For so many websites on the Internet, regardless of objective or industry, the biggest source of traffic is the search engine. Absolutely, you should invest resources into cultivating other traffic sources, but it is undeniable that ranking well for your target keywords and keyword phrases on those search engine result pages (SERPs) will always work in your benefit.
Before you can start working on all the things you should be doing right, you need to eliminate (or at least reduce) the things that you are doing wrong. The two really go hand-in-hand. And it is in that spirit that we present to you five critical mistakes that site owners do with respect to search engine optimization.
1. Writing for the Search Engine
To be perfectly fair, search engine optimization has gotten progressively more complex and nuanced over the years. In the past, the “rules” of engagement were much more straightforward with much more clearly defined lines in the sand. You must have your keyword appear in the title and in the first 50 words. The exact keyword phrase must appear X number of times in the text.
These days, Google sees right through that. And the old practices of keyword stuffing and almost mechanical content production have only led to robotic, unnatural content that actual people don’t want to read. If you’re focusing all your efforts on “writing for the search engine” rather than addressing what readers actually want, you’re missing the point entirely.
Done correctly, it is perfectly possible to write for both humans and search engines at the same time. At the end of the day, the best SEO strategy is to provide what actual humans want to get out of your content.
2. Skipping the Competitive Analysis
A critical component to starting and running a successful business is formulating a successful business plan. This involves analyzing the market, for instance, to determine the anticipated level of customer demand. You take the time to formulate your unique selling proposition (USP), the key feature or benefit that differentiates you from the competition. Search engine optimization works in much the same way.
When putting together an SEO strategy for how and where you want to build backlinks, you must start with a competitive analysis. This involves identifying the competition, and reviewing it with a backlinks checker to see what they have (and the ones that you don’t), and analyzing the most important keywords that you want to target, the ones that represent the biggest and best opportunities for growth.
By skipping the competitive analysis, you’re almost going into your SEO efforts blind. You’d be starting with what you think might work, rather than what is already working for the competition. This establishes expected benchmarks and reveals how and where you may be able to achieve those benchmarks. Why re-invent the wheel?
3. Overlooking Dead Links
In all your efforts to optimize new content moving forward, it’s easy to overlook old content that can still be a great source of traffic. When you have a lot of old content that isn’t very good, that can actually weigh down your entire domain. This means that, in effect, Google is docking points on your new content because your old content is just bad. And the only thing worse than bad content is content that isn’t even there.
A practice overlooked by so many site owners is that they forget to find dead links and work to recapture them. This is true in two different contexts. First, you should check to see the URLs that are generating 404 errors for visitors. Determine how you can best redirect those visitors to relevant content instead. Second, you should check your own content to ensure you are not linking out to 404 errors too.
There are tools and tutorials available for both of these concerns, and they can largely automate the process. It’s a routine you should be doing at least every month or two.
4. Focusing Only on High Volume Keywords
Keyword research is a critical aspect of search engine optimization. What many site owners do wrong with SEO, in this respect, is that they’re devoting far more time (and resources) on the big, high level keywords. That’s where you’ll find the highest and most cutthroat competition, even if it’s also where you’ll find the highest search volume. Compete with sharks and you can only expect to get bitten.
Instead of focusing too much energy on getting the tiniest of slivers out of the bigger pie, it can be much more fruitful to find several smaller pies where you can carve out a much larger slice. High volume keywords are great, but they’re remarkably difficult to crack. Low and moderate volume keywords, however, have much less competition and you can reap the rewards of highly targeted, highly motivated search from users.
It takes time to identify these opportunities, to be sure. It’s also true that the riches are indeed in the niches.
5. Including Irrelevant Internal Links
A common SEO practice is to integrate a number of internal links in your own content. The idea is that this “helps” the search engines crawl through the rest of your content, and it helps to keep users on your site longer because it introduces them to content they may not otherwise seek out on their own. That’s partly true, but it only holds water if the internal links are actually relevant.
Just as you should avoid keyword stuffing for the sake of keyword stuffing itself, you should also avoid internal link stuffing purely for the sake of including internal links. Point your site visitors toward relevant, useful content that you have on your site, and even link to the same resource more than once if it’s something that’s really important; however, don’t just link to something just because you feel like you need to include an internal link there.
Just as linking to an irrelevant external site with little usefulness or authority hurts your site’s reputation, the same is true if Google detects that your internal links aren’t actually providing real value to users. Think first: will visitors actually benefit from this link?
SEO and Link Building in 2019 and Beyond
Search engine optimization will always be a moving target, because the cryptic complexities of the search engine algorithms are in a constant state of flux. At the end of the day, great content is still great content, and your number one priority should always be to deliver what the end user actually wants. And to do that better than anyone else.