The term “SEO” is officially a buzzword. What does that mean to you? It means a lot of people, even professionals, wield it like small children do sticks… not always understanding the ins and outs. Even experienced professionals make common SEO mistakes sometimes; mistakes that have come with so many understanding and “practicing” Search Engine Optimization. There are a number of widespread mistakes – those made most commonly. From not doing enough keyword research to using improper copywriting techniques to over-optimizing image markup, read on to learn about top SEO mistakes and how to avoid them.
1. Not Doing Proper Keyword Research: Keyword research is the very cornerstone of any SEO assessment or assignment. You need to know what your customers – and your competitors – search for and rank for, respectively. This means doing a thorough keyword analysis. Thorough keyword analysis means checking the ranking of several terms, sister terms, plural forms of words, and various tenses of terms. Remember, 60% of all keywords entered are four or more words long. Also keep in mind; it’s acceptable to go after terms your competitors rank for.
2. Assigning Too Many Key Terms per Page: Assigning too many terms – some people assign eight or even ten per page – is a common mistake, one often made by the most sensible professional. It’s easy to get carried away in the excitement of finding terms that fit your business… On the flip side, some people assign too few terms per page. General rule of thumb calls for assigning four to six words/terms per optimized page. Try not to repeat term use on different pages. You have the opportunity to chase many terms depending on how many pages you’re optimizing. Don’t limit yourself by repeating a word on four different pages when you could be chasing a different term there and gaining a host of traffic from it.
3. Failing to Optimize Image Markup: You must optimize your images. If your page is full of Flash, how can the search engines read it? Take your Alt Tags and throw a “catchphrase” in there – a sentence fragment that’s roughly five words or less. Too much more than that will confound the search engines and your pages won’t be indexed or fully read. Better to err on the side of too few words here; even if you just use a straight- forward key term to optimize the Alt Tags, at least it’s a keyword, right?
4. Poor Copywriting, Grammar and Spelling: There are multiple errors in this paragraph — see how many you can find.* These are perhaps somewhat of thee most commonly made mistakes in the field of interactive marketing, in general. Few of us were Journalism or English majors so we’re not fluent with AP Stylebook or Chicago Style Manual and the spelling rules contained -therein. Few of us no that it’s actually perfectly acceptable to end a sentence in a preposition or start a newone with the word “and.!” Few of us know the difference between passive and active voice. Aside from spelling, there’s a host of grammatical errors frequently. For example, when your creating a bullet list, did you know that neither every bullet has punctuation at the end or nun of them do? Do you and you’re team know how to use punctuation consistently, how to use direct marketing techniques in your call-to-actions, or just how to be consistent across the site in general? Remember – copywriting doesn’t necessarily demand the strictest observance to formal English grammar. Because your objective is to build an empathetic affinity with the reader, you need to write the way that they speak. Depending on that and your intended audience, using slang, fragments, contractions et al. may be quite acceptable. However, you must maintain credibility as well, so not everything goes. When writing copy, you walk an “unidentifiable-to-the-untrained-eye” line between informality and incomprehensibility! Get it? Many customers will be turned off of your brand if they see misspellings, contradictions in terms, and grammar errors rife on your pages. It just looks amateur, so take the extra step to review. It’s seriously worth your while to hire a contract writer to review all site copy, including navigation, Meta Data, Titles, URLs and all other elements. Grammatical, spelling and copy mistake fixes can be found in the pages of “Writing Copy for Dummies.”
*The paragraph as corrected follows: There are multiple errors in this paragraph — see how many you can find. Spelling and grammar make up perhaps the most commonly made mistakes in the field of interactive marketing. Few of us are Journalism or English majors so we’re not fluent with the AP Stylebook or Chicago Style Manual and the grammar and spelling rules contained therein. Few of us know that it’s perfectly acceptable to end a sentence in a preposition or start a new one with the word “and.” Moreover, there’s a host of grammatical errors frequently made. For example, when creating a bullet list, did you know that either every bullet has punctuation at the end or none of them do? Do you and your team know how to use punctuation consistently, how to use direct marketing techniques in calls-to-action, and how to be consistent across the site?
5. Poor URL Selection: Many professionals and novices make custom URLs either too long, non-descriptive, or sometimes just make them a series of unrelated letters or abbreviations that the company is familiar with. Don’t fall prey to this! URL’s are supposed to be easily digested, simple to read, recognizable. Also, it’s vital that they contain one of if not the most important keyword. URL’s are better if they’re relevant and already have PageRank or authority value.
6. Your Onsite Elements are Lacking: Like the copywriting and grammar section above, this section features a list too extensive to present in full here, but some examples include:
- Failing to have unique Titles for every page or failing to make them relevant to the page.
- Poor descriptions and/or poor inclusion of unique keywords relevant to the page.
- Stuffing keywords on the pages. Don’t simply throw them together in hopes of achieving rankings. There must be some method to weaving them in, i.e., use one per paragraph.
- Having no sitemap or using a poorly organized sitemap.
- Absence of interlinking relevant content within and between the pages of the site. Don’t have content that doesn’t make sense regarding the rest of the pages and the site’s theme in general.
- Poorly organized navigation.
- Poor call-to-action (or having no direct marketing elements).
- Using Flash to design the site. Search engines cannot read Flash. Always Use HTML.
- Believing that doing all of the on-site elements perfectly (Titles, Descriptions, Meta Data, etc) will achieve first page results. This almost never happens. The on-site elements are simply a foundation that you need to get right to have a chance of survival.
7. Not Adding Fresh Content: This is a must-follow rule for ranking in the Top Ten in the SERPS. Did you ever wonder why blogs and news results clutter the top of the SERPS sometimes? Well, it’s because they’re the freshest content available! Search engines love to see daily or weekly content. This is easily obtained by putting up a blog, or posting weekly through optimized articles and press releases.
8. No Back-linking Strategy: “Back-linking,” for those who may not know, is the term used to describe those pages that point back to you, those that link to your pages. You want back-links from quality sites, those with pertinent information, those that are well optimized, and those that offer readers a service or some form of help or information.
9. Failure to Inaugurate an SEO-Friendly Content Management System (CMS): Self-explanatory… If your CMS isn’t search engine-friendly, then how are the search engines supposed to read any part of your website at all?
10. Thinking You Can Do it All, All by Yourself: Trying to do SEO yourself… No one individual can be expected to perform a stellar job in all areas of SEO, its specialties, and its sub-specialties. You may find that you need one person for the Paid Media side, one for keyword research and competitor analysis, one for back-linking and link development overall, another for copywriting, blogging and optimized press releases, and yet another for the technical side of SEO. Hence, SEO requires an entire team of individuals that are highly trained – not just one individual who can hold his own in all areas.
Karen Lynch represents Stone Crossing Solutions; a professional interactive marketing firm that has decades of experience in all aspects of professional search engine optimization. Get a free SEO assessment today and you’ll see what Stone Crossing Solutions can do you; receive your free evaluation of the top eight dimensions critical to SEO performance and you’ll be competitive in the marketplace like you’ve never been before. For more information about Stone Crossing Solutions, feel free to go to http://www.stonecrossingsolutions.com.