Monday, June 24, 2013

Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid

If you run a business and have a website, chance are good you’ve been introduced to three powerful but often misunderstood letters: SEO.  It’s no longer good enough to simply have a web presence, now that web presence must be easy to locate through a search engine.  With only 6% of Google searches making it past the first page- and about 1/3 not making it past the first result- poor SEO could have a tremendous negative effect on your business.  Here are some common mistakes to avoid in your efforts to raise your ranking:

Keeping it too simple with keywords: Do your research!  Don’t assume you know the best keywords to use, or how to use them.  You could end up missing opportunities to integrate search friendly terms into your website.  Think synonyms and words with similar meanings that could be substitutes for each other in a search term. Picture and photo, for example, or optometrist and eye doctor.  You should also try to get inside the mind of potential clients that are searching for your product or service- what terms would you use if you were a potential customer of your own business?  People often search in questions, like “What’s the best restaurant in NYC?”, so you might consider incorporating relevant questions into the text of your website as well.

If you’re purchasing keywords from Google, make sure you fully understand the system so you don’t waste your money.  Broader is not better.  Choose some strategic but specific key phrases that will target your ideal audience. 

SEO First, user experience second: Search engines, especially Google, design their algorithms to find the best sites and content for their users.  That means a frequently updated website with rich content that’s well organized with page titles and descriptions will have a natural advantage on the results page.  The primary purpose of your website and the text it contains is to serve your customers, not your search ranking.  Always keep keywords in mind, but don’t stuff your page with search friendly terms at the expense of quality, informative content- search engines will punish you for it in the long run.

Search term blinders:  Look beyond search terms and keywords.  Both inbound links and social media exposure (or lack thereof) can affect your search standing.  Retweets, likes, and shares are all indications of quality and reputability within a search engine’s algorithm, as are links to your site from other respected websites.  With links especially go for quality and not quantity, though.  Links from less reputable sites- or worse, those known for spam- will count against you. 

Getting complacent:  You’ve researched your search terms, added content accordingly, and you have an impressive web presence that extends to social media and other websites.  That’s a great milestone to reach, but it doesn’t mean your SEO obligations have been satisfied.  Search engines and their algorithms are constantly changing, as is the web content you’re competing with in the search rankings.  To stay at the top of the results page, you’ll need to keep reinforcing your web presence with fresh content, and you’ll want to periodically re-evaluate your keywords and search terms as well.

SEO is a complicated- but high stakes- cat and mouse game.  The top search engines don’t make their algorithms public so you’re never completely sure how to get your site treated well in the results, and constant tweaks and updates to those algorithms mean a good ranking today may not carry over to tomorrow.  The good news is that the basic set of SEO best practices are fairly stable, so you’ll never go wrong by avoiding the above mistakes.  Quality content and well researched keywords will always strongly correlate to high search rankings. 

Bio: Eric Thomas is author and Brand Manager for Brandme. He enjoys writing about marketing and business topics.