SEO can be tough to understand at first, especially for a local business seeking to establish its web presence. For one, it sounds highly technical. Not everyone with a brick-and-mortar store has technical skills, and that can lead to intimidation.
Also, it seems like SEO standards change all the time… which is right on the money. Google has updated its core algorithm several times in the last few years, and every change shuffles the rankings (and therefore traffic) for every website.
All that being said, there are still general SEO best practices that every business should follow to boost its ranking. However, these best practices are often accompanied by SEO mistakes.
SEO Mistakes Are Incredibly Common
Some SEO mistakes happen because of updates to Google’s search algorithm. Certain tactics may have worked a long time ago, but changes to the algorithm made them obsolete. But, because they worked once, many people still swear by them, even when data begins to show differently.
Since the very beginning of the dot-com era, folks have tried to “game the system” when it comes to search engine ranking. After all, getting onto page 1 of Google has a direct financial return for your business.
In the last couple of decades, millions of “black hat” SEO hacks have been attempted, and many have been successful. But as each technique grows more popular, the people at Google learn how to combat it.
Some people just don’t know any better. They want their website to perform better on searches, but they’re following outdated information (or misinformation) that doesn’t help. Some people unwittingly perform SEO tricks that actually hurt their ranking.
3 Common SEO Mistakes To Avoid
During my time working with small businesses in Hawaii, I encountered plenty of SEO mistakes. Here are the most common ones:
- Overusing Keywords
This is one of the first mistakes made when a business tries to incorporate an SEO strategy.
The basic building block of SEO is the keyword. Keywords are terms used to match common searches your audience performs. For example, a surfboard shop generally wants to include the term “surfboard” in their website’s text. The problem comes when they try to fit the word “surfboard” into their website text 500 times, sacrificing grammar and coherence.
The website owner thinks stacking keywords will boost their ranking automatically, but they’re mistaken. Over the years Google has gotten better at detecting this technique and tends to demote pages that overuse keywords.
- Length For Length’s Sake
The idea that keyword terms need to appear organically, or that Google prefers long-form writing, can cause website owners to lengthen their pages and posts to ridiculous lengths. Or, they’ll look up the sites that rank highest for their search terms and simply copy the length of the top 10 websites for all of their writing.
The problem is, length alone doesn’t help you. It’s true that Google’s algorithm favors long-form content, but that’s a correlation, not a direct cause of better ranking. The reason it favors length is that those pieces tend to be more authoritative, helpful, and linked with other websites.
There is a diminishing return for length, however. Any audience will get bored after reading a long blog or landing page that refuses to get to the point. There is no “magic number” of wordcount that all webpages need to hit to avoid being relegated to page 2 of Google.
The right length for blog posts depends on the length needed to get your point across in a friendly, helpful, and authoritative way. The right length for landing pages is much shorter. You need to give the reader information about who you are, what you do, and why they should consider purchasing something from you. For some, this can be done in just a few sentences.
Link Buying and Link Networking
Lastly, some businesses attempt to take a shortcut when it comes to ranking higher on searches. Webpages that get linked to by others get a boost in their search rank.
The philosophy behind this is simple: If someone likes your content enough to share a link to it, then it’s probably good content, worth showing up when someone makes a relevant search.
Because of this principle, many people have tried underhanded ways to have their page linked. This includes spamming links to their site in the comments section of other websites, getting a network of friends to intentionally use tons of links to each others’ sites, and straight-up paying another website owner to link to one’s website.
These tactics are pretty transparent for a well-developed company like Google to detect. The algorithm is on high alert for the likely places people go to buy links. Also, when it detects a network of interlinked websites, it takes that result with a grain of salt. Finally, when Google detects you spamming links in others’ comment sections, it gives you an SEO rank penalty.
In this sense, the shortcut always turns into a longer route.
Check On Your SEO
With all that in mind, take a look at your website. Are you overusing keywords in an attempt to rank higher? Make sure you substitute some of those terms. Did you create a lengthy landing page or set of posts? You can cut down on the less necessary parts and find it helps your ranking. Finally, are you trying to take any shortcuts? Those will hurt you in the long run.
Also, if you need any help at all with your business’s SEO, from the #1 ranked “Hawaii SEO” experts, don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
Further Reading: Keys to Entrepreneurial Success
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