You know the basics of SEO. You’re not an expert, by any stretch, but you think you’ve got this SEO thing down, right?
If you’re like many site owners, you’re making the same SEO mistakes over and over again. Why? Because, like many site owners, you have a faulty understanding of what SEO is.
Here are some of the mistakes your site may be making and what you should do instead.
One of the most common SEO mistakes by far is choosing the wrong keywords for your site.
Let’s say, for example, that your site is a lawn care business. When people visit your site, they’re looking for lawn care and not, say, Chihuahua toys. They’re not looking for house paint or home maintenance, either. They’re looking for lawn care.
So why would you want to attract people looking for Chihuahua toys or house paint?
You don’t, obviously. But if your keywords don’t match what your site has to offer, you’ll get traffic that isn’t actually relevant to your services.
Another common mistake is a bit more complex than that.
Let’s say you know what keywords apply to you. So you stick to every one-word variation on relevant keywords you can find.
The problem, of course, is that your customers don’t use single-word search queries. Most searchers actually prefer long-tail keywords or keywords with multiple words.
The reason for this is simple: when most people search, they ask a question. For example, “How often should I mow my lawn?” or, “What kinds of toys are safe for a Chihuahua?”
If you don’t know what keywords your customers are searching for, how will your site appear in relevant searches?
The best way to resolve this problem is keyword research.
Start by thinking about what your business does. Make a list of words or phrases related to your goods or services. For example, if you sell furniture, the list might look like:
- Living room furniture
- Dining room furniture
- Dining room table
- Cost of a sofa
- How much does a sofa cost
From there, you can turn to a keyword research tool, like Google Keyword Planner. A keyword research tool will tell you whether anyone is searching for a keyword, and if so, how competitive it is and who else is already ranking for it.
So if you’re a small business trying to rank against industry giants, you’re fighting a losing battle. But you could rank for keywords dominated by businesses just a bit bigger than you.
From there, stick to long-tail keywords and resist the call of big numbers. If you’re new to this business, you won’t beat Goliath in one blog post.
Once you have a keyword list, you’re ready to start using it in your webpages and posts.
A word to the wise: don’t get overexcited.
Aside from optimizing the wrong keywords, the second most common keyword mistake is keyword stuffing, which is cramming your blog post with keywords like a Thanksgiving turkey that’s so overstuffed it’s more bread than bird.
In Ye Olden Days of early SEO, keyword stuffing was actually a valid practice. It was the way to show search engines that you were producing valuable, relevant content on a certain topic.
These days, it’s a different story. Keyword stuffing belongs in the realm of black hat SEO and search engines view it as spam. You won’t necessarily get banned from Google, but you’ll be in serious trouble and it will take a while to dig yourself out of that hole.
So, how do you show search engines that your content is relevant without creating spam?
For one thing, you don’t need to worry about pointless repetitions. Google now uses Latent Semantic Indexing, which can recognize your topic without the need for endless repetition.
That doesn’t mean keywords are dead. Quite the opposite, in fact. They remain just as important as ever.
If you’re not sure how to strike a balance, stick to using keywords naturally (using them in your title tags, headers, and meta descriptions also help).
And speaking of content, another major mistake many site owners make is not having awesome content to house their relevant keywords.
There are no two ways around it: content is king.
Think of it this way.
Google is a business. Their service is to provide the most useful answers to their customers’ questions, whatever those questions may be.
In order to give those answers, they turn to other sites on the web (you).
Like any other business, Google wants to provide the best answers possible to provide the best service possible. So they prioritize sites that give the most complete answer to a question (i.e. the best content). Basically, they want to find experts.
Here’s the thing: if your blog post or web page on the topic is just a couple hundred words or a few sentences, Google doesn’t believe you’re an expert. And rightfully so–how can you provide a good answer if you don’t spend time delving into a topic?
The solution? Simple: write great content.
The best way to do this? Think about the content that your customers want to read. What questions are pressing to them, and what questions would they rely on you to answer?
Then, write content that answers those questions. Once you start producing content, don’t stop–a great deal of high-quality content helps boost your domain authority, the measure of your expertise in this online field.
Once you have awesome content ready to go, you can focus on other aspects of the game, like content distribution and building a following.
If you can see your site in these mistakes, here’s the good news: now you know.
Even better? Now you know what to do instead.
And once you move on from the same old SEO mistakes, you can focus on more important things, like making your site a true asset to your customers.
Benjamin Shepardson is the founder of NoStop Writing Service. With an extensive career in digital marketing and web development, Ben’s knowledge of the industry has enabled small businesses to scale and grow through well-crafted content and strategy.