There’s nothing new about SEO, and yet, if you gaze across the spectrum of websites on the web at the end of 2014, you’re going to see an endless array of blunders and boo-boos. Don’t let the SEO experts try to convince you that basic, steadfast SEO is complicated or mind-boggling. It can get a bit convoluted with terminology (canonical URLs, anyone), but the truth is, the foundation of fantastic SEO is not rocket science. Nor has it changed drastically this year.
So let’s go through the current landscape and identify the biggest SEO issues that so many sites are guilty of. Address these standouts, and you are on your way to the rankings and visibility you’ve been dreaming of.
Mistake #1: A Lackluster Website
The very first thing I do when a client asks for SEO assistance is head straight for their website. Without fail, there are problems to deal with, but the most typical of all is poor website design. Consider SEO a science of usability honored by search engines directing people to the content they are looking for. By this token, great content equals great design. So your website needs two things without fail (and in this order please!)
1) Usability: This means your site has intuitive navigation, an attractive design that immediately draws customers in, and it’s fully functional. This is absolutely non-negotiable if you want any level of SEO success. And by all means, your site must look good too! A crappy WordPress blog will never be top tier in SEO. No matter how hard you work at every other component, great design and navigation are essential. The greatest click-through rate in the world won’t do you any good if your bounce rate is over 50%. Make your website your priority, and the rest is icing
on the cake.
2) Content: SEO could not exist without content; it’s your web pages, blogs, articles, meta data, and the like that sets the scene for your SERPs. Content, therefore, needs to address your audience directly, in the language they would use to find you (which equate to your keywords.) Without a fair amount of fresh, original content, you will never be an SEO darling.
In other words, if you approach SEO from a design and content standpoint first and foremost, you’re building a strong foundation for the remaining tactics to really push you over the top.
Mistake #2: Ugly Ads
Here’s where things might get a bit controversial – it’s time to get rid of Google Adsense. Yes, Google owns it, so you might think this would be helpful to SEO, or at least neutral. That’s no longer the case. Adsense, and services like them, create hideous looking ads, and people are bouncing from these faster than a cancelled check. Once again, be completely dedicated to great design, and you will see the payoff. Ads can certainly be an important segment of a beautifully designed site, but definitely not those hideous text ads. Incorporate them intelligently, and your users will reward you with loyalty and conversions.
Mistake #3: Incomplete On-Site SEO
Now that you have a gorgeous site that converts users like a champ, it’s time to polish your on-site SEO. Here are the most important parts to this process:
Be clear and concise regarding what your site is about, and use your keywords, but do so sparingly.
If you resort to old keyword-stuffing tactics, you will be penalized – Google and friends no longer need you to shove keywords down their throats, or that of your users.
Have quality content; the more recent, the better.
Be consistent with your content messaging – the more you speak directly to your core customer, the better your odds for higher SEO results
Include keywords in things like title tags, description tags, and a few times in your content – especially the first paragraph.
Mistake #4: No Link Building
Yes, links still matter! Receiving quality inbound links from relevant sites is still important to Google; it helps to validate your credibility. Outbound links are just as critical, especially to authority domains. Please do not add links for linking sake, however, as that practice is what doesn’t work anymore. If you are linking to sites that are completely outside of your industry, or are doing any black hat practices, you can actually get penalized. So build links with quality partners only.
Mistake #5: Not Using Long Tail Keywords
Long tails are fast becoming the SEO keyword darlings. Long tail keywords are simply more descriptive in nature, and therefore longer. Searches are getting very precise with how they are searching for content, so you should follow suit. Instead of pushing generic terms (which are almost impossible to rank high for), go for the long tails. Sure, the audience size is smaller, but these folks are more targeted and far, far more likely to convert if you are giving them exactly what they’re searching for. So when it comes to keywords, go long!
Seriously, if you put together a user-friendly, attractive website with solid (but not over the top SEO), plenty of relevant and quality content, and a smart keyword strategy, you are literally light years ahead of your competitors. Add in a nice mix of intelligent link building and even some extras like long tail and trending keywords, and you have hit the level of SEO expert!
What other SEO blunders do you see sites making regularly? We want to hear about them!