The 5 Most Common SEO Mistakes & How to Avoid Them in Your Search Engine Optimization Strategy
SEO is one of the most misunderstood topics in digital marketing today. But it earns that title rightfully, because it’s a bit of a moving target. What was best practice a year ago, or even a month ago, may now be completely different.
For most amateurs undertaking search engine optimization strategy on their own (the DIYers), there are some basics that don’t change a whole lot over time. And if you’re in a less competitive situation with your keywords and phrases, you can often DIY the strategy and get a good return on your investment of time, money, & expertise. If not, this is definitely a topic that is best handled by dedicated professionals who are constantly evolving tactics they employ on your behalf.
The core areas where most modern SEO strategy focuses include:
- Web Competition
Whether you’re DIYing your way to SEO success, or just want to make sure your hired guns are the real deal, here are some of the most common SEO mistakes we encounter (or that we’ve learned the hard way).
Mistake #1: Fighting for Hills Not Worth Taking
The most common mistake we see is people flying blind. By that, I mean people who build search engine optimization strategy around keywords and phrases no one actually types into the search engines. Subsequently, you waste time, money, & expertise owning keywords and phrases that are of no value.
The best way to avoid this mistake is do your research. Optimizing before research is “ready – fire – aim” thinking. I once had a long debate with an orthopedic surgeon who thought we should be optimizing his site around the term “shoulder arthroplasty” instead of “shoulder replacement surgery.” He assumed everyone searched the way he talked. In fact, people use phrases like “shoulder pain” and “my shoulder hurts” far more than the medical term for the repair surgery.
We realized via research and analysis that primary care physicians were telling patients they had “frozen shoulder,” and telling them they need t
o see an orthopedic surgeon for evaluation. By focusing his SEO strategy on “frozen shoulder,” we were able to intervene with new patients BEFORE they had chosen a surgeon; arguably the most valuable time to get their attention.
By doing our research on the front end, we didn’t waste time trying to own keywords and phrases that were of no value to the business.
Mistake #2: Getting Lost in High-Traffic Fights & Ignoring Higher-Value “Long Tail” Searches
Another common SEO mistake we see is putting too much attention on the most generic terms (where there is often the greatest competition) and ignoring so-called “long tail” searches that can be much better at yielding excellent prospects for the business.
What’s a long-tail search? Essentially, a phrase that, while getting lower search volume, often indicates a well-targeted buyer or prospect. For example, we work with a lot of realtors. They always gravitate toward phrases like “best realtor in…” and while those can indicate people who are in-market for a realtor (and are good ego-plays as well), we often find the best prospects in phrases like “homes for sale in…” — and you fill in the blank with neighborhood names, small suburban town names, and prestigious areas of town.
These “long tail” phrases might only get 10 searches a month, but they’re extremely valuable, especially if you’re a listing agent who specializes in certain neighborhoods or suburbs, as many top realtors often do.
When we do our keyword research, we go deep into the results to find low-volume, high-value searches we can “own” for our clients as part of the search engine optimization strategy. That way, their SEO doesn’t put all the eggs in the most highly-competitive baskets; leaving little gems out there we can dominate.
Mistake #3: Putting Blinders On & Ignoring What the Competition is Doing
We think of SEO as a bit of a boxing match with your competitors. You throw a punch. Then they throw a punch. And so on.
When you execute your initial search engine optimization strategy, it gets results of some kind (good or bad). Let’s say you achieve a higher rank than your competitors. Assuming you do, let’s also assume they notice this and respond. As they respond, ranking will change again. And this goes back and forth, often in perpetuity.
In the popularity contest that is SEO, there is always an aspect of keeping up with the Jones’. SEO is not a “set it and forget it” kind of proposition. And when you’re in a highly-competitive category where you and multiple competitors are fighting it out, it can get downright ugly.
Clients often come to us saying, “We did all this SEO stuff and it’s just not getting us where we want to go.” The first question we ask ourselves and the client is, “Why?” A frequent conclusion is that one of the common SEO mistakes is being made; namely, ignoring the competition.
Search engines have the goal of getting searchers to the best, most useful result the fastest. So it’s important to look at anything the search engine ranks higher than you and understand why. Typically, it’s ranking higher for one or more of these reasons:
- It gets more TRAFFIC than your page
- The CONTENT is more compelling
- Users tend to SPEND MORE TIME with it
- Users tend to ENGAGE with it more
- It has more BACKLINKS from other sites
- It has superior OPTIMIZATION
- More & better IMAGES and/or VIDEOS
- Superior READABILITY
- Superior META data
Then, you simply set out to make your page better. To learn more about how we get this done, please contact us.
Mistake #4: Ignoring Feedback from the Search Engines Themselves
Imagine if the search engines were willing to give you feedback on your site and let you know why they don’t rank you higher. That would be great, right? Well, they do. And it is, in fact, great.
But one of the most common SEO mistakes we see happening is ignoring the search engines themselves! This may be you. It’s OK. It’s easy to fix.
Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools are free products that essentially let you tell the search engines:
- Who You Are
- What You Do
- Where You Do It
- Which Searchers You Want to Reach
You register your site for free. The search engines crawl your site, and give you ongoing feedback about:
- How They Rank You
- What Searches You Were Shown In
- How Those Went
- Problems They Have With You
This is free feedback that is commonly ignored. It can often provide a road map of what needs to be fixed about your search engine optimization strategy. We use it to help set priorities with clients all the time.
At least half the time when I sit down with a business owner or marketing professional and they say, “I don’t get it. When I type what we do into the search engine, we don’t even come up anywhere!” And in many of those situations, the business’ website hasn’t been registered with Google or Bing.
This has negative impacts on local search, and is a foundational element of any successful SEO strategy that is being totally ignored. It’s like trying to build a house on sand with no foundation. It won’t work.
Mistake #5: Assuming Backlinks Are Too Hard to Get
The last common SEO mistake we’ll address here is backlinking. The more competitive the situation, the more critical backlinks are in achieving high rank. Ignoring backlinks on the assumption that they’re too hard to get, or not that important essentially throws a white flag up when there is a lot of competition.
Let’s briefly explain what a backlink even is, and how it factors into your SEO rank. A backlink is essentially a link back to your page or article from a third-party website. These are commonly earned when your content is great and people want to give you credit for repeating what you created, or bought, or embedded in free content you provide to other websites, etc.
There are myriad ways to earn backlinks, and not every backlink is created equal. There is some combination of quantity and quality that will make sense for your unique situation. We can help you determine that; just contact us.
Over the years we have developed a number of creative ways to achieve high-value backlinks. And since we’re also a publisher of news and lifestyle content, we have some built-in ways of achieving those goals, too. And another of our companies, EmpowerLocal (see, I just created a backlink), has a network of hundreds of hyperlocal news and lifestyle websites around the US — giving us access to a great number of potential backlink partners.
How To Know If You’re Making These Mistakes
At Source Local Media, we invest in our clients long before they invest in us. If you’re unhappy with your SEO strategy or don’t have an SEO strategy but suspect you need one, please contact us and we will do a free assessment for you with recommendations.
Thank you for reading and happy SEO!