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We’ve all made mistakes. While some tend to stand out more than others (Dotcom bubble, anyone?) there is one mistake that will haunt you for years, GUARANTEED:
Screwing up your website’s SEO strategy.
Having worked with struggling businesses every day, I can say with confidence that getting SEO strategy wrong can sabotage your bottom line if you fudge it up enough. We’ve even helped a few companies still bleeding from Google penalties that happened two or more years ago.
Look—there’s nothing worse than being told your marketing gal or SEO agency is actually hurting your business. I get that. So, to help you gain a sense of where your company’s strategy lies, I talked with our SEO Team Lead, Hannah Nelson, about the top SEO mistakes to avoid in 2018. Read through each one, and compare it to your current strategy.
If your strategy checks out, congratulations! However, if your company is making one of these common SEO mistakes, don’t panic. Everything is fixable, so contact us and let us know where you need help. We’ll complete an audit and give you a step-by-step plan to fix your strategy.
First Thing First: What Goes Into Google’s Search Algorithm
If you want dominate your SEO and improve your search rankings, you first need to understand what goes into Google’s Search Algorithm.
“You want the answer, not billions of webpages, so Google ranking systems sort through the hundreds of billions of webpages in our Search index to give you useful and relevant results in a fraction of a second.
These ranking systems are made up of a series of algorithms that analyze what it is you are looking for and what information to return to you. And as we’ve evolved Search to make it more useful, we’ve refined our algorithms to assess your searches and the results in finer detail to make our services work better for you.” – Google
There are more than 200 actual ranking signals, but here’s the gist of what Google looks for when ranking websites:
- Secured sites (HTTPS vs. HTTP)
- Websites that are mobile-friendly
- Schema markup
- Webpage content quality
- Webpage content length
- Page speed
- Social signals
- Quality backlinks
- Optimized images
- Domain age
The Most Common SEO Mistakes Businesses Make (And How to Avoid Them)
Common SEO Mistake #1: Keyword Offenders
One of the most common misconceptions about SEO is that it revolves around keywords. While that may have been true five years ago, in 2018, keywords only play one part in a complex algorithm. There are a few dangerous mistakes you can make with keywords, including:
- Keyword stuffing – Keyword stuffing happens when you literally stuff a web page’s text with the same keyword over and over. It’s obvious, it’s unpleasant to read, and it will get you penalized REAL quick.
- Using the wrong keywords – If you want to rank for high-end kitchen remodels, don’t optimize for “cheap kitchen remodels” even if it has a high search volume. If you only offer high-end remodels, people that search for cheap ones aren’t going to buy from you. Make sure the keywords you choose are ones that are used by your target audience and contribute to your bottom line.
- Optimizing for only one keyword – Woof, that’s a rough mistake. Optimizing for only one keyword or key phrase is like putting all your SEO eggs in one basket. Here—off the top of my head I can think of 13 different ways to tell Google I need a plumber to fix a clogged toilet:
- I need a plumber
- I have a clogged toilet
- How to fix my toilet
- Plumber near me
- Clogged toilet repair
- Fix a clogged toilet
- Unclog a toilet
- Plumbing emergency
- Clogged toilet emergency
- Hire someone to unclog my toilet
- Toilet clog repair
- Overflowing toilet repair
- Plumber for poop clog
- Creating pages for keyword permutations – Having said you should optimize for multiple keywords, that does not mean create a new landing page for each keyword you want to rank for. That’s called creating keyword permutation pages, and Google has a penalty for it from the Maccabees update.
Learn More About Keywords and Keyword Strategy:
- What Is a Long-Tail Keyword?
- Keyword Stuffing and Alternatives to It
- High-Volume vs. High-Quality Keywords
- How Using Keywords Can Help (or Hurt) Your Business
Common SEO Mistake #2: Your Content Quality is Lacking
What is the relationship between SEO and content marketing? Content is king, but you’re not going to rule over anything unless the content you produce is high-quality. What do I mean by high-quality? I mean you need to provide content that your website visitors find valuable. The two top mistakes we see from incoming clients’ content are:
- Scraped content – Much like it sounds, scraped content is content that was copied and pasted from another resource. We see this a lot with service companies that scrape their content from manufacturer websites as well as from cheap SEO agencies. Google can spot scraped content from 8,000 miles away, so before you even THINK about claiming someone else’s words as your own, stop, drop, and roll.
- Thin content –Thin content is categorized as content that offers little or no value to readers. Examples include duplicate pages, automatically generated content, doorway pages, or pages with extremely little content. Think about thin content like this: a blockbuster movie with no plot and surface-level characters. It will get bad reviews, nobody will go see it, and the production company will lose money.
If you think you might have thin or scraped content, look through your analytics and find pages with a high bounce rate. A person “bounces” from your website when they hit the “back” button or quickly exit your website after landing on a webpage. If a large majority of people are bouncing from a webpage, it means they aren’t finding it helpful.
Learn More About Quality Content:
- How Google Recognizes and Rewards Quality Content
- Google Search Quality Guidelines
- Great Content Is More than Keywords
- Google Panda Update
Common SEO Mistake #3: You’re ignoring How your website Works
Let me get you up to speed.
Your website needs to be fast, secure, mobile-friendly, and marked up correctly to secure one of the top spots in Google’s search algorithm. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. The worst website mistakes that affect SEO include:
- Your website isn’t fast enough – Not only does website speed matter from a user experience standpoint, it matters to SEO. Users expect every single page on your website to load in under three seconds, and, therefore, so does Google.
- Your website isn’t secure – In October 2017, Google began labeling unsecured sites—websites without an SSL certificate—as such in the URL bar. Secure sites are now labeled with a green “locked” symbol, and unsecured websites would be labeled with a red “unsecured” symbol or a gray “i.” It’s also now a search ranking factor, meaning if your site is unsecure, it will rank lower than secured sites.
- Your website isn’t mobile-friendly – In 2015, Google released its Mobile Search Quality Guidelines, signalling a new era in the search algorithm—one that focuses on mobile-friendly websites. Now there’s even a mobile-first index. Why? 91% of mobile users want easy access to websites. That means there’s a HUGE chance they’ll leave a site if it’s difficult to navigate from their smartphone. Google knows this, and in order to decrease the likelihood of this happening, only sites with quality, helpful mobile content will be rewarded with a top spot in the search results.
- Your website has no schema or SEO tags – Google something. Anything. Now, look at the top search results. Each one of them has optimized heading tags, an optimized description, and schema tags. See those stars, reviews, directions, “search website now,” and current promotions? Those appear in the search results because of website schema. Not only does schema pimp your website in the search results, it helps Google better categorize bits of important text and features on your website.
Learn More About Website Technical SEO:
- Is HTTPS Good for SEO?
- How Site Speed Affects Your Bottom Line
- What Is the Mobile-First Index?
- Does Schema.Org Work?
Common SEO Mistake #4: You Have No Website Authority
In a May 2013 video, Matt Cutts basically outlined it for us: “We’re doing a better job of detecting when someone is sort of an authority in a specific space—you know, it could be medical, it could be travel, whatever—and trying to make sure that those rank a little more highly if you’re some sort of authority or a site that, according to the algorithms, we think might be a little bit more appropriate for users.”
Now, what exactly goes into “website authority”? It’s a combination of signals. If you want to dominate in authority, avoid these common SEO mistakes:
- You don’t have any external links pointing to your site, or you have shady backlinks – External links pointing to your page are like mini-recommendations. The line of thinking is that if another website (the more authoritative the better) finds value in your content—enough value to reference you—then others will as well. The best way to get external links is to produce and distribute amazing content that, well, others would find valuable enough to link to. There are other sneaky ways to get more backlinks, but watch out for black-hat tactics. Google can spot bought or low-quality links from a mile away, and you’ll get a hefty Google penalty quicker than you can say “crap.”
- You don’t have any awards or affiliations on your website – Having awards and affiliations is like having another “I’m trustworthy” badge on your website. I recommend having them displayed prominently on your homepage, as that’s your number one-visited web page.
- You don’t have any reviews – This is a huge factor for local and service companies. Not only do 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation, 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more. Needless to say, reviews are HUGE for SEO, and not just Google reviews. Google pulls in reviews from Facebook, Yelp, and other sites.
Learn More About Building Website Authority for SEO:
- SEO Success and Building Authority
- The Importance of Customer Reviews
- Get More Reviews With Custom Google Review Links
Common SEO Mistake #5: You’ve Forgotten About Website Analytics
You can get all the above right, but if you aren’t tracking your efforts with the right analytics, it’s all for nothing. The right tracking and analytics can give you insight into the following:
- How many unique and returning visitors come to your site (and specific pages)
- The locations of your visitors
- The pages that generate the most leads
- Your web pages’ bounce rates
- Your web pages’ exit rates
- The average amount of time visitors are spending on your site
- Non-branded vs. branded searches
- Referrals (visitors that come to your site from another site, not a search engine)
- Goal paths of your visitors (which pages someone visited before completing a goal)
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll give you an example of why ignoring analytics is one of the worst SEO mistakes you can make: we had one client that came to us, and he was doing all of the above but still wasn’t seeing traction. Once we dug into his analytics, we found that the marketing channels he was focused on weren’t the ones that resonated the best with his target audience. Using that data, we restructured his marketing budget and his SEO strategy to better align with his business goals. Lo and behold, three months later, he was experiencing steady growth—both in return on his marketing dollars and in the search results rankings.
Avoid the Worst SEO Mistakes—Get an SEO Audit Done
The number one thing you can do for your SEO strategy is to have an SEO audit done. This will give you a clear picture of your website’s overall SEO health and should give you a way forward. Here’s what’s included in a (good) SEO audit:
- Search for a Robots.txt
- Search for site errors
- Determine the index status
- Check for the right sitemaps
- Check page speed
- Check for proper meta data
- Validation of external links
- Keyword ranking and SERP analysis
- A complete action plan
I recommend getting one done ASAP, because the sooner you get your SEO strategy right, the sooner your bottom line will benefit. Of course, if you have any questions, contact us.
About The Author: Betsy is Blue Corona's in-house Digital Marketing Specialist. When she’s not directing Blue Corona's corporate digital content campaigns she’s urban exploring with her wife, diving into the latest marketing trends, or teaching horseback riding lessons. Twitter: @educatedbets
View more blogs by Betsy McLeod