Ah, search engine optimization (SEO). There’s nothing quite like trying desperately to make an algorithm favor you to make you miss the good old days of traditional marketing and advertising. You already spend half your life trying to get people to approve of you, and now you have to do the same thing with an abstract online entity? This is not why you went into business.
But the truth is, it doesn’t matter how much you resent SEO best practices. Whether you like it or not, good SEO practices are key to improving your website’s visibility, thereby increasing your traffic and (hopefully) your conversion rates. Try not to think of SEO as just one annoying thing you have to do to maintain your website; instead, think of how it can directly improve your return on investment (ROI). So how can you use SEO best practices to improve your business?
The first thing you can do is avoid making mistakes. SEO newbies—and people who have been in the game for a while but have neglected to keep up with the times—tend to make the same kinds of mistakes when it comes to optimizing their websites. If you can avoid these SEO mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to a well-optimized site:
1. Keyword stuffing
If you’ve ever written copy for a website, you’ve heard about the importance of using keywords for SEO. Using the right keywords can bring the right audience to your website, and optimizing the use of these keywords properly can help get the attention of search engines. But do you know what won’t help you? Keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing looks something like this:
Cramming a keyword as many times as possible into your copy makes one thing very obvious to both readers and search engines: your content is worthless. You don’t have anything valuable to say, so instead you’re using keywords to get people to your site in hopes that getting them there will be enough to get them to convert. But search engines aren’t going to fall for this trick anymore—instead of getting results with keyword stuffing, you’ll find yourself with a keyword-crammed website with very few visitors and a bad ranking on Google.
2. Buying links
The statement “backlinks are important for SEO” isn’t false—it’s just incomplete. The whole truth is that “quality backlinks are important for SEO.” Don’t go around purchasing shoddy links from sketchy sites in hopes that they will increase your traffic and your PageRank. Google will know and, strict disciplinarian that Google is, your site will suffer for a long time for making this rookie SEO mistake.
3. Not updating your site
You’ve spent months creating a beautiful, user-friendly website. You’ve written five helpful blog posts, and you’ve optimized your site using well-researched keywords. Now you sit back and watch the traffic flow, waiting for those visitors to convert to leads and those leads to convert to customers. You’ve been working hard for months; now it’s time for that work to pay off. Right?
Wrong. SEO is a constant effort, and it involves keeping your site active. So you’ve published five great blog posts? That’s awesome, but now you need to make a schedule for posting new posts on a regular basis, and you need to stick to it. If you aren’t constantly updating your content, search engines aren’t going to notice you.
4. Using keywords as an afterthought
There is one way and only one way to use keywords. First, you have to do your keyword research. Then, you have to use that research to determine what you need to write about. That way, you can organically incorporate the right keywords into your copy.
This means that you can’t decide to write something, do keyword research, and try to figure out how to add those keywords into something you’ve already written. Keyword usage needs to be natural. One of the keywords for this blog post, for example, is “SEO mistakes.” You’ll notice that this post is about SEO mistakes, which makes that keyword significantly easier to use than if this post had been about writing blogs. Figure out what people are searching for, and provide them with relevant and helpful information about that topic. You’ll find that keyword integration is something you’ll barely even have to think about.
5. Neglecting social media
Social media is no longer optional. If people cannot find you on popular sites like Facebook and Twitter, they’re going to seriously question your company’s credibility. You know what else social media is great for? Sharing the material you’ve worked so hard to optimize on your website. Sharing your content means search engines have more places to find it, which means that potential visitors can find you in different places. Building a loyal social media following is also great for brand awareness.
6. Lack of internal links
It may seem somewhat counterintuitive to link to your own content. You may even think that search engines will find this behavior suspicious; after all, shouldn’t your goal be to have other sites link to you for verification of your credibility? Despite what you may think, linking to different pages on your own website is actually a good SEO practice. It helps search engines crawl your website, and it lends greater authority to your site. You should focus on the most important pages of your site and figure out how you can link those pages to things like blog posts. Remember, don’t just do this randomly; only link internally if there is a real connection between the two pages.
7. Not measuring your progress
What’s the first thing you do when you decide to lose weight? In fact, what causes you to want to lose weight? Obviously, you need to start by weighing yourself. Then, you create a strategy for shedding those pounds, and you continue to weigh yourself on a regular basis to ensure that strategy is giving you the results you want. If it isn’t, and you aren’t losing weight, you change the strategy.
Improving your SEO is just like losing weight. You need to know where you are when you start, and you need to keep track of your progress as you go. If you don’t have solid metrics to show your progress (or lack thereof), how will you ever know that your SEO practices have been working? Sure, you may notice vague improvements, but if you can’t identify exactly what these improvements are and what caused them, you’re wasting your time.
8. Not fixing broken links
Search engines crawl websites to figure out how well those sites should rank. You know what search engines don’t like? Being interrupted. And you know what website users don’t like? Clicking on a link that takes them to a big, fat, irritating “404” page, like this one:
Do yourself and your website a favor: make sure there are no broken links on your site. This is all part of keeping your website active and current. Having a few broken links on your site is not going to completely destroy your site’s rank, but it is a small factor to consider when you’re optimizing.
9. Prioritizing links over content
This list of SEO mistakes has made it pretty clear that it’s better to have no links than it is to have bad links. Buying links or submitting your site to sketchy directories is a great way to bomb your website’s ranking. Why? Because search engines know that, instead of creating quality content for your visitors, you’re trying to trick search engines into promoting your page. Content should be your number one priority when it comes to improving your SEO and building a better site. Links should be the consequence of that content. In case I haven’t made this clear, let me put it simply: content first, links later.
Image sources: LoboStudioHamburg/pixabay.com, Marc Chouinard/stocksnap.io