I know its Monday but you can hold the excuses. There’s no room at the inn for anything but action.
It doesn’t matter who your company is, what you do, how tech savvy you are (or aren’t), or how much business you do offline – if you’re not paying attention to your site’s search engine optimization efforts and doing everything in your power to increase your Web presence, you’re making yourself look a fool. And only you can change it, either by cleaning up the mistakes yourself or by investing in SEO consulting services to help you do it quickly and efficiently. It’s your call. However, what you can’t do is do nothing.
Below are some common SEO mistakes that make you look dumb simply by committing them. They also hurt your business. Fix it.
Refusal to woo your Title Tag
Every page on your Web site should be sporting a unique Title tag. One that is descriptive of the content on the page, is engaging enough to entice a click, and that uses anchor text you wouldn’t mind if people used when linking to you. Remember that your Title tag is what a user will see when they stumble across your content in the search results, how it’s listed in their bookmarks, what shows up in real-time search when tweeted, and, often, what someone will use when linking to your site. In other words, it’s important so you better make sure you’re spending time massaging it. If you’re not and you’re just throwing your company name or some other useless term in there, well, go find someone who looks willing to kick you in the shin and ask them to do so because you deserve it. Also, don’t be afraid to create a unique Title tag for posts and articles you write. It’s a good way to tackle both the user and the search engines’ needs.
Marrying awful URLs
Like a husband who just sits on the couch all day, bad URLs hold you back and are a complete turn off. During the Top Shelf SEO panel at this year’s PubCon Vegas, Stephan Spencer quoted stats that found short URLs get clicked on twice as often as long ones. He went on to say that long URLs act as a deterrent to clicking, drawing attention away from a listing and passing the attention off to the one below it (ie a competitor). All of that illustrates the power and importance of tweaking things to make sure you’re getting an optimal URL. If you’re using WordPress, make sure you’re tweaking your Permalink settings and not using the default option which makes your URL strings about as sexy as the New England Patriots played last night.
Navigation you need a Master’s Degree to use
Unless you have a really, really good reason for doing so, please stay away from Flash navigations (or, God forbid, putting the whole site in Flash). I’ve seen too many small business owners accidentally create sites that the search engines simply cannot see and have no clue are there. And even if you ignore the fact that it’s a huge obstacle for the spiders, create a Flash navigation and you almost guarantee that your users will hate you. You will develop an audience of people who would like nothing more than to strangle you with your own Flash nav. It’s awful and I’m getting so old I no longer have the physical dexterity I need to maneuver it.
Befriending the wrong keywords
It doesn’t matter how many articles are published on keyword research tactics or even advanced tactics, businesses (especially larger ones) are still going to waste their time chasing terms and traffic that simply won’t convert. Because they’re all about the ego and thinking they know better than their customers. But they’re wrong. You should be using a toolbox of solutions to help you target the right keywords for your business. That means relying on keyword research search tools like Wordtracker, Wordstream and SEO Book; tools offered by the search engines like Google Insights for Search, Bing Search Suggestions, Twitter Trending options; and, of course, your own analytics to give you insight into what terms are actually converting for you.
Spitting in your neighbor’s face
We are far beyond the point where it is okay for you to ignore local search. Even if you’re not a pizzeria located on the corner of Main Street, you need to be localizing your content and doing your part to show up in these different indexes. You can start by including local-specific keywords in your site content and using your full address on the header or footer of your site, but you can’t stop there. You need to follow our list of the 4 things SMB owners must do in 2011 or Die, because that’s how important local search has become. Claim your listings in the search engines local platforms and third-party data providers, complete your Google Places profile; become familiar with tools like Facebook Places, Yelp for Business, Foursquare, Twitter Places, etc; and create a strategy for soliciting reviews, managing reviews, and responding to negative reviews. Good search engine optimization includes paying attention to local SEO. There’s no getting around it.
Botching your internal linking
Every time I watch a site link internally with anchor text winners like “here”, “post” or “ hey, lookie lookie”, part of my soul dies. With all the effort we put into link development and trying to lovingly manipulate people into not only linking to us, but linking to us with preferred anchor text, it makes no sense that we wouldn’t take advantage of the links that are within our control. Whenever you’re linking to a page on your own site, whether it’s from a blog post, your home page, a service page, whatever, make sure you’re using optimized anchor text. Otherwise, you just look silly.
Not using analytics
Performing search engine optimization without the insight of analytics is like navigating an unfamiliar environment in the dark. Don’t be too surprised when you wind up walking into a wall or bashing your knee on a desk that came out of nowhere. As an SEO, you’re responsible for more than just traffic, you’re responsible for money and for conversions. That means you really need to understand the activity on your site, what terms actually convert for you, and your traffic hubs. The more information you know about your site and user behavior, the better you can optimize it for searchers. And the more money you’ll make. But you can’t improve anything if you’re walking around in the dark. Grab a flashlight.
Those are some of the most common search engine optimization mistakes that drive me up the wall. I’m sure there are others that grind at you. Let me hear it.
About the Author
Lisa Barone co-founded Outspoken Media in 2009 and served as Chief Branding Officer until April 2012.