Search engine optimization (SEO) is both massively important and widely misunderstood. Businesses of every size must put effort into improving their position on search engine results pages, or risk falling behind. With that in mind, there are a number of pitfalls that SEO newbies (and even experienced optimizers) can fall into. Here are some of the most common SEO mishaps, and what you can do to dodge them.
1. Picking Bad Keywords
Keyword research is an essential component of any good SEO strategy. You need to know which words and phrases people search for when they’re looking for products or services like yours. While you may have an idealized version of a customer’s path to your product in your head, operating under that assumption will limit your ability to actually attract traffic. So don’t optimize for the keywords you think people ought to search for, optimize for the ones that motivated consumers in your target market are most likely to type into Google. The Google AdWords KeywordPlanner is a great place to start. You can enter phrases related to your business and find related keywords to target.
2. Creating the Wrong Content
Every piece of content on your site should be strategically chosen to boost your ranking for a keyword in your plan. Google has ways of determining whether content is relevant to a user’s search terms, so content that is only tangentially related to a keyword won’t do anything to boost your ranking. And content that doesn’t provide any useful information will be similarly useless for affecting your SEO. Don’t try to cram multiple keywords into one piece of content or create low-quality content just to use a keyword. It’s a waste of time and will clutter your site with unnecessary pages.
3. Building Links from The Wrong Sites
Just as it’s important to make your content authoritative and relevant, it’s imperative that you build links from sites that fit the same criteria. Google treats backlinks from sites that host huge amounts of irrelevant links like a strike against your site, and will lower your ranking for the perceived attempt at gaming their algorithms. Instead, look to build links that people will actually follow. That means establishing backlinks from sites that are relevant to your company and authoritative on your topic.
4. Ignoring Potential Influencer Partnerships
Influencers are people with an audience that corresponds with your target demographic, typically people with a large social media following who post specifically about products or services like yours. You can greatly improve your SEO strategy by partnering with these people. Influencer marketing is one of the most rapidly growing fields within web marketing because of its ability to drive motivated consumers to make purchases. Research influencers in your niche and consider reaching out with them to discuss a partnership.
5. Using Industry Jargon
It’s always a good idea to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. As we’ve already stated, optimizing for your ideal search path will probably be ineffective, but this is especially true if you speak in a highly specialized industry vocabulary. Optimizing your site for keywords that are only used by people at the top of your field won’t do anything to boost your traffic on the consumer level. Learn what terms consumers use when they discuss and search for your product. Focus groups are great for this, but keyword research is cheaper.
6. Ignoring Analytics
One of the biggest mistakes you can make is not capitalizing on the treasure trove of data that you receive about your site. Google Analytics provides a vast amount of information you can use to improve your site, whether it’s by deleting pages that are doing nothing for your ranking or optimizing for keywords you never expected to lead to sales. Start with the Customer Acquisition Report for a broad overview and dive deeper from there.
If you want to have any hope of competing in a marketplace where consumers trust Google to serve them their best options for any product or service in order of value, you’ve got to jockey for position with your competitors at the top of Google’s SERPs. That means avoiding the mistakes above. Any one of them can doom your site to languish at the bottom of search pages, never to reach its full potential.