“Does SEO really even matter anymore?”
This is an actual question a client posed a few weeks ago, and it’s not the first time it’s been asked. Lately, there has been a great deal of speculation around SEO and whether it still has a place in modern marketing. If various inflammatory blog posts and articles are to be believed, SEO is a waste of resources and an archaic, pre-Google Penguin strategy. But, let’s not get too hasty.
First, not only does SEO still matter — it possibly matters more than ever. Second, SEO may not mean what you think it means. That is, whether you’re an advocate for or against search engine optimization, you could be doing a major disservice to your content marketing strategy.
To help you avoid these pitfalls, we’ve rounded up five common SEO mistakes that can damage your inbound efforts.
1. Trying to Game the System
One of the most frustrating aspects of marketingis that there is no “quick fix.” And being patient isn’t easy, especially when it requires an up-front investment.
I like to compare inbound marketing in general to weight loss. To achieve long-lasting, sustainable results, there is no quick fix. Sure, you could do a 30-day juice cleanse and probably drop several pounds. But what happens when the diet is over? If you return to your old habits, you’re eventually right back where you started. If you commit to a balanced diet and regular exercise, the results will take longer to achieve — but they’ll last.
Similarly, there is no SEO “trick” that will help you achieve overnight success, because Google is always a step ahead. You have to commit to developing high-quality content and publishing regularly. While it may take a few weeks, or months, to reach your traffic goal, the quality of the leads will be worth the wait.
2. Failing to Do Keyword Research Correctly
Let’s say you enter a keyword into a keyword planning tool, and it spits out a list of relevant queries, long-tail searches and related keywords. You use this list as a guide for building out your content. But even after hours spent carefully focusing your content around these keywords, you see almost no change in your organic traffic. What’s happening?
It’s not that you’re doing anything wrong, per se. You’re just doing it the same way everyone else is doing it. And if every marketer is using the same keyword list as kindling for their content, the competition to rank for these keywords is pretty stiff.
Unless you’re a giant corporation with hundreds of content writers, video producers and SEO analysts working round-the-clock, it’s better to spend your efforts gathering less competitive keywords in more creative ways. In the words of SEO guru Neil Patel, “Keyword research is an art, not a science.”
In addition to keyword tools, consider the following opportunities:
- Determine what your personas are trying to learn when they’re not being sold something.Quora, Reddit and LinkedIn Group discussions are great places to monitor what your audience really wants to know, and how they frame their questions.
- Rely on active listening during persona interviews. What words and phrases do customers and prospects use to describe their pain points? Jot down these common words, or review interview transcripts for repeated phrases.
- Monitor social media conversations. Use social listening tools to home in on what your audience talks about. (Once you’ve created the content, respond to these questions and concerns with your solution.)
3. Not Using Keywords
When I first began my content career in 2010, the industry was all about the keywords — and stuffing as many of them into your content as possible, intelligibility be damned. The idea was you could “trick” search engines into showing your site at the tip-top of search results because the keyword entered into the search appeared most often on your site. As you can imagine, landing on a page with “Topeka, Kansas window replacement” mentioned 14 times in 300 words was a turnoff to readers — not to mention, made copywriters die a little inside.
In 2011, Google implemented the Panda algorithm update to penalize thin content. For some, this meant a pendulum swing to a strict no-keyword policy. Also not cool. (Try writing a blog post about homeowners insurance without using the word “home” or “insurance” more than twice.)
So if keyword stuffing and keyword banning are both awful tactics, how should you use keywords? There are two rules here:
- Tailor content around real words and phrases your audience actually uses.
- Don’t overcomplicate it. You are a human writing for other humans. Be natural.
4. Ignoring SEO
As with the Panda update, people have a tendency to take advice to an extreme. For example, when Google’s former head of webspam Matt Cutts said using guest blogging as a way of gaining links was spammy, everyone flipped out and started condemning guest blogging. What many people failed to notice was that Cutts didn’t forbid guest blogging explicitly — only using it as a way to quickly and unethically gain links.
Exchanging guest posts with other industry professionals you know and trust not only is 100 percent OK, it’s strongly encouraged by Kuno.
The point is, while you should avoid black hat (and gray hat) SEO practices like keyword stuffing and spammy link building, it doesn’t mean you should reject the entire concept. If you’re looking for tips on what you should do, check out this infographic on SEO in 2015.
5. Regarding SEO as a Catch-All Solution
One thing that’s often misinterpreted about SEO, and likely the reason many believe it’s dead, is that it’s not meant to be a marketing tactic. Remember the earlier analogy between inbound marketing and weight loss? Imagine you’ve eliminated processed foods from your diet and spent the last few months on a rigorous exercise regimen. You’ve seen progress, but you’d like to kick it up a notch. You’ve lost the love handles, but now you want the six-pack.
SEO is search engine optimization, not search engine magic. It’s the thing that will help you take your results from good to better. If you’re already consistently writing informative and enjoyable blog posts and eBooks, producing aesthetically pleasing and engaging videos, infographics and slide presentations — and distributing your content via social, email and other relevant channels — doing a little SEO maintenance can help take you to the next level.
For example, if you’re already doing all the above, you can further optimize content by asking yourself the following:
- Does your blog post or site page center on one keyword or phrase?
- Do you use these keywords and phrases in the page URL? Title tag? H1? Body content? Image alt tags?
- When mentioning this keyword or phrase elsewhere, are you linking back to this page?
SEO has long been a controversial and popular topic, and despite all the research and regularly published guidelines by Google, still wrought with misguided information. It’s easy to get confused, and buy into the wrong strategies. However, it’s key to remember SEO alone is not a strategy — it’s a form of maintenance. By playing by the rules, widening your keyword research methods and focusing on addressing your persona’s pain points with top-quality content, you can enjoy rewards in the form of higher search engine rankings and increased traffic.
Originally published at www.kunocreative.com.