“New year, new me.”
It’s the end of another trip around the sun, which means your social media feed is probably getting ready to blow up with friends and family who are setting new goals and resolutions for the coming year.
In the world of online marketing, this time of year also heralds an onslaught of articles highlighting the “top trends of 2020” for SEO, content marketing, link building, web design — you name it.
This year, we at SEO Advantage wanted to do something a little different by instead showcasing the most common mistakes we saw clients and other companies make in 2019. It’s a new year and a new decade, so it’s time to leave these mistakes in the past — starting with organic search.
Organic search is one of the best ways for businesses to drive online traffic to their website and increase profitability. In addition to there being no advertising costs for ranking well, an optimized site can hold its top search rankings position for a long stretch of time.
But to achieve success in organic search, you have to do it right. And that means, first and foremost, avoiding these 3 common SEO mistakes.
Mistake #1: Forgetting about the basics
Any football coach worth their salt will tell you that before you can design fancy strategies — the fun stuff — first you have to master the basics of blocking and tackling. The checklist below might not be particularly exciting or glamorous, but they represent the block-and-tackle basics of the SEO world:
- Target a keyword for every page of your website. It’s not enough to have a few general keywords for the overall site. You need to optimize each page as though it were a site unto itself. The keyword you select will help search engine spiders know what your page is about and help you focus on what to put on that page.
- Write optimized title tags. For SEO beginners, please note that is more than just the standard H1 title. You need to also find the SEO widget your Content Management System uses and put a title tag in there as well. This is what will appear in search results, and your main keyword should be included.
- Write optimized description tags. The same widget that holds your optimized title tag will also provide room for a description of what’s on the page. If you fail to fill this out, 2 things usually happen: 1) you miss an opportunity to add your keyword, and 2) the description displayed in the search results (SERP) will be the first couple sentences of your page rather than keyword-rich phrases that could sell them on why they should click.
- Optimize your URLs. You can publish a page full of content with a default URL — typically either a number or the title of the page. However, this isn’t best practice when it comes to SEO. Ideally, you want your URL to be concise and short. Just using the keyword itself can be sufficient.
- Optimize your images. Write a description of your image that includes the page’s keyword and insert it as the image’s title. This is an often overlooked part of SEO and a good way for you to gain a leg up on the competition.
- Monitor site speed. Use Google’s speed test periodically to make sure your website is humming along at a fast rate. Site visitors aren’t patient under any circumstances, especially if they’re coming from a search results page where there are plenty of other sites listed. This is probably the first impression they’re getting of your site, so you don’t want it to take long to load.
- Keep local search updated. Particularly for businesses offering local services, make sure your address, phone number and hours of operation are all accurate and up-to-date. Visitors rely on this information when doing a search for “such-and-such a business near me” and you won’t rank well if this data is incomplete or inaccurate.
- Clean up your mess. Every site will have broken links sooner or later. Perhaps a piece of content becomes outdated and is taken down, but the URL is still cached somewhere in a search engine. Or maybe a new site was built and the changeover resulted in some errors. Whatever the reason, make sure the broken links are fixed as soon as possible. When a user comes to your site and encounters the “404 Page Not Found” error message, you’ve presented your site as something that’s not well taken-care of. Have your developer ensure that all broken links are redirected to the most appropriate page, and make sure internal linking to the broken page is also cleaned up.
Mistake #2: Choosing quantity over quality
Perhaps you’ve been told that content and backlinks are important to your website’s SEO performance. You’ve been told correctly, but you do have to go about it the right way. If you just try and short-circuit the process, the results will not be good.
Here’s some advice when it comes to high quality content creation and link building:
Invest in valuable content
We don’t doubt that you (or someone on staff) could churn out a paragraph or two about your services without even thinking. Even if you can’t, there are any number of content mills that churn out generic content for dirt cheap. And even beyond that, there’s still the possibility of straight up stealing someone else’s content and using software to spin it out differently so that it’s not flagged as plagiarism (known as “content spinning”).
But all of these are bad ideas.
There’s only one way to achieve truly lasting results in organic search and that is to produce unique, valuable content that actual human beings want to read. And the only way to turn those results into increased business is to do that in a way that represents your company’s unique niche in the marketplace. That means getting someone who knows how to write (or do audio/video, or whatever format you’re using) and creating something truly unique. It means investing in the content creation process.
Get legitimate links
In addition to quality content, search engines also measure the value of your site, in part, by how many other sites link to it. Each link is considered a “vote” for your page. But not all votes are equal in this election. Links from spammy, low-quality directories don’t count for much (if anything), so getting a thousand of those will be a lot of work for very little return.
But a link from a well-respected website? That’s different. Focus on those quality links.
Mistake #3: Measuring the wrong metrics
This error presumes that you’re using Google Analytics to monitor traffic to your website. If that’s an incorrect presumption, then the common SEO mistake you’re making is not using GA and we strongly suggest you start immediately. If you are set up on Analytics and checking in on it though, these two missteps could still trip you up:
Ignore the vanity metrics
Sure, it can feel great to see your website traffic go up by 50 percent a few weeks after you implement an organic search campaign. And it certainly doesn’t hurt. But be sure you know why people are coming to your site and what keywords are attracting them.
Keywords generally fall into 2 categories: “buy terms” and “about terms.” Buy term keywords are exactly what it sounds like. A phrase is entered into a search engine by a user who is thinking about making a purchase. About term keywords, on the other hand, are entered in by users who are looking for information.
There’s nothing wrong with optimizing your site for about terms if that’s the unique value proposition your site can offer to get them there. Just be aware that the process of turning them into a paying customer (known as “conversion”) might be a more difficult one.
In short, what this means is that total traffic to your website is a vanity metric — it looks good but doesn’t actually bring in direct revenue to your business. You’ll have to dig deeper to find out which numbers are really going to move the needle for your business.
Set up goals
Google Analytics and other website analytics platforms allow you to configure goals that will measure how often web visitors perform the actions you really want them to take. For instance, do you want them to spend at least 5 minutes on your site? That can be measured. Do you want them to visit specific product pages? Or do you want them to download a resource? How about submitting a contact form? All of these actions can be tracked and analyzed on your site.
Goals will track a specific URL. This requires you to do some serious thinking about how people will poke around your site. Think about the specific steps on your site that are likely to point to a purchase and set those up as goals.
It’s a new year. Don’t make the same mistakes as last year. Start 2020 on the right foot by following the advice listed above. If you need individualized help, feel free to contact our professional SEO experts to make sure that all of your i‘s are dotted and your t‘s crossed. Get your free SEO analysis now.What SEO mistakes did you make in 2019?
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