Back in its infancy, search engine optimization (SEO) meant over-optimizing or stuffing as many keywords as possible on your webpages. SEO has come a long way since then.
Search engines have gotten smarter and smarter over the years. They now look out for these types of black hat techniques and penalize offenders, temporarily or permanently. They care more about quality and user experience. And search engine algorithms are more complex and constantly changing, making it nearly impossible for companies to nail down an SEO process.
But there’s still hope for companies to increase their search engine visibility and make sure their pages aren’t buried in search results. We’re sharing 5 of the worst SEO mistakes we’ve seen and how to stop making them immediately.
Reason #1: You need to clean up your link profile
Inbound links - also known as backlinks - are links coming from another website to your site. They remain one of the key factors search engines use to determine the authoritative power - and ranking - of your blog post or webpage.
Search engines treat links from high-quality, authority websites as a strong vote of confidence. They indicate that your content has significant value. Why else would the biggest influencers and names in the industry link to your pages?
But not all links are created equal. Low-quality links can lead to your website getting penalized or even de-indexed by search engines. One bad link probably won’t hurt your rankings, but a score of bad links could do some serious damage.
So, what makes a link “low” or “high” quality? It’s not always easy to tell. You can check your inbound link profile by using a tool like Moz’s Open Site Explorer. Search for any links that could potentially kill your rankings and then remove or disavow them.
Keep an eye out for links coming from spammy, low-quality websites stuffed with links to other low-quality websites. These types of links will only lead to consequences for your rankings and, in turn, your business.
Reason #2: You’re writing content for search engines, not people
SEO and content marketing are like peanut butter and jelly. They go well together. One just isn’t the same without the other.
Think about it. It only makes sense to integrate your SEO and content marketing. Before you can rank on page one, you need keywords, content, words. You need to write targeted, relevant and SEO-driven content that speaks to your potential customer’s interests and answers their questions. You should produce content that your readers will want to link to and share. How else will it get found in the vast expanse of information on the internet?
Quality matters. Don’t believe us? The very first element in Search Engine Land’s Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors is content quality. And 72% of marketers say relevant content creation was the most effective for SEO performance. If you’re not producing a steady stream of high-quality content, Google and other search engines will notice. They’ll see visitors aren’t bothering to stick around to explore your website and your rankings will suffer.
But what exactly is quality content? Google’s quality guidelines couldn’t be any clearer. They say that content and SEO marketers should avoid the following tactics:
- Participating in link schemes
- Creating pages with little to no content
- Hidden text and links
- Doorway pages
- Scraped content
- And the list goes on…
Google wants marketers to write for people, not search engines. People, not search engine spiders, are reading your content, scheduling a consultation, purchasing your products or services, and downloading your whitepapers, guides and ebooks. It only makes sense to voice their interests and post content that is written naturally. Stuffing your blogs or webpages with keywords will only ruin user experience and send them to competitors.
We’re not saying you shouldn’t focus on keywords. They’re still relevant. They help search engine spiders crawl your content and gain a better understanding of the topic and relevance. They can give your blog or website a fighting chance in an oversaturated market.
What we’re saying is you should focus more on writing enticing, share-worthy and easy-to-read content that keeps readers scrolling and actively engaged. And, isn’t that the whole reason you write content anyway?
Reason 3: You’re targeting the wrong audience
Your prospects don’t always know about your brand, especially if you’re a startup or newer business. They need help finding you. Your website needs to pop up - hopefully in the top 5 results - when they search for a keyword relevant to your industry, company, or product or service.
The first organic search result gets about 33% of clicks, and 75% of searchers never continue past the first page of search results. How can you make it into the coveted top rankings of search engines? You need to get to know your target audience and the terms they’re searching for.
We’re not going to lie. Keyword research takes time, time you don’t always have. But highly effective SEO keywords will help you draw in more qualified prospects, nurture them into leads and eventually convert them into customers. You can find the high volume, untapped keywords your customers search for by using a variety of keyword research tools including:
Keep an eye on social media to see what’s trending and gauge the interests of potential customers. Then build out a list of 20 or so promising keywords based on your observations and plug them into the keyword tool of your choosing.
The best keyword research and analysis tools will help you pinpoint highly relevant keywords for your SEO marketing efforts. Try to shoot for “long-tail” keyword phrases that are less competitive making it easier to rank for them. People searching for these terms usually know exactly what they’re looking for and are often ready to make a purchase.
Reason 4: You’re not optimizing for conversions
Rankings aren’t everything. Everyone wants to be on the top of page one in search engine results pages (SERPs). But if people are coming to your website, only to leave without downloading your new guide, subscribing to your blog or making a purchase, all of your keyword research and SEO efforts go to waste.
Take the time to optimize your landing pages and blogs for conversions. You want them to take action when they visit your website. So make it as easy as possible with readable, scannable copy; an easy-to-use, responsive website; and clearly visible, compelling calls-to-action.
Your visitors should never have to wonder what the next logical step is. You should guide them through the buyer’s journey and towards an educated buying decision with relevant content aligned to their pain points, motivations and interests.
Reason 5: You’re impatient
SEO success won’t happen overnight. It takes time to climb in rankings. How much time? Well...it depends. I know; not the answer you wanted. The SEO wait game can be maddening. But, there are many factors that play into when you’ll start seeing real, meaningful results from your SEO campaign.
It depends on how long your website has been around, how much content it has, its link profile, your competitive environment, total SEO investment and many other factors (remember that Periodic Table of SEO Success Factors we shared above?). No two websites are the same. And no two websites are going to see the same success in the same amount of time.
We can’t tell you when exactly your SEO will kick in. Most experts say it takes about 4 to 6 months before you start seeing results. The key word here is “start.” Your SEO performance should continue to improve and drive success over time.
Don’t stress yourself out waiting. If you’re doing everything right, and placing a heavy focus on designing a search engine AND user-friendly website, you’ll rank higher in search engines and drive more traffic to your site.
The takeaway? There’s more to SEO than plugging keywords into pages and waiting it out. If you want to amplify your online visibility, you need to avoid these critical SEO errors and focus on delivering significant value to your visitors. Don’t forget to continuously update and improve upon your SEO strategies for the best results.
SEO can be an incredibly time-consuming and complicated process...but it doesn’t have to be. At Stratus, we know what it takes to reach page one. We have experience helping clients from all types of industries achieve better search rankings and expand their reach. Are you ready to unlock your website’s true SEO potential? Contact us today!