There is a huge problem, or even crisis, of underconfidence among those at the forefront of the SEO industry - the SEO specialists, executives and consultants.
I know from first hand experience of leading one of the best SEO teams in the UK, and talking to countless others in the industry that these talented, clever people are getting sucked into a trap that I myself fell into a few years ago too.
A study by Kirsty Hulse at Roar! Training suggests only 4% of workers feel fully confident in the workplace, and I’m betting that’s no different in the SEO industry either.
You just have to search Google for SEO industry advice and the SERPs show endless articles about “How to overcome imposter syndrome?”
A recent study by Harmony Huskinson published on Search Engine Land suggested up to 90% of those in the SEO industry have experienced imposter syndrome.
But a common misconception is underconfidence and imposter syndrome are the same issue, they do intertwine with each other but they are different.
Imposter syndrome takes the headlines but I believe underconfidence is the root cause, and the bigger challenge for the SEO industry as a whole.
Imposter syndrome is what we think about ourselves. Underconfidence is about what we can or can’t do, what we know and don’t know.
Imposter syndrome affects anyone at any level, but underconfidence is a growing issue amongst newer members in the community, who come in and want to know everything before they start work.
But I don’t think we make it easy for someone starting out in the industry.
Don’t get me wrong, there aren’t many industries that share knowledge, theories and advice so readily and freely through many superb conferences, Slack groups and social media conversations - This is a real plus point of the SEO community and should be celebrated.
I just don’t think it's aimed at those starting out fresh into SEO.
This underconfidence manifests in contrasting ways - some want to know everything about every facet of SEO before they implement anything, meaning projects stall, clients get itchy and then through inaction, the executive or consultant now has work to do to placate the clients and get work on track. Now the pressure is on and the stress and anxiety builds.
Indeed I’ve seen many of the best consultants spend all their time devising the greatest, most in-depth strategies for clients, but have no results from actual implementation to show for it. This starts to panic clients who are being ‘shown the world’ but not seeing any results, building distrust into the relationship and fuelling everyone’s stress further.
On LinkedIn, thought leaders like Steven Bartlett of The Diary of a CEO talk about this issue often, with Steven posting recently: “You’ll never be ready. Stop waiting for the ‘perfect’ moment and start DOING.”
Others stick to their lane of knowledge and miss on opportunities to boost growth for clients. So if an executive is not confident on content strategy, they may focus on technical SEO fixes for their clients which provide average results, knowing that potentially there is far greater business impact by boosting content on site.
Teams suffer too as underconfident SEOs may not wish to share ideas in meetings that are potentially brilliant.
This inertia of action is limiting for the consultant, the client and the industry as a whole - a negative spiral of effects that may actually be caused by an industry that is on the whole hopeful, positive, accommodating and fun. How can this be?