Most marketers appreciate that an effective SEO (search engine optimization) plan is a crucial component of any online marketing strategy. The goal of SEO is simple: Attract more visitors to your site from search engines. There’s no denying that people still rely heavily on search engines for information, including researching companies and their products and services. On average, Americans conduct some 12 billion searches per month, according to Comscore. If you want your business found, and to stand out from the masses, you need to show up near the top of these searches. A study by Chitika found that sites listed on the first Google search results page generate 92% of all traffic. This traffic plummets to less than 5% for sites on page two and goes down from there. You may already have an SEO plan in place, but are you seeing the results you want? Or are you stuck languishing on page 10 of Google’s search? Here are seven SEO mistakes that may be sabotaging your efforts.
1. You’re using antiquated methods.
Online marketing is a fast-moving business, and SEO is no exception. It’s essential to have an adaptable SEO strategy in place to find success. A few years ago, stuffing your content with keywords worked like a dream. Today, that same tactic may see your page penalized, or even banned. Google, the largest search engine, is constantly changing the algorithms that determine which pages end up at the top of its search results. First, Google shook things up with its Panda update, then Penguin and Hummingbird. All of these updates are aimed at getting the most useful and relevant search results to rise to the top. Remember Google’s Golden Rule: Answer the query well that brought the user to you in the first place. If you do the above with compelling content, you won’t have to worry too much about algorithm changes.
2. Your keywords aren’t working.
Search engines discourage keyword stuffing, but keywords are still an essential part of SEO strategy. However, you don’t just want to grab any old keyword. Broad, popular keywords are easy to come up with, but the competition will be fierce and won’t bring you much return. Instead, come up with long-tail keywords. Long-tail keywords are more specific and targeted, which makes it easier to rank higher in search engine results. Instead of using a broad keyword like “toys,” try a long-tail keyword like “construction toys for five-year-old boys.” When you’re brainstorming for the perfect keyword, think of what your ideal customer would type in the search box. You can then search the web for alternatives to your keyword. If you’re stuck coming up with long-tail keywords, there are plenty of research tools out there. Keywords.io, SEMrush, and WordStream offer free keyword research tools to get you started finding the most effective keywords for your business.
3. You lack fresh content.
A stale website isn’t going to attract anyone’s attention—including search engines’. You must regularly update your content to appear relevant and useful. To keep your website fresh, rewrite your content periodically: Add services, mention clients, talk about new products, and add to your portfolio. Having a regularly updated blog is also an excellent way to provide new content. You can create some of your content around keywords, but make sure it sounds natural. Above all, you want people to read your content, so write for human beings, not solely for search engines.
4. You’re not making proper use of tags, headings, meta data, and alt text.
Of course, SEO is not all about pretty prose and valuable content. There is a more technical side. You need to make sure your webpages are formatted to make the most of SEO. There are several places other than your content where you want to make use of keywords:
- Title Tags and Headings
A page title tag is arguably the single most important on-page element to ranking well. Keep it short, and squeeze in a keyword, preferably toward the front of the tag. Your headings should represent the content on the page. Be sure to have only one H1 heading. From there, it’s kind of like an outline. Use H2 as a subtopic and then H3 as a subtopic of that, etc. Again, your headings are a great place to include keywords. Try to include your keyword in the page title and URL as well.
- Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are the little blurb that shows up after your page title in search engine results. They’re usually between 150 and 160 characters and are where you should include your primary keyword. The default is the first few words on your page, but sometimes that doesn’t make much sense or won’t give your potential customer much to go on. This little snippet should pique their interest and make your page something they want to click on. Meta descriptions should be unique to each page. While meta descriptions don’t carry much weight in Google’s algorithm, it is the content that a user will read to determine if they are going to click on the link to your page!
- Alt Text
Search engines can’t see pictures, but they can read alt text. If you leave this blank, you’ve wasted an opportunity. Alt text is a hidden little piece of real estate that is a great place to slip a keyword in to improve SEO. Make sure that the keyword is relevant to the picture and describes it. Again, the goal is to create a great experience for the user!
5. There’s no social media integration.
Promoting your content through social media is an important way to boost SEO. Social media can help you gain coveted external links pointing to your site. These off-site links can build your credibility and authority in the eyes of Google, which is crucial to improving your search engine rankings. Additionally, social media can help grow your brand name, which will eventually show up in search results.
6. You offer an unpleasant user experience.
When someone arrives on your webpage from a search engine, they expect to find useful information related to their search. They want to find a site that’s easy to browse, so they can readily find what they’re looking for. Low-quality or spammy content will get you nowhere. Additionally, sneaky redirects to another site will hurt your SEO efforts and may lead to penalties. Other things that contribute to an unpleasant user experience are a mobile-unfriendly design and slow load times. Forty-seven percent of consumers expect a webpage to load in two seconds or less. They won’t wait around for your site to load, and this will show up in your SEO results.
7. You’re impatient.
Don’t be too hasty to think your SEO mistakes make your campaign a failure. Results take time. You’re not going to rise to the top of a search page overnight. Ending up near the top of an organic search is a process, which involves a lot of work on the backend, through things like valuable content and a rich user experience. Don’t ditch your whole SEO campaign, when it might just need some tweaking.
How You Can Move Forward
Figuring out an effective SEO strategy can be intimidating and complicated, but by understanding the basics and putting in some effort, you’ll see significant returns. Search engines are constantly changing how they determine what ends up at the top of search pages. You’ll need to reevaluate your strategy often. What worked yesterday, may not work tomorrow, so be adaptable and focus on quality content and a pleasing user experience, and you’ll be well on your way to SEO success.