If nothing else, the changes in the digital landscape keep marketers on their toes. Take SEO for example. Search has been one of the three pillars of digital marketing (besides social and content) practically since the medium’s inception. But as Google evolves its algorithms every so often, it puts the onus on marketers to raise their SEO game and figure out ever more effective ways of optimizing keywords and key phrases.
2018 exemplified this perfectly. In March of that year Google announced they were migrating websites to mobile-first indexing. This was a bold move that communicated with finality that desktop searches had officially taken a backseat to mobile searches. What that meant for SEO was that any marketer who didn’t have their content properly optimized for mobile had to scramble. And this was just one out of many SEO trends that occur each and every year.
So it’s not the end of the world if you’re having problems keeping your SEO up to snuff in the midst of all these trends. Even if you are making mistakes, the nice thing is that they are often common ones that can be remedied relatively quickly. Here is a list of just these kinds of keyword errors.
Not performing adequate keyword research
This is first on the list because your SEO will never live up to its potential if you don’t invest in proper research before rolling out your strategy. What informs this research is your target audience. You want keywords that are going to help you rank according to what your targets are searching for.
You don’t need an entire marketing team behind you to perform this research, either. It can begin simply by drawing up a list of the most relevant and important topics related to your business. But this list needs to have a hierarchical structure. You’ll want to organize it thusly:
- Relevant topics
- Related search terms
Regarding the first step, make a list of topics relevant to your business. Maybe you sell data security software solutions. “Data security” and “software solutions” could obviously be topics, as could “cyber vulnerabilities” and others. The next step is to come up with keyword buckets for each of these topics and fill them with related keywords and keyword phrases. Examples for data software security would likely include “data loss prevention,” “data protection,” “how to prevent data theft,” “IT security software tools,” “securing data,” and a host of others.
The final step would be to look at related search terms to help give you an idea of more keywords to utilize. You can do this by simply typing in a keyword into Google and looking at the bottom of the page for related search terms. A simple search of “data protection,” for example, reveals eight related searches that include “types of data protection,” “data protection technologies,” “data protection regulations,” and others.
Ignoring local SEO
Speaking of those trends mentioned above, local SEO is an important one. Do a cursory Google search for any type of business and you’ll see that the results are often location specific. This is direct result of Google placing more emphasis on “near me,” searches, and if you aren’t optimizing your keywords and phrases to take local into account, then you could be left out of the search entirely.
The remedy? Stay up to date with your Google My Business Listing. Make sure all info and location-specific keywords within your descriptions and tags are up to date. This is important for any business, but it’s absolutely mandatory for smaller businesses. Smaller operations don’t have the luxury to get overlooked in a keyword search simply because their business listings have shoddy information.
Not focusing on off-site SEO
On-site optimization of your website is all well and good—it’s crucial, in fact—but it’s only part of any successful strategy. Another vital part you can’t overlook is off-site SEO. You need to have a solid backlinking strategy in place and you need to spend a certain amount of time each month focusing on it.
That means creating keyword-rich blog posts and getting them published on authoritative sites that include do-follow links right back to your website. Think of it as a way to spread your branded message through the furthest reaches of cyberspace rather than simply waiting for your audience to come to you. And the more quality backlinks you get, the more Google views you as a quality business and thus ranks you higher.
As a general rule of thumb, many successful SEO strategies are divided into 70% on-site initiatives and 30% off-site. And above all else, never buy backlinks for your content. This is a black-hat strategy that Google can spot it a mile away—and they’ll penalize you for it in their rankings.
Not performing website/content audits
Even if you’ve done the above and performed thorough keyword research, it’s all for naught if your website isn’t easily navigable and user friendly. To help stave off functionality problems and ensure your SEO has the support it needs, you need to perform regular website audits. This takes everything into account from both the point of view of the user as well as the point of view of the search engines.
A comprehensive website will tell you if the info on your site is easy to find, if the mobile version launches quickly enough, if the navigation is user friendly, if the checkout process is streamlined, and more. When the elements of your site are firing on all cylinders, then you stand a better shot of your SEO being effective.
Directly related to this, you should also perform regular audits on your content. That includes website content, blog posts, vlogs—everything. Doing so will help you ensure you have relevant content available to your target audience and that you’re giving them exactly what they’re searching for.
As for a schedule, there’s really no hard and fast rule of when you should perform content/website audits, but once a year should be the minimum. Many find that performing such audits quarterly is a good rule of thumb.
Overlooking titles and meta tags
There’s nothing easier in SEO than properly optimizing your website titles and meta tags. These are simply HTML snippets at the head of each webpage. The title tags are featured prominently in SERPs, often as links; however, because they aren’t visual content like images, folks optimizing their websites will often overlook them. Small business owners are particularly guilty of this because they are the ones often putting together their own websites and don’t have a CMS system in place that automatically catches little errors like this.
The solution is to look at a page’s context within the website and give it a unique title. If you’re a manufacturer dealing in industrial farm equipment, then you’re home page title tags might include “agriculture, “construction,” and “equipment” along with your company name. Your product category page would then get even more specific by mentioning items in your product line as well as your company name. Remember to always use your brand name when relevant, place your keywords at the front of the title, and make sure your title tag is about 50-60 characters.
Then there’s the meta description. This is the snippet of about 155 characters that comes up in a typical search engine result and summarizes a website’s content. This is prime real estate for on-site optimization, so you’ll want to add the most searched for phrase in the meta tag. And if “agricultural machinery” is the most searched for phrase in that industry, make sure that’s in your meta tag.
These are five of the more common mistakes businesses make that negatively impact their SEO. There are plenty more out there, including keyword stuffing, not producing keyword-rich content often enough, leaving old URLs in place when redesigning websites, and more. But regardless of how many errors you can make, almost all of them can be avoided by not taking a “set it and forget” approach to SEO, and instead consistently staying abreast of search trends and making your SEO an ongoing strategy.
Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services
From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.
Ryan is known for taking complex marketing and business challenges and developing solutions that simplify processes while driving customer outcomes and business value. He also thrives on guiding Elevation teams toward execution of strategies that help companies succeed in new verticals, while staying true to core values and brand integrity.