Top 6 Basic Mistakes To Avoid When Optimizing For SEO
SEO is an uphill battle, and there are no two ways around it. Even when appropriately executed from the onset, SEO can take months to show any results for your website. When mistakes are made, it only compounds the slow pace many new websites and businesses face when building their online presence. Some errors are high level and extremely difficult to avoid; others, however, are simple and easy to mitigate with good habits. Fluidrank is an Atlanta-based web design, eCommerce, and SEO management company that helps businesses grow their online presence every day; we see many new businesses fall prey to these pitfalls all too often. Because of this, we compiled a list of the top, basic mistakes to avoid when optimizing for SEO.
1. Using The Wrong Keywords
Keywords are the backbone and foundation of every good SEO campaign. Keywords help Google and other search engines direct the right users to your site, surmise the focus of your content, and are the building blocks of your website’s SEO. So it stands to reason that using the correct keywords is integral; however, many websites, especially early ones, can find themselves selecting the wrong keywords, resulting in penalties to the rankings of their web pages.
Incorrect keyword usage usually comes from poor keyword research or a fundamental lack of understanding of how keywords work. Keywords are terms that describe the content of your web pages and website; these terms are embedded inside meta-information, titles, headings (called H1s, H2s, and H3s), and the body of content across all web pages on your site. When embedding your keywords, you should make sure that they are the same across all parts of the web page and, more importantly, relevant to both the subject of the page’s content and the website as a whole. For example, let’s say you own a site about selling furniture and create an article about reclining chairs, but your keyword is about something unrelated, such as toothpaste; when Google crawls the website, its A.I. will determine your keyword is irrelevant. When this happens, the inaccurate keyword will result in your web page receiving a poor ranking, regardless of how popular the keyword may be. Because of this, keywords should be relevant to the content of the individual page and the entire site. In general, every good SEO campaign should start with comprehensive keyword research to ensure your keywords are effective and relevant.
2. Not Adapting to Mobile Users
Mobile usage has increased exponentially as the information and mass communication age has grown and evolved. It is a fact that most users and potential clients use mobile phones to access your content over PCs. Google has recognized this shift for some time and adjusted its algorithm to determine S.E.R.P. (Search Engine Results Page) rankings accordingly. If you don’t adapt your site to accommodate the now majority mobile market, your S.E.R.P. rankings will suffer. Thankfully, most website hosting platforms allow for easy creation of mobile-friendly versions of your site, and Google offers a wide variety of tools for testing a site’s mobile friendliness. It’s best to start designing your site around accommodating mobile users from the onset to maximize your potential S.E.R.P. results from the beginning.
Adapting for the mobile market is about more than just making a functioning mobile version of your site. Your mobile site will have to be appropriately optimized for Google to give it a good ranking; the best tools for checking your site’s mobile-friendliness and optimization are Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test and Google’s Page Speed Insights. The Mobile-Friendly Test checks to see if your website is mobile-friendly via a crawl. The Page Speed Insight is much more detailed, and we will talk about it in more detail later on, but for now, all you need to know is that it offers multiple metrics which analyze your website’s speed and performance on both PCs and mobile devices.
3. Not Understanding Long Tail Keywords and Targeting High Difficulty Keywords
As we mentioned earlier, keyword research is an integral part that helps with optimizing for SEO, and part of that process is understanding what kind of keywords you can effectively rank for. When researching keywords, it may be tempting to target the terms with the highest volume; however, they can often be functionally useless for your website early on. This is due to Keyword Difficulty, a metric that describes the general competition for each keyword. Keyword Difficulty is calculated by measuring the Domain Authority of the top ranking websites competing for the same term; the higher their average DA, the higher the difficulty. In other words, if other websites with higher domain authority target your keyword, they will show up before you on a S.E.R.P., pushing you back and making it less likely for your content to be seen.
Keyword Difficulty is a challenge that all new websites have to overcome, at least until their domain authority grows to the point that they can compete for more broad, higher difficulty terms. Until that point, they will have to utilize something called Long Tail Keywords. Long Tail Keywords contain less volume, are more specific (meaning they have a higher word count), have a higher conversion rate, and more importantly, have a much lower difficulty. These keywords are the bread and butter for new websites and should always be prioritized compared to higher-difficulty keywords. Long Tail terms will have a higher chance of being seen by your prospective audience because of the lower difficulty and match their search criteria more closely due to their specificity.
The best way to find quality long tail terms is by using one of the many keyword research tools online, like SEMrush. You start by entering your more general, high-difficulty terms and adjust them by adding in more words. Then, continue to adjust your keywords until you find ones with difficulty roughly equal to or below your DA; if your DA is below ten, you want to aim for keywords with the lowest difficulty possible.
4. Ignoring Locality
Locality is a powerful tool that all websites should utilize, even those that cater to national or international audiences. The process for targeting local audiences is called Local Search Marketing, or Local SEO, and can be highly beneficial to businesses if implemented early or highly detrimental if ignored. Local SEO is a complex subject and can be a dedicated SEO campaign on its own, but every business can increase its local search rankings by following these basic steps :
- Create Google My Business Account and Profile – You will need to create a Google My Business account, fill out all the necessary information, and ensure your account shows the location of your business in the maps snippet.
- Ensure Your NAP is Established and Consistent – NAP or Name, Address, Phone Number is the three pieces of information Google uses to identify and track your business. You want your business’s NAP established, and consistent on your Google my business page, social media, and website’s contact us page.
- Generate Reviews – Generating reviews and following up those reviews with customer feedback will signify to Google that your website is active to local customers and directly affects your local search rankings.
- Local Keyword Emphasis – You should emphasize keywords that integrate locality; if your primary keyword is “quality car parts” a localized version of that keyword would be “buy quality car parts Atlanta” or “quality car parts in atlanta.” By creating content that emphasizes locality, it will target users searching for your keywords in your area.
- Location Pages – You should have a dedicated location page with your NAP information, regional keywords, and a Google Maps Plugin.
5. Avoid Duplicate Content
When Google crawls a website, its content, meta information, and layout are scanned by the crawler and reported back to Google. Google then analyzes this information, and your website is then assigned a Domain Authority. We don’t know the specifics of how Google’s algorithm works nor the exact nature of the metrics Google uses to judge your website. However, Google has released information to guide website designers, SEO specialists, and business owners. One such piece of information is that Google likes unique, long-form, SEO-driven, and informative content. Most importantly, Google recommends that developers make content that caters to users and not their algorithm.
Creating content that fits Google’s criteria is an important goal that helps with optimizing for SEO, and the biggest pitfall that many businesses fall into regarding this is duplicate content. This problem usually occurs in online shops that carry large amounts of similar products; usually, sites like this have a boilerplate that results in dozens of pages with nearly identical bodies of text. While Google doesn’t explicitly penalize duplicate content, the duplicate pages won’t appear on search results. To quote from a Google Office Hours this last January, “… it’s not so much that there’s a negative score associated with it… it’s more that if we find exactly the same information on multiple pages on the web, and someone searches specifically for that piece of information, then we’ll try to find the best matching page.” This means that if your pages contain large amounts of the same content, it is likely only one will show up in a S.E.R.P., making the other pages functionally useless.
6. Slow Website Speed
Having a fast, reactive, and user-friendly website is essential for retaining users because Google directly considers these factors when determining a website’s ranking. The specifics of Google’s criteria for a website’s performance are represented by your website’s Core Vitals Score. Core Vitals are a set of metrics Google considers vitally essential for a good user experience; they measure how quickly different elements on your website load and respond to user interaction. While all aspects of the Page Speed Index are essential, you can determine your load speed by looking at the following three scores:
- First Content Paint: This score represents the time it takes for the first piece of content or image to load after a user accesses the page.
- First Input Delay: This score measures how quickly a user can interact with your web page after it begins loading.
- Speed Index: This is an element of the Performance section of the report. It determines how quickly visible aspects of a page load.
These three elements are the best place to start when looking to boost your website’s performance. The Page Speed Index tool also contains recommendations and tips for improving each of its criteria.
Maintaining a fast website, finding effective keywords, adapting to a mobile audience, and creating high-quality, engaging content can be a handful for any business; we can help take the load off and help your business with a comprehensive SEO campaign. If you are interested in any of our services, you can check them out here, or if you want to browse any of our other articles on SEO management and eCommerce, you can read them on our blog here. Finally, if you have any questions about these common mistakes, our services, or optimizing for SEO, you can contact us here.