Top SEO Mistakes Made By Beginners

Slowly but surely, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is becoming an integral part of every marketing strategy. Now, SEO is marketing! Businesses are no longer looking at SEO as a cost, but as a long-term investment.

A properly executed strategy will bring more potential customers to your website, convince them to take your specified action which will in turn convert them into customers, repeat buyers and brand enthusiasts who will encourage their friends and family to use your company. Then, this cycle will repeat, your profits will grow, your brand will gain recognition. The ripple effect will continue until your business becomes an authority in its niche and people will view your company as a leader in its industry and trust you to answer their questions.

But before you become starry eyed with visions of conversions, profits and a globally recognized brand, you may want to look over these few basic (and even surprising) mistakes that have tripped up many SEO newbies.

1.    Not Having Clear, Well-Defined Goals

Many businesses and organizations want to launch an SEO strategy, but have not clearly defined who they are, what they offer and what their goals are. Whether you sell a product, offer a service, are a not-for-profit organization or web-based tool, defining what your business does, what it has to offer and what it realistically hopes to gain from an internet marketing strategy will help you figure out how to carefully craft your plan for SEO and measure its success. Setting up goals for you website (for example, a sale, subscription, download, donation, phone call, or form submission) ensures that you can come up with the proper plan to achieve these goals and measure your marketing success.

It is true that SEO can take some time before you see results. A PPC (Pay-per-Click) campaign can give your SEO strategy an initial boost. If you choose to launch PPC, it is important to know your profit margin so you can do so in a cost effective manner.

2.    Not Having a Strategy or Plan to Execute It

Figuring out a way to monetize your website (if it is a business) seems pretty straight forward. However, in the stress and excitement of building a website, many people forget that it’s ultimate goal is to bring in more business and generate revenue. If you don’t monetize your website, then your marketing goals are not long term and they should be. There is no special three-step formula you can use to do this. Even sites like Groupon and Facebook have difficulty monetizing and turning profits, which means that you will, too.

The way you go about this will depend on your answers to the questions outlined in the first section of this article. Businesses selling products and those offering services require different strategies. For example, if you sell electronics, your Internet Marketing Strategy must include shopping comparison sites like Shopzilla, Amazon and eBay. Google Products would also be a necessary part of this strategy. Realize that you may not just need SEO, but PPC and affiliate marketing as well (also known as pay per conversion). However, if you are selling a service like security, for instance, then much of this doesn’t apply to you. Part of Internet Marketing is tailoring your strategy to suit your product or service. This way you attract the people who are ready to buy what you have to offer but don’t know you exist … yet!

3.    Not Doing Enough Research

Just because the Internet allows you to reach an unlimited amount of people doesn’t mean you should try. In trying to reach everyone, you’ll reach no one. Knowing which people to reach out to and how requires an extensive amount of research; not just once, but as an on-going process.

Research what terms your competitors rank for and generate a list of those keywords and their variations. Choose which terms you want to rank for by using tools like Google Analytics and SpyFu. The keywords chosen should be keywords with a high number of searches and a low level of competition. While ranking is important, driving traffic to the parts of your site that best address what users are searching for is imperative to making conversions.

Once you have generated this list and chosen your terms, conduct niche term research to understand exactly what people using those terms are trying to find out. Discover what questions they need answered or what they are looking to learn or purchase, and then deliver it. Use this research to generate topics whose content is relevant, informative and engaging for users. Become the authority in your niche that people go to for answers. This kind of research should be conducted at least once every two weeks.

The creation of reliable content is not enough. It must be used for specific landing pages and it takes some research to know what content works best for which page. Research is also necessary to determine which of your calls to action are most effective for each product or service that you offer. Discover which avenues of promotion are best suited to your topic – social media sites like Twitter and Facebook, social bookmarking sites like Delicious, Reddit, StumbleUpon and Digg and press releases are only a few. So research, research, research! It is part of everything that you do and the single most important way to make your strategy effective and current.

4.    Only Outsourcing Link Building

While outsourcing an entire Internet marketing campaign is an option, outsourcing certain parts of it, especially your link building can be detrimental to your progress. Handing over your Internet marketing strategy to an experienced company with proven results will ensure that the entirety of your strategy will be handled properly without damage to your reputation.

Outsourcing the building of your link profile alone might be dangerous because you have no control over where the links are acquired. A company that specializes SOLELY in link building might be a big red flag indicating that they have no efficient strategy to build a link profile. They can put links to your page on all kinds of unrelated sites and other low-quality, spammy pages without thought or care of what that will do you to your brand’s reputation and surely you will suffer in terms of your visibility. Only quality backlinks have a positive effect.  Always check references thoroughly before working with a company that solely does link building.

While there are many avenues towards building a link profile i.e. social media, social bookmarking, guest blogging, press releases, story pitching, etc. – outsourcing that aspect of your strategy alone will do more harm than good. No one knows your business better than you, and the only way to build a strong link profile is through the generation of great content and its promotion on a variety of relevant platforms to gain links on authority sites in your niche and related fields. An Internet marketing company will make it their business to know your business as well as you and be a credit to it. A link-generating company might only care about taking your money; not the results you are looking for.

5.    Missing the Importance of Site Structure and a CMS

It is important to recognize that your homepage, while an important part of your website, is usually not the page someone lands on when they reach your website. They come in through the side door, the windows, the basement i.e. pages with relevant content such as article pages, blog pages, other content pages. This means that it is extremely important to have a content management system (CMS) that allows you to create a site that is easily navigated by its users. An internal link structure that leads users to other relevant pages on a website cannot be stressed enough. Not only will a good CMS, such as WordPress, help you build a site that is user friendly, but one that is crawl-friendly as well.

6.    Having Incorrect Attributes in a Robots.txt and .htaccess File

While I realize that is an extremely basic part of SEO, you’d be surprised how many errors people make here. Errors made in setting up these files can basically turn off all your SEO efforts within a few days and your traffic from Google might drop to zero.

The most common mistake is to have a disallow / command in your robots.txt file which means you are asking the search engines not to index your site. Here’s how a proper robots.txt file should look:

Sitemap: //www.optimum7.com/sitemap.xml
User-agent: *
Disallow: /administrator/
Disallow: /wp-admin
Disallow: /cache/
Disallow: /components/
Disallow: /images/
Disallow: /includes/

You basically want to disallow all directories that you do not want the search engines to index. Just copy and paste the above to a text editor, save as “robots.txt” and you have your file.

When it comes to the .htaccess file, it’s essential to set the parameters right such as the 301 redirects. You can find samples easily online and find “htaccess validator” to make sure you have everything right.

7.    Stagnation

An SEO strategy is not like baking a cake where doing each step of the process once ends in a final result. Instead, it is like trying to shed the weight you gained from eating all that cake – an ongoing process of a healthier diet and exercise. SEO is a way of life, of doing business, not something you can start and leave to fend for itself. It is a repetitive strategy of keyword research, content creation, implementation, tracking through Webmaster Tools, more keyword research, and repetition! Common search terms change frequently and new trends emerge. New content should be implemented on a weekly basis. Keeping up to date with your analytics is indescribably important to the success of your SEO strategy.

Not keeping track of your analytics and doing research every two weeks (at least) is not the only way to fall behind. It is also important to keep on top of changes in the industry and its technology. Using outdated practices can hurt your efforts – a painful lesson comes from Google’s Panda and Penguin updates which have wreaked havoc for many uninformed, unprepared site owners.

8.    Listening to Everyone Talk About SEO

There is a vast amount of information about search engine optimization. But trying to take it all in and use it may not be wise. It is important to use your common sense. SEOs and Internet marketing companies that promise ranks in 90 days should raise a red flag. While many people claim to be SEOs, their methods are faulty or worse, unethical. Pay attention to authorities like Google (Webmaster Blog and Matt Cutts), SEOMoz, KISSmetrics and our own articles here at Optimum7. These are the same sources you should be using to keep up to date with the industry and its technology as described in section above.

So use your common sense, avoid these pitfalls and check in for new articles from Optimum7 to keep your SEO and Internet marketing efforts up-to-date and ethical! Most importantly, contact us if you need help.