Hints from our recent report on the State of the SEO Survey show that although the last year started with uncertainty in the industry, SEO is now more in demand than ever.
Despite this, it is not without its challenges. What issues are SEO professionals facing – and moving forward, what are the threats that can block success?
We surveyed over 2,800 SEO professionals about their experiences in SEO over the past 12 months. Read on to find out:
What Were the Biggest Challenges in SEO Over the Last 12 Months?
At the onset of the pandemic, there was a lot of uncertainty for everyone as businesses tried to navigate an unprecedented situation filled with real-world closures, an almost immediate change to digital, and major changes in consumer behavior.
As the pandemic unfolded many businesses had to turn quickly to survive. Some struggled while others flourished as digital and e-commerce growth accelerated by several years.
Early in the pandemic, budget cuts were the biggest challenge for SEO professionals, as indicated by 37.6% of survey respondents.
Strategy issues (34.8%) were also a significant challenge in the SEO industry, as well as a lack of resources (32.9%).
(Question: In the last 12 months, what have been your biggest challenges blocking SEO success? Up to 3 options can be selected. Open to all respondents. Answered: 2,325; 1.76% chose “Others. “)
Across the industry, it seems that many budgets were cut as an initial reaction, but many customers quickly got back on board. Of those, many clients have actually increased their spending and invested more in SEO.
Ron Lieback of Content Mender, for example, experienced a reduction in customer budgets and says, “Many have reduced their budgets because they lost their clients / customers, which meant a reduction on new content and technical monitoring of SEO. “
However, customers then took advantage of the situation. Lieback explains, “As competitor rankings began to decline, many clients focused much more deeply on their SEO efforts, some doubling down on new content, while others reduced budgets.”
Along with the complications of the pandemic, SEO professionals also had to contend with a series of major and major Google updates in 2021.
Those updates have created a lot of disruption. Michael Bonfils of SEM International warns that we have not yet seen the full effects of the recent Page Experience Update.
“Google continues to put a lot more emphasis on a site’s‘ overall ’strength, so even if a site is perfectly optimized for SEO, it may not work properly (or its competitors) due to a weak technical base, less paid efforts , weaker social signs, unfavorable bonding environment, etc., “explains Bonfils.
He added, “We’re only seeing the first slight consequences of the Page Experience Update and I can only assume it will become much more important over time.”
Jason Barnard, the founder of Kalicube, experienced longer waiting times for crawling. It is an area with us that, “Google seems to have become less responsive to new and updated content, whether through the normal crawling process, or submission through a Search Console.”
He noted that this has led to longer waiting times to see any effect of those changes, which is frustrating.
Are Results Getting Better or Worse for SEO?
Although budget cuts have been the biggest challenge for the industry, the results from SEO are getting better and better.
SEO results improved this year for 64.6% of respondents, with 18% reporting that they were “much” more successful than the previous year.
(Question: In the last 12 months, compared to the previous year, how do you rank the results by SEO? Open to all respondents, Answered: 2,369. 2.11% selected “not sure.”)
It is worth noting that many sites may have benefited from the effect of a “rising tide cools all boats” as global internet traffic levels have risen by 40%.
As a result of restrictions on physical store visits, ecommerce has seen the largest year-over-year growth leap in a decade with 32% growth driving $ 759.4 billion in ecommerce sales in the United States .
Digital businesses have also had to deal with changing spending patterns as consumers have become more cautious about spending on luxury goods.
Bonfils confirms that many of its customers have noticed this change in traffic because users spend less on travel, luxury goods, technology, and so on.
According to Google, the businesses that benefited the most from the pandemic were home improvements, home fitness, pet-related, and everything related to working from home.
The Biggest Threats to SEO in the Next Two Years
(Question: In the next two years, what will be the biggest threat to SEO? Up to 3 options can be selected. Open to all respondents. Answered: 2,325. 1.2% chose “other.”)
Nearly three-quarters of respondents said Google is the biggest threat to SEO success over the next two years, with two specific modes: SERP Zero-Click (38.7%) and Google Updates (35.1%) .
The third biggest threat to SEO is from machine learning, as indicated by 28.4% of SEO professionals.
Lieback agrees that Google and AI updates pose threats and also thinks a lack of talent will be an issue, especially on the strategic side.
“I can get people to implement and do the basics of work, but to find a pro SEO who really understands the way everything works together – from on-page to off-page and content marketing strategy wise – it’s almost impossible, “he said.
It is a challenge shared by many SEO experts, including Barnard. “I see, read, and listen to super smart and talented people around the place. But how can there really be enough supply for potential demand? he asked.
He noted that every website that comes online creates a new demand for SEO.
“The question is, will that job be profitable? And it depends on the talent available,” Barnard added.
Currently, the shortage means that talented SEO professionals are in demand and are in a strong position for salary negotiations.
Our survey data shows that 60% of SEO professionals earn the same or more than the US median, and SEO comes with a salary of $ 100,000 + for 19%. Learn more in our 2021 SEO Salary Report: How Much SEO Prospects Are Paid.
But that means finding enough resources to get the job done will be one of the biggest challenges over the next few years for agencies and in-house brands.
One thing is for sure, the job in the SEO industry is very strong right now.
Putting SEO Threats & Opportunities Insights to Work for You
How will you adjust your strategy for the coming year with this improved understanding of the challenges your peers are experiencing?
You can use these other issue-based reports from our 2021 SEO State series to improve and refine your strategy as well:
Download your copy of the full report to access all the data from the 2021 State Survey of the Search Engine Journal.
Find additional knowledge such as:
Featured image: Paulo Bobita / Search Engine Journal All images in the article created by the author, September 2021