO, but it doesn't work...Something keeps your website off search engine result pages.

I'm not sure if that's going to make you feel any better, but...you're not alone!

Google's core updates significantly changed its algorithms and ranking factors over the last 9 months. Search engines no longer function the way most people think.

The search results for popular queries change every day. Business owners aren't sure if they hired the right SEO agency, and solo entrepreneurs are frustrated. It's a mess.

Everyone wants to know...

Why is My SEO Not Working?

Many factors can contribute to poor SEO results. Page speed, performance on mobile devices, broken links, and all sorts of technical issues. However, these aren't critical.

My team and I analyzed all the websites we do search engine optimization for. We also looked at those that belong to clients we consult.

The results vary, but we identified 5 common SEO problems:

  • Wrong Target Keywords
  • Low Content Quality
  • Weak On-Page SEO
  • No Topical Authority
  • Spammy Backlinks

I'm Evan, the founder of Ernst Media. This article will help you figure out why your SEO efforts aren't producing the expected results and how to turn things around...I'll try to keep it simple.


1. Keywords

The first and most important step when creating SEO strategies is keyword research. I'm sure that you've found keywords related to your business, but here is the thing:

We noticed that many folks go after very generic or too competitive keywords.

Let me give you a couple of examples.

Generic Terms

Toward the end of last year, we consulted for a company selling auto parts. They had a freelance content writer and wanted advice on technical and on-page optimization. They recently reached out asking for help.

We looked at their blog posts, and while the content was well-written, the target keywords were generic terms like "alloy wheels" and "brake calipers."

If you check the SERPs for these terms, you'll see one or two articles, but most results are product pages. Plus, the articles are from very authoritative sites that are hard to outrank.


The right approach would've been to create blog posts targeting queries like "What is the benefit of alloy wheels?" or "What happens if you don't replace brake calipers?"


Now, most of their articles must be fully redone. A good example of when you shouldn't hire an SEO consultant but someone to handle the entire SEO campaign for you.

Competitive Keywords

Even if you understand the different keywords used in an SEO strategy, you may miss something. I'm talking about keyword difficulty.

Paid research tools provide the data needed to determine whether you have a chance to rank for a keyword. Another way to figure it out is to check the search results. Here is what I mean.

One of our clients is a local insurance company. Part of the SEO services we provide for them is publishing informational content. They asked us to write a few pieces on health insurance.

That's a very competitive industry, so we had to look for long phrases.

targeting very competitive keywords won't bring seo results

As you can see in the screenshot, even queries consisting of 7-8 words are super hard to rank for. If you check the search results, you'll see sites like HealthCare.gov and HealthInsurance.org...Good luck outranking those.

If you want your SEO campaign to work, take your time with the keyword research!


2. Content Quality

Let's say you did a great job with your keyword strategy. Now, you have to include the keywords in a piece of high-quality content. Otherwise, your SEO won't work.

Here is what we discovered on our clients' websites:

The Search Intent Wasn't Matched

When someone types a query into a search engine, they have a specific intent. They may want to learn how to do or use something, find out the price, compare the options, etc.

No matter the case, if your content doesn't align with the user intent and answer your target audience query right away, they'll bounce out.


When Google sees that, you stand no chance of showing up on page 1...your article may even be de-indexed.


We discovered this SEO related problem on the websites of clients who use our paid search marketing services. They wanted to know why their organic content marketing wasn't bringing results...and we looked it up.

The search intent was either completely missed, or there was too much fluff before getting to the point.

Let me say it like this:

  • People expect you to answer their exact questions.
  • They don't want to read a 300-word introduction.

The Content Wasn't Really Helpful

That was the issue even on sites where the content strategy and execution were done by us. While a good number of articles we wrote a while ago were ranking on page 1, we noticed that many got pushed to page 2 or 3 of the search results.


There were 2 reasons for that:

  1. Google's latest helpful content update (HCU)
  2. Fresh, more insightful content was published

The screenshot shows Google's recommendations for creating helpful content. We focused on the highlighted points, updated the articles, and submitted them in the Google Search Console for a recrawl.

poor seo performance due to unhelpful content

Most of the articles regained their position in search engines. The rest had more SEO issues that need to be addressed.

I'll talk about them in a bit. Now, let me summarize this section for you.

Helpful content creation should aim to answer questions, solve problems, and provide value that users can't easily find elsewhere. If you don't do that or just regurgitate what's already out there (think AI-generated content)...

Well, you're not giving Google any reasons to pick you over the competition.


3. On-Page Optimization

If you're targeting the right keywords and matching user intent, but your SEO is still not working, it's time to check your on-page optimization. SEO efforts must focus on both users and search engines. Let me elaborate.

User Experience

Don't make your content look like a book's page.

Some of the websites we checked had a wall of text with fewer breaks. When I land on an article where the text stretches from one edge of my phone screen to the other, I'm gone.

fousing on user experience improves seo performance

Others had 2000+ words blog posts with no headings and only one or two images. In some cases, the images weren't even displaying properly on mobile devices.

Another issue we encountered on quite a few websites was the choice of fonts. Bet on popular fonts and proper sizing so your content will be easy for visitors to read.

Most internet users skim through articles. Make your content engaging with a good structure, attractive visuals, and make sure your site is mobile friendly.

The longer people stay on your page, the better your chances of being ranked higher by Google. To improve your click-through rate, include a call to action in your meta descriptions.

Search Engine Crawlers

Now, let's look at a few reasons why search engines may not understand your content.

Keyword Distribution: Avoid keyword stuffing by all means. Instead, distribute keyword variations naturally within your content and use semantics to enhance SEO performance.

Header Tags: Not using H1, H2, and H3 tags in your content structure prevents search engines from understanding the hierarchy and importance of the topics you cover.

Image Optimization: Having images without alternative text descriptions doesn't do anything for your SEO. Each image must have alt text containing related keywords.

Internal Links: Without proper internal link building, Google bots can't understand your site architecture. In other words, it's harder for them to discover relevant pages.


We recovered a couple of websites' rankings in just two weeks by doing just two things:

  1. Enhancing content structure by making paragraphs shorter and sentences more clear.
  2. Adding natural language processing (NLP) keywords, which we extracted with SEO tools.

4. Topical Authority

Another problem resulting in ineffective SEO campaigns is the lack of topical authority. A lot of the sites we inspected didn't give Google a reason to recognize them as experts in their field. Let me explain.

Google's goal is to provide its users with authoritative and trustworthy content. You can't produce one or two articles on a given topic and expect to rank.

If you want your business to benefit from SEO, you need to demonstrate in-depth knowledge.

Now, you probably wonder:

How Many Posts Are Needed for Topical Authority?

The number of posts needed to establish topical authority is not set in stone. It depends on various factors, mainly on your niche and competitors.

If you cover a new and emerging topic no one writes about yet, you may rank with a few well-written articles. On the other hand, if your niche is very competitive, you're looking at a minimum of 25-30 blog posts.

To get an estimate, we perform competitor research. The goal is to find out how much content sites that rank on page 1 have and how comprehensive it is.

Some of the sites we work on only needed content updating. We added extra information to cover related subtopics and nuances. Most recovered in less than a month.

For the recently onboarded clients, we prepared educational content marketing strategies focusing on low-volume long-tail queries that could be linked internally. The results are yet to be seen.


5. Backlink Profile

Backlinks have been a major ranking factor for ages, and that hasn't changed. However, Google is getting better at recognizing quality backlinks.

As mentioned in my "How to Tell if Your SEO Company is Working" post, strategies that heavily emphasize link-building are a RED ALERT.

large amount of spammy backlinks has a negative impact on SEO

I've always advised our clients not to get involved in link schemes, yet several of the inspected websites had an obviously unnatural backlink profile.

Some folks just refuse to accept the fact that SEO is a long-term game.

Now, cleaning up backlink profiles will cost them more money. On top of that, most will lose revenue as a result of the drop in rankings.

If you only have a few random and irrelevant sites linking to you, there is no need to worry. If you've been paying for cheap links at scale, that may be the reason your SEO isn't working.

Go through all the sites that link to you, and disavow the ones that:

  • Point to you from a page that isn't indexed
  • Don't get any organic traffic from Google
  • Have more outgoing vs incoming links

Your Action Plan

I can't guarantee your SEO is not working due to one of the reasons we discussed. But if most websites we audited had these problems in common, the odds are, your site also does.

So, roll up your sleeves and get to work:

  1. Check on the keywords you target
  2. Enhance your content quality
  3. Improve your on-page SEO
  4. Focus on topical authority
  5. Get rid of low-quality backlinks

If you can't handle these tasks or you prefer to focus on your business...Get in Touch.

We'll audit your site, identify the issues, and set your SEO campaign for success.

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