Search engine optimization—you think you understand it, or at least the basics. You want to be seen on Google, and you’ve read up on how to do it. Simple, right? Not that simple.
The bad news: This SEO stuff isn’t just a “quick trick” as some people make it look or sound. You did your research on the basics, and you’re pretty sure you’re doing everything right… except you’re not getting the results you really wanted. Where’s the traffic those tips promised? It can be frustrating, especially if you’ve already put months of hard work into your initiative. So what went wrong?
The good news: There are a handful of usual culprits, small steps commonly neglected or best-practice misconceptions, that negatively affect search rankings and lead to decreased online authority—and entrepreneurs, with that do-it-all-yourself attitude, are sometimes more prone to making them. But by becoming aware of these problems, you can change direction, fix what you’re doing wrong and see SEO success as a result.
As the CEO of AudienceBloom, a content marketing and social media marketing firm, I steer the strategy behind my clients’ SEO campaigns—increasing web traffic and securing higher search rankings. I’ve seen what works—and I’ve seen what doesn’t. Here are 10 all-too-common mistakes that entrepreneurs accidentally or unwittingly make in their SEO campaigns:
1. Prioritizing Quantity over Quality
Content is king. The rule of thumb is that the more high-quality content you have on your site, the more credibility, authority and positive branding you’ll earn. But too many entrepreneurs sabotage themselves by neglecting the most important part of that idea—“high-quality.” Writing content too fast—in other words, writing as much content as you can, as quickly as you can—is ultimately going to compromise your chances for success. Google scans content and evaluates it for quality, so make sure your content is the best it can be before publishing it.
2. Falling into a Rut
Falling into a rut is bad news for onsite and offsite optimization alike. Recycling blog topics? Google could see that as a red flag, similar to flat-out duplicate content, and you could alienate your users, who are constantly on the prowl for new information. Similarly, if you try to build links using the same sources or the same strategies, eventually Google will take notice of this repetition. Keep diversifying and refreshing your strategy for best results.
3. Using Cheap Tactics to Build Inbound Links
It can be tempting to build as many links as you can, as easily as you can, when you want to see results now. But the easiest strategies in SEO are often the least effective, and when it comes to link-building, the more effort you spend to do the job correctly, the more value you’re going to get. Using cheap link-building tactics—like relying on low-authority sites, buying links in a package or participating in link farms—is only going to end up hurting your ranks.
4. Over-Optimizing with Keywords
Keywords aren’t as important as they used to be. Including your target keyword phrases somewhere on your site is still a good idea, but including multiple instances of keywords throughout all your copy and blog posts is a bad one. Over-optimizing with keywords is going to earn you a penalty, and even worse, it’s going to make your content seem spammy, which will turn your customers away.
5. Heavily Weighting One Strategy
If you have a better understanding of a specific element of your SEO campaign, you can accidentally spend too much time developing that one element—ignoring all the others. If you have experience or talent in social media marketing, you might spend an exceptional amount of time building your social audience but neglect your onsite development or your content program. If your SEO strategy isn’t balanced, it’s going to fail.
6. Forgetting about User Experience
SEO is about far more than just the logical steps. Yes, the weekly blog posts, inbound links and daily social posts are all important, but SEO depends heavily on what your users feel about their browsing experience. When a person comes to your site, what’s their first reaction? Do they know where to go and what to do? Do they find value in your brand and how it’s presented online? If you don’t know how to answer these questions, you need to address your onsite user experience—evaluate your navigation, your layout and your design standards to start.
7. Selecting Keywords without Research
Some people pick keywords based on what they think their audience is searching for. This isn’t a bad strategy to use as a starting point, but if you want to see better results, you’ll need to back those keywords up with actual, legitimate data. How much traffic do they get? How hard are they to rank for?
8. Optimizing for Too Many Phrases
Another problem is an overabundance of keywords. The theory goes that ranking high for 20 keywords will get you more visibility than ranking high for 10 keywords—but it’s also much harder to rank for 20 than it is for 10. The more keywords you try to optimize for, the further you get from your company’s core focus, and your site will become less authoritative for the most relevant searches.
9. Redesigning without Checking Redirects
Everyone goes through a site redesign at some point. Unfortunately, many site owners fail to double-check their work. Redesigning usually involves building an entire new site structure—a new sitemap and new links. If you don’t make sure all old links are redirecting to new site locations, you could be prone to crawl errors and lose out on referral traffic from offsite links.
10. Failing to Analyze Results
This is the biggest recurring mistake. Reviewing and analyzing the results of your campaign is the only way to see how you’re doing—and the only way you’re going to make it better. Take a look at metrics like organic search traffic and user behavior and see how they grow over time. Keep the strategies that work and weed out the ones that don’t.
Anything sound familiar? Eliminate that practice immediately. Bear in mind that you might not be able to fix it with a one-time correction—a lot of these strategies tend to creep up over time due to deteriorating standards or gradually changing approaches. So take time to audit your progress and your strategy at least once a month. Make sure you’re adhering to best practices and doing what’s most appropriate for your campaign.