SEO: Expertise in 1 Area Can Lead to Weakness in Others

Excelling in one area of search engine optimization can lead to weaknesses in others. I’ve seen it many times.

If your organic search channel isn’t growing despite the effort you’re pouring into it, step back and assess whether you are blind to the real issue. Here are three examples.

…step back and assess whether you are blind to the real issue.

Case 1: Uncrawled Content

An international, direct-to-consumer fashion brand spent a lot of time optimizing the content on its ecommerce site but still couldn’t get traction in organic search results beyond brand queries.

The brand was strong, but the company’s inability to drive traffic for nonbranded search queries such as “gold necklace” severely restricted revenue. Like many ecommerce companies, the brand’s potential to increase organic search performance lay solidly in the nonbranded space.

To target these nonbranded queries, the brand placed small amounts of optimized content on the category pages. It was enough to assert the keyword theme without jeopardizing the polished, visual emphasis from large glamour product photos. It should have helped organic search performance. But it didn’t.

The problem was that search bots could not crawl the optimized category pages. The links that humans could easily click did not function as links to search engine crawlers. The optimized content didn’t exist for search engines to consume and rank.

The brand’s SEO specialty of content optimization blinded it to a technical crawl problem.

Case 2: Syndicated Content

Another ecommerce site, a manufacturer selling its own label of clothing, competed heavily with a network of resellers. It was a delicate balance. The manufacturer needed resellers for revenue, but it earned higher margins when selling directly to consumers.

Even when keywords included the brand name, the manufacturer didn’t always appear in the first spot — a position Google typically (though not always) awards on branded queries.

The site was in decent SEO shape. It hadn’t suffered sudden performance changes that would indicate an algorithmic or technical problem — just a long, slow, downward trend in organic search performance.

The manufacturer had optimized text on the most important product pages. It was descriptive. Importantly, it targeted valuable keyword themes that interested consumers. However, the optimized text also appeared in the database that resellers pulled from to feed their own ecommerce sites.

Thus the manufacturer was using duplicate content. The optimized content on its own site was also on resellers’. As a result, ranking in the first organic position for its products depended on other factors, such as link authority, which many large resellers had more of.

The manufacturer’s product page optimization strategy blinded it to a duplicate content problem

Case 3: Inflated Link Authority

The manager of a third ecommerce site, an electronics retailer, had a near-spotless technical implementation, a rare accomplishment in ecommerce. But the site struggled to drive organic search performance for its products.

Unfortunately, the retailer’s focus on ridding the site of duplicate content, 301 redirecting every stray URL, and implementing comprehensive structured data left little time for link building, which could move the needle on performance.

The site’s link profile languished. It was top-heavy with sites that offered no value: scrapers and other spammy sites that link to all major sites. The highest-value links were from sites with focused topical relevance but little authority. Their link profile initially looked good, before digging deeper.

The site was not experiencing negative SEO. The problem was too few quality links.

The retailer’s technical SEO expertise blinded it to poor link authority.

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