The importance of SEO is well-known for quite some time. Even the business owners that have just established their online presence, or those who are starting the process, know that achieving SEO success and attracting organic traffic is one of the best ways to achieve sustainable growth online.
For the same reasons, ranking in the search engines has become an extremely competitive undertaking. This element of competition, combined with the complex nature of SEO, drives beginners to look for guides and articles like this one.
Unfortunately, much of the web is filled with the same information and advice that was being given to SEO beginners five or ten years ago. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of that advice is still relevant.
However, it has been repeated so many times that talking about subjects like not abusing keywords, not buying backlinks, or optimizing meta titles and tags almost feels like plagiarism.
If you are a complete beginner and haven’t had a chance to learn about the topics I just mentioned, you can start with this excellent guide.
In this article, I will be talking about the SEO mistakes that are relevant to the most recent SEO trends. These are mistakes that most other articles don’t talk about yet these are evidently prevalent on several business websites that we work with.
If you have done everything ‘by the book’ and still aren’t able to attract the kind of organic traffic you expect your website to attract, you may be making one of the following mistakes:
Only Focusing On Text Content
When we talk about keywords, most discussions revolve around how many keywords there should be on your homepage content or how you should use your primary keyword in the title of your article. Once again, this is all good advice but only a few articles talk about content in the truest sense.
See, content is not just written content. Videos, infographics, and images are all different types of content that have remarkable potential to attract organic traffic to your website. Here’s what the result page for the search query “how to change a flat tyre” look like:
As you can see, Google prioritises videos over other types of content. This is true for most informational queries, also sometimes known as top-of-the-funnel queries. These are queries that your potential customers are asking from Google when they have just realised that they have an issue or a problem that needs to be addressed and are looking for potential solutions.
Another interesting thing about informational queries is that they make up for 80% of all the queries received by search engines.
So, why does Google rank videos higher? And why should you invest in producing videos when you can write a guide?
The answer to both those questions is the same- improved user experience.
Google wants to provide their users with a delightful experience. They know that watching a tutorial video is easier than reading a 2000-word guide. That’s why they rank the websites that feature videos on the subject higher than other websites.
The takeaway? Keep producing written content for your website but whenever you can, mix it up with visual content, especially when you are producing content for informational queries. Not only would this allow you to rank higher on Google, if you post the same videos on YouTube, you can also start attracting traffic from the second most used search engine on the planet. Additionally, there is also the chance that you may be able to monetise your YouTube presence or build a following on that platform.
Not Optimizing For Questions
As mentioned earlier, 80% of search engine queries are informational. People seeking information often word their queries in the form of questions. Optimizing for these questions can deliver great benefits to your website.
One major reason behind this is Google’s 2013 Hummingbird update that introduced semantic search. The technology, which has improved immensely since it was introduced, aims to help google understand the intent behind a search query and show relevant results based on this intent.
Over the years, Google’s algorithms have developed an unmatched ability to understand the intent behind search queries that are submitted in the form of questions.
Besides providing answers in the “People Also Ask” section (see previous screenshot), Google answers three types of questions in featured snippets that appear on top of all the organic search results. The advantage of appearing in the featured snippets is not difficult to imagine.
Not only does it deliver enormous amounts of traffic to your website, it also positions your website as an authoritative source of credible information in the mind of your target audience.
So what are the three types of questions Google answers?
- Direct Answers: As the name suggests, these are to-the-point answers to concise questions. Here’s an example:
As you can see space.com has secured the prime appearance for this answer.
Google considers hundreds of parameters to decide which indexed website should appear in any featured snippet. Here are a few things you can do to improve your chances of appearing in the featured snippet for a direct answer:
- For questions that you think are deserving of a short and precise answer, produce crisp content. Keep things to the point.
- While writing the content, answer the question right off the bat, as precisely as possible.
- Back up the precise answer with an elaborate explanation.
- Answer additional, relevant questions in the same blog post/article.
- Short Answers: Google uses short answers for questions that are asking for reasons behind something or for questions related to possibilities. That means, most questions that appear with short answer featured snippets start with either ‘why’ or ‘can’. With that said, depending on the context, short answers may be used for other questions too. Here are a couple of examples of short answers appearing in Google search results:
Fortunately, most of the optimization tips that apply to optimizing content for direct answer questions are also relevant if you are trying to secure a featured snippet position for questions with short answers. Besides the already-shared advice, you can further optimize for short answer questions by:
- Integrating questions in header tags of your content. While it is perfectly okay to write content with the purpose of ranking for short answer questions, you can also optimize your headers in other articles you write by writing them as questions.
- Deliver the answer immediately after the question appears. Try to give a complete answer in 4-5 lines.
- Optimize your answer for readability.
- Long Answers: Long answers are used by Google to deliver answers that involve multiple steps or several points. Here’s an example:
As you can see, the user only gets a partial answer but it's enough to make them curious and click through.
However, keep in mind that many long answer questions, like a guide to changing a tyre, are answered with videos. When creating content, you will have to judge whether the question is better answered with a long-form guide or a quick video.
With that said, to optimize for long answer questions, you can do the following:
- Include the question in the title of your blog post or article.
- Use pointers or headers to break content down into steps or different points.
- Use relevant images.
Now that you know how to write the content that may help you rank for different types of questions, let’s talk about how you can find question keywords.
Fortunately, doing this is not complicated at all. All you need is a SEO tool that enables keyword research. Many modern SEO tools will allow you to filter out question keywords. Then, based on metrics like search volume and competition, you can choose the questions that are both trending and easy to rank for, and answer them with your questions.
Another great place to find question keywords is the Google result page. The ‘People Also Ask’ list features questions relevant to the search query (your seed keyword). The best part is, Google automatically expands the list every time you click on a question to reveal the answer. This means, for every keyword, Google provides you access to a virtually endless list of question keywords.
Not Performing Off-Page SEO
SEO has two facets, off-page and on-page SEO. The on-page SEO is the part where you optimize elements of your own website in order to help the search engine crawlers better understand your website.
While it is a common notion that on-page SEO techniques will help a business website rank for relevant keywords, it is mostly misinformed. With a few exceptions, all on-page SEO does it to make sure Google and other search engines recognise your website and place it in the most relevant category/categories.
Think about it, since on-page SEO is all about optimizing elements of the website that you own, don’t you think at least a few of your competitors will also go through the trouble of doing the same? A good SEO checker is usually capable of revealing all the on-page optimization actions one needs to take to make their website search engine friendly.
There is so much competition on the web that search engines cannot rank websites simply based on how well the owners optimize them. They need a way to verify their authenticity, along with the credibility and relevance of the information contained within them.
This is why off-page SEO factors exist. A lot of SEO beginners think that backlinks are the only off-page SEO factor. However, the reality is that while backlinks are surely important, there are several other off-page SEO factors that websites must optimize for. These include, but are not limited to:
- Linked and unlinked brand mentions
- Number of citations
- Content shares
- Social media presence
Since backlinks are a big part of off-page SEO, Google has had to announce special rules applicable on their use, to avoid the abuse of backlinks. These include:
- Links should be natural. This means, the website linking to your website should provide you with the backlink on their own. Google mandates that the owner of the website that receives the backlink should have no hand in acquiring the backlink. While this rule is quite arbitrary, the other rules help Google make sure (to a large extent) that the websites ranking high in the search results have a large number of “natural” backlinks.
- Backlinks should come from high authority websites. This rule particularly ensures that backlinks are natural. High authority websites care about their authority and don’t just like any website. They care about their audience and only want to send them to other websites that contain quality content. Google also measures the number of outgoing links on the page where a backlink is placed.
- Links should come from a relevant website, preferably in the same niche. However, there are certain acceptable exceptions. For instance, links coming from news websites or websites of local government authorities may not be relevant in the traditional sense but these links are usually extremely beneficial.
Basically, on-page SEO has more to do with the technical aspect of SEO while off-page SEO measures the public perception of your website to determine whether it deserves to end up on the coveted first page of Google’s search results.
While you cannot effectively perform off-page SEO optimization without first perfecting on-page SEO, both aspects are equally important.
Ignoring Local SEO
Local SEO, as the name suggests, is optimizing your website to rank for search queries with local intent. Meaning, when you optimize for local SEO, you are hoping to rank for relevant location specific keywords.
Let’s understand this with the example of a digital marketing agency. When one considers the nature of the services provided by such an agency, it becomes clear that they don’t necessarily need to find clients in their area. The same techniques and strategies can be used to deliver more leads or traffic or revenue to any business located anywhere.
With that said, it also is not difficult to imagine the kind of competition this marketing agency would have to face if they rank for the keywords “digital marketing agency”. The competition is so high that ranking for this keyword may well be virtually impossible for a new website.
In comparison, ranking for a relevant local keyword like “digital marketing agency in Maryland” may be much easier since there may only be a handful of agencies in Maryland. Even if there are more, the competition will definitely not be as fierce as it will be for the keyword “digital marketing”.
Bottom line, it is much easier for businesses to rank for local-intent search terms and businesses that can find clients in their area should definitely optimize for local keywords.
However, that’s not all local businesses can do. Another incredible feature of the Google SERPs is the Google My Business (GMB) listing.
Google My Business allows business owners to create accounts for their local business, post photos, collect reviews, post updates, and appear high in local search results without having to struggle too hard with regular SEO. This is because in most cases, GMB listings appear at the top of the results, like this:
GMB is great because it has levelled the playing field (to some extent) between locally owned small businesses and large conglomerates that operate local stores and have virtually endless marketing budgets. This is why, if you have a business that operates in specific areas, then creating, optimizing, and regularly updating your Google My Business listing should be high on your priority list.
Now, let’s talk about the case of the business that has no interest in ranking for local keywords because, for whatever reason, they cannot find local or work with local customers. Should such businesses completely ignore local SEO? The answer is an obvious ‘no’.
Creating a GMB listing takes very little time and effort and even if it can potentially help you find one client an year, it is worth creating one for your business. Moreover, there must be a good reason that the ability to create a GMB listing is not limited to local/small businesses.
Besides optimizing your GMB profile, there is one other local SEO technique that can benefit national and international businesses- getting local backlinks.
Your business may be working with clients in other cities or even other countries but your website can still derive great SEO benefits from a backlink from a local authority website. Another way to get local backlinks while also improving the overall perception of your business is to participate in or even sponsor local events. This way, you can get quality links from the event websites and also appear as a business that cares about and engages with its local community.
Not Having A Holistic Strategy
As mentioned earlier, a lot of people think that off-page SEO is only about building a strong backlink profile. As a result of this and other similar thoughts, a lot of SEO strategies end up focusing on only a handful of aspects of SEO.
While it is true that in a lot of cases, due to budget, time, and resource constraints, you cannot focus on every aspect of SEO, using this reasoning to completely ignore certain aspects of SEO will prevent you from achieving sustainable and long term organic traffic growth.
Remember, in order to be successful with SEO, you need to cover all aspects of SEO. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
- Creating a strong backlink profile
- Perfecting on-page SEO
- Having an active social media presence
- Publishing relevant and high-quality content consistently
Speaking of publishing content, one of the biggest mistakes that website owners make is publishing a large amount of content in one day and then becoming inactive for several days.
Let’s look at the benefits you are missing when you do that.
Not Producing/Publishing Content With Consistency
The most common SEO advice is perhaps to produce quality content. However, this advice is incomplete.
As important as it is to produce quality content, it is equally important to produce quality content consistently.
Why is it important? Here are just few of the reasons:
- Consistency allows you to produce more content. More content allows you to target more keywords. While it is not absolutely necessary to produce more content in order to attract more organic traffic, it certainly helps. Not to forget, publishing more content improves your chances of having a viral piece of content on your website. WHile there are no fixed ways to make your content go viral, having more content on your website simply increases the probability that one of the content pieces may go viral.
- Producing content consistently gives first time website visitors a reason to return to your website when they are looking for more information relevant to your business. Returning traffic doesn’t just improve your chances of generating qualified leads, it also proves to search engine algorithms that your website has valuable content.
- Producing content doesn’t just allow you to build an audience that regularly visits your website to find new content, it allows you to boost engagement. Your audience will not like all the content you produce. HOwever, when you produce content consistently, you provide them with so much content that they are very likely to engage with at least some of it. This boosts the overall engagement of your content.
- Producing more content also allows you to generate more leads. Studies show that business websites with more than 200 blog posts generate 5 times more leads than business websites that feature less than ten blog posts.
- Having more content on your website gives visitors a chance to explore. THis helps you by improving the average dwell time of your website.
- Regularly publishing new content also gives you the SEO advantage of having fresh and updated content. Search engines want to show their users complete and latest information. If you have a more recent article about a subject, you are more likely to rank higher than a competitor who has an older article on the same subject. This example is obviously oversimplified. There are other factors that decide which website will rank higher. However, having recently published content surely gives your website an advantage.
- Having more content on your website can also mean having more content that is worth linking to, helping you earn more relevant and high-quality backlinks. However, this will only happen when you maintain consistency not only in terms of publishing frequency, but also in terms of publishing high-quality content.
As you can see, producing content consistently doesn’t just give you direct SEO benefits, it also gives you a chance to establish a positive perception of your business and build an audience that loves your brand and the content it publishes.
Conclusion- SEO Is Not A One-Time Task
Before wrapping up, I want to talk about one of the most common mistakes that business owners make while tackling SEO- thinking that it’s a one-time undertaking. Just like consistency is needed with producing content, all other areas of search engine optimization demand consistency.
Remember that the web is always being bombarded with new information and new content. At the same time, search engine companies like Google are constantly working to improve their algorithms in order to deliver a better experience to their users.
For these reasons, SEO is an ongoing undertaking. You don’t have to just position your website as an authoritative source of credible information in your industry, you have to consistently make efforts to maintain this position.
I hope that the advice shared in this article will help you move a little closer to your SEO objectives. If you have any questions or queries, or want to share SEO strategies that have worked for your business, feel free to drop them in the comment section below.