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  • Writer's pictureMordy Oberstein

Why Do People Still Have Unrealistic SEO Expectations?

Diana Richardson joins the podcast to share her thoughts on why people have unreasonable SEO expectations:

  • The cause of clients having incorrect expectations about SEO

  • The investment needed to be successful with organic search

  • How the search results themselves contribute to unrealistic SEO expectations

People have had unrealistic expectations about SEO for years. The question is, what does this say about how people see SEO, and why has this unrealistic outlook persisted for the past two decades?!

We dive into what caused and is causing people to think of SEO in unrealistic ways and how the problem is being perpetuated.

Here's a summary of what we discussed.

Diana Richardson on the SEO Rant Podcast


Clients can come at you with the most absurd ranking expectations. How often have you heard clients will say things like, "How much will it cost to rank #1?" or "Every time I Google myself, I want to see myself."? For whatever reason, clients often have all sorts of unrealistic expectations around organic search. To make matters worse, people often expect quick and substantial organic success without having to commit financially.

Here's a look at what causes false SEO expectations to persist and what...

Why Do People Have False Expectations About SEO?

People have been expecting unlimited amounts of organic traffic without much effort for years. Back when SEO was still new, those kinds of expectations "made sense." No one knew any better. There was no SEO education or established "SEO expectations." The very nature of SEO itself was something completely different. But today, the fact that these questions still prevail is a bit misaligned. Today you can get a degree in digital marketing and there are a wide variety of resources that you can easily access to better understand organic marketing and SEO.

So why do false expectations persist?

A lot of the unrealistic expectations clients have come from the paid side of Search. They see Search Ads and they assume that the organic side works the same way. Meaning, if they throw more money at the endeavor they will be more successful. It's not a matter of thought-out strategy as much as it is throwing money at the problem. This, of course, is false (for both organic search and paid search).

What's worse is that the notion of being able to throw money at a problem means that the problem is not complex. If you feel by throwing some money at some "SEO professional" you can succeed it means you don't think that SEO is a complex strategic practice that requires time and personal commitment.

SEO Success Requires Both Investment & Reasonable Expectations

To be honest, if people felt that they needed to spend serious money on SEO but did not need to invest their personal time we would be ahead of the game. Compounding the issue of false SEO expectations is that many people think organic traffic is free traffic.

There is a monetary investment that needs to be put into SEO. While it's not a matter of "throwing money at the problem," like anything in life you have to be invested if you want to succeed. SEO costs money. Good SEO costs money. Especially if content creation is involved as content takes time and thought to be substantial (and therefore successful). Heading over to Fiverr and paying $50 for some "SEO" is most likely not going to yield positive results.

Clients, however, get these unrealistic budgetary expectations when they hear "SEOs" talk about organic traffic being "free." Nothing in life is free, especially not organic traffic. All free means is that there is no immediate financial causality behind ranking well organically. That is to say, sites are not directly paying Google to rank well. That doesn't mean there isn't financial investment required. Those are two very different things. When you hear it put this way it almost seems silly that people would consider organic traffic as "free traffic" - yet the struggle to change client perception here is real.

If you, as a client, want to succeed organically you need to hire the right resources. In terms, of SEO that means finding a knowledgeable person to work on your site. And just like anything else, the folks who know more and produce results tend to cost more than some random freelancer.

Why Does the Problem of False SEO Expectations Persist?

It's not 2006 anymore. There are tons of resources available to people that can help them better understand SEO and as a result, have realistic expectations around how search marketing actually works. Why then does the problem with false SEO expectations still remain a problem?

Not all of the blame is on "SEOs" for creating false narratives with terms like "free traffic." Part of the problem is on Google. Specifically what results the search engine shows when people run queries around hiring an SEO.

When you run queries for terms related to hiring an SEO you get all sorts of terrible results on the SERP. All kinds of folks selling low-quality SEO services appear in the ads that reside on top of the organic results. Worse, many of the organic results represent parties that are less than reputable. You often get results from Forbes or Entrepenuier about procuring SEO services with these articles being thin if not indirectly sponsored.

How is the average person supposed to sift through all of this? They're not. They have no way of knowing that some Forbes article is not substantial in reality. This creates a vicious cycle. Folks find these less than reputable SEO services, get burned by them, and then think that all SEO is snake oil. So inevitably they don't get the SEO work they need as they consider the entire industry to be spammy and ineffective.

There Are No SEO Shortcuts

The bottom line is that your website is your business these days. Organic search is intrinsically tied to your site and to be successful means to be invested. There are no shortcuts in both the time and money that need to be allocated to getting SEO right. More than that, the time it takes to succeed cannot be understated. Genuine organic traffic doesn't pop up overnight. It takes a good deal of time. You need to be committed and patient.

For more of the SEO Rant Podcast check out our previous episode on why going viral should not be a marketing goal.


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