State of search engine marketing: Challenges & Threats

State of SEO: Challenges & Threats

Insights from our latest State of SEO Survey report present that though the final yr started with uncertainty throughout the business, search engine marketing is now extra in demand than ever earlier than.

Even so, it’s not with out its challenges. What points are search engine marketing professionals going through — and transferring ahead, what are the threats which may block success?

We surveyed over 2,800 search engine marketing professionals about their experiences in search engine marketing over the past 12 months. Preserve studying to search out out:

  • What the largest challenges had been within the final 12 months.
  • Whether or not search engine marketing outcomes trended higher or worse over the past yr.
  • What search engine marketing professionals understand because the business’s best threats within the years forward.

What Have been the Largest Challenges in search engine marketing Over the Final 12 Months?

At first of the pandemic, there was plenty of uncertainty for everybody as companies tried to navigate an unprecedented state of affairs rife with real-world shutdowns, a near-instant shift to digital, and large modifications in shopper conduct.

Because the pandemic unfolded many companies needed to pivot rapidly so as to survive. Some struggled whereas others thrived as digital and ecommerce development accelerated by a number of years.


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Early within the pandemic, finances cuts had been the largest problem for search engine marketing professionals, as indicated by 37.6% of survey respondents.

Technique points (34.8%) had been additionally a big problem within the search engine marketing business, as was an absence of sources (32.9%).

search engine marketing Business Problem % # respondents
Funds cuts 37.6% 874
Technique points 34.8% 810
Lack of sources 32.9% 765
Pandemic-related difficulty 27.9% 649
Administration/stakeholders approval 27.3% 635
Alignment with different departments 26.9% 627
Scaling processes 25.8% 600
Shopper relationship points 14.1% 327
Authorized approval 10.6% 247
Not skilled any challenges 5.2% 120

(Query requested: Within the final 12 months, what had been your largest challenges that blocked search engine marketing success? As much as 3 choices might be chosen. Open to all respondents. Answered: 2,325; 1.76% chosen “Different.”)

Throughout the business, it seems that plenty of budgets had been minimize as an preliminary response, however many consumers rapidly got here again on board. Out of these, many consumers really elevated spend and invested extra closely in search engine marketing.

Ron Lieback of Content material Mender, for instance, skilled cuts to consumer budgets and says, “Many minimize their budgets on account of shedding their purchasers/prospects, which meant a minimize on new content material and technical search engine marketing monitoring.”


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Nonetheless, purchasers then took benefit of the state of affairs. Lieback explains, “As competitor rankings started dropping, many consumers centered a lot deeper on their search engine marketing efforts, some doubling down on new content material, though others did minimize budgets.”

Together with the issues of the pandemic, search engine marketing professionals additionally needed to cope with a sequence of core and major Google updates in 2021.

These updates created loads of disruption. Michael Bonfils of SEM Worldwide warns that we nonetheless haven’t seen the complete results of the latest Page Experience Update.

“Google continues to place much more emphasis on the ‘total’ well being of a web site, so even when a web site is completely optimized for search engine marketing, it might not carry out in addition to it ought to (or its opponents) on account of a weaker technical basis, much less paid efforts, weaker social indicators, unfavorable hyperlink setting, and so forth.,” Bonfils explains.

He added, “We’re solely seeing the primary, delicate penalties of the Web page Expertise Replace and I can solely assume that it’ll get way more vital over time.”

Jason Barnard, the founding father of Kalicube, skilled longer wait occasions for crawling. He shared with us that, “Google appears to have grow to be much less reactive to new and up to date content material, whether or not by the conventional means of crawling, or submission by Search Console.”

He famous that this has led to longer wait occasions for seeing any impact of these modifications, which is irritating.

Are Outcomes Getting Higher or Worse for search engine marketing?

Though finances cuts had been the best problem for the business, outcomes from search engine marketing are getting higher and higher.

search engine marketing outcomes improved this yr for 64.6% of respondents, with 18% reporting they had been “lots” extra profitable than the yr prior.

The Greatest Challenges & Threats in SEO [Survey Results]

(Query requested: Within the final 12 months, in comparison with the yr earlier than, how do you charge the outcomes from search engine marketing? Open to all respondents, Answered: 2,369. 2.11% chosen “undecided.”)


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It’s price contemplating that many websites might have benefitted from the “rising tide floats all boats” impact as worldwide web visitors ranges elevated by 40%.

Because of restrictions on visits to bodily shops, ecommerce noticed the largest leap of year-on-year development in a decade with 32% development driving $759.4 billion in U.S. ecommerce gross sales.

Digital companies additionally needed to cope with shifting spending patterns as shoppers grew to become more cautious spending on luxury goods.

Bonfils confirms that a lot of his purchasers seen this shift in visitors on account of customers spending much less on journey, luxurious gadgets, know-how, and so forth. “Most spend went to necessities, private gadgets, and financial savings,” he stated.

In accordance with Google, the businesses that benefited most from the pandemic had been residence enhancements, residence health, pet-related, and something work-from-home-related.

The Largest Threats to search engine marketing within the Subsequent Two Years

Largest Menace to search engine marketing % # respondents
Google zero-click pages 38.7% 899
Google updates 35.1% 817
Machine studying/AI 28.4% 660
Third-party cookies 22.9% 534
Messaging platforms (Whatsapp, Slack) 21.3% 495
Offline model consciousness (direct visitors) 17.8% 414
Authorities regulation 16.7% 388
GPT-3 16.1% 375
Apps 14.1% 327
Website safety 13.7% 319
E mail advertising 12.6% 294
Don’t assume there are any 4.9% 115

(Query requested: Within the subsequent two years, what would be the largest menace to search engine marketing? As much as 3 choices might be chosen. Open to all respondents. Answered: 2,325. 1.2% chosen “different.”)


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Almost three-quarters of respondents stated that Google is the largest menace to search engine marketing success over the following two years, in two particular methods: Zero-Click on SERPs (38.7%) and Google Updates (35.1%).

The third best menace to search engine marketing is from machine learning, as indicated by 28.4% of search engine marketing professionals.

Lieback agrees that Google updates and AI pose threats and likewise thinks {that a} scarcity of expertise goes to be a problem, particularly on the strategic aspect.

“I can rent individuals to implement and do the fundamentals of labor, however to search out an search engine marketing professional who actually understands the best way every part works collectively – from on-page to off-page and a clever content material advertising technique – is sort of unimaginable,” he stated.

It’s a problem shared by many search engine marketing specialists, together with Barnard. “I see, learn, and listen to tremendous sensible and gifted individuals everywhere. However how there may ever actually be sufficient provide for the potential demand?” he puzzled.

Each web site that comes on-line creates new demand for search engine marketing, he famous.


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“The query is, would that work be worthwhile? And that depends upon the expertise obtainable,” Barnard added.

Proper now, the scarcity signifies that gifted search engine marketing professionals are in demand and are in a powerful place for wage negotiations.

Our survey knowledge exhibits that 60% of search engine marketing professionals earn the identical or greater than the U.S. median, and search engine marketing comes with a $100,000+ wage for 19%. Study extra in our SEO Salary Report 2021: How Much SEO Pros Get Paid.

Nevertheless it does imply that discovering sufficient sources to satisfy work goes to be one of many largest challenges over the following few years for companies and in-house manufacturers.

One factor is definite, employment within the search engine marketing business could be very robust proper now.

Placing search engine marketing Threats & Alternatives Insights to Work for You

How will you alter your technique for the yr forward with this enhanced understanding of the challenges your friends are experiencing?

You should utilize these different issues-based experiences from our State of search engine marketing 2021 sequence to hone and excellent your technique, as nicely:


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Download your copy of the full report to entry all the info from the Search Engine Journal State of search engine marketing survey 2021.

Discover further insights comparable to:

  • A very powerful emergent search engine marketing components for the following few years.
  • Which Google modifications are thought-about the largest menace to search engine marketing.
  • Which components have probably the most affect on rating.
  • The place to search out new enterprise.
  • What to give attention to for the following yr.

The Greatest Challenges & Threats in SEO [Survey Results]

Featured picture: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal
All in-article photographs created by creator, September 2021

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