Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not exactly a black-and-white marketing strategy. There are many aspects of optimization to consider when you want to make improvements, and many of them are quite technical. Between the ambiguity and technical skills required, it can be intimidating to start improving your site rankings. It’s important to note that SEO can be boiled down to two important aspects: quality content and quality links. With a little background knowledge and time, you’ll find that SEO can generate positive results for your business.
Common SEO Mistakes
With all of the misconceptions and confusion surrounding search engine algorithms and conflicting expert advice, it’s easy to feel lost when it comes to SEO. To help you get started, here are nine of the most common mistakes that people make in their SEO practice (avoid them, and you’ll be heading in the right direction):
1. Keyword Stuffing
Several years ago, keywords were weighted much more heavily by search engines. Keyword density is less valued as an SEO tactic now, because more weight is placed on semantic meaning and content relevancy (i.e., that your content is saying something that visitors are likely to value). Search engines are more sophisticated and can decipher what an article is about with similar phrasing in the content. Medium and long-tail keyword phrases are being used by searchers to find relevant content quickly, so creating content with this type of phrasing in mind for optimization is important.
2. Insufficient Keyword Research
Giving up on keywords altogether is not the answer, as you’ll still need a way to ensure that your website content is matching up with what searchers are typing into search engines. A basic process for ensuring that you’re using the right keywords on your site is to ask yourself, “if I were looking for X, would these keywords be relevant to me?”. If you’re still not sure, you can also use a keyword tool like Google’s Keyword Tool or MOZ’s Keyword Explorer to discover the suggestions and priorities of keywords for you to target.
3. Poor or Duplicate Content
Poor content occurs when web pages have very little unique text or if the text is not relevant to the page. An example where you might find this is on e-commerce sites. Businesses may rely on the manufacturer description (which the manufacturer also uses on their site), or choose not to expand on the product image. Issues occur when search engines have to rank the content only once, meaning they have to choose which page to rank. If your site has the exact same content as another, your site may drop in rank value as the search engines may index and rank the two sites separately.
4. Link Spam
Google has various algorithms that help identify website issues, one being unnatural or “spammy” links. Google Penguin is one such algorithm that targets websites which violate Google’s guidelines and that use black-hat SEO techniques to artificially rank. Tactics like adding links to press releases or other high traffic pages where they don’t make sense is an example of link spam.
5. Lack of Link Building Strategy
Not having a link building strategy may cause you to waste time link building with no direction, or negatively affect organic traffic if no links are connecting to your site at all. A good strategy will help your ranking, increase your domain authority and attract the links that are appropriate to your site. It is also less likely that you will be penalized for links to your web pages if you have a strategy to help guide you.
6. Ineffective Content Marketing Strategy
If you don’t have a content marketing strategy or are ineffective with the creation, publication and promotion of your content, your SEO rankings will struggle. Separating SEO and content marketing won’t allow for the best optimization of your site, and will prevent the site from improving ranking and driving additional organic traffic.
7. Missing On-Page SEO
There are many technical aspects of on-page SEO that can affect site speed, user engagement, branding and more. Often web platforms like Squarespace will have built-in SEO features, or others such as WordPress have downloadable SEO plug-ins. Missing technical aspects, such as meta descriptions, will affect how your organization shows up in the search engine results and can ultimately affect whether a searcher wants to click the link or not. Optimize these features to avoid missing out on site traffic and potential leads.
8. Slow Site Speed
How fast your site loads will have a direct impact on usability. Site visitors won’t want to wait for images and pages to load, because they will just move on to the next link that looks relevant in the search results. Google and other search engines also treat site speed as an important factor in rankings. Slower sites will take longer to crawl and may only allow a few of your pages to be indexed. Submitting a sitemap can help alleviate this issue by making your web pages more discoverable by Google.
9. Lack of Measurement & Analysis
Even a website with all SEO aspects implemented will not be able to sustain top rankings in the search engines if you don’t keep monitoring it. Using a tool like Google Analytics will help you see your website traffic, user engagement and where users are coming from. Having access to the full picture of your site enables you to make additional changes that will continue to improve and sustain SEO rankings.
Make Simple Improvements
The list of mistakes can look pretty daunting, but there are painless ways to incorporate SEO strategies into your website and improve your ranking in the search engines. Here are a few first steps we recommend along the path to SEO improvement:
An SEO Audit
Identify what needs improvement with a thorough analysis of your site.
Writing for readers (i.e., humans), not for search engines (i.e., computers)
Natural language with content specific to the landing pages will be compelling to the reader.
Making on-page SEO improvements
Ensure that URL structure, meta descriptions, alt tags and other SEO aspects are completed thoroughly to increase the user friendliness of the site as well as the relevancy to the searcher.
Removing duplicate content
Assist search engines by streamlining content with only one version of a page to index. This will help improve rankings in search engines and strengthen link metrics.
Creating, publishing and promoting great content
Create a content marketing strategy and use effective tools like an editorial calendar to consistently and regularly promote your content. Implement SEO techniques within social media platforms to compliment your site content.
Optimizing for mobile
Mobile traffic is continually growing and searchers want the same usability across all devices. Optimizing for user behaviour, social sharing and loading speed are all important aspects of creating and sharing content on mobile.
Use unique visual content
Visual content is a powerful feature for viewers to interact with site content. Creating custom photography and videos can be unique ways to get attention from users on social media and help drive them back to your website.
The Difference For Your Site
Integrating SEO strategies and tactics into your website can have many positive effects on your website including:
Lower bounce rate and a higher click-through rate (CTR)
Increased organic traffic rates
Increased conversion rates
Increased site usability
Increased brand awareness
Just remember, SEO takes time. After implementing tactics and improvements, you may have to wait to see significant growth and changes in your site traffic. A recent Moz blog post noted that it can take an average of ten weeks to see growth from a link building campaign. This is why it’s important to continually monitor and improve your site through various SEO tactics, and watch what is trending positively and what isn’t. SEO is an investment of time and a strategy that will only improve with continued experience.
Ellipsis Digital’s Web Analyst, Ellen Husk shares some takeaway tips for improving your sites SEO.