Why is it so hard to understand SEO: expert insights


This guide outlines the challenges that we face in seeking to understand SEO properly.

SEO is the lifeblood of the modern economy, yet it remains surprisingly hard to understand. Even after all these years since the beginning of SEO in the late 1990s, many leaders and executives are still struggling to get their minds around it. 

You can’t really blame them. Even full-time professionals struggle to stay up to date with all the updates, changes, and releases that frequently impact the industry, like cannonballs. SEO changes all the time, meaning understanding it is like trying to hit a moving target. The goalposts are shifting all the time. SEO in 2022 is not the same as SEO in 2023, which, in turn, is not the same as SEO in 2024. Things progress all the time. 

Understand SEO: the challenges

It’s this complexity that’s prompted white label content and backlink agency, FATJOE, to write an SEO glossary of jargon and acronyms. The extensive list is a primer for anyone trying to get into the field (or update old knowledge) and understand SEO.

“We know how challenging it is for people to get to grips with all the facets of SEO,” says company founder Joe Taylor. “The landscape is constantly changing, and the moment business leaders and agencies think they’ve got their head around it, something new happens. Google and other search engines have been locked in a kind of arms race with webmasters trying to move their sites to the top of the rankings. Every time they use a tactic they think works, Google responds with updates designed to enhance user experience. It’s a neverending struggle that began 25 years ago, and will likely carry on for many years in the future.”

It’s not all doom and gloom, though. As agencies like FATJOE have realized, the trick to success in SEO is actually going with the flow, not against it. That’s why the agency only offers white-hat services that comply with search engine requirements and generate legitimate results for clients. 

“Getting SEO seems challenging because of the changing fads and priorities,” Taylor says. “But the truth is that it is considerably easier if you simply focus on creating something great for users. That’s what our agency does with our team of writers and creators, and that’s the direction the entire industry is moving in. Everyone knows the quick-fix game is over. The best option for businesses and their prospects is to offer high-value content that engages people and drives them into sales funnels. That’s how to win the game.”

Of course, Taylor and FATJOE are hotly aware of how challenging that process can be. Businesses like to follow formulas and strategies by and large. Telling them that they need to systematize creative genius is the last thing that they want to hear. 

The industry also knows that SEO presents a range of challenges that make it hard to “productize” like, say, pizza. Professionals are cognizant of this, but they haven’t yet found effective ways to communicate what they do and the value of their services. 

Technical Complexity

Besides the constantly changing landscape, technical challenges often stump businesses. Executives start doing research and simply get stuck in all the jargon, another reason for the FATJOE article.

Google and other industry leaders continually conjure new expressions that make sense in their inner circles, but not the wider community that seeks to understand SEO. Phrases like “meta tags,” “scheme markup” and “HTML” can be confusing to people without a technical background in the field, yet many agencies continue to use them in their marketing. 

Diverse Skills Set

Then there’s the issue that SEO requires diverse skills. Even many professionals now believe the field is too large for any specific individual to contain all the relevant knowledge in their heads. Any business wanting to implement it on its own needs to understand SEO aspects of technical optimization, link building, data analysis, and keyword research. Plus, they need a knack for creating content that people actually want to read, not dry articles that sound cut and pasted from Wikipedia. 

Finding all these skills within a company is challenging, which explains why agencies, like FATJOE, have been so successful. These organizations concentrate the best talent and leverage it at scale to meet clients’ orders. 

Lack Of Transparency

Search engines’ lack of transparency concerning how their ranking algorithms actually work is another issue working against the understanding of SEO. Google and Bing don’t publicly release the details of how they decide who ranks where. SEOs have to piece it together by observing what seems to work taking onboard vague proclamations and updates. 

The lack of transparency makes it hard for businesses to know who to turn to help them improve their online visibility. Companies can’t effectively audit the effectiveness of SEO tactics because they are necessarily based on hearsay and, sometimes, guestimation. Logical deduction of the optimal tactics is possible in some situations, but this is rare. 


Another reason SEO is hard to understand is the chronic misinformation that dogs the field. While a lot of information is available online, much of it is out of date or just plain wrong. 

“We’ve noticed this problem in our research,” says FATJOE’s Taylor. “A surprisingly large number of authoritative websites make mistakes in their reasoning and fact-checking. The claims being made are often quite a way off the mark and could potentially mislead businesses who don’t work with professional agencies who continually research and confirm findings.”

Sorting through the noise can be challenging, FATJOE says, which is why it offers productized services for customers. The brand tries to avoid consulting, preferring instead to provide clients with tactics that slot into Google’s guidelines while offering bumps in ranking performance. 

Long-Term Commitment

Another issue with SEO that makes it hard is simply the length of time required to do it. Many firms spend years trying to rise through the rankings, and few succeed because they struggle to understand SEO and the need for persistence. 

In a world that expects instant results, this type of process can feel alien to many businesses. Given that SEO exists purely in the digital world, it seems strange that there’s no shortcut or trick they can use to advance their objectives faster.

There’s also the patience factor among smaller businesses. While large corporations transitioning to digital business models are prepared to wait and commit significant resources, many smaller players are not.

Balancing Factors

The need to balance various factors involved in SEO also makes the activity more challenging. Companies need to consider website speed, mobile-friendliness and content quality when trying to rank higher in search results. Focusing on a single object is not sufficient to get firms to where they want to be. 

What’s more, it can be hard to know how many resources to dedicate to each area. Nailing keywords is great, but if it comes at the expense of low-quality content, then it might be ineffective. 

Challenging Data Analysis And Interpretation

Finally, it can be tough for firms to analyse and interpret the data coming out of their SEO campaigns. It’s not always clear what’s working, and what’s not. Time delays and the problem of confounding factors make it hard to discern what’s really working, and what could be down to random or contextual factors, like a sudden surge in demand for a specific product.

While the software does exist to assist businesses in measuring their SEO efforts, it can be complicated in itself. Often analysts require substantial training to understand how to interpret their outputs, including all the necessary nuances. 

Final words

FATJOE hopes that businesses will continue to outsource their SEO efforts to companies that offer transparent services and pricing. Handing over the process to trusted professionals is the way to succeed. 


About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

Recommended for you