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Risks and challenges of an SEO and SEM project

I tendered for a contract via the Competefor site earlier and the question of risks and challenges of search engine optimisation and search engine marketing arose. The buyer also wants to pay by performance in terms of traffic generated - so here’s how we responded.

Dealing first with the challenges and risks of an SEO contract.

Typically there’s a substantial gap between where the client’s site ranks now in Google etc and where they want to be. Bridging that gap can involve challenges such as:

- restructuring the site’s navigation architecture
- cleaning up untidy code (a significant part of SEO is about enabling Google to index content quickly and accurately)
- taking on well established competition (analysing why their sites are ranked higher is relatively simple but overtaking them involves a well structured plan and rigorous execution
- working with IT people who may, understandably, be suspicious of external techs and protective of their own work
- avoiding triggering Google’s spam filters by doing too much too quickly to get instant results.

Working on the basis of pay by traffic performance has one serious flaw - the SEO company can’t control the total volume of searches in any given market. Traffic volumes vary according to factors such as season, topicality and the economy. The SEO company can build its client’s share of that market but it can’t dictate the size of the market.

Moving onto SEM or paid search (pay-per-click advertising or PPC), the main risks are associated with the cost of clicks and how to keep them low. This is a function of several things including bidding strategy, well written ads that attract clicks, landing page content (Google has an algorithm that assesses your “Quality Score” - a figure driven by click through rates, click backs from landing pages and so on) and testing and measuring different tactics such as time of day for ads to appear etc.

PPC is simple in principle but increasingly complex in practice. There are qualifications now for Google Adwords practitioners so unless the agency handling your account has accredited people, start asking some serious questions.

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