Top ten SEO mistakes
For website developers, and even the businesses that spend thousands on an attractive website, search engine optimization is a key component of growing visibility, web traffic and hopefully new business in an organic way.
SEO is a marketing discipline focused on maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring, through technical and creative elements, that the site appears high in search engine results. SEO involves a variety of strategies, techniques and tactics from the words on your page and blog posts, the way other sites link to yours on the web or simply making sure a site is structured in a way that search engines understand.
Why is SEO so important? The majority of Internet traffic is driven by the major search engines, Google, Bing, Mozilla and Yahoo! Sure, social media and links from other sites can propel visitors to your website, but most people type in a keyword or phrase to find what they are looking for, which generates a “hit” list and from there web users may make their way to a website or blog. In essence, search engines dictate what comes up in a search and it doesn’t matter whether your site provides content, services, products, information or your own personal rantings.
Many people hire someone to handle SEO for them, or expect their web developer to do it, but it’s still worth understanding the basics since a small amount of knowledge can make a big difference.
If you want your site to work for you, attract new customers and stand the test of time regardless of the next Google update, avoid these SEO mistakes:
1. Keyword stuffing and other poor content: Repeating certain words over and over isn’t going to impress visitors to your site and it doesn’t impress search engines either. This is the deliberate tactic of stuffing a web page or blog post full of words and phrases in an effort to manipulate a site’s rankings and appear higher in search results. In addition, people appreciate unique, valuable and well-written content and know if it’s not. They are spending their valuable time reading it and you ultimately want to gain their trust and get them to take some action. If you aren’t the best writer, it may be money well spent to hire a professional because punctuation, spelling and other grammatical errors look bad, too.
2. Avoiding analytics and conversion metrics: SEO isn’t just about watching and using the words that increase traffic; it’s also about what people do once they get to your site. Sometimes, lower-traffic or less popular phrases will convert better because they are more specific. The only way to know is to track keyword phrases and see which ones are producing the best results.
3. Not optimizing the right keywords: Words on your website or blog should reflect what people actually type into search engines so your website will come up in a search. Don’t try to get too fancy with words or phrases or those that are too general or broad. It’s also easy to fall into the trap of optimizing for global keywords, generic keywords and phrases that may bring visitors to your site but they have no interest in what you are selling or are just looking for free information. Often, you’re better off going for specific words or phrases that target a specific product, service or geographic area.
4. Focusing too much on popular keywords: Similar to keyword stuffing, high-traffic keywords can be less effective and lower rankings due to the competition. Try combinations of low-competition, long-trail keywords to get good rankings. Using the Google keyword tool is a helpful way to see the number of searches per keyword and the competition level for that keyword. Using words that have less competition can often increase your chances of ranking higher, especially when it comes to blog titles. But don’t overdo it. Find balance between popular keywords and those with less competition. You still want to use keywords and phrases that people are actually searching for.
5. Not having unique title tags and meta descriptions: This is a common SEO mistake that can include having all pages under the same title, including the website name in the title page or making the title more than 65 characters in length. Meta descriptions are your web page’s sales pitch in search results. These need to be as concise, persuasive and descriptive as possible within the 160 character limit. Your homepage and each page throughout your site should include a custom meta description that will make people want to click on your listing in search results, as well as include relevant keywords.
6. Ignoring local search strategies: This is particularly important if you’re running a business that focuses on customers within a certain city or region. Start by including location-specific keywords in your page titles and meta descriptions. Include an address and local phone number on your pages so you show up in local results. List your company on Yelp, Google Places, Foursquare and other local bases sites and review sites.
7. Broken links and outdated information: Ever click on a link only to receive an error message or security warning? A broken link refers to a hyperlink that no longer works or leads to its intended destination. It’s not only frustrating for site visitors; Google doesn’t like them either and downgrades rankings of sites with lots of issues like this. Plus, it lowers your credibility if you have products and services listed that you no longer offer or links that lead nowhere. It’s easy to find information on the Internet but that doesn’t mean it’s credible. Linking to pages and websites that have low visibility also doesn’t really boost SEO because they are likely pages with a low ranking. Think more about quality over quantity and linking to reputable sites or an authoritative blog that already has a large following.
8. Unoriginal content or duplicate copy: Plagiarism is a no-no when writing essays for school and college and the same goes for the web. Lifting copy verbatim from another website is not only illegal and unethical, but Google also will punish you by lowering your ranking and sometimes de-indexing the whole website. Sure you can search competitors and other sites for information, but put your own spin on it. Large sites or ecommerce sites that have several pages listing the same products or repeating content can confuse search engines and lower rankings. Duplicate page titles are another common pitfall. Page titles should be unique and reflect the content of the web page. They tell a browser that your content is relevant to what they are searching for.
9. Inconsistent publishing: SEO rewards new content that’s published on a regular basis, whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly. Get a plan for how often to publish new content and stick to the plan. Consistency has SEO value and does generate more traffic. It may help to have a few blog posts ready to go or set them to post in advance so you stay on schedule. Plus, one blog post isn’t going to make you look like an authority on anything. The goal is to not only boost SEO rankings so new customers can find you but keep customers coming back.
10. Lack of social media presence: Many businesses and entrepreneurs hesitate to join social media, or they don’t want to spend the time, but it’s an effective and low-cost way to promote your website or blog. It’s also gaining more ground as a SEO ranking factor and a good source of web traffic. It can take a while to gain page followers, but Facebook offers sponsor options which can spread your posts near and far, not to mention the shares of friends and followers. It’s a good way to promote a blog and boost traffic if it’s directly linked to your website. That may lead people to peruse your website, become an RSS subscriber or reach out directly. Promoting your own work may feel weird in the beginning but it’s not something to shy away from. It takes a lot of effort, regular content and diligence to build a following that leads to likes and shares, but once you get there everything else becomes easier. Who knows? Your blog post may end up on another website with a much larger audience. It’s also a way to build authority and trust by following experts in your industry and sharing informative and useful content.