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What’s the Worst That Can Happen in an SEO Campaign?

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articleimage1486 What's the Worst That Can Happen in an SEO Campaign

People seem to have mixed feelings about SEO. There are hardcore purists who insist that SEO is perfect for everybody and will perpetually remain a viable and cost-effective marketing strategy, but there are also business owners who refuse to partake in what they feel is an unsafe and questionable strategy, and tons of variance in the people in between.

The chief concerns usually stem from the risks of the strategy. There are horror stories of business owners losing significant visibility as the result of algorithm changes or flawed strategies, and scamming SEO businesses who over-promise and under-deliver are a real threat to anyone unacquainted with basic SEO strategy. Plus, there’s the chance that your investment of time and money doesn’t earn you the ROI you were hoping for.

Despite all these risks, both real and perceived, I still believe that SEO is a viable strategy. But if you aren’t convinced by my word or the host of evidence you can find elsewhere on our blog, let’s take a look at the worst-case scenario. What’s the worst that could happen to you in starting an SEO campaign?

There are several ways you can start out, but only a handful of ways that an SEO campaign can burn you in each scenario.

Starting From Scratch

articleimage1486 Starting From Scratch

If you’re starting an SEO campaign from scratch, you don’t have much to lose. Your site isn’t ranking in Google at all, and you have little to no domain authority to speak of.

Pursuing a bad strategy

If you use a bad strategy, like posting external links without direction or stuffing your content full of keywords, you aren’t going to drop in rank significantly because you’re already at the bottom. If you make an egregious mistake, like hiding keywords in the background of your site or deliberately spamming potential customers, you might earn an actual Google penalty—in that case, you’ll have trouble crawling out unscathed. Either way, you’ll still have plenty of time to make up for your mistakes, and if you’re following best practices with links and content, you have nothing to worry about in the first place.

Failing to invest enough time or money

This is the biggest risk for companies starting from scratch. It takes effort and patience to see the results of an SEO campaign, and if you only dabble in the strategy, it’s never going to pay off. For example, if you only spend an hour a week on things like writing content, posting on social media, and working with external sources, you might never generate enough momentum to actually rank, resulting in a loss of time (or money) that you did put in.

Paying too much

There’s also the danger of paying too much for SEO services. If you go with an agency that charges exorbitant rates for simple services, you could end up with a negative ROI.

Starting With Something

articleimage1486 Starting With Something

Let’s say you’ve been in business for a while, and your brand name shows up in Google for the occasional search. You have some ground to lose, but you’re still not ranking especially well.

Pursuing a bad strategy

Bad strategies have similar effects for businesses that already have a foothold in search ranks. Egregious errors can set you back months or years of effort, and even small deviations from best practices can cause you to lose valuable ground. Still, if your primary focus is on improving user experience, you don’t have anything to worry about.

Failing to invest enough time or money

Once you’ve got a foothold in search ranks, you’ll need to spend some significant time and money to move up to the next level. If you fail to scale your investment in line with the growth of your ranks, you could end up stagnating and failing to see a positive return.

Paying too much

Like with starting from scratch, if you pay more than what your needed services are actually worth, you’ll wind up with a negative (or at least a diminished) ROI. Still, this rarely results in a catastrophic loss.

Starting With Ample Authority

articleimage1486 Starting With Ample Authority

In this scenario, you’re already ranking high for a number of keywords and queries, either through a pre-existing SEO campaign or through natural growth from user reviews, inbound links, and other factors.

Pursuing a bad strategy

A bad strategy here can cause some serious damage. At this level, a Google penalty from an egregious error could result in devastating losses of visibility and traffic—so avoid any black hat practices like the plague! Smaller errors can have a significant effect as well, but by this point your domain authority is so well established that it won’t take much time or effort to fully recover.

Failing to invest enough time or money

At this level, if you want to see more results, you’ll have to invest a large chunk of time and/or money. Otherwise, your efforts will merely keep you afloat. Staying afloat can still yield you a positive ROI, but be careful not to let your efforts slip, or your ranks could start steadily dropping.

Paying too much

It’s still possible to spend too much for services, especially if you’re already enjoying a nice search position. Choose your partners and consultants carefully.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there are real risks associated with SEO campaign—but only if you pursue a flawed strategy. Going with the cheapest option is liable to burn you, as is flying blind and hoping for the best when you don’t know what you’re doing. But even in those cases, there’s no such thing as irreversible damage. Unless you’re deliberately pursuing spam-based or other terrible onsite strategies, it’s almost impossible to be blacklisted by Google (and even if you are, you can always appeal).

Realistically, as long as you’re working with a qualified source (either through an authoritative agency or an in-house expert) and are dedicating the proper time and resources to your approach, you should have no problem achieving a positive ROI in your SEO campaign.

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Kathrina Tiangco

Kathrina is AudienceBloom's project manager. She works closely with our writers, editors, and publishers to make sure client work is completed on time.

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