6 Reasons Your Site Isn’t Making Money: It’s Not Me, It’s You

As SEOs we fight a negative image. This is not an image that is earned or deserved. It is an image given to us by the actions of bad actors that use the industry to make a quick buck. These bad actors are not SEOs they are conmen. Most are either incompetent; utilize poor and/or banned techniques or both. In the end the client loses and the SEO industry gets blamed, the company throwing out all practitioners with the proverbial bathwater.

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This is understandable; after all, it is difficult to know who is good at this work and who is not. However, it is a metrics/results game, if your SEO has produced relevant traffic, conversions and positive growth over time you can be reassured that it is unlikely they are just scamming you. That takes work and scammers are a bit allergic to the concept.

Sometimes however, the SEO is questioned when despite these metrics all have improved. Despite the site doing better than it ever has before in terms of traffic and relevant unique visitors the site owner does not see enough money coming through their bank account and thinks it “MUST be the SEO!”*.

Of course sometimes this lack of conversion is related to something the SEO missed. Sometimes it is a Google change that affected your site that must be addressed. These issues however are rare. It has become easy to blame the SEO professional for what might be out of their control. So if it is not the SEO’s fault, what other issues could be causing your lack of conversions?

In other words, why aren’t you making money if your SEO is doing their job?

The job of the SEO is to make sure your website is seen by people who want what your website offers then bring those people into your site hopefully to convert. Yet, what if your website is being seen, people are engaging, your metrics are good and you are still not making money. Is it the SEO’s fault? Most of the time not, most of the time there are issues that fall outside your SEO’s control.

There are many issues unrelated to the SEO’s performance. Here are five of the most common.

1. Your Baby is Ugly

Did you know that users decide if they will trust your site in 3 milliseconds? That’s right milliseconds. Did you know they only give 3 seconds for your page to download before they abandon it? What if they cannot find the path to what they want in less than 4 clicks? This is just a glimpse of the many roadblocks that are involved in converting visitors.

Knowing this most SEOs will do at least a basic usability review on your site and point out serious issues. After all they know they cannot get people to convert if they cannot get to your product or purchase pages for instance. However once done and changes are suggested these are often extremely difficult to get implemented. The reason? Site owners or IT departments.

Understandably, site owners do not often agree that their baby is ugly and IT departments are overloaded with work requests. Typically they want to focus on other simpler issues. The problem with this type of thinking is if your site is difficult to use; if you violate the principles of basic user interaction you will not convert users or at least not as well as need and hope. Metaphorically speaking, if you move the steering wheel to the back seat where no one can reach it, no one wants to drive your car.

FIX: Get a site usability review, and then listen to the reviewer. Make sure that your site design is not your roadblock. Sure that sliding image that takes up the top 2/3rds of your page may look cool to the marketing department, but to a user it is just a hurdle they need to scroll past to get to what they really want to do. The exception would be if the image was highly relevant and compelling, but this is not often the case. It also should never take up the entire area above the “fold”.

2. Failure to Convert

This falls under “Your Site is Difficult to Use”, but speaks directly to your conversion funnel.

How often have we done a site review only to notice that the form is too complicated, asks for too much information and/or is lacking in proper instructions or error messaging. Or let’s say your forms are good, but you lack of product or service availability? This means that even though your SEO brought the customers to the door they cannot get to the cash register.

We once worked with a business that relied on bookings. We increased their relevant traffic by 50 percent, decreased their bounce rate by 30% and had them positioning at the top of their relevant key terms and local map pack. Yet, the owner was distressed. Why were they not making any money?

An analysis of the conversion funnel on the site showed everything was tracking well with users, however there was a low time on site on the appointments page itself. When we looked further we noticed they had no appointments available. Their typical booking cycle was about 3-6 weeks out from the date of the appointment otherwise users would just call. The number of available days in the booking engine – TWO.

If the customer comes to your store/site is the product/service available? If your most popular item is never in stock, if your appointment book is empty or your site makes the user feel overwhelmed when they go to pay you could be losing money. You may have the greatest site in the world, but it won’t convert at the level it should or is hoped if the user can’t simply purchase or purchase at all.

FIX: Check your booking funnel AND know your booking cycle Make sure your site uses relevant error messaging and only asks for the most necessary information BEFORE hitting submit. You can always ask for more later, once they have purchased/submitted/converted.

Make it easy for your users to give you their money and always make sure they can purchase the product or service in the simplest way possible.

3. Weather

Weather factors are outside of your SEO’s control and are often the most overlooked when a site owner is suddenly not making money. While seasonal changes are obvious and typically planned for the impact of day-today weather changes are often overlooked. We have often seen sites that fluctuate due to weather concerns that are not immediately obvious.

If you run a travel company you would know that a sudden hurricane might affect your bookings to the Bahamas, but did you look to see how this year’s temperatures compared to last when no well known changes occurred? This also goes towards positive changes as well. Your increase in snow removers may only be because your area received more snow than usual, make sure you don’t buy extra for next year based on that data.

We worked in the legal vertical with a site that depended on a certain type of arrest for business. Their site metrics were growing in a positive direction every month – up 50 percent. The site positioned at #1 or #2 for all relevant terms and at the top of the local map pack. There was no data to cause us to be concerned. Then one day the site owner emailed us that things were slow and they were distressed.

On a deeper analysis we found that the temperature in their area was 20* below normal on average for most of the past two months, which meant temperatures below zero. Our expectation was that there would be fewer arrests simply because fewer officers would be writing tickets and fewer people would be out committing the crime. So we looked at the arrest records to see if this might be the case.

We immediately found that this type of crime was at its lowest point in two to six years over the past four months especially during what would be the “busy season”. As soon as the weather warmed, the site started doing better and conversions went up. I.e. there were more arrests therefore more people needing legal assistance.

FIX: If all your site metrics are positive and you have sustained significant growth in relevant traffic, start asking yourself what outside factors could be affecting site conversions. Have you looked at the influences of weather? Not just temperature, but rain, fog, snow, humidity etc. All of the variances of weather can significantly affect the demand, up or down, for your site’s product/service even when that is not obviously related. Everyone plans for winter; most do not plan for an unexpected cold streak in February.

4. Business Processes.

This is related to the issue of not having product or service availability, however it speaks directly to your business processes. No matter how many people come to your site and wish to engage with your company if your business processes are not supporting the user, you could be losing money.

Case Study: We once had a client that as the others in this article had excellent site metrics, but much of their conversion process involved calling in to the business to complete the transaction. When we did a deeper analysis we found that their phone did not always ring at their location, that their receptionist was often rude and that they were often not available.

This seems like an obvious issue, yet so often it is overlooked. Have you checked your processes? What about your customer service department? Have you solicited a service to make calls and identify issues in their response? What is the effect of your offline businesses processes on you online results?

FIX: Make sure to check do an internal review of everything that touches your users conversion process. From product availability to how your customer service representatives or reception are engaging your customers. Are you phones working correctly? If clients leave phone or email messages is someone getting back to them in a timely manner? Your business processes touch your user across the purchase cycle make sure it is a positive interaction and by all means make sure you offer a method of contact on your site that is easy to locate. Nothing frustrates a user more than having an issue and no one to talk to about it.

5. Micromanaging your SEO.

It happens far too often. A client will decide they need to micromanage their SEO services. We understand that. Many have gotten burned before and think that this will help prevent it from happening again. The issue is it won’t.

When you purchase SEO services you are NOT strictly purchasing a service you are purchasing a knowledge base. A good SEO spends almost as many hours testing, researching and reading as they do client work. They do this on their own time and own dollar to make sure they are up to date with changes in Search and Social. This means your SEO is often living and breathing search marketing day in and day out. This also means they know more than you do. Do you tell your doctor how to diagnose you? Your lawyer what the laws mean? Why do you tell your SEO how to do their job?

To many clients rankings mean everything. We as SEOs know that traffic means everything – relevant, conversion producing traffic. Is this tied to rankings? Sure. Does this mean we concentrate on rankings over everything else? Absolutely not. Why? Because no one has the same rankings as the other. They differ based on what you have searched and clicked on before as well as your geolocation and even sometimes, your choice of computer or browser.

This happens regularly across clients. Clients let us know they are unhappy that their competitor is “ranking” above them. First, let’s be clear you cannot rank #1 for everything nor should you. Relevant positioning means certain terms are bringing in relevant and converting traffic. Trying to get above your competitor for a word that is not going to do this would just be a waste of your money.

But let’s say it is one of the top terms for a site. So we know traffic is increasing, the site is doing well and converting at higher rates. We check the site’s positioning across these highly relevant terms with a “clean check”. A clean check means that every factor Google uses to personalize your results has been accounted for to the best of our ability. Great, we feel good and go on to find other methods for increasing the results as we move forward. Until..

Until we get a call from a site owner distressed that they are NOT ranking where they were before or NOT above their competitor. Knowing the site is performing well and better than in previous months we then go through Google’s methods of personalization with the client. We explain to that what you see is not the same as what everyone else sees. We ask you, did you click on your competitor? Yes? Well that is why they are now appearing above you in the results. Google thinks you want that result and has placed it at the top for you. Alas, personalization.

Sadly the site owner, going under the idea of “seeing is believing”, remains skeptical and starts directing efforts towards work that is not going to be very helpful or necessary. That work we were going to do that would accelerate your growth has to take a back seat to educating, reviewing, researching and reporting on an issue that is not really an issue.

FIX: Of course this is not to say trust your service provider without question. If there are issues, if you see you are not improving in the results, if your metrics are poor or you received a penalty you should start delving deeper into why. They may be doing nothing that is causing the issue, but do ask as those are all red flags that you might not be receiving good services.

However, assuming you did due diligence when you hired your SEO professional and that they have been providing you with reports and good metrics – trust them. If they tell you that something needs to happen help them to achieve the goals you have agreed on, don’t try to do their job for them. Let your SEO do their work. They know the best methods and practices. They have hopefully had successes before (or why would you hire them?) They are telling you what to do because they know how it needs to be done because they live and breathe Google Algorithms and the changes surrounding. When site owners insist on managing the project with limited knowledge, pushing back on the work the SEO knows needs to be done – the result – is often failure.

6. You Believe SEO Should Be Cheap!

Site owners see scam ads all the time and don’t realize it. That guy that just emailed you about how poorly your site SEO is performing is most likely a scammer that has never seen your site. They offer the “same services” at a much lower rate that make the business owner start to wonder should I? Am I paying too much? Should I look into new services?

We wonder how many times a client receives this kind of spam and thinks what if it is true? How many times do clients think they are paying too much because of scam emails?

Fix: SEO services are not cheap. They can be a value proposition and they can be very expensive, they are however not cheap. Remember you are paying for a knowledge base, not just a service. The providers of cheap services are typically using poor spammy techniques that can land you squarely in the middle of a Google Penalty – Buyer beware. SEO is a lot of work backed by a whole lot of personal knowledge. If someone contacts you randomly to tell you your SEO is not doing their work, ask yourself, what do my reports tell me? Your analytics will show you if you are doing well or not, trust them and your SEO.

It’s Not Me, It’s You.

SEO is not a perfect art and there are no perfect artists. However, if you have a good solid SEO and your site seems to perform well – before you blame your SEO for not doing their job look around at what else may be hurting your bottom line. More often than not if your site metrics are performing well the reason you do not have money in your pocket are factors outside your SEO’s control. The good news is most SEOs know how to decipher your downturn if you let them know it is happening. They can help you find the issues.

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Most importantly if, as a business owner, you spend a lot of time concentrating on the SEO you hired someone to do, you might find yourself in worse shape not getting other projects done that are more important or in the end firing the SEO that was doing their job and hiring someone else that is not as good, to solve a problem you do not have. SEO is only part of your sales process. Failure to look at the can mean bad decisions will be made.

Sometimes we have to tell you, it’s not me it’s you.

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