The Most Common SEO Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)

Road closure and signs present travelers with a new situation out of their control.
One of the biggest challenges of SEO is that there are a lot of things out of your control. Often, you may be faced with new situations you’ve never seen before. When you hit a problem, you diagnose the issue based on potentially dozens of different factors.

So as you embark on an SEO journey, I recommend memorizing the following mantra and repeat as needed:

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
courage to change the things I can,
and wisdom to know the difference.

Next, I’ll cover several common SEO challenges and how to overcome them.

Google Makes Thousands of Changes to Search Each Year

Google is constantly testing and making changes to the Google Search environment — thousands of changes per year, in fact. In 2020 alone, Google ran more than 600,000 experiments that resulted in 4,500-plus changes to Search, some to the way search results are presented and others to the ranking algorithms themselves.

What you can do: You obviously can’t control what Google does. But you can control how you respond to it.

One of the best things you can do is to research potential changes. Each time there is a suspected or known change, the SEO industry will no doubt comment on it.

So stay on top of industry research. One way to do so is to follow notable algorithm changes — but there are many changes that never make that list.

Another thing you can do is to not do anything — not right away, at least. When Google rolls out changes, you may see your traffic and rankings fluctuate over a period of days or weeks.

Before you start tweaking anything on your site, make sure to do the research while you wait and see how things pan out. Sometimes, as hard as it is to believe, Google discovers a change did not work as expected and they revert back to before their update. In such cases it could be that no changes are needed by you.

Your Competition Is Always Changing

In the search results, your competition is every webpage that shows up on page one for your target keywords. But that is constantly in flux, too. New webpages enter the competition each day, and the existing competition ups their game. So keeping up with the competition takes a lot of work.

What you can do: Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do here. Using SEO tools, you can get an unbiased picture of who is ranking for your keyword and the various elements that could be contributing to those rankings.

The only thing you have to do is be least imperfect compared to your competition. No one can optimize for every ranking factor in the algorithm. But you can out-optimize the competition.

For more, read:

Testing Is “in the Wild”

You make a change to your website and submit it to Google. Then you wait … and wait. And you hope that your website is stable enough so that you can tell whether what you did impacted your rankings.

This is the way that SEOs have tested websites for years, and it’s likely not going to change. It’s impossible to be completely scientific when so many variables are out of our control (think competitors, search engines, searcher behavior, pandemics and so on). So testing in the wild is one of those things that we have to accept.

What you can do: Not all testing has to be done in the wild. For example, speed testing can be accomplished with a number of different tools and the data compared over time.

Also, you can do some controlled testing. In the cases where you can experiment in a controlled environment, go ahead and do it.

For example, a lab environment is key to working on improving your scores when it comes to Core Web Vitals. You will get a greater variance in results, but it provides instant feedback. You can learn more about lab versus field tests here.

SEO Strategies Change per Keyword

Every target keyword is essentially a new SEO project. That’s because every keyword is going to have a different intent behind it — what the searcher is trying to accomplish.

For example the term “search engine optimization” would be classified as a search with “informational” intent — meaning the searcher is likely wanting to learn what it is and how it works.

That means that your website would need to produce very specific informational pages on the topic of SEO in order to have a chance to compete.

Google aims to understand the searcher’s intent for every query. So every keyword essentially has its own algorithm, and no two search results pages are going to be the same.

But Google also has the problem of dealing with ambiguous searches, and often has a hard time serving up the most relevant results. Take the search “hammer” as an example:
Screenshot of search results for the query "hammer."
What you can do: Making sure your webpages are relevant for a search term starts with your keyword research.

During that process, you will map out the intent behind the keywords, the competition that is ranking for those keywords and the type of content that is ranking for those keywords (for example, what SERP features show up?).

This will help you create the exact type of content you need to compete and in a manner that allows you to compete with the top search results.

And, to reduce ambiguity and help your page be more relevant for a search, you can use structured data to clarify to the search engine what type of information is on the page. In addition, you can use related keywords.

For more, read:

Final Thoughts

One thing is for certain: There’s never a dull moment in SEO. Yes, a lot of things are out of our control, but there is so much that is in our control.

Doing the things we can to make sure our webpages are relevant and our sites are primed for search engines and users means our websites will do better in the search results.

Yes, you will spend a lot of time faced with new scenarios, but experience and wisdom will teach you how to deal with them.

You also have control over which SEO firm you work with. If you need expert help with your SEO or content, please contact us today for a free quote and consultation.

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 or through the website.

See Bruce's author page for links to connect on social media.

Comments (7)
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7 Replies to “The Most Common SEO Challenges (and How to Overcome Them)”

Apart from good content creation and dissemination on the web, Core Web Vitals have emerged as the biggest SEO challenge.

Wonderful tone of explaining the audience about SEO challenges. Keep it up.

I have been following you for a long time, everything is going well after following the advice in your articles. Keep it up. Thanks

I don’t think so these are the SEO challenges. According to me Page Loading which is now core web vitals is the most common SEO challenge for the all SEO person.

No need to change your strategy as per single keyword, All depend upon how you do SEO.
No changing competitors is not the SEO challenges Its none if your business.

I completely disagree with this article.

Great blog helped me a lot…everyday I overcome these SEO Problem

Sure enough Bruce, this has to be one of the best articles of what search engine optimization is. In the beginning I think there was one variable to basically rank, today there are hundreds of variables driven by AI, Google engineers and user feedback. A hot mess to keep up with and involves much time do to well on any scale.

beautifully explained i faced these problems everyday and they are very complex to solve as you have also mentioned you don’t have much control over Seo.


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