Issues surrounding search engine optimization (SEO) are among the biggest headaches a website owner or PR or marketing professional can bear. The good news is that most of these issues stem from common mistakes committed by rookies. The missteps are reasonably easy to address if you know what to look for.
Here are nine of the most common mistakes and the necessary steps to address them.
1. Improper Use of Keywords
Although keywords aren’t as critical as they were a few years ago, they’re still the bedrock of SEO practices today. The most common mistake regarding keywords is prioritizing traffic instead of conversions.
You should target keywords that your audience uses. Identify the intent of your target customer and then tailor your keywords based on those desires. You can pinpoint these needs by creating customer personas grounded on several factors such as interests, age, purchasing power, gender, and more.
For specificity, you should also use long-tail keywords in your content based on projected user behavior. For instance, try to foresee what people will enter in the search bar if they’re looking for, let’s say, a PR agency.
Instead of ranking for the term “PR agency,” you should be using “affordable Los Angeles PR Agency” instead. The specificity of the latter is likely to result in more conversions since “affordable” and “Los Angeles” signals that the user intends to acquire the services in a specific locale and is value oriented.
2. Images without Alt Text
Alt text, also called alt tags or alt descriptions, is written copy that appears in place of an image on a webpage if the image fails to load. Unfortunately, rookies often ignore this bit as many content management systems don’t require adding alt text as a default.
Alt text helps Google identify the relevance of the image to the written content, which helps your article rank higher on search results. On top of that, screen readers used by the visually impaired read alt text to give them an idea of what the image is about. Think of them as captions for the illustration or thumbnails of article content.
Adding alt text to images should be standard practice for PR and marketing professionals posting blogs and other web content. Content creators and editors can usually add alt text by clicking on the image with a CMS such as WordPress.
It’s particularly valuable for driving up conversions on ecommerce sites. Just keep in mind that the keywords in the alt text should be in context with the content. . Other best practices include: be specific, include the article’s keywords in the alt text but don’t overstuff the tags with keywords, and limit descriptions to less than 125 characters,
3. Poor Link Building Strategies
While there are several mistakes that beginners make in their link-building strategies, the most damaging is link buying. Link buying is a black hat strategy that aims to manipulate Google into ranking a site higher on its search engine results pages (SERPs).
Although the practice isn’t as prevalent anymore, some people are still tempted to try it, especially those seeking quick results. Understand that link building is a time-consuming process with no shortcuts. Short-cuts usually end in a quagmire.
Other frowned-upon link-building strategies involve link spamming, link exchanging, private blog networks, and stuffing keywords into anchor text. As Google has become better at spotting such black hat SEO tricks, the content-creation and relationship-building skills of PR pros have become more valuable. Some essential strategies for link-building include:
- Create “killer content” that provides compelling reasons for others to link to your site. Work on building those natural backlinks over time.
- Provide something useful. Read blog forums to find what issues and problems your audience faces and create content that answers their questions and resolves their problems
- Focus on creating evergreen content that maintains its value over time.
- Engage in developing relationships. Reach out to popular bloggers and other influencers to convince them to link to your content.
4. Ignoring Headers
H1 tags, typically used for article headlines, help both users and search engines better understand a specific page. For instance, headers are great for placing keywords, which Google can use as a signal to show a relevant section of content when it matches a user’s search query.
H2 tags, used for subheads, also help break up walls of text, making the content easier to read. They act as a skimming roadmap, especially for long articles. Using H2 tags properly will encourage people to stay on your page longer, which Google loves. Ideally, you’ll want to use H2 tags every 200 to 500 words to act as a resting pause for readers.
5. Lack of Pillar Pages
In a nutshell, a pillar page covers a particular topic in depth, offering all the necessary information about the subject in a single page. Pillar pages help Google sift through the clutter on the web and deliver web searchers thorough insight into a particular topic.
Think about it this way: If Google can precisely determine what the page is about, it’s easier for the algorithm to categorize it, delivering the content to users interested in reading it. On top of that, you can include relevant keywords and semantic keywords in the piece, further increasing the chances of the article landing on the first page of the SERP.
In an added piece of advice, also combine pillar pages with cluster content. A cluster content is a piece that covers a single topic in your niche that can then be linked to a pillar page.
6. Failing to Secure an HTTPS
An HTTPS is a security measure used to ensure that the information shared between a website visitor and a site is encrypted. To check if your site is HTTPS, simply enter it on your browser and look for the padlock icon located on the left-hand side of the URL.
Google is particularly strict when it comes to user security, so a site that’s not HTTPS is highly likely to get a low ranking compared to those that are secure. Because Google labels non-SSL websites as “Not Secure,” your site will lose customer trust without an SSL certificate. To remedy this, you’ll need to acquire an SSL (Secure Socket Layer) certificate, which can cost between $50 to $200 a year depending on the certificate authority.
You can also get one for free if you choose a WordPress hosting company that settles the matter for you, such as Bluehost, SiteGround or HostGator.
7. Inefficient Index Rate
Indexing is when Google’s crawlers scan a site for new content and categorize it based on that content. Although several factors can contribute to a more frequent index rate, quality content and site loading speed are the most important ones.
Always remain consistent when publishing articles and ensure that you’re offering value above everything else. With the rise of mobile traffic, it’s essential to optimize websites for mobile devices. As for making your site load faster, you can start by optimizing your images. Here’s a more detailed explanation for this topic.
8. Duplicate Content
Although Google doesn’t technically penalize sites that have duplicate content as it can sometimes be unavoidable, the algorithm still filters it, which can result in loss of rank. There are two types of duplicate content: internal duplicates and external duplicates.
An internal duplicate is when a site creates an exact copy of the same content under different URLs; external duplicates are when different domains have identical copy – or near-exact copy – of a particular topic.
These two kinds of duplicates can be subcategorized into different branches as well, with each needing its own solution. Scraped content is content that essentially is stolen from other websites, sometimes rewritten with the help of machines. Websites using this unethical tactic can be penalized by Google and possibly removed from search results. Syndicated articles are republished posts that credit the original article. A valid PR and marketing strategy, syndication helps increase reach.
Canonical tags, code entered into the web page’s header, can eliminate problems with duplicative content by informing search engines which page to index as the authoritative version. The HTML code is:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”https://yourwebsite.com/blog” />
For an in-depth dive into duplicate content, here’s a great read by Kyle Freeman SEO team lead at Portent.
9. Not Measuring SEO Results
If you don’t track your SEO results, you won’t be able to determine the results of your PR and content marketing efforts. Keep an eye on key metrics such as organic traffic, keyword rankings, referral traffic, new traffic, and bounce rates. Set up goals in Google Analytics to track conversions, such as downloads of white papers and other content. Conversions, customer value and ROI are especially important for showing the benefits of SEO.
Establishing key performance indicators, or KPIs, based on your objectives and continually monitoring them enables you to gauge progress toward your goals. Goals might be to increase exposure and reach, convert website visitors, or increase the number of loyal followers. Monitoring the right metrics helps find tactics that work the best for each goal.
Bottom Line: Basic knowledge of SEO is a must for PR pros and marketers involved in crafting content, managing websites, and submitting content to other websites. Avoiding some common mistakes will boost SEO, increase website traffic and ultimately improve ROI.
Aubrey Anne Bernadette D. Barcena graduated from Miriam College with a degree of Bachelor of Arts in Communication. She is currently a digital marketer at Growth Rocket. During her free time, she is a video creator