Let’s start with this: winning the SEO game isn’t easy, and businesses that consistently show up for important keywords — popular and especially long-tail — aren’t lucky, or in the right (virtual) place at the right time.
Yes, several years ago when SEO was trying to find its way in the legitimate marketing world, this was somewhat the case because Google, Yahoo and other early generation search engines and directories had to ensure that searchers were connecting with relevant websites. To that end, they leaned forward and did some of the heavy lifting. In other words: plenty of businesses simply “found themselves” on page one for various search terms, and felt darn happy about it.
But that was then. Today, the situation is completely the opposite: search is an established marketing channel (heck, “Googling” has become a verb), and many businesses that fortuitously found themselves enjoying search ranking glory have awoken, rather unhappily, to the reality that getting and staying on page one is a matter of strategy, effort and money (in that order).
Yet, despite this new normal — which has been the case for at least the last five years — a staggering number of businesses continue making what can only be categorized as basic, rudimentary “they teach you this on day one at SEO school” mistakes. What’s the deal here?
Well, to be fair, it usually isn’t executives and other decision-makers who are behind these SEO sins. Often, it’s a flaky consultant who really good at selling and has all of the buzzwords down pat, but either doesn’t know what he or she is doing, or more likely, is farming the work out to someone a few rungs down on the SEO IQ ladder. Talk about the blind leading the blind.
However, regardless of the genesis of this mess, the results are the same; or rather the lack of results are the same: businesses spend lots of money expecting to rank for worthwhile keywords, but disappear from page one within months or weeks — assuming that they get there in the first place. And even worse than losing money is losing time: while businesses are sliding backwards on the SEO landscape, their competitors — who are doing things the right way — are surging further ahead. It’s the worst of both worlds.
Fortunately, there’s some good news: fundamental SEO errors are easy to understand and relatively straightforward to fix. To that end, here are the four mistakes that many businesses (again, often through no direct fault of their own) continue making — and even more importantly, how to solve them.
Mistake #1: Failing to understand how SEO is weighted and calculated.
Winning the SEO game requires a strategic mix of on-page content (e.g. blogs, web content, landing pages, etc.), off-page content (e.g. quality articles with appropriate backlinks), social citations, and directory listings (so that Google and co. know what a website is about, and when it should show up in search results — especially for local searchers). Merely focusing on one or two these pieces of the puzzle isn’t going to get the job done.
Mistake #2: Not paying attention to user experience.
Google and co. don’t just want searchers to click on search results and go to website: they want them to go to great websites, because that’s part of the promise. However, many businesses — even those with a pretty decent SEO footprint — have sub-optimal (read: lousy) websites that load slowly, don’t show up properly on mobile devices, don’t have a balance of content and visuals, aren’t secure, and so on. All else being equal, search engines will vote for websites that check all of these boxes, since they want searchers to stay on the websites they click to vs. bounce away ASAP.
Mistake #3: Not blogging (or blogging the wrong way).
There is simply no excuse why every business — regardless of whether it sells iPad repair services, provides franchise financing, offers professional services to Uncle Sam, and the list goes on — isn’t blogging at least a handful of times a month, but ideally three to five times a week. Perhaps it’s because blogs have been around for decades and seem like an “old school” tactic (familiarity breeds contempt and all that). Well, here’s who doesn’t ignore blogs: search engines. They love good blogs, because they recognize that there’s no better way to engage visitors than by education and/or entertaining them through blog content.
And as for what a “good” blog is, the building blocks are standard: at least 400 words (though longer is even better), properly optimized for a single keyword, structured for readability, relevant for site visitors, inclusion of at least one graphic with proper alt-tag, and an internal and/or external link to an authority website (to enhance user experience).
The Bottom Line
As mentioned off the top, winning the SEO game isn’t easy. But it’s not rocket science or brain surgery, either. Businesses that get the basics right — which means avoiding the above errors, or to cease making them — will put themselves on the fast-track to ranking success. That means more traffic, more qualified leads, more engaged prospects, and more sales. What’s not to love?