by Sierra McConnell
I started building websites when I was 12 years old. I don’t want to do the math because it will just depress me, but it was at least 20 years ago when I learned how to code my first site and had to figure out how to get it found. Back then, it was a lot of submitting your site to directories on Yahoo and Lycos, commenting on other people’s websites and guestbooks (remember those?), and leaving a link in chat rooms. Search engine optimization wasn’t even a thought back then. Today, though? It’s absolutely crucial to make Google happy if you want anyone to ever find your website.
Trying to keep up with what’s what with Google’s algorithm when it comes to SEO can make anyone feel like they’re losing their mind. Should we be using certain keywords as many times as possible throughout the text? Should we make several webpages on the same topic? What about putting as many keywords as I can think of into the meta keywords tag?
The answer is nope, nope, and nope. Keyword stuffing no longer works and will actually get your page penalized, duplicate content will kill your ranking, and the meta keywords don’t matter at all anymore.
Without further ado, here are the five biggest SEO mistakes you’re (probably) making:
SEO Mistake 1: You don’t have enough of the right content.
There’s no set rule for the exact number of words you need for your content anymore. What you do need is for your content to be informational and helpful, regardless of what your topic or industry might be. There’s an easy acronym to remember what kind of content you need on your site: EAT. Expert, authoritative, and trustworthy. If your content ticks these three boxes, Google will eat it up!
For example, if you’re an Indianapolis guitar repair shop, you’re not going to grow your customers or find your site on the first page of Google if all your homepage says is, “We fix guitars.” Coming up with more content isn’t too hard. Ask yourselves questions like these (and, of course, substitute words in your industry!):
- What kind of guitars?
- When do you fix guitars?
- Are there problems you don’t fix?
- Do you fix any other instruments?
- How long have you been fixing guitars?
SEO Mistake 2: You don’t have a linking strategy.
Quick: How many tabs do you have open in your browser right now? Personally, I’ve got like 30+ going on. If you’re like me, you probably end up opening tons of links from various articles you’re reading so that you can read more about whatever the subject is. Did you know that when you click those links, you’re giving both the site you’re already on and the new site a boost? Yep! SEO magic at work.
There are two types of links on any given site: internal links and external links. They’re pretty much what you think. Internal links link to other pages on the website, while external links take you to other articles. Pop quiz: What kind of link is that at the beginning of this paragraph? Correct! It’s external! (And a seriously great deep dive into link strategy!)
An easy way to do this is to take a look at the blogs you have on your site right now. (And you do have a blog, right? If not, let’s talk.) Which of these blogs can be linked to other places on your site? For example, we have a great blog on marketing data that is also linked on our page about our data and analytics services for clients. Make sure that when you’re doing this, you’re linking keyword phrases (like “marketing data” above) and not just the word “blog.” Google takes this into consideration, as well.
SEO Mistake 3: You’re not optimizing your titles and descriptions.
This is probably my favorite part of SEO: Optimizing titles and descriptions. There are a couple of things you need to do to have a great SEO title:
- Use your keyword close to the beginning of the title. (Don’t know your keyword? See the next section.)
- Make it something that will get your audience’s attention.
- Keep it around 70 characters.
- Make sure it’s descriptive.
This is the tag Google is going to pull from when someone searches for something, along with the description.
Depending on who you talk to, your meta description can be either one of the most important aspects of SEO or really just not worth the time. You’re “talking” to me, though, and I’m going to tell you it’s absolutely crucial to get your description correct. In my opinion, this is the number-one thing that gets people to click through to your site from Google. If your description is just rehashing the generic description from your homepage, not only is no one going to click it, but you’re going to go down in the results because Google will see it as duplicate content.
SEO Mistake 4: You’re not doing your research.
There are two main parts of research when it comes to SEO: Keyword research and competitor research. I could write an entire book on both of these subjects, but I’ll make it quick:
For keyword research, the first thing you need to think of is what you’re trying to get your page to rank for. That is, what do you want people to search for to find your site? Like the example above, if it’s Indianapolis guitar shops, you need to make sure that’s in your title, description, and copy. But you’ll also need to do some research to find other, longer keywords (called “long tail”) that maybe not as many people are searching for. This is a good thing. If someone is looking specifically for “Indianapolis Gibson guitar repair,” and they come across your site, they already know what they want, and they’re likely to choose your shop for their repairs.
There’s a philosophy in content marketing: It’s better to have 10 of the right people find your site than 500 of the wrong people. By doing your keyword research, you’re making sure that those 10 people get where you want them to go.
The other type of research is competitor research. Who is your biggest competitor? What are they currently ranking for? Which keywords can you use to rank higher than them? One of my favorite (Free!) tools for this process is Neil Patel’s Ubersuggest. He also has an incredibly in depth blog on how SEO competitive research works that I absolutely recommend to anyone wanting to know more about this part of SEO.
SEO Mistake 5: You’re too focused on writing for Google and not for your audience.
I can hear you already. “Are you kidding me, Sierra?! You just spent this whole blog talking about how to make Google like my site!” I know, I know. Just hear me out.
Perfecting SEO for your website is going to be an ongoing process because of how much everything changes. If you don’t have someone in-house doing your SEO for you, you likely won’t have the time to constantly tweak your site. Therefore, you should focus on making your audience happy. One of the biggest ranking factors for SEO is how long someone spends on your page. If readers are generally spending 2-5 minutes there, Google knows it’s probably full of good information and will give it priority ranking. If they’re bouncing (which is the actual term!) after a few seconds, you’re not going to get too far.
Whew. That was a lot. There are so many other aspects to SEO, but fixing these SEO mistakes will give your site a major boost.
Need some more help? Feel free to reach out to us and see what we can do for you.