Small businesses, beware.
A longtime client of mine recently told me that he had signed up with a SEO marketing company (you know, the ones who constantly fill your spam folder).
He said he was paying $350 a month and that they guaranteed his site will rank number one on Google within a few months. I quickly told him he was probably being scammed and that there is no way to guarantee search rank, especially in such a short timeframe.
Then of course he asked me, then what does improve ranking? Good question.
Many of you, like my client, have probably already struggled with this thing called SEO (Search Engine Optimization).
What is it? How does one acquire the elusive high ranking on sites such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing? Although I’m no SEO expert, much of what it entails is a mixture of basic knowledge, common sense, time, and effort.
You can put your wallet away as I explain the top SEO mistakes you need to stop falling for, and what to do instead.
SEO is just a mixture of basic knowledge, common sense, time, and effort. Click To Tweet
Mistake #1: Hiring any SEO company that solicits you and/or makes outrageous guarantees
While there are some legit companies that deal specifically with improving ranking, they are not the ones who feel the need to send you a dozen emails promising the world. Instead, they will be quick to tell you that results won’t be seen for 6-12 months. Or longer. And that search engine optimization is just a small part of a larger, more holistic marketing approach.
So beware of any kind of “spammy” solicitation with lofty promises.
The reason you should avoid these type of companies is because, one, most of the stuff you can do for free on your own (which I will explain in a minute), and two, they can ultimately hurt your ranking.
Mistake #2: Buying hundreds or thousands of backlinks
One of the ways that Google ranks your website is by how many other (relevant) sites link back to it.
For example, if you sell shoes, how many other shoe related websites link to your own.
Unfortunately, there are now ways to actually purchase or rent hundreds of these backlinks, mostly through Mistake #1. The problem is, these links are usually not relevant and are already blacklisted as spam or poor quality. And that can get you in trouble. JC Penney was recently caught doing just that, and got penalized by search engines.
Mistake #3: Inserting keywords into every nook and cranny of your website
Google’s search engine uses highly advanced algorithms, which are mathematical equations that nobody has been able to crack. And they are constantly being updated and changed by the world’s smartest MIT grads.
So any kind of trick or technique that might have worked yesterday won’t work tomorrow. This includes, for example, the overuse of keywords and meta tags stuffed throughout your site in the hopes of improving ranking. While this worked back in 1996, Google has since figured out when the use of keywords becomes spam. So use them wisely, like in your headings and page titles.
Use keywords wisely, like in your headings and page titles. Click To Tweet
Otherwise, the more of these mistakes you make, the more likely it is that Google will mark your whole website as spam. Then your site could potentially be blacklisted—removed indefinitely from its listing.
Mistake #4: Writing content for search engines, not readers
Google and other search engines are now so smart, they can tell when you’re doing the above. Ironically, when you write content for your readers, it naturally helps your ranking. Why? Because your readers are more likely to stay on your page, and to come back to your website. Which improves ranking and relevance.
Mistake #5: Not having original content
Another problem with hiring somebody else to take care of your SEO is, you don’t know where their content is coming from. Is it original, or did they copy and paste from another website? Did they get it from a blog post mill? Or outsource it from India?
If it’s not original, that means it’s duplicate content. And search engines loath duplicate content, because it screams spam. So write your own content or make sure the person you hired is.
Mistake #6: Having no content
Notice a trend? I keep using the word content. What is that? Well, you’re reading it. The most basic form of content is in the form of articles and blogs. Video and podcasts are good content too, as long as they’re transcribed. Search engines love content. It’s what keeps readers engaged and increases the relevancy and value of your site. I tell clients this it the number one thing they can do to increase their ranking. Remember the adage, “content is king“?
Repeat after me: Content is King. Content is King. Click To Tweet
I know, I know, it takes time and effort. But it’s worth it, and it’s necessary. Your visitors expect it now.
If your website only has an “about me” and a “contact us” page, they’ll stay for all of 20 seconds. You need to give them a reason to stay a while, put their feet up, and keep coming back. Posting even just once or twice a month is enough to make this happen, and the more you do it, the easier it becomes.
Avoiding these mistakes works, because I did it
Not so long ago I went from being on page 5 of Google to the #2 spot. How did this happen? It wasn’t overnight, I can tell you that.
It happened by writing blog posts, like this one, and leaving comments on other design blogs linking back to my site, and included keywords in my page titles. And then I just stopped worrying about it.
One day, out of curiosity, I did a search for “graphic designer Scottsdale,” and sure enough, there I was! On the coveted first page of Google*.
The moral of the story? If I can do SEO, then anyone can.
*This was when I was operating under the name Sheila Patterson Design. I’m sure since rebranding and moving I’ll have to work my way back up again.
What other mistakes would you recommend avoiding? Have you fallen for any of these recently? What SEO tips have you found helpful in increasing your own rankings?