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Back to the Basics to Make Sure we Don’t Miss the Point of SEO

Without a doubt, the number one mistake most webmasters make is not taking SEO seriously, keeping it at basic level, or just focusing their efforts on manipulation rather than optimization. Many webmasters will argue that content is the most important part of obtaining high ranking… the elephant in the room… apparently not realizing that content is also part of the optimization process and that the two go hand in hand. For many, this topic can be a bit nerve-wracking due to misinterpretation of the use of SEO, something far too commonly seen over the past 10 years 🙁

SEO Made Easy Articles –Yeah right!

SEO is Not Easy! One needs the correct knowledge and proper tools in order to do the job right. Everything else is basically a waste of time. Ten years of experience has taught me to pay proper respect to Google’s engineers for working hard to deliver authoritative and trusted results, fight spam, and root out poor content laden websites that exist in droves. I think everybody should be tuned in to what the industry leaders suggest (and sometimes dictate).

When you think of SEO as a method of adjusting your website to work in harmony with the search engines rather than try to chase after them, you are on the right track. (Not a secret. Right?) Well, not once, but many times I had to turn down deals solely because of unrealistic expectations that centered around requests for ineffective/manipulative practices that I knew from the start were doomed to fail. Many business owners are seeking help to promote their company without first conducting basic due diligent research. As a result, they end up choosing a company that provides the world for “as low as” $299 a month (yeah right!).

Whether you DIY with the best value SEO software, or hire professional help, make sure to avoid the following 12 SEO mistakes that I see being committed time and time again. For the pros, this information serves as their commandments. For others, it can be a good reference list about SEO basics.

Mistake #1 – Not Performing a Thorough Keyword Research

Performing anything less than thorough keyword research can tank your marketing efforts and completely undermine your entire strategy. Perhaps the most common mistake made by newcomers, and even seo software companies, is not knowing enough about keyword research. Without the right knowledge and tools, data can be misinterpreted. An example of this is focusing on very popular keywords and using them as the basis for the entire keyword strategy. To truly grasp the keyword research process, begin with the basics and learn what a buying funnel is. Very important – try to target buyer keywords and nothing else. If you need more information on what buyer keywords are, you would benefit from the book “How To Find Profitable Buyer Keywords In 30 Minutes” by Sam Philips.

Finding keywords with high volume is not enough. In fact, in some instances it can be the wrong thing to do. Business owners, stop chasing only high traffic phrases. The wrong traffic can cause a chain reaction that leads to low ranking. If you are interested in diving into keyword research a bit deeper, I have created a short video that explains my employees keyword research steps, however, it only explains what to do, not the moving parts and/or why. I use an excel file with formulas I’ve created to help me find the best terms for my clients. Here is the link to the excel file.

Tools and knowledgebase required:

  • Questionnaire – collect data about the prospect
  • Google Keyword Planner
  • Rank Tracker
  • Excel
  • Consider using SEMrush, Keyword Difficulty, (Moz) and the familiar tools you are comfortable working with

Mistake #2 – Not Having a Strong Core!

You can have the best design, the best seo marketing software, and great keywords, but if your website’s core is not readable to search engine bots, the point is moot. A webmaster that is familiar with CSS/HTML may be tempted to customize the look and feel of their website theme pages. This is fine if you know what you are doing; however, if the code is not up to par to begin with, it may be a waste of time. Google has to be able to read your pages and crawl smoothly. For example, WordPress has a great reputation and many wonderful, core-solid themes to work with. There are many reasons to use a good CMS, but many more reason why other solutions are like sticks in the wheels.

I cannot stress enough the importance of having a proper website design and framework. It can mean the difference between having wings and running a marathon while attached to a ball and chain. Having the right foundation is important for the growth and success of your web marketing investment. I personally work very closely with several excellent web-designers and most of my clients start with a website’s facelift and code upgrades. Here is a short list of what we look at:

  • Review and fix issues of important files (.htaccess, robots.txt, sitemap.xml)
  • Improve site link structure (there is always room for improvement here)
  • Review all server requests (404, 301, 302, 410, 200)
  • Site speed… including GTmetrix. A good tool to find out what is causing your website to run slowly (also explained farther down)
  • Check for duplicate content on the main landing pages
  • Improve sales copy
  • Accessibility and Compatibility issues
  • Permalinks (also explained farther down)
  • Overall design issues and the general look and feel of your website
  • The Call to Action

Tools and knowledge base required:

  • Here is a great source for website templates
  • Having a good hosting company is not a bad idea (I wish I could tell you who not to go with)
  • Choose your web designer wisely. Many people don’t know this, but developing a website requires a good designer and a good programmer, and usually, they are two very different people that think very differently from one another. Make sure you hire a company that has a good reputation and vast experience in this field or you may find yourself redesigning your website a few months down the road.

Mistake #3 – The Overlooked Title Tag

Sorry, I know that this is very basic but it’s so important and so overlooked that I have to write something about it. Surprisingly enough, many ecommerce webmasters still do not realize the importance of the title tag. Underestimating the importance of the title is one of the biggest mistakes made. An improper title can reduce your rank by a matter of several pages. Incredibly, there are only a few small adjustments that must be made to correct this costly error. All you have to remember are the following tips.

Do yourself a favor and download Screaming Frog. It will allow you to review all your titles and ensure they follow the practices below:

  • Keep the titles less than 70 characters, including spaces
  • The title of your post/product can be the title tag (and should be)
  • Your title should be short, yet captivating
  • Insert your main keyword naturally, preferably closer to the beginning
  • Use action words whenever possible

The words “How To…” are the most effective two words that you can use in a title in 2014. The reasons are further explained here – feed the bird.

Tools and knowledge base required:

  • Creativity
  • Screaming Frog
  • Understanding title structure

Mistake #4 – Not Maintaining and Posting on your Blog Consistently (or not having one)

Start writing about ways to help others find the information they might be looking for in your niche. Share your wisdom and give people good advice. No, you are not wasting your time, and no, you are not giving up your trade secrets (most common comments I get). People purchase products/services because they have a need for them. True, you might get visitors only interested on DIY information, however, if people do find out that you have vast knowledge about what you do, they may eventually convert. Business owners often overlook this opportunity and leave it last on their to-do list.

keyword research

The simple explanation behind your blog being the driving force of relevant traffic to your site can be explained in three short sentences.

  1. If you find the time to blog four times a month (or have somebody blog on your behalf), you will have an additional of 48 pages in one year.
  2. If you get only 25 visits on each page during the whole year, you will have gained 1200 visitors that showed interest about your services or what you do.
  3. Play with these numbers to fit your needs and schedule. FYI, I was very conservative in calculating only 25 visits per page, per year. If the content is good, it will attract much more.

Tools and knowledge base required:

  • Make sure you have an easy to use CMS
  • Schedule blog posts throughout the month
  • Procure an awesome copywriting team
  • Google – the best place to research

Mistake #5 – Trying to Impress Google

Speaking of posting on your blog… another huge mistake is the misconception that your content should be directed at the search engines or that there is some magic search engine content formula that will rank you higher. The reality is that content should be directed squarely at the readers and their needs (cliché to some of you, right).

Google’s sole purpose is in pleasing the people behind the searches. Google will shower love down upon websites that do the same. We are actually very fortunate that content does not have to please Google… who has seen it all. Pleasing Google would be like climbing Mount Everest with one arm, barefoot, and blindfolded. 

Using search engine Marketing software and SEO tactics are sometimes necessary, however, the content should be written for your readers.Writing content that is interesting, original, and reader-centric is easy by comparison and it will get you much further in the ranks. In short, Google values content that is valuable to the reader. Bypass the middleman (Google) and start pleasing your prospects. To know whom you need to aim your information at, first learn how to build a buyer persona.

If readers do not like your content, Google will not like your content. If readers show you love by providing likes and tweets, and a low bounce rate, Google will also show you love (Social shares are not part of Google’s  organic ranking system yet, but Google tends to listen to the people)

Tools and knowledge base required:

  • Nothing, stop trying to impress Google, the honeymoon period of people ranking higher because they discovered a loophole is long gone. Now we have to talk/write to people…Google will listen too.

Mistake #6 – The wrong links

While we are on the subject of pleasing the reader, yet another huge mistake webmasters make is buying links (seriously, stop falling into this trap) in lieu of earning them or using links that add value to the post and help the reader find more information or some other visitor benefit. Link buying to rank higher is bad any way you slice it.

Links are helpful when they are used as a tool that adds value for the reader. As an SEO professional and creator of the web marketing planning software, Ignitur, I think about how I can provide value to a user, by creating content that will point back to what I do – good examples can be found throughout this article. Google appreciates a good link that makes sense when and where it is offered, internal links included.

Tools and knowledgebase required:

Have a website that is worth linking to. A good website offers high quality contributing content and an awesome look. By having these key components, participating in other conversations/communities becomes easier as you can proudly refer people back to your website.

Mistake #7 – Not Realizing Quality is More Important than Quantity

Consider this… you could spend all day long linking to websites with low authority and not get the same reaction you would get with a single link from a strong website. In fact, even a single link from the wrong website can drag you down in ranking and destroy all of the hard work you’ve put into your baby. It is not the number of links… it’s the quality. Also sounds like a cliché, but let me explain further. When it comes to a link, imagine every link as a vote and try to give it a rate between -5 to +5 (this is just the way I do it), zero being harmless. Anything below zero might harm and drag me down; anything above will help strengthen my trust and authority signals. The main metrics I look at are:

  • Domain authority
  • MozRank
  • Alexa
  • IP address (verify it’s not a network)
  • Visual review
  • Social shares (human activity)

STOP: Doesn’t this contradict what I wrote in mistake number 6 (links built naturally etc.)? No, there are some links that are user generated, such as, directories, Web 2.0, Press Release, guest posts (please don’t abuse), infographics, etc.

Tools and knowledgebase required

Develop your own way to determine if a link from website XYZ is worth your time and effort. Also, regularly monitor your link profile and remove links that don’t put you in a good light or that might drag you down. I use “Link Analysis” by Moz.

Mistake #8 – Failure to Optimize Permalinks

Another mistake of SEO project management is not realizing that every part of your article or blog post is a vital opportunity for search engine optimization is a common one. This includes the permalinks of your webpages and posts. Take this one as an example. It is short, pleasing to the eye; you know what it is about, and far easier to remember than a URL with parameters and special characters. A long, drawn out permalink tends to get chopped and loses its ability to describe the content that follows in the post.

Features of a great permalink

  • Short (30 or fewer characters with spaces)
  • Descriptive
  • Effectively use of keyword/s

Check out this Google video for more information.

Mistake #9 – Overlooking Speed

Remember that bounce rate we spoke about… the one that Google deems as a sign that readers do not like your content. It is surprising just how many webmasters overlook the speed at which their website and blog pages load. In today’s busy world, even the slightest delay could cause a busy reader to become impatient. The searcher that just bounced from two other websites with terrible load time will not give your wonderful website even half a chance if it does not load quickly.

The reason this particular mistake is so costly is because all the hard work and dedication that you put into your content and SEO efforts will not be read. Paying attention to the load time of your website or blog… especially the first page, pays dividends, and at the very least, gives your hard work a fighting chance.

Tools and knowledgebase required

I recommend using GTmetrix. It’s a great tool for building fast and easy to use websites. They offer a full service as well.

Mistake #10 – Not Giving Old Posts the Love they Deserve

Are you guilty of this one? Let’s say you have been in the game for a long while now and you have many great, information filled posts that were written last year or even the year before. Not paying them enough attention can hurt you by taking away a piece of SEO ammo that your website deserves. Google crawlers rarely go deeper than five pages.

If a post on page number 99 of your blog is just as pertinent today as it was then, it would be a crying shame not to allow readers to benefit from it. This is especially true if the topic is popular fodder in social media again. Here are three ways to show those posts some love while increasing the rank of old pages and your website or blog in general.

I.         Reissue older but pertinent posts in a special edition of your newsletter and social business pages. If it is news now, it shows just how right you were to write about it then.

II.         Place a widget on the front page of your site that includes the posts you want people to visit. Place posts in your archived widget as well to help draw attention to them.

III.         Place links to older, but important posts in your new posts that revisit the topic. Google loves internal links. It helps them rediscover your website’s authority by allowing bots to re-crawl old posts.

Mistake #11 – Authority Outranks Page Rank

Are you changing with the times? In case you haven’t noticed, page rank is not winning the search rank race anymore… at least; it is not winning the rank race when running against authority. Let’s put it this way, if you wanted to read about gothic horror and were asked to choose between a post by Stephen King and a post by Fred Farkle, (the guy who delivers your morning newspaper) which post do you think you would choose?

If you can guest post content that is riveting and memorable, your authority will increase. Stop being anonymous and start getting your name out there. Google indicated way back in 2012 that authority would be a new signal used for ranking. In fact, we would not be surprised if this new signal is not somehow connected to your Google +1 profile.

Regardless, not recognizing the importance of authorship and its role in SEO could be a mistake of epic proportions.

Mistake #12 – Black Hat SEO

Why anyone would even consider using less than honorable tactics to increase their rank in the search engines is beyond comprehension and yet, there are many webmasters that do everything right and still make the mistake of cheating on one or two SEO features trying to get an edge.

It simply is not worth the extra attention you might get when Google does catch up to you. The consequences are not only dire; they are long lasting and costly. Focus your efforts on honest to goodness web marketing and try to avoid simple mistakes. You will be rewarded with an excellent rank that is well deserved. Remember… it is all about the reader. Ask yourself, what can you share with your potential prospects today that will help you establish authority in your niche… then, when they need professional help, they will come to you.

One or two of these 12 mistakes can be made even by the best of us. However, if you are careful and really apply yourself to optimizing your website or blog for those readers who rely upon search engines, you can avoid them and rank very well. The trick is in knowing that web marketing is a serious business and deserves your full attention.

In efforts to maximize SEO ethics, I’ve created a internet marketing agency software, as well as small business software that is designed for web marketing. Aside from multiple other modules that it offers, I consider it to be one of the best seo management software available, because I have spent four years implementing my 12 years of experience into it. On top of this, you can try my SEO software free for 30 days.

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Asher Elran
Co-founder at Ignitur