Search engine optimization (SEO) is just one of the many tools businesses use in online marketing, but it is one of the most important marketing tools, as it helps connect your content to your target market and draws people to your website. This is why you need to understand at least the basics of SEO, so you can maximize your SEO potential.
One of the most important things you should understand about SEO is that it has a very dynamic nature. It constantly evolves and changes. In order to ensure SEO success, you’ll have to learn to adapt to the changes. And adapting to changes in the SEO landscape also requires you to avoid the most common mistakes SEO practitioners make. Note that it can be easy to commit these mistakes without even knowing it, which is why you have to be extra vigilant.
With the ever-changing nature of SEO, you aren’t really expected to know everything and succeed without committing a single mistake, but you should at least be able to steer clear of these common ones:
1. Expecting Immediate SEO Results
Many people mistakenly believe their SEO efforts will deliver immediate results. This is NOT true. SEO is an on-going process, and when you’ve just started, you cannot expect to see significant results at once. It will take a few months to see some improvement and up to a year to observe a truly significant result. This is especially true for new websites. Note that search engines take into account your site’s history, among other things, when they assign rankings. Since your site is new, it won’t have a history to speak of.
The normally slow start is the reason why owners of new websites are often advised to engage in some PPC activities within the first few months of launching their site. These activities can help your site gain visibility, while you’re still working on getting your SEO off to a good start. As you keep track of your progress in SEO, you can decide whether to cease your PPC activities in the future or not. If you do decide to stop doing PPC, your SEO monitoring activities will also indicate when the best time to do so is.
2. Taking Keyword Brainstorming for Granted
It can be so easy to just jump right into content creation and optimization without going through the tedious process of research and intel-gathering. To many people, research may seem a waste of precious time. You could simply pick a topic directly related to your industry or niche and then right something substantial about it, right? Surely that would catch the attention of your target market and land you on top of search results. After all, your content is informative, relevant, and generally of good quality.
The problem with creating and publishing content without doing keyword research is that it could so easily result in a few traffic-generating keywords getting overlooked or in you targeting keywords that only sound good from your end, but aren’t really relevant to your target audience or to your content. Remember that the primary purpose for Google’s series of updates is to provide more relevant results to their users. You therefore want to make sure the keywords you target are always relevant.
The good news is that there are several tools available that can help you identify which keywords or terms work best in your industry/niche. Some of these tools even allow you to track the performance of each keyword you use. If there are words you think might work well for your site, you may also check the relevance and potential of those words with the help of various keyword analysis tools. Don’t hesitate to use them.
3. Failure to Address Duplicate Content
Google’s recent algorithmic updates have caused a lot of sites to suffer from huge drops in ranking, particularly those sites that have been flagged for duplicate content. Whether the duplication is due to the black-hat practice of copying someone else’s content and then posting it on your own website or is the result of posting your content on several different sites (including article directories), it will still get you penalized and your website is still bound to suffer the consequences.
The problem of many businesses is that they may not even be aware that their website contains duplicate content. Let’s say, for example, that you operate a business across the United States and have a different version of your website for each state. Each version could have the same text in the About page. Yes, even something as seemingly inconsequential as that can get your site penalized for duplicate content. What you can do is use the rel=canonical tag for this kind of web pages.
4. Poor Content and Content Strategy
When Google rolled out their recent series of updates, the Panda update in particular, their aim was to make sure they presented users only with the most relevant search results. This means the update resulted in many sites with poor content being given almost non-existent rankings. User-friendly websites with well-written content, on the other hand, are now being rewarded with good rankings. You should therefore make sure your site is filled with high-quality content and all thin content is removed.
Aside from the content itself, you should also pay attention to the manner in which you use and promote your content. Note that your social media pages are excellent venues for promoting content, but they shouldn’t serve as homes for your content. You need to post your content on a page where it will appear in the HTML source code because that is what the search engines monitor. Your official blog, for example, would be a good place to post your content; you could then just post a teaser and a link to the blog page on your social media accounts.
5. Failure to Take Social into Account
Social media has become very popular and this fact has not escaped the notice of search engines. Whether they admit it or not, Google is now taking social signals into account when they rank pages. There have been a number of studies made and a lot of evidence showing that websites with strong social signals are indeed getting better search rankings than sites without a strong social presence.
When you use social media for purposes of SEO, remember to go for more than just Likes. Getting your content liked and shared by many on social media is good for the sake of brand awareness, but you should also strive to gain traffic from these social media shares. This is why it is important to include a link to your site in the text of the content you post on social channels. And this is also why it is often advised for you to simply post a teaser and a link to the full content, instead of posting the content itself on your social pages.
Your goal should be to create high-quality links and get more people to visit your site through social media, not just to become a popular name within your social circles. Social likes and shares can only give you brand awareness; you also have to work on getting rankings and conversions. High-quality links from social media will be a great help.
6. Not Taking Links Seriously
There are people who say link-building is dead and there are those who believe them. The truth, however, is that just like SEO itself, link-building has evolved. Gone are the days when you can buy inbound links to boost your rankings without suffering from negative consequences. With Google’s algorithmic updates, buying links today is tantamount to committing SEO suicide. Paid links are now seen as a form of cheating and will get your site penalized with super low rankings or worst, blacklisted.
This isn’t to say you can no longer benefit from inbound links; you just need to make sure they all come from legitimate sources, preferably of unquestionable credibility and authority. Links are now seen as a vote of confidence for your website, so when search engines see that industry influencers are pointing to your site, they are likely to reward you with good rankings. Additionally, search engines are likely to deem your website a truly credible one worthy of high rankings if you get a good number of legitimate links from social channels, as that could be seen as a vote of confidence from the general public.
7. Details over the Big Picture
There are SEO practitioners who focus on such details as header tags and Meta tags. There are also those who focus on tweaking their web design from time to time to make sure the website is always responsive. And still others focus on ensuring they use the right URL structure at all times. While these details are all important factors that affect your SEO performance, you should remember that there isn’t a single one of them that can guarantee you SEO success.
What you need to do, instead, is make sure you have properly implemented the basics of SEO and focus on optimizing your website as a whole. Implement best practices and steer clear of black-hat SEO tactics. When you stick to the basics and ensure that all your SEO activities are clean, all the specific details will fall into place.
These mistakes may be common, but they are also entirely avoidable, so don’t fall into the trap of committing them. The SEO process may be a bit complex, but you don’t have to be overwhelmed by it. Take your cue from those who’ve gone before you and learn from their mistakes.