Whether you’re an industry veteran or a search newbie, there’s no denying this is an exciting space.
Changes happen frequently, new strategies are always being utilized, and seeing your client rocket to the top of the search results is so unbelievably rewarding.
However, it isn’t all fun and games.
SEO requires drive, patience, and a dedication to continuous learning. On top of all of that, it requires passion.
It can be a slow game, in some cases, taking years to really true reap the rewards of your efforts. Without passion, the wait would be maddening.
But what happens when you start to lose that passion?
In a recent post, Aaron Levy addressed some of the challenges search engine marketers face. He talked boredom, burnout, and how PPC marketers can find themselves questioning results.
The same thing can be said of those in SEO.
Let’s look at a few challenges facing SEO professionals and how we can work to address them.
1. Lack of Education
On a recent sales call, a prospect noted they didn’t want to engage in any formal SEO program, they simply wanted us to build links to each piece of content they created.
They wanted 10+ links to each piece because that’s what would help them rank.
Or how about the client email I received a few weeks ago asking me what keywords we were buying? For the SEO program.
One of the biggest frustrations we face is the lack of education and awareness of what it is we do.
How can we do our jobs effectively when the people we are working with or for don’t know what we do?
More so, how can we feel valued when the people we are working with/for don’t appreciate the work that is being put in?
SEO is complicated and, in all fairness, the secrecy of the past and “magical” nature of what SEO once was probably didn’t help us.
But this is a different time and it’s on us to make sure we are educating those around us.
How can we overcome this frustration and move forward? I have a few ideas:
Embrace the Opportunity to Educate
A quality I’ve found in a number of SEO pros is the ability to teach.
Think about it. We spend countless hours on the internet looking at content, code, and SERPs, and then distill that information into something regular folks can understand.
On top of that, we have grown this industry to what it is now, building SEO departments and agencies, holding conferences, creating weekly training videos, and much more.
While it can be frustrating to continuously have to explain what you do, embrace the opportunity to teach SEO the right way.
Step Out of the Vacuum
I remember the first time I attended an ad:tech conference. It was one of the first non-search marketing conferences I had been to and I just couldn’t believe how little SEO was discussed.
In the places it was discussed, it was basic-level stuff and really seen as part of the overall marketing strategy. That’s OK!
The SEO space is small and as a result, it can often feel like the most important thing in the world.
Sometimes we need to step out of the vacuum to gain a more realistic view.
Set the Right Expectations
I think the most important thing we can do, especially when working with clients or upper management, is to set the right expectations as early as possible.
That prospect I mentioned above who only wanted links – we let them know that isn’t what we do and the reasons their desired strategy won’t yield them the results they want.
By setting the right expectations, you are also educating the team, killing two birds with one stone and making your life much easier.
2. What Have You Done for Me Lately?
Back in July, Jacob Bohall wrote a wonderful piece reflecting on the SEO space and the challenges we each face.
One of his points was around the idea of being #1 and how it’s never good enough. I couldn’t agree more.
Marketing in and of itself is a ‘what have you done for me lately?’ industry but SEO truly goes above and beyond.
Do any of these sound familiar?
- Organic traffic is up 200 percent but my top keyword isn’t on the first page.
- Organic is driving 50 percent more leads than last year. How come it’s not higher?
- Sales from organic are the highest they’ve ever been but our team is concerned they aren’t getting enough volume.
Constant pressure can be draining and feeling that there’s no end in sight will easily strip away your passion.
Last Spring, I found my passion for search missing. As I started to dig into the why, I realized one of the biggest reasons was the constant pressure from a few specific accounts.
We worked with each of them for years, results were always great, but they were never happy. Even if they seemed happy, I knew it would be short-lived.
I would wait for the inevitable email each week complaining about something we had done. It wore me down.
Eventually, we restructured the accounts, addressed some of the key issues, and reset expectations. It wasn’t the ideal situation but it helped and we’ve been able to move forward with the accounts.
If you find yourself struggling with any of these same issues, I recommend the following:
Focus on ALL of the Wins
As mentioned earlier, SEO can be a long game. We have to take a minute to celebrate the wins, even if they are small.
- Did that keyword you’ve been working toward jump onto the first page?
- Did your blog updates results in month-over-month organic growth?
- Did a publisher accept your byline?
These are all great things!
Yes, we are paid to be successful. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t celebrate the wins when we get them.
Don’t Be Afraid to Speak up
As I think back to my own frustrations, I realize that I didn’t communicate well and when I did, it was too late.
We all have moments where we complain about something or someone at work but if there is legitimately a problem, one that is draining you of your passion, you need to bring it up in a serious manner.
If you’re on the right team, they will support you.
3. Keeping Up with the Joneses
I have been in the search space since 2005 and while I am constantly learning new things, I am also constantly worried I’m not learning enough.
There are some really freaking smart people in the industry and it can be easy to compare yourself to them.
Here’s the thing – we can’t be everything to everyone.
Rand Fishkin tweeted this a few weeks ago and it generated a number of responses, some positive, some negative but I have to say, I agree:
See, the thing is, that while I want the technical chops of Britney Muller or Mike King, that’s never going to be me.
What I can do is learn from these folks and understand the things that matter to my job.
For example, I am not a coder but I have learned enough HTML to identify technical issues impacting search. I am also not a designer, but I have learned enough about UX to understand what a site needs to perform better.
Those things make me better at my job.
Trying to keep up with everyone around you is exhausting and it can make you feel as if you are failing. Focus on what you’re good at and don’t be afraid to pick a niche.
When I started in search, I focused a lot on link building. It was something that spoke to me, I found interesting, and frankly, I was good at.
As time passed, I started leaning more toward content. I’m sure that will change as time progresses.
Remember, you can be a great SEO without being an expert in all the things.
Relighting the Fire
Burnout can happen and when it does, it’s important to recognize it, deal with it, and figure out the next steps.
Many of us have been there and if you are looking for a way to reignite the passion, reach out to your fellow SEO pros.
We work in an amazing industry and we do this for a reason. It has its challenges but at the same time, it has its rewards.
More SEO Career Resources:
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In-Post Image #3: Screenshot taken by author, October 2018
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