It’s a tempting prospect to be able to drive traffic to your website for free.
No hefty consultation fees and no sitting through boring Vimeo seminars or (worst still) YouTube videos!
Just you, a keyboard and a dusty Dell.
People are telling you SEO optimisation isn’t as easy as it sounds, but you ignore the doomsayers because you believe in your ability, and you imagine that writing catchy content, cleverly loaded with keywords, is well within your scope of expertise.
So, you do your keyword research, you set up your website with multiple pages and you write a tonne of content about how amazing your business is.
Pretty soon your site looks great on a big desktop computer, and you notice your business starting to appear on the second or third pages of a Google search.
Not necessarily from searches that are exactly matched to your business but hey, what does that matter?
You’re journeying ever closer to the Holy Grail of internet marketing.
Not So Fast
Actually, that’s where the story ends, at least for you.
You see, SEO is a tricky thing to get right.
You can build the basics in a matter of weeks, perhaps even days if you’ve got the time.
But there is more to implementing an effective, watertight SEO strategy than wikiHow would have you believe.
And the chances are you haven’t quite got the knack.
Here are the 7 of the commonest SEO mistakes around
(and, heck, we’ll throw in a little bit about how best to avoid them as well).
1. Your website isn’t mobile ready
Some say desktop dominance is a thing of the past, but a more accurate description of the status quo would be to say its dominance is now shared with mobile devices.
These days half of all website interactions take place via mobile technology, and more than half of us use mobiles to shop on the go.
And when you factor in Google’s mobile-first index, which means Google takes the mobile version of your site as the main version it becomes even more obvious that your mobile site needs to be in tiptop condition and performing at lightning speed.
Naturally, due to the rise of mobile tech use in the commercial sector Google wants its websites to look great and perform well on mobile devices.
If not, what are you waiting for?
Go get your website mobile-ready.
If you overlook this modicum of 21st Century progression, your business – according to Google – is already roving on three wheels, and will lose out by an ever increasing margin to the competitor that is pushing forward on a full set of rollers.
Whether your visitors are using tablets, mobiles or desktops, optimise the website to enable the following:
• Images and videos to load quickly
• The site to modify to fit the screen size
• The site to load at the same speed on every device
By doing so, you create a user-friendly website that weathers any device and any connectivity (that’s something for another day).
And Google likes websites that can do just that.
2. Your website’s structure is chaotic
Website structure is an oft-underrated focus during home improvements.
In fact, it’s probably one of the commonest SEO mistakes made, even by large corporations.
Fact: The way a website is laid out can help or hinder Google’s crawl capability.
Google ‘crawls’ websites.
BUT it has a finite budget for doing so, and will tend to only go after sites that already have high ratings of trust and authority (after all, we’re talking a crawl of millions and millions of websites).
When someone initiates a search, Google’s machine sets to work to read through all of the information it generates from its crawl.
Google lands on the most relevant parts of its ‘Big Book’ and opens it in what we recognise as a search result.
So, in order to push up your ranking in the Big Book you need to make your site easy to read.
There are various ways to improve the efficiency of your site for Google’s benefit.
• Speed up the responsiveness of your site
• Minimise the error pages within your website (to locate errors you can use Google Search Console)
• Add an XML sitemap to your site and submit it to the search engines
• Reduce the number of URLs on your site
And when all of that is done you can make a request that Google re-crawls your website.
3. Not learning more about keywords
SEO is no longer ‘easy’.
Short-tail words use to be regarded as the best way to drive traffic to your website.
But in a short space of time, the SEO technique of adding single keywords to web copy and background code has become somewhat of a white elephant; in other words troublesome, ineffective and more hassle than it’s worth.
Those that still place their trust in the efficacy of short-tail words have not taken into account a recent change to web searching.
Namely, the savvy of the consumer.
Searchers are far shrewder than once they were.
Today, the average search is more likely to include a specific phrase than a single word.
Called a long-tail keyword, the phrase will tend to focus on a specific facet of the consumer’s main search.
Long-tail keyword brings in LESS search traffic but is generally accepted to lead to more conversions than the short-tail kind.
The mistake is to believe that any keyword will do.
4. Hiring a substandard SEO consultant
There are lots of people who want your money, even if you don’t have any.
But if you’re careful enough you will ask yourself (and them) what they are offering in return for your hard-earned cash.
After all, if you pay someone and get nothing back you’re going to feel duped. And then you will feel stupid, and poor.
Be vigilant of SEO consultants who promise you the world because they are likely to be the ones that dupe you.
At best a substandard SEO consultation will bring you nothing except a monthly invoice; at worst, they could do some serious damage to your website and even send you plummeting down the Google rankings.
If your consultant is vague about what they are doing, and won’t furnish you with exactly what changes they plan to make then dump them and look for someone decent.
If instead you make the mistake of holding onto your consultancy for the sake of loyalty (or because you know the cousin of the manager’s wife) then you may find yourself paying more money to another firm to undo the mistakes of the past.
5. Not focusing on the quality of links
Google loves a quality website.
It is drawn towards a trusted authoritative business like a bee to a bowl of sugar water (other similes are available).
To not make your website as trusted and as authoritative as it can be is one of the cardinal sins of the internet.
Yet it is unfortunately one of the most prevalent.
There are millions of websites that have links to pointless directories and only a relative few that are linked to and from authoritative sources, usually in the form of relevant and trusted blogs.
How do you forge these important and valuable links?
That’s your job! It’s where two years at business school pays off.
Network and network some more, forge friendships and communicate. Only when you have done so will you be able to build your reputation.
Fact: Links and partnerships that are relevant, trusted, reliable and consistent will win over a visitor’s confidence and allow them to delve deeper into what you can offer.
6. Not seeking out great content
Let’s talk about content.
The internet is full of shoddy content: copy that is written by a non-native writer, or someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, or someone who believes that they can write 800 words in 10 minutes.
And we haven’t even touched on article spinning software that takes copy from a hardworking scribe and redefines it as ‘original’ content.
Shoddy content, re-spun and low on value and purpose is unattractive both to the consumer and to Google; to host such copy also lessens your credibility as a worthwhile business.
Content does not just need to be original and optimised.
It needs to be readable and written in plain and effective English (or whatever language works for you).
Above all, content needs to be written in such a way as to hold the reader’s attention.
7. Duplicating pages
Finally, we come to duplicated pages: a common oversight for even the seasoned SEO expert.
To have duplicated pages throughout your website (even if unintentional) can create difficulties during Google’s crawl of your site…
And, remember, it all comes down to the CRAWL.
If Google reads a page that looks identical to another it is likely to skip the process altogether.
Duplicated pages come in various forms.
They can be the result of a variation of the page’s domain (www and non-www) or associated with the paginated pages of an e-commerce website; sometimes duplication even arises from incoming links to different versions of your page.
What that says to Google is a site that MIGHT be trustworthy is for whatever reason duplicating itself; that spells danger to the crawl because it is potentially time consuming.
In this case, Google will more than likely move on.
Make sure there is just one authoritative version of your main page in existence.
These are just seven of the commonest mistakes many people make while implementing their SEO strategies.
But don’t be disheartened, because even professional SEOers often overlook the simplest of errors (despite their being paid not to).
In short, to maintain vigilance is all that is called for on your part.
If you notice a broken link, or a duplicated page, a shockingly written article or a mobile version of your site that has five pictures overlapping, make the change and make it fast.
Do something about it and request a re-crawl once you have.
Only when you take action will you move a step upwards in search results.
Lastly, make sure your website is functional when viewed on all manner of devices.
Make sure it loads quickly and is formatted appropriately to enhance a user’s visit.
Do everything you can to ensure your visitors are engaged and excited by what they see.
And avoid at all costs the mistakes of the past that bring boredom and snail-pace functionality to the screen.
Remember: a website that is low on quality, speed and trustworthiness has as much authority as a temporary traffic light at two in the morning.
Do all this and you’ll be on your way to reaching the upper echelons of the search engines.