SEO is a practice every marketer needs to master. It is also horribly misunderstood; a complex, confusing time-suck that is as easy to get wrong as it is to get right.
It can be summed up as one simple objective. SEO is about getting your content seen by the right people. But how to make that happen? Here are five common mistakes to steer clear of.
SEO and social: they need each other
Social media managers should not create plans based entirely on improving rankings. SEO and social media work together to raise engagement and reach more consumers, and a strong, successful marketing plan should include both.
When looking at the top-ranked social content against the top-ranked web content, what they both have in common is quality. If something has a lot of likes, shares and comments on social media, it is likely it will ping Google’s authority signals and mean a positive jump in your rankings as well.
So make sure you don’t focus so much on rankings that you forget one of your biggest tools to boost them. Quality content, engagement with customers and a strong social media presence will come together to give you all the website traffic you want.
Careful how you share
It’s tempting to assume that people only ever want the newest, shiniest things. It is not the case, and you shouldn’t let that take over your social media content. People don’t always connect to things they’ve never seen before, whereas older, well-known posts may hold the comfort of the familiar.
The smart play is to look back over your work, and honestly acknowledge what’s getting the most attention. Look at audience engagement, and check what’s being shared and liked the most. Are people going one further than a button click, and leaving comments? By taking time to look at what your audience wants from you, you can steer future content that way and ensure the traffic keeps building.
You’ll obviously need to keep things fresh with new posts, but there’s nothing to say you can’t mix them with old favourites. Give the people what they know they like, and they’ll come back to see it…and while they’re there, they’ll get to know your new content too.
No one gets famous overnight
SEO is an effective way of getting traffic directed to your site, but it takes time to reap the benefit. If you set out a strategy and expect to wake up the next day to a quadrupled hit rate, you’re going to be disappointed. Many expect this, then get disillusioned quickly and give up on a perfectly valid plan. Patience is needed. Why? Simply put: there’s a lot of content online.
I’ll say again: there’s a lot of content online.
The word for it is Content Shock, and social media managers need to understand that it takes time to be heard over the roar of everything else that’s out there. So prepare for a long haul, follow SEO best practices, and take time to analyse your results as they come in. Oh, and make sure your content is of a high standard. There is no substitute for hard work, after all; the most high-traffic and influential sites put in the effort, and it does not go unnoticed by search engines. If you concentrate on building a relationship with your customers, your following will grow and the search engines will not be far behind. It will take time, but it will be worth it.
Don’t overlook the details
We’ve talked about analysing your results, and not expecting returns overnight. But what about the nitty-gritty. The words on the page. There are many details that can make a huge difference to your SEO results, but they’re not universal. For example, if your business focuses on customers within a certain region, or city, then you’ll need to make the most out of local search. Engines, including Google, treat it differently to searches with more global keywords.
Speaking of keywords - if you optimise your site for global ones when you only offer local services, you won’t get the benefit of local customers. If you don’t travel outside a ten mile radius of New York, you’re not going to be any use to people searching in Chicago. The higher traffic you generate will be meaningless, so be sure to check your site is armed with the keywords that will be most useful to you.
Another detail - if you leave your company name as the header for every page on the site, you’re missing out on the chance for unique search engine hits. Also, if your pages are bookmarked or shared on social media, they’ll all have the same link text. So be original!
Another thing to consider - tailoring your link text to engage SEO, rather than generic ‘click here’ buttons that don’t do anything but take someone to another page. Make them original as well, so customers don’t feel like they’re being forced to hit keywords that benefit you, and not them.
These are just a few small details to highlight the point - that optimising SEO is not a ‘one size fits all’ game, and you need to make sure you’re not dropping the ball on the parts that are relevant to your site.
Stay on top of SEO
It used to be the case that mastering SEO meant keyword stuffing. Exactly what it says on the tin: keyword stuffing meant web pages stuffed with…well, keywords, often with nothing to link them together, and no actual useful content on the site. That sort of behaviour will get you punished these days, but there are marketers out there who have never really moved with the times.
What’s most important to know? For a start, Google has updated its search engine algorithms to stamp down on bad practices. Penguin will penalise low-quality links, Panda will come down hard on keyword stuffing, and Hummingbird allows the engine to deeper understand the intent behind a search. These updates mean that search results are smarter and more personalised than ever, and in order to be effective marketers have to consciously connect their material to their target audience. Rankings are determined by choosing the most relevant content based on an individual customer’s search history. Keyword matching, authority, quality and engagement are the keys to success, and there are no shortcuts to making it happen. Social media managers need to stay on top of developments, and be smart about how they utilise them.
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