A few years ago SEO was mostly technical. Nowadays, it’s all about content. Due to rapid changes in SEO in the past few months, old SEO practices no longer work and may harm you.
On the other hand, spending the time and doing the right things will result in better rankings and more visibility for your business. So how do you know what to avoid anymore? By listening to people like Matt Cutts.
These SEO practices are frowned upon and we know this by piecing together several of Matt Cutts’ videos. Check out one of his videos below.
#1. Not having the right search terms on your page
Include the words that people are actually going to type. Matt Cutts posted a video, on the top 3-5 SEO mistakes he constantly sees by volume. Not having your keywords on the page is a mistake he sees all the time. He said, “You don’t just want to say Mount Everest elevation, you want to say words like how high is Mount Everest because people are going to type: how high is Mt. Everest?” If you’re a restaurant, include a menu. Include your business hours on the page.
Here’s Matt Cutts’ video where he describes the top 3-5 mistakes that businesses are making:
Matt Cutts’ video on top SEO mistakes businesses make
#2. Keyword stuffing
Even though keyword stuffing has been a frowned upon practice since the past decade, the change came about with the Panda update. Sites that didn’t conform were slapped with penalties. Last year, Google’s Hummingbird update was also a complete shift away from using a single keyword excessively on a page. Hummingbird looks for natural language queries and synonyms. With Hummingbird, these strategies work best:
- Use specific keywords sparingly, in the right places. Such as titles, meta descriptions and once or twice on the page.
- Write articles that focus on the overall meaning of your content and less on a specific keyword.
- Consider synonyms – the alternate words or phrases that describe what you do and that people might use, rather than focusing your content around an exact-match keyword. For example, if I were optimizing content for a hotel site, I would use synonyms such as lodging, motel, accommodation, tavern and inn.
- Use focus terms that are related to your subject. For example a page on cancer care will have related terms such as radiation, chemotherapy etc.
#3. No Title and description tags
What is the title of your home page? Does it say untitled or is it giving people a good idea of what your site is about. Think about the description of your best pages. Your description often determines what shows up in snippets. You want to create something that people want to click on.
#4. Not creating link-worthy content
Traditional inbound-links are still valuable after all these years. However, the links that count these days are links from high authority sites. Mat Cutts advised that instead of focusing on link-building, try to create compelling content that people want to link to and share. Some things to keep in mind about links and how they work these days:
- Instead of thinking of where to buy links (this technique has long been considered spammy), think clever guerrilla marketing. “What can I do to market my website to make it broadly known in the community?”
- Can I talk to newspapers, conferences and forums. Who would be interested in my content? How can I share this with them?
- Think of quality vs. quantity. There was a time when the number of links that you had were important. This was before the days of link-spammers and sites selling you links. Nowadays, the links that count are from high-authority websites.
- Pay careful attention to comments and who you allow to link to your content. Links from the wrong sites may also get you into trouble. Use the Google disavow tool if necessary.
- Create a rich system of internal links. This helps search engines better navigate your site. It also points them to links relevant to the topic of your page.
#5. Poor quality, too little, duplicate or plagiarized content
Many brands are facing the pressure of constantly having to churn out fresh content. Sometimes, this leads to a temptation to put out duplicate or poor quality content. After the Panda and Penguin updates, sites get penalized for these practices. It also has negative ramifications for your brand. People are constantly assessing your brand. Are you a trusted source of information? Do you deliver quality and value? High quality content speaks of these qualities.
#6. Not focusing on user intent
Hummingbird encourages us to understand user intent right from the start of the buying process. Focus on what you know that your customer came to your site to research.Identify intent, needs and problems. Provide solutions and answers. Look at queries and what customers need.
Here are some ideas to understand user intent:
- Use tools such as Qualaroo to understand user intent and preferences.
- Talk to your team’s customer service people to find out what customers and prospects most want or need from your product.
- Use Customer feedback forms, quick surveys and polls to identify customer needs.
- Talk to the actual sales people to find out what customers want from you.
Also, try to understand the long-tail queries users are typing in, especially these days with mobile search. Long-tail queries indicate that the prospect is very close to buying and just needs to be matched with the right product. Even though we can no longer look for keywords in Google, there are several ways to determine long-tail queries:
- Use the insights you receive from the Search box on your site
- Tools such as Google Suggest, related searches, Uber Suggest, Twitter Search and even social media Q & A sites such as Quora are great to tap into for long-tail questions.
- Last but not the least, check out the competition. Type in the terms that you are interested in and see who shows up first in search results. You will be able to get an idea from their pages the kind of queries they are trying to optimize the page for.
#7.Not integrating content marketing with your SEO efforts
In 2014 and into the future, content marketing and seo work hand-in-hand. You need to seamlessly go from one to the other. A good digital strategy now means having a great content strategy in place. This includes having a content plan, content audits and creating different types of content in the sales funnel. Like whitepapers, blogs and newsletters.
#8. Poor social media marketing
Social media of-course has many SEO benefits. Besides the fact that social shares alert search engines that the content is share-worthy, it’s an important trust symbol for visitors landing on a page. You’re also increasing the reach of your brand when you spread the word through social media. In order to get the most of social media you need to invest the time and effort in growing your communities and reaching new customers.
#9. Not having a local search strategy
Ed Parsons, the Geospatial Technologist of Google, has indicated in a recent talk at Google PinPoint that “about 1 in 3 of queries that people just type into a standard Google search bar are about places, they are about finding out information about locations. …this isn’t Google Maps just people normally looking at Google”.
Last year, Google started rewarding local businesses with the interaction between Hummingbird and the Venice update – a tweak that lead to more localized organic results for non-geo-modified keywords. What this means is that there are even more opportunities to capture local traffic. For example, if you are in Philadelphia, regardless whether you type in a search query for: ad agency Philadelphia or just ad agency, you would get local results first.
I recently interviewed David Mihm and he included some excellent strategies on how to optimize your content for local search.
#10. Thinking that SEO is a one-time job
Google has made several changes to SEO. What with the animal updates, Panda, Penguin and now Hummingbird and the semantic web. What works today, may not work tomorrow. To survive in the digital world, you need to be up-to-date or your site will lose its visibility. It’s good to have an SEO consultant come in and tell you what to do. But that advice will not stand the test of time. In order to increase your online visibility, you constantly need to read up and be open to trying new things.
What do you think are the top mistakes people are making with their content? I’d love to hear from you. Please share your thoughts in the comments below. Thanks.