Unbend Your Mind to Overcome an SEO Plateau

Adam Steele
by Adam Steele 01 Dec, 2015


Search engine optimization (SEO) is a fickle mistress; anyone who seeks to tame her needs to stay on their toes or risk being forgotten in the recesses of search engine results pages (SERPs). Regularly updated search algorithms and the ever-growing dominance of digital marketing has led to the unending refinement of SEO tactics. 

That said, there are times when SEO practitioners might find themselves asking what they should focus their efforts on, especially when it seems SEO campaigns are stuck in a plateau.  

The answer lies in a play written around 411 BC by the Greek writer, Sophocles: "A man, though wise, should never be ashamed of learning more, and must unbend his mind." 

Beginning an SEO campaign is an exciting period in the life of any business. If a company decides to undergo the work in-house, it will be greatly rewarded with knowledge that will help steer it when undertaking future Web projects. Similarly, if a third party is brought in, there's the excitement and anticipation that comes when eagerly awaiting tactics to start showing results.

Once keyword research has been completed and landing pages decided on or created, the real fun begins. Companies can then start implementing on-page optimization and building up a library of content that allows a company to promote backlinks.

If everything has been researched and put into practice correctly, there should be pages starting to head upward in SERPs after this initial period.  

The next stage is pretty much always maintenance - fixing mistakes, improving existing site issues and tweaking anything that doesn't give optimal results. This can take anywhere from a couple of months to several years depending on how big the site is and how competitive desired keywords are. 

As time goes by, maintenance requirements will begin to decrease if those in charge of content and web development are on form and don't create more issues as they go along. 

So when the website is finally ranking highly for the desired keywords and traffic has greatly increased, surely it's time to kick back and relax, right? Wrong. 

After all the easy SEO fixes have been made, it's likely traffic and keyword ranking will start to plateau and although the website could be attracting a lot of attention, it's easy to get stuck at just decent rankings. 

This is where good old Sophocles comes in. At this point in an SEO campaign, there is a need to 'unbend minds'; things are good, but they can always be better. It's time for a refresh and this doesn't just mean new tactics. 

This is a great opportunity to learn more, not just about SEO, but about topics intrinsically linked like Web development, design, analytics, content marketing, AdWords, email marketing and so on. 'Never be ashamed of learning more,' never let the mind mimic an SEO plateau.

As for tactics, there are always new alleys to go down. 

Ensuring content is being used in the best possible way is a great place to start. Is it getting to the right people? How can it reach a similar and yet previously untouched audience? These are good questions to ask when kick starting the campaign out of the plateau. 

Tools such as Followerwonk, SEMrush and Buzzsumo are great at analyzing what clients or competitors are interacting with or consuming and can help tailor content more specifically. 

In addition, a new round of keyword analysis is a great idea at this point. If a website is dominating for its chosen keywords, it might be time to explore similar terms people are searching for. Content needs to be created for these terms and suitable landing pages developed. 

If traffic is high - thanks to an abundance of high ranking pages - but conversion is low, the solution is to pay more attention to the customer funnel on the website. Google Analytics makes it possible to see the behavior flow of visitors through a site and analyze where - if anywhere - the customer journey is going awry. 

This is also a good point to dabble with new things previously overlooked, whether it's AdWords, different social media platforms or multi-language targeting.

At the end of the day, there's nothing wrong with a little bit of trial and error to see what works, especially when it comes to SEO. Remember, getting to the plateau is not a negative. In fact, some sites will never get past the stage of fixing issues. The best way to look at it is to get creative and go on a quest to improve digital knowledge. In short, take a page out of Sophocles' book. 

Adam Steele is a senior account executive at technology PR firm, Stone Junction. Upon saying goodbye to a career in the music business, he made the easy decision to join the dizzying heights of technical PR and threw himself into helping clients get noticed in search results. Always hungry to learn new things and test himself, Adam can be found mainly trawling website source code, writing SEO blogs and coding sites in an un-ending quest for digital knowledge.