👑 Why we were failing horribly at SEO (and how we turned it around)

  • January 10, 2018
  • Steven van Vessum


Not many people know this, but back in 2012 when I was still running my SEO agency, we were failing horribly at SEO. It got so bad that we lost some of our biggest clients. This is how it happened, and how we turned it around.

ContentKing: Life during our early agency days
Life during our early agency days

As more clients started coming in, we expanded the SEO team but our processes and tooling stayed the same. At that point, we were finding and reacting to problems after the fact, playing catch-up with more issues always popping up. It wasn't working, and it was hurting our business.

ContentKing: The team was growing
The team was growing

It was frustrating and for a long time we didn't know how to fix it. Websites kept breaking, and we'd find out too late, despite having a weekly SEO process in place where we audited the website from a technical and content point of view. We were too buried in work to see the bigger picture.

One day one of our biggest SEO clients called us and reported that their website was completely broken, again. It turned out they had updated several WordPress plugins in the live production environment. Should they have? Definitely not. But they did, and it broke all templates, and the SEO plugin. It was a complete SEO disaster. And they blamed us: "What are we paying you € 3,000 / mo for if you don't even notice this?" They were right, we should have had this covered. They were losing faith in us.

After that, my business partner Vincent and I went off-site for a week to completely rethink the way we did SEO. We realized two major things were wrong with our SEO process and agency software:

  1. They didn't scale at all.
  2. They weren't aligned with how search engines work.

Scaling issue

Our SEO team had gone from pretty much a two-man show to a team of six SEOs. And we had ten times more clients than before. The original approach of keeping tabs on things in our heads just wasn't cutting it anymore.

When it was just Vincent and me, our SEO process worked fine, but now it was wildly inefficient. We couldn't keep up with the influx of new clients, as well as the increasing size of the websites we were working on.

Aligning the SEO process and tooling with how search engines work

It wasn't just about working more efficiently. We kept on finding out about huge SEO issues too late. The weekly crawl schedule we had in place was fundamentally flawed. Hell, even a daily schedule is flawed. Now imagine that most SEOs actually work with a monthly crawl schedule—madness!

So why do today's most accepted SEO auditing solutions fall short?

Because search engines are continuously crawling your websites. And your SEO tooling needs to do the same. For years now, SEOs like us had to accept that crawl schedules were the best we could do to safeguard websites. Even the best SEO tools out there couldn't notify you when something on your website went wrong. The industry's quality control standards needed to change—we needed an SEO tool that approaches websites the way a search engine crawler would and could alert us when disaster struck.

What we did to fix this

We completely reworked our SEO process, which we dubbed the Continuous SEO Framework (opens in a new tab), and developed an in-house SEO tool which, though crude, provided us with a whole new way of doing SEO:

  • No more waiting for crawl data to come in.
  • Always being up-to-date on website issues.
  • Keeping constant track of on-page SEO changes.
  • Real-time, actionable alerts when big changes or disasters happened.

Using the Continuous SEO process and our new in-house tool, which (you guessed it) evolved into ContentKing, we boosted our efficiency by 30-40%. But more importantly, we had a solid quality control process and a monitoring tool in place—as soon as something started to go wrong, we'd know about it immediately.

The tables were turned now: we were the ones calling our clients telling them something bad happened, and fixing it right away. We were back to building trust again. SEO results went up significantly, and clients were happier than ever before.

So, that's our story. Have you got one, too? What's a situation where SEO alerts like this would have saved the day? Share them with us on Twitter (opens in a new tab)

Want to save time and have peace of mind?

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Steven is ContentKing's VP of Community. This means he's involved in everything community and content marketing related. Right where he wants to be. He gets a huge kick out of letting websites rank and loves to talk SEO, content marketing and growth.