Last year, I published a post on the Seven Deadly Sins of Landing Pages. This year, I thought it was time I do the same for search engine optimization, or as it’s mostly referred to, SEO.
For those unfamiliar with SEO, its purpose is to increase your website’s ranking on search engines for certain keywords. For example, you own a bakery in Little Rock and want to see where on search your website ranks on for the keywords “Little Rock bakery.” You look it up to find the site doesn’t appear until the eighth or ninth page of Google. How do you get your site on the first page? This is where SEO comes in. By updating your site’s content with business-driving keywords, your site will start moving upwards in the search rankings.
With the rise of search engines and accessibility to website analytics, SEO is a powerful tool for online marketing. There have been many practices that were once used frequently, but are now considered defunct, discouraged and potentially detrimental to your search engine success. Search engines are ever evolving tools that constantly becoming smarter, which means what once “tricked” search engines (such as keyword stuffing and link trading), no longer works. Search engines want to provide websites in the top results that actually provide content valuable to the searcher.
To help you start your SEO strategy, here is a list of what not to do. our list of the top seven deadly sins you can commit when running an SEO strategy.
Search engines want to provide websites in the top results that actually provide content valuable to the searcher.
Starting without a plan
Like any strategy, you need to start with a plan and attainable goals. What does a concrete plan look like for SEO? You’ll need to start with a list of keywords for which you want to rank high for. Typically, you want to start with a list of about 200 keywords, and then narrow it down to 50. You need to analyze your keywords, find out where you currently rank for them and how much traffic they bring to your site. Then you need to keep measuring them, making sure they are moving toward your goals.
Writing content without keywords
Your Web pages need to feature your keywords. Search engines crawl your site on a regular basis (usually every one to two weeks), picking up words and phrases used consistently. Keywords also need to be worked into your blog post titles, page titles, subtitles, links, etc. A good rule of thumb to is make sure you use at least 3 keywords in your body copy and a keyword in your title.
Stuffing keywords in the footer (or anywhere else for that matter)
We’ve all seen them before — the websites that crowd their footers with long lists of keywords headlined by “You Might Have Found Us For …” This is a big no-no. Google will almost certainly penalize you for keyword stuffing. Penalizing means pushing your website down in rankings, make your page harder to find. It’s an annoying tactic that does not assist the visitor or give them what they’re looking for. Keywords serve you best when worked seamlessly into your website’s titles and body content.
Upsetting the keyword/regular copy balance
There is a certain balance copywriters must maintain when writing content for the Web and that is writing for both real people visitors and search engines. You want to use as many keywords as you can, but not without disrupting the flow of the copy. You need to work them in seamlessly. If you’re interrupting your copy to add in a blatant keyword, Google will notice and most likely lower your rankings for it.
Neglecting your images’ Alt tags
It’s important to take every SEO opportunity you can. One opportunity that often goes unused is Alt tags. These are hidden coding attributes you can give your images. They are not visible to your site’s visitors, but they are to search engines, which pick up on them. Alt tags are great for using those keywords that are often difficult to work into your copy.
Letting search engines write your title tags and meta descriptions
If you don’t write your pages’ title tags and meta descriptions, search engines will write them for you. Title tags are the titles of the search results, which typically include your pages’ names. Your meta description is the two lines beneath the link that provides a quick summary of the page. If you don’t write the description, search engines will take random copy from your page and use it here. This is your chance to speak to searchers and persuade them to click your link.
Solely building your site for search engines
Don’t focus your site solely on making search engines happy. Your visitors and potential customers should be the target audience for whom you build your site. Develop the design and copy to persuade them, not the search engines. A site built purely to persuade search engines will not attract real human beings. You want visitors to be glad they clicked the link to your site.
For more information on SEO and creating digital content for your website, download our free ebook Think Like A Publisher, a guide for starting your own content marketing strategy.