Tell me if this sounds familiar:
You decide you’re going to concentrate on SEO for your primary traffic strategy, optimizing everything so that Google and Bing and Yahoo send you thousands of visitors per day, free of charge. So, you rush off to do your keyword research, and you find a few phrases that are bringing in massive amounts of traffic. Giddy with the opportunity, you optimize your website and get lots of links, expecting to see your website start climbing the search results.
And it does… slowly.
After working on it for several weeks or even months, it’s certainly moved up, but you’re still on page two or three. Nothing you do seems to be helping you break onto the first page, and you can’t help wondering, “What’s going on?”
The good news is we’ve all been there. SEO is one of those strategies that you can implement in a few weeks, but it takes time to master it, so you can compete for high-traffic words and phrases. You’re still learning, and with a few adjustments, you can probably get that first page ranking.
In many cases, all you have to do is correct a few simple mistakes to start getting some results. Here are the 10 most common SEO mistakes I’ve seen, as well as advice on how to correct them:
1. Not Using Analytics to See What Converts
SEO isn’t only about massive amounts of free traffic. It’s also about conversion.
It’s easy to get caught up watching which phrases are sending you the most traffic, and then getting bummed when you can’t rank for those super-competitive, high-traffic keywords. But traffic isn’t all that matters. Many times, lower-traffic phrases will convert better because they’re more specific, and getting first page rankings for several of them can drive quite a few sales.
The only way to find out is to track it. Use an analytics package to setup conversion tracking for your keyword phrases, and then compare them against each other to see what’s producing the best results. Knowing will help you better optimize your site as a whole and know which efforts are worth focusing on and which ones should be let go.
2. Not Optimizing for Local Search
If you’re running a business that focuses on customers within a certain city or region, it’s important to learn more about local search. Most search engines, including Google, handle it a bit differently than keywords that are more global.
Start by including region-specific keywords in your page titles and meta descriptions. You will also want to include an address and local phone number on your pages, such as in the header or footer, so you’ll show up in the local results. Finally, you will want to list yourself on Yelp, Merchant Circle, Google Places, FourSquare, and other local based sites and review networks.
3. Not Optimizing for the Right Keywords
This is a big one. It’s easy to fall into the trap of optimizing for:
· Global keywords, when you only offer services to local customers
· Generic keywords that attract visitors who have no interest in what you’re offering
· Keywords that only bring in visitors looking for free information, not prospective customers who are interested in buying something
· Broad keywords that have lots of competition, maybe with several SEO experts working full-time to defend the first page ranking
It’s best to be as specific as possible. Focusing on generic keywords might bring you a lot of traffic, if you’re successful, but how long will it take you, and how realistic is it? Sometimes many times, you’re better off going for more specific phrases, which usually lead to quicker rankings and more qualified traffic.
For example, a web designer wouldn’t simply want to go for the keywords “web design” in the beginning. It would be easier to rank for “web design services for Los Angeles realtors” – keywords that would probably start producing results immediately. You could optimize for more competitive keywords as your website grows and gains authority.
4. Not Having Unique Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
It still amazes me when I see websites that have their company or website name as the title for every page throughout their website. It’s such a damaging mistake.
Every page should have a unique title, and not just for SEO purposes. Your page titles are usually shared in tweets and used as the text when someone bookmarks your website, hence descriptive, unique titles are highly important.
So looking at the portfolio of a web designer, they could have web design services as their main homepage keywords, so their homepage title would be something to the effect of “ABC Web Design Studio – Web Design Services.” Then other pages in their portfolio could focus on more specific services that are popular queries, such as:
- WordPress Customization – ABC Web Design Studio
- Custom Template Design – ABC Web Design Studio
- eCommerce Website Design – ABC Web Design Studio
As you can see, you can carry your company name throughout your pages while focusing on specific keywords that are specific to each page. Just put it at the end.
Meta descriptions are also important. They are a 160 character sales pitch for your page within search results.
So, make each one as unique and persuasive as possible. Your homepage and each page throughout your site should include a custom meta description that will make people want to click on your listing in search results, as well as include relevant keywords. For example:
- Homepage description: ABC Web Design Studio offers web design services for small businesses, including WordPress customization, custom template design, eCommerce websites, and more.
- WordPress customization page: ABC Web Design Studio offers WordPress customizations, including custom WordPress template design, Thesis theme customization, and more.
5. Not Using Anchor Text for Internal Links
Have you ever seen links in the body of a web page for “click here,” this post,” and other generic text?
From an SEO perspective, it’s a waste. Sure, using a call to action as your link may increase clicks, but it also costs you the opportunity of tailoring your anchor text, one of the most important components of SEO.
For example, if you write a blog post, and you want to link to your e-commerce services page, make the anchor text “ecommerce website design services” or something similar. Also, if you absolutely must have a call to action, try to at least include some relevant keywords in the link. For example, “click here to learn more about our ecommerce services.”
6. Using the Same Anchor Text for Every Link
Optimizing your anchor text is important, but don’t use the same anchor text for every link to a page. It looks funny to visitors, and some people say it can also hurt you with search engines, because it looks like you’re trying to “game” them.
So, mix it up. Use variations on the phrase, the name of your company, or occasionally, even a URL to make it look more natural to both visitors and the search engines. Try not to use the same keyword more than 50% of the time.
7. Focusing on Link Quantity Over Link Quality
While there are lots of easy ways to get a high volume of links, you should usually place a higher emphasis on quality.
One link from a popular blog might do more for your search engine rankings than hundreds or even thousands of low quality directory links. Yes, they’re harder to get, but that’s also why search engines place such trust in them. They are a more reliable measure of the quality of your website.
So, focus on getting links that:
- Are relevant to your website and industry.
- Do not have a lot of outgoing links.
- Do not contain links to adult, pharmacy, or gambling sites.
You can also use free tools like SEOquake to check the strength of the domain and incoming links to the page.
8. Using Poorly Written Content
Two popular ways of creating a large quantity of content include hiring low paid article writers and using article spinners – software that takes one article and “re-words” it to make it look like several unique articles to search engines.
Why is this not a good idea?
Sure, the content might be well optimized, but you also need to think about the impression it’ll give visitors. People can tell whether or not content is unique and valuable, and if it’s not, you’ll lose trust, and you’ll have a much harder time getting them to take action.
So, if you need to outsource content, hire writers who are capable of producing original articles that you are proud to publish on your site. You’ll probably have to pay them a lot more, but if it results in more conversions, it’ll be a far better investment.
9. Not Creating Link Worthy Content
The harsh reality of link building is sometimes the most well-written content still doesn’t get links.
If you want people to link to it, you need to make it exceptionally valuable. Publish top lists, video or text tutorials, and infographics.
For example, our web design company could publish blog posts on their site like:
- Top 100 Best Designed eCommerce Websites
- How to Setup Widgets in WordPress
- A History of Web Design [Infographic]
10. Not Taking Advantage of Great Design for Links
Is your site a custom design, or based off a popular template?
There are hundreds of CSS and other design galleries that will link to your website simply based on having a great design. You can also look for blogs that do reviews of great designs in particular industries (such as showcases of education and medical websites) and ask if they will add your website to their list as well.
No, visitors from these sites probably won’t convert (unless you are, of course, a web or graphic designer), but the links still help build the overall authority of your domain. It’s also easy to do. If you have a unique design, submit it to a few of the sites, and you could pick up a few easy, high-quality links.
More SEO Mistakes
Have you made any of the above mistakes with your SEO campaign? What other common errors do you see made by other websites, and ways that you can think of to fix them?
Also, for a more detailed lesson on the basics of SEO, please check out our SEO guide.
About the Author: Kristi Hines is a freelance writer, blogger, and social media enthusiast. Her blog Kikolani focuses on blog marketing, including social networking strategies and blogging tips.