When it comes to SEO, even experts make mistakes. After all, SEO is an ever-changing landscape that requires businesses to remain adaptive. You never actually know when the next Google algorithm update will happen.
However, as digital marketers, you need to embrace whatever change may come and capitalize the moment to gain the competitive edge. Below are seven critical SEO mistakes that you need to correct in 2016:
1. Slow Page Loading Speed
Google updates its algorithm for one purpose only: to provide the best experience to search users. This is affected by the relevance of search results and the overall experience that indexed sites can provide. So since you cannot have great user experience with a sluggish site, Google itself has indicated that site loading speed is a key factor in SEO.
Furthermore, speed is directly tied to a site’s bounce rate. This is the rate at which visitors leave before clicking anywhere else on the site. According to statistics, 40% of the online audience will leave if a site takes more than 3 seconds to load. That is a staggering number considering the conversions you could be missing.
There are several things you can do to speed up your Website. If you are using WordPress, you can rely on compression plugins such as WP-SmushIt or implement “lazy loading” with Lazy Load. You should also pay attention to the reliability of your web host and pick the one that can guarantee maximum uptime.
2. Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords
Every SEO expert knows that keywords can make the difference between success and failure. However, keyword mistakes could be hiding right under your nose and quietly costing your business thousands of wasted dollars. For example, you could be targeting broad, global keywords when you only offer local services. Though you may successfully rank highly for those keywords, you cannot actually convert them into monetary gains.
This is why you need to start targeting long-tail keywords which are not only easier to rank for but will also bring you visitors who are most likely to buy. Long-tail keywords are more specific than broad search terms with high competition – usually three to four words long. As a rule of thumb, you should pluck the low-hanging fruit. These are long-tail keywords with low competition but have a reasonable and profitable search volume.
3. Using Poorly-Written Content
In modern digital marketing and SEO, content is king. If your site does not have enough content to ensure a meaningful and valuable experience to readers, then Google will probably see your site unworthy for rankings. Spun articles, scraped content, rushed guest posts, doorway pages, affiliate pages—these types of content are defined by Google as “thin” content.
Keep in mind that a content strategy must strike a balance between quantity and quality. Although there is no optimal number of words for each page, it is a good idea to be as thorough as possible with your points. Remember that even a single page that contains thin content can drag your site down in SERPs, especially if it is a poorly scraped, copied, or spun post.
4. Using Unoptimized Title Tags
Many companies make the mistake of using their brand name as the page title for everything. Keep in mind that title tags are vital for on-page SEO. It describes the content of an entire page in SERPs, browsers, and social media.
The first rule of using title tags is to be specific and unique to each page. This means no two pages should share the same title tag. Instead, each one must give your audience a clear idea of what the specific page is about. It must also be keyword-oriented for added searchability. To serve as your guide, the optimal format for title tags is: Keyword #1 – Keyword #2 | Company Name.
5. Not Using Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions may not directly affect your rankings in SERPs, but it is a major factor when it comes to your click-through rate. Remember that meta descriptions are the 160-character long paragraphs shown below the title tag in search results. With that said it must provide a concise explanation of what the audience should expect.
Just like title tags, meta descriptions must be unique for each page. Be persuasive and aim to pique the reader’s curiosity. You can do this by providing a good chunk of information with a matching CTA that tells them to read more.
6. Maintaining Unnatural Links
Aside from on-page issues, you could also be committing mistakes in SEO offpage. Simply put—unnatural links are bad for SEO. If left unchecked, they may cause penalties that are so severe, that you’d be better off starting from scratch.
Although unnatural links can somehow be “cushioned” by strong links in the past, Google is making a stand that all links must be built naturally. This means you need to reassess and clean up your backlink profile. Get rid of spammy links with exact match keywords and focus on building links from authoritative websites.
Also, don’t forget to optimize for a diverse list of relevant keywords to give your site a healthy backlink profile. Let this realization be the pivotal point in your link-building strategy. To start, you can practice strategies such as blogger outreach and the Skyscraper technique to fuel your link-building efforts.
7. Not Using Analytics
Analytics are there for a reason, and that reason is to provide SEO experts the opportunity to make data-driven decisions. One particular advantage of using analytics is to help you find keywords that you’ve “accidentally ranked” for. This can be done with a tool like RankWatch that also tracks low-hanging fruit keywords.
Analytics can also tell you where your audience is coming from so you can better optimize your content to suit their preferences. You can do this using an all around analytics tool such as Google Analytics.
Analytics permanently removes the guesswork and helps you develop a solid plan for your SEO. With everything you’ve learned so far, it is time to get to the drawing board and formulate the steps you need to take based on your current progress. Don’t forget to focus on your content, website performance, and link building strategies as these are the most important pillars of SEO success.