Just like affiliate marketing, SEO often gets a bad rap for being shady, spammy, and full of snake oil. And just like affiliate marketing, SEO gets this reputation because there are too many self-proclaimed SEO experts out there who donâ€™t know squat, and there are too â€œmany do-it-yourselfersâ€ who read a blog post or two, try to do it themselves, and then wonder why they didnâ€™t get any results.
Basically, good SEO requires a very strategic, tiered, and well-thought campaign. This means that there are a lot of wrong turns for inexperienced SEOs to take. Here are 10 of the most common mistakes made by people and brands trying SEO.
1. You Were Too Impatient
Like most marketing efforts, SEO isn’t a quick fix. Rather, it’s something that requires ongoing effort.
In fact, in my experience, it takes at least 3 months to even begin to see quantitative results from SEO, and about 12 months before you start making your money back. Just consider this, if there’s an opportunity to make money by ranking well, that means that the niche is competitive, and competitive niches aren’t dominated in less than a year — never mind a mere quarter.
2. You Were Too Cheap
Just as SEO isn’t a quick fix, it’s also not a cheap one, either. Of course, how much you have to invest in SEO to be competitive depends on your niche, but it is something that’s going to require at least 10 hours a week (and probably more) over the course of 12 months.
The cost comes from the need of resources. Either you are going to hire someone (or several people) to work in-house on a full-time, permanent basis, or you’re going to work with an SEO agency, in which case you’ll be spending at least $5K/month (or more depending on how competitive your niche is).
The point is that SEO is an ongoing investment, and you’ll only get out of it what you put it.
3. You Didn’t Do Your Research
A common SEO mistake that companies make is that they optimize their sites for the wrong words:
First, they might invest a lot of time and money into optimizing their site for terms that they think their target users are searching for. But if you don’t find out the search volumes of your targeted terms and related terms, it’s like taking potshots in the dark.
So use tools like the Google Adwords Keyword Tool to get quantitative keyword data that can help you identify valuable keywords. While global and local search volume data will tell you what people are actually searching for, average CPCs will tell you what keyword variations advertisers are actually investing in.
Second, Companies often optimize for keywords that have high search volume, but poor conversions. Basically, just because some keywords have high search volume, it doesn’t mean they’re high value / targeted. For instance, some of the highest volume keywords include “free”, but you can’t make money off of users looking for free products.
So before investing too much in a certain set of keywords, look at your organic keyword traffic in Google Analytics, and identify the keyword combinations that have high conversion or goal completion rate. This will help you identify lower search volume keywords that convert at a disproportionally high rate.
4. You Tried Batting Out of Your League
SEO can also be like dating (and baseball): if you keep going to bat out of your league, you’ll keep striking out. In other words, if you target the most competitive terms right off the bat, you’re going to set yourself up for failure because it’ll take a lot of time and money before you rank well on them, and a very long time to see an ROI from your SEO.
Basically, once you know what keywords have high search volumes and average CPCs, find out how you rank on them. If you’re ranking on page 37, it’ll take you a lot longer to climb the rankings than if you’re on page 5. So start with the “low hanging fruit”, and as you get to the first page for those terms and see an ROI, you can start targeting the more competitive terms.
5. You Didn’t Do Onsite Optimization
Before you can even begin a serious SEO campaign, you have to make sure that your onsite is flawless. Your site is the foundation you’ll be building your SEO house on, so make sure it’s strong and unshakable.
Be sure that, at least, all your top-level pages have page titles, meta descriptions, and copy that’s targeted for your highest value keywords. But don’t stop there. There are countless other problems your site might have (such as duplicate content, page structure, and load times) that if you don’t address, will cause your rankings to suffer.
In a nutshell, if your onsite SEO sucks, it won’t matter how much content or how many backlinks you’ll have. I mean, sure, you might still make page one of the SERPs, but you’ll never make the top 5 of top 3.
6. You Didn’t Build Links
That being said, a lot of companies have very well optimized sites, but fail to go an procure backlinks. At the end of the day, if you want to rank well on certain, targeted terms, you’re going to need backlinks that has those terms as the anchor text.
So once you’ve optimized your site, start planning ways to attract backlinks. Think linkbait or guest blogging or whatever, but come up with creative ways to continually attract backlinks with targeted anchor texts to the pages you want to rank.
7. You Built Crappy Links
Of course, just because you built links, it doesnâ€™t mean that theyâ€™re any good. You see, when you get a link to a page that you want to rank, that link should have 3 features:
it should have targeted anchor text
it should be from a page/site thatâ€™s related to the keyword
that page/site should rank on some variant of the keyword
So if your linkbuilding strategy involved mostly submitting content to general article submission sites or guest blogging where your byline featured your brand name as a link, you probably didnâ€™t see great results. For starters, article submission sites are too general and often donâ€™t rank for anything, and secondly, you probably already rank for your brand name.
8. You Stuffed Links
Here, weâ€™re not talking about hacking a site and stuffing it full of links to your own site. Rather, weâ€™re talking about submitting articles and guest blog posts to other related sites.
You see, the first backlink that Google indexes on a page a site/page counts for a lot more than every subsequent link it indexes. In fact, often the first link is the only that Google counts.
But what a lot of people do when they submit guest blog posts is stuff in links in to include their brand name and all their products and services. For example, many bylines on guest posts read â€œJohn Doe is the CEO of â€˜Brand Xâ€™ which specializes in offering â€˜keyword 1â€™ and â€˜keyword 2â€™ to brands across the world.â€ So the only thing that Brand X is going to rank on from these links is â€œBrand Xâ€.
So when youâ€™re building links, donâ€™t bother getting more than one link from any site/page. And if it is a byline thatâ€™s describing your company and services, donâ€™t bother linking your brand name; rather, just link targeted keywords to your relevant product/service pages.
9. You Bought Links
Okay, so building links isnâ€™t cheap. It takes time to create linkbait or to find relevant sites, build relationships with them, and then submit valuable content. So a lot of people just buy links.
The thing is that Google frowns on paid links most sites that sell links donâ€™t do a very good job of hiding it. They have too many unrelated, spammy links on their site, and those same links often appear on a bunch of other sites in very similar places.
So when Google suspects a site of selling links, three things can happen: (1) that site gets penalized in the SERPs, (2) those links donâ€™t pass any juice, and (3) the sites being linked to can also get penalized. So if youâ€™ve been buying links through a network or just directly from other sites, thereâ€™s a good chance that Google is on to you, and all that money youâ€™ve spent not only went to waste, but did you more harm than good.
10. You Had No Social Links
In a nutshell, social media is an important part of SEO because Google trusts links created by actual users/human beings. What this means is that if you only have links with targeted anchor text and no untargeted social links from actual users, Google deems that your site isnâ€™t actually that relevant to actual human beings, and your rankings will remain limited.
Now, the strongest social links come from social news and bookmarking sites, such as Digg, Reddit, and Delicious. And the way you build them by creating engaging content that can go viral on these social sites.
There are three things, though, that you should know about these links: (1) they feature anchor text that is completely untargeted (e.g. the pageâ€™s or postâ€™s title), (2) they are sometimes nofollow or (3) 301 redirects instead of direct links. But when a page amasses hundreds of them by going viral, Google sees that as an indication that the page in question is, indeed, popular and relevant.
So while these virally popular pages wonâ€™t be your product pages, theyâ€™ll help your domain amass more pages with PageRank. This, in turn, will boost the overall trust and authority of your domain, and help all of your pages rank better.
SEO is Not So Easy
Granted, SEO is not rocket-science. But neither is NASCAR. So just like you wouldnâ€™t jump behind the wheel of a stockcar and expect to win the Daytona 500, you shouldnâ€™t expect to just dive into SEO and dominate the SERPs in your niche.
Rather, SEO is a rather delicate and nuanced thing. You have to understand your industry inside out, and then you develop a very strategic, tiered, and well-thought campaign and give it time to work. Otherwise, youâ€™ll end up throwing your money and time away or, worse still, getting yourself banned from Google.
About CT Moore
A former Staff Editor here at Revenews.com, CT Moore is a recovering agency hack with over 8 years experience leveraging search and social media to help brands meet their business goals online. He currently provides digital strategy consulting to both SMBs and enterprise level companies through his consultancy Socialed. CT has worked with both start-ups and multinational brands alike, including Acquisio, Microsoft Canada, and Luxury Retreats. He is also an accomplished blogger and speaker who educates groups and companies on how they can better leverage different online channels.