Search Engine Optimization is a vital element of your website’s marketing strategy. Although SEO has changed dramatically over the years, with new strategies, techniques and tools popping up every year. Similarly, the major search engines, Google and Bing specifically, constantly update their algorithms, search patterns and functionality in a strive to bring users more relevant search results. SEO is constantly on the change, and digital marketers, web designers and developers have to know how to avoid the common mistakes in the field.
There are a lot of mistakes that are painstakingly obvious, but somehow, marketers keep making them. What’s more, SEO is not black and white, and new methods can only be tested in time, as search engines constantly adapt to a website’s content, reach, backlinks and multiple other metrics. The rules behind the search engine’s algorithms are hard to predict, elusive and take time to master. However, as long as you avoid making these mistakes, you are already halfway down the road to success:
1. Choosing bad keywords
Digital marketing experts always emphasize the importance of keyword research before starting any type of SEO work. Somehow, this mistake is incredibly common among digital marketers, no matter the niche. Simply put, SEO is all about keywords. They are the foundation of a successful SEO campaign and it’s critical to choose them wisely, as keywords are what a website will rank for. In other words, a website on pets will rank for keywords like “cat food” or “dog leash”, and not for keywords like “opera tickets” or “cycling helmets”. To be honest, this example is painfully obvious, but it’s surprising how many people simply don’t understand this basic concept whatsoever.
Keywords can also be interpreted quite differently by users. For instance, a term you might consider correct, your customers may not. This is why it’s terribly important to know what people might search for, instead what they should search for. An example of this issue is the generic to specific keywords. For example, a customer may search “pants”, which is a generic keyword, while a more specific keyword would be “waterproof hiking pants”. A good SEO specialist will take into consideration and employ both of these variations into his or her strategy.
Use tools like Google AdWords KeywordPlanner, Google Trends, Moz Keyword Explorer or SEMrush to help you during this process.
2. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing was a big thing during the early 2000s, when it actually worked, at least to some extent. Nowadays, keyword stuffing spells disaster for your website. It couldn’t be more wrong, and search engines will immediately blacklist your website and register it as spammy. Stuffing is not only a mistake, it actually hurts your SEO campaign tremendously. What’s more, even if a visitor somehow stumbles upon your website, the content will look unnatural and almost unreadable. Keep in mind that Google’s search algorithm employs Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI) which automatically detects keyword stuffing.
3. Skipping meta descriptions and tags
Some marketers completely overlook title tags and meta descriptions, but they are very efficient SEO boosters for the search engine’s crawlers. Try to create good tags, secondary titles, image alt tags and meta descriptions for your content. Your visitors won’t see them, but the crawlers do, and they decide which website gets the top spot on the SERP.
4. Broken links
Links are the lifeblood of SEO, as they link back and forth from your website. There are two types of links: inbound (backlinks) and outbound links. Having a network of backlinks (links that link back to your website) boosts your website’s presence and tells search engines that you are an authority – your content is appreciated and important. Outbound links tell visitors that you are willing to help your visitors get the best content and you are connected to similar websites (Google’s related link operator uses the outbound link concept extensively). Broken backlinks and outbound links bring a bad reputation and search engines pay attention to how many of them your website has. Google, for instance, downgrades websites with many broken or fake links, and real visitors are particularly annoyed by them.
5. Not being mobile friendly
Mobile is huge and it’s expected to rise even more during the next few years. Having a mobile-unfriendly website is risky, as search engines can recognize and downgrade them in mere seconds. Try to adapt your website to a mobile version as soon as possible to avoid any negative effects.
6. Forgetting about analytics
Analytics are great tools to evaluate your SEO work, so pay particular attention to how they work, how to assess the data provided and how to adapt your strategy. The numbers, although dry, do show a lot, you’ll just have to understand them. Try to check out the analytics on a regular basis to get an overview of your website’s performance. Tools like Google Analytics or Google Webmaster Tools are designed specifically for this and will help you a lot.
7. Duplicate content
Back in the day, duplicate content was common across the web, but nowadays all search engines penalize this tactic. Copying and plagiarizing is spammy and will make your website go down in SERPs faster than ever. What’s more, plagiarized content will make your website look completely unprofessional to visitors. The same goes for spun content, a technique that makes different variants of the same article by using synonyms.
SEO is an indispensable element in content marketing and mastering it is critical to the success of a website. While there is a huge amount of information on SEO available online, there are a lot of common mistakes that are easily avoidable. Just make sure you stay clear of these seven mistakes and you are good to go.