The Insiders Guide To Setting Up SEO Projects For Failure

SEO Projects fail

Projects are hell.

Most of the time you either don’t end up where you originally intended. Or have to go to hell and back putting out fires and making enemies along the way to reach your objective.

And then when everything is over and the dust settles, someone else gets the pat on the back.

Yeah, projects are hell.

But things always look great when you start. The excitement levels are up, the novelty factor kicks in too. It’s only half way through you realize that something isn’t going as it’s supposed to.


The problem is that often there is no turning back – you have to get deeper into something that you already know is a failure.

Well, at least let me tell you how you got there.

1. You Had No Brief

Ever jumped into a project with just a gut feeling on what you want to achieve? Of course! In fact, at one point or another, most of us made this mistake.

The thing is, what you’d think is the goal might not match what your superiors or clients do. And this one reason alone can cause serious problems with completing the project.

2. You Haven’t Defined Steps and Outcome

It’s easy to launch into any project. All it takes is a decision and taking the first step. But similarly to a lack of brief, start a project without a defined outcome and steps how to get there is a surefire recipe for a disaster.

3. You Tracked Wrong KPIs

Perhaps you had done your homework and created a brief along with outcome. Your reporting criteria might have been wrong. Luckily this problem is easy to fix, but until you realize it and do so, wrong KPIs can cause some unnecessary tension during the project.

4. You Had No Resources

Many businesses assume that there are no resources required for a typical SEO project. That all an SEO needs is her computer and she is set to go.

Unfortunately, we all know that the opposite is true. Therefore, accepting a project from a client with no resources for content, link building and many other apsects of SEO is a surefire way to end up in trouble.

Educating them however about the actual investment that will have to be made will not only help you to complete the project but also help them to expect a much different outcome.

5. You Focused on Keywords Not Market Research

Even though I am the first one to admit that SEO is not a sales channel, I will also admit that it is strongly linked to the market and buyer intent. Therefore, the first thing an SEO should establish is if there is a market for what you are selling and if so, what is the buyer intent behind each keyword.

There is a reason why customers pick specific keywords when they search. It is not always to buy. Knowing those reasons helps to create appropriate types of content, matching a customers buyer intent. Without this knowledge you are pretty much shooting in the dark.

6. You Chased the Algorithm not Goals

It’s good to play by the Google’s rules.

I would never advocate to do otherwise. But, webmaster guidelines are just that, guidelines. They are not your roadmap to SEO project success and should not be the sole thing you base your strategy on. Instead, work backwards from your goals. Plan your project thinking what you want to achieve, not what you need to do to please Google. Their guidelines are bound to change one day so don’t be too obsessed with them but with what you need to deliver now.

7. You Focused on Technique not Outcome

SEO can be very technical. It’s easy to get obsessed with HOW instead of WHY. Once that happens, it’s easy to lose sight of the outcome and focus on the immediate goals stemming from a particular technique.

In reality you should be able to justify every technique you use in terms of outcome and help with achieving KPIs. Because, after all, creating infographics is fun alright, but are they really going to help you achieve your objectives?

8. You Had No Follow Up Plan

Lastly, what often seems like the end of a project is actually only one of its stages. Even if you completed all tasks and performed all activites you planned for it, there are still things that need to be done. Yet, for many SEOs, once the work is done, so is the project. Nothing is further from the truth though. In reality, the success of your project also relies on your follow up, if you do it.

It is through your reaction after you submitting projects documentation you send a clear signal how much you cared about it, and about the client or a company. A final step that’s often so overlooked.


Projects are hell. There is no denying. Even if everything starts off well, chances are things will go wrong half way through. And, quite often clients don’t remember how great you were at the start but how you handled those inevitable fires during the project.

That’s actually the secret of good project management – to be able to prepare for managing the problems that will come.

Creative commons photo: sylvia@intrigue / Flickr

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