If you’ve spent money and time trying — but failing — to climb the SEO ladder and rank for specific keywords, then be assured: you aren’t alone.
Indeed, while searching for stuff is blissfully easy — in less than a second we can use Google or Bing to learn all about hydrogen atoms, or where to get cheap airline tickets — getting found is an altogether different story; one that has far more unhappy than happy endings. What’s the deal?
Well, it’s like this: just like building a bridge or manufacturing an airplane requires a clear and deep understanding of principles, climbing the SEO ladder is a science; one that, surprisingly, most businesses and even some marketing agencies and SEO consultants don’t really understand. Yes, they have a grasp of the basics. But they don’t haven’t mastered the details; which is easier said than done, since those details keep changing (Google in particular like to shake things up every now and then).
With this being said, the fact that you aren’t alone in your SEO misery is of little comfort. There’s no strength in numbers here, and you can’t take to the streets with your fellow protesters to demand change. Instead, you need to figure out how to turn the situation around and make SEO an asset instead of a liability.
To that end, here are three things that you’re probably doing — albeit unintentionally or accidentally — but that you need to fix right away:
1. Your Website isn’t Crawlable.
Search engines like Google and Bing learn about websites — or more specifically, about web pages — by “crawling” them (i.e. sending their robot out to gather information and report). Astonishingly, many websites aren’t crawlable; or if they are, then the “crawl-ability” isn’t optimized.
Here’s a quick rundown of how to fix this: avoid duplicate content, make sure your website loads quickly, publish original content on a regular basis, include an updated sitemap, use a reliable server, interlink web pages, optimize graphics and images, use pinging to get the attention of the search engine bots, block useless pages from getting crawled, and use Google’s webmaster tools.
2. Focusing on Link Building Instead of Content Building.
In ancient times — which in the SEO world was about ten or fifteen years ago — winning the SEO game wasn’t all that complex: businesses simply had to push out as much keyword-optimized content as possible. Whether this content was good (which it usually wasn’t) or bad (which it usually was) was beside the point. The search engine robots weren’t all that sophisticated. Actually, they were pretty stupid.
This has changed (investing billions of dollars will do that). Google and Bing are surprisingly good at detecting quality content from stuff that is thinly-veiled search engine food. How do you capitalize on this? Regularly publish original, compelling, relevant, and visitor-centric content. Yes, it should strategically incorporate keywords (i.e. proximity, frequency, density, etc.). But the focus has to be on delivering value to human beings — not making the search engines happy.
3. Making SEO “Housekeeping” Mistakes.
There are some pretty basic SEO “housekeeping” things that all businesses should be doing — but many aren’t. For example, the title and description of key pages should incorporate strategically-chosen keywords, and so should meta descriptions (these are the little blurbs that appear in search-engine results below the link).
Speaking of meta descriptions: no, adding keywords here doesn’t have an impact on SEO. However, studies have shown that using keywords helps capture attention, which increases the likelihood that a link will be clicked on relative to others in the search engine results. For example, if your keyword is “ecommerce order fulfilment”, then placing this early in the meta description and in a compelling (yet concise) way can do wonders for your click-through rates.
The Bottom Line
If you’re doing SEO all wrong, then don’t panic: turning things around is possible, and probably easier, faster and less expensive than you imagine (or fear.) Use the above as your checklist to conduct a comprehensive audit. Fix what you can, and get proven and credible experts to help where necessary. Before long, you’ll be climbing up the SEO ladder — and reaping rewards instead of suffering regret.