Bigfoot & Unicorns
I know that sometimes it seems as though SEO is some mythical creature mysteriously wandering the Internet. Certainly there are moments when spotting Bigfoot or a unicorn appears more realistic than knowing what Google is up to and how it effects your SEO. Google is always changing the game, that's for sure, which is what keeps us on our toes and constantly looking for the next SEO unicorn. There are definitely proven tactics for SEO, such as fresh content, clean meta data, concentrating on geo terms, etc., but there are still many uncertainties for Search, which is what can make it so hard.
But Why So Difficult?
With an ever-changing SEO landscape it's important to stay nimble and current with your strategies and implementations. "Set it and forget it" simply doesn't work anymore. For instance, with some of Google's recent algorithm updates, there has been a big focus on local search and maps. One of the best analogies I've heard on this to describe why this can be hard/frustrating is as follows: imagine you are searching for a coffee shop. Google is going to show you the closest shop and likely a popular one that's nearby; however, they are not going to show you the best coffee shop in town if it's 5 miles away. So even if you are "the most trendy coffee shop around" you may not always show up in local search. This can be very frustrating and hard to understand, but ultimately Google is trying to present the nearest and most relevant results to consumers.
What To Do???
It can take some (as I like to say) trial and optimization. Try implementing changes incrementally and see how it affects your rankings in order to see what is effective. There are many things worth testing and some that work better than others depending on your industry, market, and goals. If you throw too many updates in at once, attributions will be difficult. This is yet another reason why SEO can be challenging.
All in all, SEO is valuable enough to stay current and to invest in. It doesn't appear to be getting any easier... if anything, it is getting more crowded and making visibility in the SERPs more difficult. So, yes, 'SEO Is So Hard.' But don't get discouraged or give up! This may be a sobering reality, but it's good to know what you are facing so you can gear up and move forward purposefully.
~Brian Haitz, Internet Marketing Consultant