Everyone thinks they can win at SEO, but some SEO hopefuls make some pretty amateur mistakes – ones that can even hurt your rankings. Nancy Strauss, today’s guest poster, thought it might be a good idea to remind you of 5 SEO mistakes that make you look like an amateur… and I agreed. Enjoy!
I keep getting spam from “SEO companies” who promise that they can improve my website rankings for Google.
I figure if these companies were actually good at SEO, then they wouldn’t have to spam anyone. Customers would come to them. That’s the whole point of SEO — people who search on Google for the service you provide find your website in the top results.
The benefits of SEO are clear, and because it doesn’t have to cost money, it has become a particularly important tool for freelancers and small businesses with limited marketing budgets.
Want to optimize your website, or even your client’s? Avoid these common SEO mistakes:
Mistake # 1 – Trying to trick the search engines
A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to a woman who has an online editing business, and the topic of search engine optimization came up. “Oh, I know all about that,” she said. “I put certain words all over my website in white font so that you can’t see them, but Google will pick them up.”
No, no, no, no, no. This woman is risking getting her site banned by Google.
Search engines base their business on delivering relevant and useful search results. In order to do this, search engines use keywords on a Web page to figure out what the page is about.
There are a number of ways that people try to manipulate search engine results, such as including hidden text and links or cramming pages full of irrelevant keywords. These so-called “black hat” SEO techniques have the effect of making search engine results less useful to searchers, not more so.
And the search engines are getting better and better at filtering out – and even penalizing – such manipulation.
If you’re tempted to try something sneaky, ask yourself this: do you really think you can outsmart Google?
Mistake # 2 – Choosing useless keywords
I run a document translation company, and a couple of years ago, we relaunched the company’s website. At the time, I didn’t know much about search engine optimization, but since the company specializes in providing translation services to the market research sector, I decided to optimize the new website for the search term “market research translations.”
A short time afterward, I did a Google search for “market research translations” and was delighted to see our website come up in the top results. It worked! Great, right?
No, not so great.
As it turns out, ranking highly for the search term “market research translations” is pretty much useless because no one searches Google for that term.
With the proper research, I could have figured this out in advance and optimized for keywords that our potential clients actually use when searching.
If you’re looking for a way to research keyword demand, you might start with GoogleAdwords keyword tool and WordTracker. You’d be surprised at what you might discover.
Mistake # 3 – Choosing keywords you can’t win
Let’s say you’re a copywriter specialized in travel brochures. You’ve done some keyword research and found that no one is searching for “hotel brochure copywriting,” but lots of people are searching for the word “copywriting.”
Why not optimize your site for that word? The more popular the word, the better — right?
Here’s the problem with that strategy. Optimizing for a word is not enough. You have to “win” that word on Google by becoming one of the top results when people search for that word. If your site is number 200 in the results list, no one will find it there.
If you optimize for the word “copywriting,” you’ll be competing with a huge number of websites for the top few Google results. For a new website on a small budget, this word will be nearly impossible to win.
Optimizing for such a common term as “copywriting” is not totally useless, though, since your website might come up when people search for that term in combination with others (for example, if your website mentions a trade fair in Nashville, and someone searches on Google for “Nashville copywriting services.”)
But your SEO strategy should not focus on the word “copywriting” alone. Look for terms that have high enough search volume to be worth the effort, but which have a manageable level of competition.
Mistake # 4 – Ignoring off-page factors
You’ve chosen ideal keywords and integrated them into your website in an ideal way. But on-page factors are not the only criteria that search engines consider.
What you need now is links. You need links to your website from other related websites — real links from real websites, not links from spammy directories or links that you buy. You need these links in order to improve the search engine performance of your site. Google gives better ranking to sites that have other sites linking to them.
Some ways to get links include guest posting on blogs, writing for article directories, and sending out press releases.
Getting links can be time-consuming, and you may not feel like putting in the effort. After all, the idea of SEO is that the customers come to you. If you have to do marketing and write press releases, then why do SEO at all?
You do SEO for the future. If you market your site with press releases but don’t optimize it for search engines, then you’ll have to keep writing press releases indefinitely. When the press releases stop, your website traffic is likely to stop as well.
Put in the work now, and reap the benefits later.
Mistake # 5 – Short-term thinking
If you optimize your site today, you won’t see the results of your work tomorrow. You might not see the results even after a couple of months. Search engine optimization, like building a business, takes time to pay off.
Give up too soon, and you’re likely to fail. Instead, try to focus on your long-term goals. Be patient, and keep working away at it. Eventually, your SEO efforts can turn into a steady flow of free qualified traffic to your website — potential customers coming to you.
That’s a result worth waiting for.
About the Author: Nancy Strauss is a writer and entrepreneur based in Spain. Her latest project is the development of free online writing courses for Creative-Writing-Now.com, a website for new fiction writers and poets.