SEO, or Search Engine Optimization, is a term that is frequently heard but not always understood. Many business owners understand that it’s something they need for their website, but they don’t necessarily know how to implement it. It’s especially critical for a small business to use, because without it, your site may be so buried in search results results page (SERP) that no one ever finds it.
Let’s take a look at the top 8 SEO mistakes that you could be making, and how to avoid or fix them.
1. SEO Keyword Mistakes
Keywords are not the only thing that matter when it comes to on page SEO, but they are still a huge chunk of what matters. The key is using the right keywords, with the right structure.
Research is critical to using the correct keywords. There are dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands, of words that could be used to describe your business or the services or products you sell. But not all those words are words that people will be searching for. If you use them, it could be a huge waste of the space. Research is how you’ll determine which of the words that describe your business, services, or products are most commonly searched for – and those are the words you use.
Keyword structure is how you use the keyword. If you’re a dentist office, for example, obviously you’ll use the word “dentist.” But you’ll also want to modify that word with other words that describe your office: perhaps “inexpensive dentist” or “BCBS dentist” to indicate an insurance you accept, or perhaps “dentures dentist” to describe a particular service you offer. These modifiers are the structure of the keywords, altering their meaning in slight, but potentially significant ways.
2. Keyword Stuffing
Search engines read your page for keyword density to determine if your page is relevant, but people read your page for information. If you engage in a “keyword stuffing” and try to write more for the search engines than the people, you’ll find that it backfires on you. Keywords matter, but so does real person readability.
Include the keyword in your page title, in the URL, 2-3 times within the body of the content, in the meta description, in at least one heading if you use them, and in the alternative description for images on the page (if it’s relevant). Excluding images, that’s only 6-7 times. Three times is generally enough for a search engine to understand your page is relevant, so 6-7 should be good.
After this, to ensure readability, think of words that are similar to your keyword. If your keyword is footwear, for example, you could use words like shoes, socks, sneakers, tennis shoes, high heels, and other variations that have the same or similar meanings. You’re still using words that are relevant to your topic, but you’re not using the word footwear so many times that it begins to lose meaning and annoy the reader.
3. Skipping Title, Meta, and Image Tags
Title and meta tags tell search engines and users what your page or site is about. It’s critical that these be clear, concise, and accurate. A limited number of characters needs to summerize what’s on the page. Image tags, and their alt descriptions, tell users what the image is about if it isn’t visible for some reason. If you fail to utilize the title, meta and image tags, you’re likely to lose a lot of potential customers.
There’s some argument over whether meta descriptions affect your search ranking, but there is no doubt that it can convince a user to click your link instead of someone else’s. Again, you don’t want to go crazy with the keyword stuffing in these areas, but they are excellent areas to take advantage and use them. Make sure that you think of the user, not the search engine, when you create these for maximum results.
4. Inconsistent Internal Links
Internal linking gives your users the paths they need to navigate your site easily. It also helps build your site’s structure and gives your pages authority. It makes sure all your content is accessible. Just because you’ve created a post or a product page, doesn’t mean that it’s visible and easy to navigate to from the site itself. Sites that aren’t accessible won’t be “crawled” by search engine spiders, and thus won’t rank. You want your ranking power, or “link juice”, to flow evenly throughout your whole site, and internal links can help ensure that happens.
There are tools you can use to analyze your site and see what your link structure looks like. You can then use that information to create links where you don’t already have them, and improve your site’s ranking. This will also ensure that users are able to easily navigate throughout your site without having to constantly return to the home page, or hit the back button repeatedly.
5. Mobile Optimization Mistakes
You’ve probably heard about mobile optimization so many times that you have a headache, but it can’t be said enough. More and more people are using these devices for their searching and shopping needs, and if your site looks awful, loads slowly, or doesn’t load at all, you’re going to lose customers.
The easier your site is to read and engage with on a mobile device, the more likely you are to convert a user to a customer.
6. Publishing Non-Original Content
Plagiarizing work from another website or person is an enormous no-no. Search engines will punish you severely for this offense. This is not to say that you can’t ever publish another’s work. With permission from the original website or author, you can re-publish information that’s relevant to your business occasionally on your own site. The key is to have permission, and the best way to indicate permission is to backlink to their site. That backlink will also help with your search engine optimization ranking.
Whether you’re creating posts for your blog, updating product or service descriptions, or working on your “About Us” page, you want to go with all original work. It’s fine to write about topics that others have done, but you want to put your own original spin on it.
There is no hard and fast figure to indicate how much should be original work vs. how much can be re-published with permission. Generally speaking, go with original work whenever you possibly can.
7. Poor or No Promotion
You’ve learned how to properly use keywords, what and how to publish, how to write for the reader and the search engines, and how to link your site’s pages to each other to create a seamless experience for users and spiders. But all of that knowledge is useless if you’re not promoting your site.
Promotion can take a number of forms:
- Getting backlinks from other sites when they link to your posts, pages, or products
- Organic social posts and sharing – your own, and those shared by others
- Giving backlinks by linking to relevant pages on other websites
- Submit your page or post to replace a relevant broken link on another site
- Use paid advertising on social media to target specific audiences
You’ll want to utilize various methods to ensure you get the most widespread results. The more variety you have in your promotion methods, the more relevant search engines will find you.
8. Ignoring the Analytics
Once you start using all of the above steps, the key to tying it all together is analytics. Seeing what gets results and what doesn’t, which pages get visits, where people leave your site or where they come in, are all metrics which will help you determine what’s wrong and what works. If it’s not working, modify it. If it is working, figure out how you can do more of it.
Find out where your traffic is coming from both geographically and by device, and use that information to further target your ideal audience. There’s so much you can learn from your analytics which will allow you to improve your site even more. But if you ignore the analytics, you’ll continue to make SEO mistakes which could penalize your SEPR ranking.
Search Engine Optimization is a simple and relatively easy way to improve your small business website’s search ranking, while also making for a more pleasant experience for your users. Correcting, or avoiding, these simple mistakes will ensure you make the most of your site.
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