5 Reasons Your SEO Consulting Project Is Failing and How to Turn It Around

The relationship between a business and its SEO consulting firm is a delicate balance of give and take.

In order for an SEO strategy to deliver the best results, the SEO consultant must give accurate and useful recommendations, and the client must take that guidance and implement those recommendations.

This is a team effort where the consultant solves problems and mentors the client, and the client then learns and implements.

Seems fairly straightforward, but it’s not always so.

You have no doubt experienced this in your business. A project can have great energy at the outset. But as time passes, progress can be delayed and momentum stalled for a variety of reasons.

Here’s the good news: We’ve observed that there are five common roadblocks affecting SEO consulting projects that can absolutely be surpassed — once you know how to identify and push through them. Many potential failure points can be addressed even before the project starts, for maximum results.

In this article, I’ll list five common issues that threaten an SEO consulting project’s success AND how you can overcome them:

  1. Misaligned expectations
  2. Time constraints
  3. Budget constraints
  4. Lack of SEO knowledge
  5. Website back-end and architectural issues
There are five common roadblocks that stand in the way of an SEO consulting project’s success (goats not included).

1. Misaligned Expectations

Misaligned expectations are a huge reason why consultants fail with their SEO projects.

This situation leads to scope-creep and client-satisfaction issues. It often disrespects the SEO team, and sometimes disregards the client’s desires for extra services.

Some clients — especially those that are already knowledgeable about SEO — may want to retain unyielding control of their SEO project. This is understandable when you’re a company that had an SEO team and strategy in place already. Issues arise, however, when that in-house team thinks they are better than they are and the consultant is ignored.

Generally, our favorite consulting scenario involves working closely with the client’s in-house SEO team.

But sometimes conflicting efforts or opinions between the consultant and the client’s SEO team lead to mishaps. A large amount of time may be lost due to drawn-out discussion or inaction. Eventually, the project may see little success. And even worse, with two cooks in the kitchen, sometimes neither can get things done.

At the end of the day, both the SEO consultant and the client want results.

The challenge for the SEO consultant is to create a list of recommendations that will have the greatest effect while aligning with the client’s expectations.

What roadblock does your SEO project face? Photo by Emran Kassim (CC BY 2.0)

Challenges on the client’s side may be that they have no power over the IT implementation team, or their influence is weak. But once they see and evangelize results within their organization, client teams will be more receptive to future recommendations.

The SEO consultant can sometimes help their client contact make progress within their organization.

Example: A national auto service chain we consulted for had a site speed issue, but their IT department didn’t think it was a priority. IT’s lack of cooperation was hindering the project. We finally included their IT team in a conference call, where we demonstrated how much faster competitor sites were compared to their own. Soon after, our speed recommendations were implemented and that project roadblock was cleared.

Solution: Ultimately, the best way to avoid misaligned expectations is to speak candidly about each party’s role in and ideas for the SEO project. Do this up front, followed by often. Keep focus on the KPIs for the project.

Clients should be sure to communicate their major pain points and goals. And they should celebrate wins.

Meanwhile, consulting firms need to create strategies that address these pain points. Remember, an SEO consultant becomes an important part of the client’s digital marketing team.

Taking unilateral action can alienate you. Instead, create a close relationship between yourself and the rest of the team, so that you are working together to achieve the business’s goals.

At the end of the day, both the SEO consultant and the client want results. Click To Tweet

2. Time Constraints

Clients want the biggest bang for their buck. As such, they often don’t want to spend their staff resources to follow recommendations that appear minor or insignificant. Makes sense to me — focus on what drives the most traffic first.

For instance, clients often discount the value of editing meta tags — a page by page task that can seem time-consuming and trivial. And time consuming it is, but certainly not trivial.

Project roadblocks may be unexpected. Photo by Jefe Le Gran (CC BY 2.0)

Those who do see the value usually have seen positive results from optimizing titles and meta descriptions in the past. We have never seen it hurt, and almost always see solid improvement. What is especially helpful is if the client’s team understands how SEO really works at an advanced level.

Providing recommendations to a client with time constraints is difficult because, as with the budget barrier, everything must be justified in terms of the resources they are spending on the task.

Solution: Clients can request conversations, instruction and deliverables that show how SEO proves its value in terms of time commitment.

On the SEO consulting firm side, here are a few ways to justify value:

  • Make the recommendation and its explanation thorough. This gives a sense of confidence to the client that the work follows the best SEO practices.
  • Perhaps propose a proof-of-concept test that will prove the recommendations are valid.
  • Reference Google, Bing or other expert resources that align with the recommendations.
  • Have confidence in what you say and the client will, too.
  • Provide a comprehensive training class that shows the consulting agency’s expertise and teaches a proven methodology.
The best way to avoid misaligned client/consultant expectations is to speak candidly about each party’s role and ideas. Do this up front, followed by often. Click To Tweet

3. Budget Constraints

No one likes spending money on what they believe is useless. And let’s face it, any project that takes months to see substantial results requires a leap of faith. You just must be a believer that SEO will eventually pay off.

A microscopic focus on the ROI of every individual recommended task, however, can disrupt an SEO project. By scrutinizing the cost and return on investment of each individual task that the consultant recommends, some business clients miss the big picture.

SEO often requires that many tasks reach completion for the needle to move, and often an individual task is little more than a piece in the puzzle.

For example, budget-wary business owners might incorrectly believe that:

  • Editing meta tags, rewording main navigation links and other detail tasks are too time-consuming and unnecessary for SEO strategy.
  • Their content is fine as is, which is really very seldom the case.
  • Their main problem is not having enough backlinks to their site.
sheep blocking road
Look ahead — don’t let your SEO project be blocked. Photo by B4bees (CC BY 2.0)

Since SEO success or failure results from a combination of efforts over time, it can be complicated to quantify (although some have tried to measure KPIs for SEO).

While SEO consultants understand SEO as a long-term game, client teams may not. They’re often more concerned with their monthly investment and how that translates to immediate results.

Solution: Budget-conscious clients almost always want recommendations to be justified in terms of ROI. On the client side, it’s important to remember that data analytics aren’t yet able to completely track customer journeys across the wide range of digital marketing touch points available.

SEO consultants, on the other hand, can help clients to feel more comfortable by presenting a clear, concise project plan. The consultant should be able to explain the value of each step of the SEO strategy — even when the costs and results cannot be precisely tied together.

SEO often requires that many tasks reach completion for the needle to move. Click To Tweet

4. Lack of SEO Knowledge

Bruce Clay delivering SEO training
Bruce Clay delivers SEO training.

Many clients don’t understand the art and science of SEO — after all, it’s not their only job.

They know they have a problem with their website and want more online visibility. And they’ve hired an expert to fix these problems.

However, a client should never feel “in the dark” about what the consultant is doing on their behalf.

The expert consultant should be willing and able to explain complicated topics in an easy-to-understand manner. You, as a client, should be comfortable that you can ask questions and receive clear answers that increase your knowledge of SEO. The consultant should be able to cite credible sources like Google and Bing to give more weight to their recommendations. And if the SEO consultant refrains from using unfamiliar industry jargon to explain processes, even better!

Lack of SEO knowledge can often be at the core of other common roadblocks, such as the time and budget constraints I talked about earlier.

Solution: Besides finding an SEO consultant who is able to provide the kind of Q&A described above, clients could also become familiar with at least the basics of search engine optimization. This will help them ask the right questions and see the value of the recommendations — and help prevent the marketing consulting project from failing.

For our own SEO consulting clients, we provide formal SEO training. Each new client gets a seat in the Bruce Clay SEO Training course at the start of their project. We’ve found that providing training is one of the best and fastest ways to get a client up to speed on how SEO works and why we recommend the things we do.

A client should never feel 'in the dark' about what the SEO consultant is doing on their behalf. Click To Tweet

5. Website Back-End and Architectural Issues

Terrible content management systems don’t discriminate.

We’ve seen some of the world’s largest brands have a content management system (CMS) that is either outdated, broken or cumbersome to use. This is a problem because SEO implementation often requires flexibility to make proper changes.

In addition, sometimes the way a site is structured or designed does not allow the SEO consultant’s recommendations to be fully implemented — and sometimes they cannot be implemented at all.

Example: Sites using the Magento CMS often experience structural issues when organizing product categories. As a result, the CMS often creates duplicate content — two identical categories with links pointing to both pages. In the end, these pages compete for rankings and confuse the search engine and user experience.

What happens in cases like these is that the client usually won’t be receptive to the SEO consulting firm’s (our) recommendations because they simply can’t implement them with the current CMS in place. Understandably, the client may even get annoyed when the SEO consultant repeats the same instructions. The client often believes that there’s nothing that they can do about it.

As a result, the SEO consulting firm ends up backlogging important but not implemented SEO tasks. To-do lists for the client switch to smaller, more actionable changes that may not make as big of an impact but which reduce the friction of the project.

Solution: Discussions about the client’s CMS and potential implications to the project’s success should occur before the outset of the project. Both parties should be fully aware of what can and cannot be accomplished with their SEO consulting project within the limitations of the existing CMS.

Sometimes, the full scope of the limitation is not known until after the project begins. However, the proposed solutions should be on the table so that the client knows in advance that they may have to upgrade their CMS to fully realize SEO success.

Both the client and SEO consultant should be fully aware of what can and cannot be accomplished within the limitations of the existing CMS. Click To Tweet


Both the client and the SEO consulting firm want the project to succeed. So it’s in everyone’s best interests to work as a team and see results.

Unfortunately, misaligned expectations, time and budget constraints, lack of SEO knowledge and back-end limitations may slow the project’s forward movement. An experienced consultant can often identify the roadblock and steer the project back on course.

Example: One of our clients, a beauty-products retail site, came to us with a small budget. We took them on as a client because we saw opportunity for them to expand their market. However, right away we had a scope-creep issue. They had big plans, moved fast, and wanted us to be involved in every move they made. For about two months, our analysts were working double what the contract paid for. In month three, we nailed down a project plan for the next 90 days that included goals and deliverables. Regularly we show the client this rolling 90-day plan so they know what to expect. Now, if they throw in a new request, we ask what part of next month’s project plan they’d like us to table to make room.

If your SEO project seems to have stalled, you may be experiencing one of the five common roadblocks I’ve outlined for why consultants fail. Whether you represent the consulting service or the client, I hope these observations will help you to turn things around.

If you’re ready to find an SEO consultant who understands the challenges and is committed to success, then contact us to request a quote — we would love to discuss how we can be a great team member.

Bruce Clay is founder and president of Bruce Clay, Inc., a global digital marketing firm providing search engine optimization, pay-per-click, social media marketing, SEO-friendly web architecture, and SEO tools and education. Connect with him on LinkedIn and other social networks from Bruce's author page.
Comments (81)
Filed under: SEO — Tags:
Still on the hunt for actionable tips and insights? Each of these recent SEO posts is better than the last!

81 Replies to “5 Reasons Your SEO Consulting Project Is Failing and How to Turn It Around”

Wow! I got a site from where I learned the way to genuinely select useful data concerning my analysis and comprehension.

Thanks for yet another excellent blog article. Very helpful tips!

I believe you were able to write this article from your own years of experience in the SEO consulting field. The information shared in this post is very useful for marketers and digital agencies that are into SEO consulting. Lack of Budget, time, not able to update knowledge of the team are some of the major issues faced by SEO agencies while working on client projects.

And the images which you used in this post appear to be quite funny although they are relevant.

Paula Allen

Santhosh: Thanks for adding your thoughts. Yes, our analysts work to overcome the obstacles project by project.

The concept of SEO is a beauty and to get expertise in this is a challenging task. Without proper SEO principles, the business may not yield sufficient results. The reasons explained in this blog is a masterpiece. Truly inspired by this article and thank you for educating us on SEO.

Agreed with all points Paula! Money spend matters when you want quality solutions in SEO!

Agreed with all the points!

Agree with all the points!

All the points were perfect, yes just budget makes more complicated!

Good Insights… thankoyu I have found the budget to be a big issue.

Thanks for sharing the article. We are a SEO Company based in Mumbai, this article helped us know where the problem occurs.

I am a beginner in SEO. Your blog is very nice its inspired me a lot. I agree with all your points and I learned so many things from your blog. Thanks Bruce!

Good Insights… most of the time I face challenges with budget constraints. At that time, I am educating to my clients regarding the subjects and it works mostly.

I’m an SEO professional the points you mentioned are really valuable for beginners who just started their agency.
If I’m gonna start my own agency will definately consider these things.

Thank you for sharing this valuable information, Many SEO agency do not have knowledge on SEO as a expert, which is the main reason of project failing. Choose the right SEO Agency that continuously studying and applying the new methods.

Can’t wait to get started on it, this will be great for current and potential clients!

Thanks Bruce, Great insights

In my Country, even most digital marketing agencies and so-called seo consultants don’t really understand SEO. They’re simply acting to be an expert without ranking any page of their own website for any keyword.

Each and every point mentioned here is absolutely on point. I’ve myself struggled so many times with clients for misaligned expectations.

Have genuine care for the success of the business. Most people focus on a large proportion of their time on “keywords” and not much else. But its high time we look at other SEO tips as well.

excellent article you shared. Mostly SEO falls for two reasons.
the first issue is to gather money for investing in SEO and the second issue is market competitor so SEO experts always be in pressure and they might be in wrong SEO.

Really helpful these all tips, many Technics we have used in our past SEO.

Very Informative post and must read for companies going to hire an SEO consulting firm and the SEO consulting firm itself. I have seen that the lack of SEO knowledge among the clients and the low quality consulting and implementation done from the consultant’s end, make the problem.

Number 4 is very true. Because SEO is evolving cant keep what they promise to the customer. Choose the right SEO Agency that continuously studying and applying the new methods.

Great post Bruce. I agree with the 4th reason. It is necessary to develop the simplest verbal breakdown of SEO to your prospective SEO clients. The more you explain the ins and outs of SEO to your clients, the more comfortable your clients will feel about working with you.

Very good post and must read for companies going to hire an SEO consulting firm and the SEO consulting firm itself.
Being a digital marketer and trainer, I have seen that the lack of SEO knowledge among the clients and the low quality consulting and implementation done from the consultant’s end, make the problem.
If one company wants to get the best results from his or her digital marketing or SEO consulting firm, must know the ins and outs of these. If they don’t learn, there will be lots of gap between what they expect and what they get.

It can be so frustrating when a company thinks their IT department are the experts at SEO and the IT department doesn’t want to do anything because they don’t understand what speed increases will do.

Paula Allen

Nick: So true! That’s a common situation, and unfortunately a company’s profits may suffer for it.

We sometimes have IT people attend Bruce Clay’s SEO Training, and it’s eye-opening for them to understand what’s at stake. We’ve also had some large companies hire us to do an onsite training and educate both their marketing and IT staff together. That’s a smart move!

You always provide the high quality content…
your third is valid People spend lot of money but they have not much knowledge about SEO…

Budget is the biggest issue and clients underestimating the amount of time (money) has to be spend to rank a website high.

Alarming suggestions. I would also like to add marketers interest in ranking for high search volume keywords initially while they should try to rank for low and medium search volume keywords primarily and target keywords with high search volumes afterwards.

Budget is everything of any business – be it SEO or petrochemicals. Very well written.

I agree with your list of reasons Bruce. As an SEO consultant, I believe #3 is huge! Many business owners have difficulty spending money on something they do not have full confidence in, or worse, don’t know how to quantify the returns on their search marketing investment and just see search engine optimization as another useless expense.

The only disadvantage in SEO companies I found is they get heavy price from clients and they also are not able to sustain the ranking of their clients.

Paula Allen

Tanveer: Perhaps you need a better SEO agency, one that doesn’t just “set it and forget it.” Rankings change as the competition and search intent for a query evolve. RankBrain responds to perceived shifts in searcher intent; we see it all the time. An SEO strategy that works long-term must look to not only maintain current rankings but also tackle new opportunities.

Totally Agree to fifth point, that’s why I prefer to use WordPress wherever possible.

Thanks Bruce now I know how to fix my business.

Hi Bruce,

I own a 2D Cad Library. Several weeks ago I tried to hire an SEO for my blog’s promotion but failed miserably. After loosing both time and money, I decided to go solo and take up the challenge myself. I results are amazing. All thanks to your informative articles.

Thanks a ton!

Best regards,

Paula Allen

Parth: That’s seriously good news! This is why we write. Congratulations for applying what you learned so well, too.

I agree that time and budget are clue points in every strategy and limits in one of those could be crucial.

I thought to start a new SEO Venture. Its very Informative for me. Thanks for the article

Budget and time commitment are probably the two biggest challenges to overcome. Really good article that does a great job diving into many of these headaches and how to overcome them. Really helps to put in the work to set the right expectations from the very start.

Paula Allen

Andrew: Nice to hear that it resonated with you. Thanks for reading & commenting!

This is correct about all points, Bruce..! Most importance point is budget. Thanks for sharing valuable information.

this will be great for current and potential clients!


Informative Article!!!!!!!!!
As I am seo fresher got to know new strategy. Thanks for posting

I totally agree with all the above points but, most of the agency have not vast knowledge of SEO which is the main cause of project failing.

Paula Allen

Hp: You’re right, and that’s the elephant in the room. The most important step is to choose an experienced and trustworthy SEO agency.

Totally agree with you Mr.Bruce. Thanks for sharing the knowledge with us.

The information about SEO failure is good, keep posting more.

I really appreciate you Bruce for providing valuable and useful information for clients as well as SEO Consultants.
Thank you!

Clients does not need consultation they need results in SEO. Which are difficult to come

This is just awesome information here, Another best blog post of the day and it is worth sharing on my twitter. Thanks, Bruce.!

100% agree with you, Mr. Bruce. And thanks for sharing.!

Thanks for sharing your post.Bruce!. Your post always informative for me and worthy reading your post. I love to read your post.


Honestly, In my experience.. With companies like Wix and others surfacing, it quickly becomes difficult to sell a $15,000 website to a client, which can often be the case based upon what they are looking to do… Add SEO services to the mix and it quickly becomes a high dollar item.

Good thing about the template services like Wix.. once clients fail to see results, they come back and work with you. The only issue then is.. they’ve already tapped into their initial budget.. That’s when things start to get slow and SEO needs go out the window… initially. Once the budget regains momentum, they initiate the process. Now, its a game of “catch up” and beat the competition.

Long story short… have a great portfolio that completely reflects what you can do, showing results that can be researched and proven if needed.

Great post! useful and valuable info you shared through this blog. Thanks for sharing with us.

Thank you for sharing. The Points #2, #4 & #5 are important for SEO consulting.

In my View, SEO is Plan, a strategy if you’d like, however you must do changes to possess other results.

These all kind of issues I am facing during an in-house SEO project. The main problem is that the client wants an instant result and that is not possible in internet marketing.SEO needs patients.

Thanks for the great post! This information is really helpful and well written.

I would say lack of understanding of SEO is a big stumbling block sometimes when dealing with clients. You might get one person in the organization who understands the fundamentals but then you get those old school guys who still think you need to be out knocking on doors everyday to get sales who scoff at the idea of SEO and think it’s all just a waste of time.

Awesome article! While I was reading, every point seemed to be more valid than the previous one which is excellent. Yes, I feel the same as you do. Expectation, time, budget, knowledge and website structure, each of these points can make or break SEO! Thanks a lot for sharing this.

I think the budget issue and back-end mistakes are mostly followed… people should have a look at this information…

It’s never too late to turn things around. A good article, and all your points are valid. Even on a small budget, good SEO is available to everyone

I myself feel that budget constraints is the huge stumbling block in SEO consulting projects, Like in any business investment is key in SEO consultancy.

I totally agree with point 4!

When clients don’t understand what SEO is not only does it have a knock on value for the client in that it’s difficult to judge what they get for their money, but it also is really bad for the agency. This is because sooner or later the client will inevitably question the value of service they are receiving (even if they are getting great results). And if you don’t tackle this at the outset – ie what SEO and the outlines of work involved, you’re always going to be perceived as the agency that does some “black-magic-hocus-pocus” to “get ranking on Google” and good SEOs will agree that this just isn’t the case. SEO needs a good amount of dedicated time and effort to ensure the best results are achieved.

Thanks for sharing this article and nice explanation about each and every point…

The points you covered in this article are really crucial and are less considered by blog writers. I think it will create a good connection with our clients. This post lead us to think in different manner. Thanks for sharing such an helpful post.

Thank you Bruce for a detailed look at this all-important consideration. i.e.”time and budget constraints, lack of SEO knowledge and back-end limitations”

excellent article you shared. Mostly SEO falls for two reasons.
first issue is gather money for investing on seo and second issue is market competitor so seo expert always be in pressure and they might be in wrong seo.

All points are useful and some were new to me. The best part of this article is that solution for the problem is also provided

Paula Allen

Abhishek: We’ve learned by experience over many years of working with clients. SEO is a long-term effort, most projects span months, and a satisfied client lasts for years. It’s important to not only spot issues starting to arise, but also know how to correct them. We were happy to share what we’ve learned! Thanks for reading.

A very nice article, the 5th point was really good and you wrote it very nicely.

Thank you so much Bruce for providing the information. Reasons which you had given are absolutely true. We can now explain our clients in more better way.

This topics is excellent and better sharing for the new SOE or old SEO experiential. Thank You very much for nice sharing. Lots of love..And I agree with your all points Mr. Bruce!!!!!!!!!!!!

Ron Walker

I disagree with one point: Those are sheep in the photo, not goats.

Great Content on SEO Project consulting. All the point mentioned are very good. Thanks for sharing.

Thank you, Bruce, for sharing solutions to the most common issues that are facing us in SEO.

Hey Bruce, you’ve just inspired me to create an entirely new section on our website full of hyper-specific case studies to reference when clients need more confidence in their seo campaign.

Can’t wait to get started on it, this will be great for current and potential clients!


I agree with all your points, Bruce! Personally, I have found the budget to be a big issue.

Paula Allen

Akash: Budget constraints make prioritization critical, if you’re the SEO consultant. Thanks for reading and confirming that your experience lines up with ours!


Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Serving North America based in the Los Angeles Metropolitan Area
Bruce Clay, Inc. | 2245 First St., Suite 101 | Simi Valley, CA 93065
Voice: 1-805-517-1900 | Toll Free: 1-866-517-1900 | Fax: 1-805-517-1919