After being involved in SEO for over half a decade, I’ve seen my fair share of search engine algorithm updates. Like many industries, change is the only constant in the SEO industry, however over the years I’ve also seen my fair share of search engine optimization companies fail to stay up to date with the latest strategies in the SEO world. These companies quickly aggravate their client base and many of them end up closing up shop.
Even experts can miss the ball from time to time, however with the latest rounds of Google updates over the last 18 months, even seasoned veterans are making mistakes with how they approach SEO in 2013. Here are the 10 most common mistakes I hear of from new clients that even some of the “pros” in the SEO industry are making, and more importantly how to avoid them:
1) Ignoring Google Announcements
Okay, I’ll be the first to admit that Google isn’t exactly “friendly” with SEO companies when it comes to announcing changes to their algorithm. I understand this — there are hundreds of thousands of people out there who would unethically spam search engines if they knew exactly what they were looking for. But if you know how to read between the lines, a good SEO can gather quite a bit of information from the announcements Google puts out on their webspam and webmaster blogs.
I often hear of SEO companies that don’t even know these sites exist, which to me is absolutely terrifying as they are the first place most good SEOs turn to learn more about Google updates.
2) Building Keyword Rich Links
In 2008, you could build 10,000 links all with the same anchor text, for example “car insurance”, and rank for the keyword “car insurance” very easily. Today, if you build 100 links all with the same anchor text, for example “car insurance”, you probably won’t ever rank for the keyword “car insurance” for as long as Google exists.
The reality is keyword rich anchor text is important, however it’s also important to know how to use it. In my opinion, it should be used extremely sparingly and only with high quality links. Gone are the days of building endless amounts of junk anchor text links to rank for a given term. But unfortunately many SEO companies, and especially low end and outsourced SEO companies, are late to the parade on this one and still build clients hundreds even thousands of keyword rich links. Just a few weeks ago we took on a new client who sent us an alarming report from her last SEO company showing thousands of these links, and not surprisingly they don’t rank for any of those terms anymore. SEO today requires more caution and attention to detail than it did years ago.
3) Building Too Many Links
Last week I was speaking with a new client who wanted to go from 0-100 in a few months. They wanted to have a mid 5-figure per month budget to be extremely aggressive in growing a new business through organic traffic. I had to slow them down, as building too many links especially to a new site and in too short of a time period is a red flag these days to search engines.
These days it isn’t about building tens of thousands of links to outrank competitors, rather what I’ve experienced is it’s more important to build quality links over a long period of time. It seems as if slow and steady really does win the SEO race these days. Search engine algorithms are getting smarter and smarter by the day, so it’s important to understand what they want at any given point in time to not only try to rank for your given terms, but to also make sure you aren’t penalized and aren’t throwing money out the window. In this case, we actually turned away revenue and recommended to this client to start out on a different route with us to protect their investment.
4) Not Updating Your Website
Let’s be honest, websites in 2013 are a heck of a lot more sophisticated than they were just a few years ago. And if your company has a website that is outdated, not only will it show when your visitors come to the site, but it will also show to search engines. Aside from the look and layout of the site, it’s important to keep your coding up to date and fully compliant. Beyond that, search engines have been reading content for nearly 2 years now looking for duplicate content, thin content, and spammy content. If your site hasn’t been updated (both aesthetically and content wise) then it definitely needs to be updated.
Many SEO companies only offer SEO, they don’t know the first thing about web design or how web design actually impacts SEO. It’s important to make sure that your SEO company in 2013 isn’t just well versed in SEO, but understands how nearly every element of online marketing (SEO, web design, PPC, email marketing, etc.) work together to deliver the best ROI possible.
5) Having Junk Content On Your Site
Two years ago I would encourage our clients to blog whenever possible, or if they had the budget we would have our content writers blog on their behalf. Back then, I was happy with websites just having updated content, regardless of whether it was 200 words, 500 words, or 1,000 words long and regardless of the quality of the content. Back then, if you actually had content on your blog you were light years ahead of other websites.
Today, everyone sees the importance of blogging, and it’s no longer enough just to put content on your blog. Let’s look at a site like About.com or eHow. These sites have millions of pages of content with millions of links and millions of visitors, so they can get away with putting up mediocre content. However as a small business, you can’t get by with putting out this same quality of content. You have to write quality content that is engaging which will not only engage your visitors, but it will also attract referral traffic and natural links.
Likewise, Google seems to be looking at the length of content these days. I rarely see 300 word posts ranking on page 1 anymore unless they are on an extremely strong domain. Rather I’m seeing more and more articles and posts in the 1,000 to 2,000 word range ranking on page 1 of results. In 2013 and beyond, it’s not going to just be about content but it’s going to be about quality content.
6) Not Building Any Links
I was speaking with a few owners of small SEO companies who say they are no longer building links for their clients as it’s just too risky and they don’t see the value anymore, rather they are focused on a content-only strategy. While I agree content is extremely important, any good SEO will still tell you the importance of quality links built right. Google is still looking at links and in my opinion will continue looking at links for years to come, so it’s important to still build links to your website from quality sources.
The problem becomes building quality links is labor intensive, time intensive, costly, and requires skill, things many SEO companies are lacking. It’s critical to ensure you’re building links to your website from the right sources.
7) Focusing On A Narrow Goal
If you had to shoot a bullseye on a target, would you rather do it with a single shot rifle or with a shotgun that spreads dozens of pellets? The more you throw at the target, the greater the chance of hitting a bullseye. Many SEO companies focus so narrowly on ranking a few keywords, that they miss the big puzzle. These days SEO is risky. Doing one thing wrong can cause a site to stop ranking for a given keyword. Rather than focus narrowly on a few keywords, it’s important that you focus on a set of keywords that consist of long tail terms, competitive terms, and even other marketing strategies.
For example, to incorporate diversity into our campaigns we assist clients with remarketing campaigns, pay per click campaigns, email marketing campaigns, social media campaigns, content writing, and other online marketing strategies. While SEO is still the best way to get traffic in my opinion, it’s also important to broaden your goal to make sure you’re engaged in a diverse campaign to protect the investments of your clients.
8) Still Engaging In On-Page Spam
Last week I saw the site of an SEO agency whose footer had over 100 different “terms” they were trying to rank for linking to various doorway pages on the site. A few weeks ago I saw a new site using cloaking to try and trick search engines. SEO companies are still engaging in these black-hat strategies to try and game search engines, and to be honest after digging around a bit it isn’t working at all for them as they weren’t ranking for any of the terms.
I’m not sure if the person behind this just doesn’t want to accept that search engines know how to detect this these days or they’re just too ignorant to understand it, but the reality is on-page spam is one of the surest ways these days to see a dramatic drop in organic traffic. More important than making sure you aren’t engaged in spam linking is to ensure your site isn’t trying to spam search engines.
9) Tracking The Wrong Metrics
Rankings, bounce rate, organic traffic, referral traffic, rank change, time on site, new visitor percentage — these are all key metrics in any online marketing campaign that a good SEO company will track. Want to know the one metric a great SEO company will strive to improve? ROI. At the end of the day, who cares if you have 10 visitors on your site or 10,000 visitors, what it really comes down to is are you seeing a good ROI from your investment?
It’s important to make sure your SEO company is helping you make money. Whether it’s through conversion optimization, page one rankings, helping with site compliance issues, or anything in between, make sure your SEO company is working for you to help you with your business. It amazes me at how many small businesses pay an SEO company each month and have no idea what they are doing. We have clients who prefer to only receive updates quarterly, but the majority of our clients receive monthly updates from us and many clients speak with us on a weekly and sometimes even daily basis. Make sure ROI is the key number involved in your SEO campaign, and even if that metric is difficult to track in your industry make sure you have at least a rough idea of it.
10) Not Reaching Out For Assistance
SEO is complex. Extremely complex these days. Over the last 6 months, I’ve spoken to dozens of owners of other quality SEO companies and have even hired one or two for unique situations to get a second opinion. I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know everything when it comes to SEO, and to be honest there isn’t anyone out there that knows everything about SEO. And just when you figure everything out, something changes and you’re back to square one.
Make sure your SEO company doesn’t have ego issues — and I mean that seriously. When we face a situation that is unique or we think we just need a second opinion, we never hesitate to reach out to our friends and associates in the industry to get a second set of eyes. Any true professional will do this, and it’s important to make sure your SEO company isn’t afraid to reach out for assistance.
There you have it — my list of the 10 SEO mistakes even the pros are making in 2013. Hopefully this list will help out a few SEOs with seeing what they’re doing wrong, but more importantly for me is I hope this list will help some small business owners better evaluate the performance of their SEO campaign.