Common Search Engine Optimization Mistakes Noobs Need to Avoid
Making money online and driving traffic to a website is easy. All you need is SEO. How hard can it be, right?
Search engine optimization has so many working parts that need to be aligned in order to produce results that stick. There are countless blogs, online courses, and cringe worthy self proclaimed gurus that all have conflicting information.
So, who do you believe?
What sources provide a reliable source of information for those that want to learn how to do SEO? The right answer is more than likely: all of them. You see, there isn’t a SEO road map that everyone can follow. It really takes a full understanding of SEO and knowing what techniques work and what ones can get you into trouble. Then, based on your niche, competition, and goals, you can take bits and pieces of that information to create a strategy.
I will typically blog about strategies that work well, so I wanted to dive into some of the most common SEO mistakes that I see noobs make.
If you avoid these eleven SEO mistakes you will experience better results.
1. Expecting to see results in a matter of days, weeks, or even months.
SEO results do not happen overnight, no matter what kinds of claims are made. There is always an exception to every rule, but for the most part you will not see results (that will last) in a week, month or even a couple months. Now, if you are some obscure business in a small city with zero competition then yes, you can rank for brand terms and even some long tail keywords very quickly.
This is usually what these shady SEO companies use in order to back up their bogus “guarantees.” When you read the fine print it will usually state that you will rank in the top few positions for any keyword, and they will usually consider your brand name and location as one of them. Most businesses will rank for this search string with no SEO work as long as the website is indexed and a few directory listings and links are indexed as well.
Be patient and willing to put in the time and effort. When you start SEO expecting it to take a long time you will plan accordingly and not be overly anxious.
2. Building links only using exact match keyword anchor text.
I blame low quality SEO services for the exact match anchor text problem. Someone brand new to SEO will assume that the more links containing a keyword as anchor text, the better chance they will have at ranking for that particular keyword. If your anchor text isn’t diverse you start a very likely chance of getting slapped by Google.
It’s better to focus on building high quality links to your website in an effort to increase the overall authority. Then, when you have a website that Google views as an authority, it becomes much easier to show up organically for long tail keywords with great onsite optimization and a few great links, without even worrying about exact match anchor text. Remember, looking natural is the name of the game. A link profile with all keyword focused anchor text makes it obvious you are trying to game Google.
3. Targeting keywords based on search volume and not search intent.
A noob is typically going to fire up Google’s PPC keyword planner tool or use another 3rd party software to look up search volume and pick keywords based off that alone. Without a full understanding of how SEO works, it’s easy to see how this happens. Someone without the experience doesn’t think in terms of search intent.
Let’s take a dentist in Dallas, Texas for example. They might see that the term “dentist” has thousands of searches and attempt to optimize onsite and offsite for “dentist.” This will get them nowhere, as it isn’t a term that they will ever rank for nor will it ever bring them patients. If someone in Dallas is looking for a dentist they are going to type things like “dentist in Dallas Texas” or “Dallas TX dentist” into Google’s search bar. They will want to target location specific keywords and then take it even a step further and target things like “teeth cleaning Dallas Texas” and “cosmetic dentist in Dallas” to bring even more traffic that will likely be potential patients.
4. Not understanding the purpose of low quality link packages and not understanding the definition between blackhat and whitehat SEO.
Part of a solid SEO strategy involves link diversification. A website that only has links from the top websites isn’t likely. There will naturally be a very diverse mix, so the many “link packages” that are available have a use, but knowing how and when to use them is half the battle.
My agency, SerpLogic has a very successful outreach program where we do all of the legwork and secure niche relevant high quality links for our clients. These are great, and produce great results, but that doesn’t mean we don’t sprinkle in a mix of link types, such as directory links, social media links, web 2.0 properties, and other miscellaneous links.
Even “whitehat” SEO is breaking Google’s terms. The only way to do “natural” SEO is to produce content and hope other websites link to your content or beg (and sometimes pay) websites to link to you. Don’t just assume that if you’re buying high quality links that you are safe from Google. The best way to stay off their radar is to maintain the most natural looking link profile. While you should never buy mass link packages as your primary source of link, they do have their place.
5. Considering PPC results when analyzing competition in the SERPs.
This is a very common mistake that I have seen many people make. Pay zero attention to PPC results in the SERPs. If you really want those positions you can get them: simply bid higher than the websites currently occupying the top spots. While onsite optimization plays a role in quality score, a high bid will always get anyone willing to pay to the top.
6. Not budgeting enough for proper SEO according to your niche and competition.
Can a small business that is located in a small rural town with zero competition with the desire to only target local customers get away spending $500 a month on SEO? Yeah, that could probably happen, but it’s a very rare occurrence. While there are thousands of SEO companies that sell monthly packages for a few hundred dollars you need to understand what you can expect for that price point.
If you are a real estate company in New York City then $500 isn’t going to even make a dent. A company like that would need to realistically budget $5,000+ a month for even marginal results. I can promise you that the top real estate agencies in New York City dominating the SERPs for buyer keywords are probably spending more than $20,000 a month on SEO.
If you want long term results and you are in a competitive niche then be prepared to spend thousands of dollars. Now, if your budget is small then you might want to consider running PPC ads to get instant traffic and sales, then slowly scale that until you are generating enough money to properly budget SEO. Then you can target the paid and organic SERP results.
7. Posting too much ‘thin’ content.
Everyone knows that content is important. Every website out there these days has a blog, and a lot of noobs think that they need to simply fill it with words and it will magically satisfy the content component of SEO. This isn’t the case at all.
If you look on the majority of freelancer websites for a content provider you will notice that most of them are selling 500 word articles. Now, there is nothing wrong with a 500 word article if it is high quality and provides value and written for the visitor in mind and not just jammed with keywords. You experience a problem if you fill your blog with only 500 word articles that are low quality. You have to mix it up. A real blog that is written naturally won’t have a word count footprint. There will be some pieces of content that are only a few hundred words in length and there will be some that are several thousand. There will also be posts with images, videos, and infographics. Avoid thin content and post a variety of content.
8. Not using https on brand new websites (or converting old ones).
Google announced that https is now a ranking factor. Now, someone with a website that is thousands of pages might not be so quick to jump on the bandwagon because of the time required to migrate and convert all the internal links to https (and also the fact that their authority is already strong), a new website has no excuse.
Even if it’s just a 1% piece of the algorithm, it’s still significant enough and since Google made it public, don’t you think it would be a good idea to start a fresh site using https? A lot of noobs won’t know the difference between http and https, those that do know it has a positive impact on the SERPs will have a head start on competition that isn’t aware of the benefits. Cost shouldn’t be an issue, as there are plenty of registrars that will give you a free SSL certificate with a hosting package.
9. Not analyzing Google Analytics data to uncover the best traffic sources.
I hear a lot of noobs say they don’t want to install Google Analytics because it will allow Google to spy on them. This is funny, because being paranoid is never a good thing. There are so many ways Google Analytics can help you improve your SEO that I would recommend that everyone uses it. Trust me, when you look at the big picture I can almost guarantee that Google has much better things to do than spy on your website.
Monitor your GA stats daily and look for spikes in traffic from particular referral sources and even countries. You should also take advantage of using goals, which will help you determine where your most valuable traffic comes from. When you can pinpoint where your conversions originate from it will allow you to scale the best traffic sources.
10. Ignoring onsite optimization and only focusing on building links.
There is such an emphasis put on links, but rightfully so, as they are the top ranking signal that Google uses in their algorithm. But this doesn’t mean that you should only be worried about building links. You have to make sure your onsite optimization is perfect if you want to receive the full benefit of all the links you will be building.
Onsite optimization is fairly simple to master and the only thing it’s going to cost you is time to perfect it. I rip on Moz a lot, but their onsite grading tool is a good tool for noobs to use because it really teaches what important things you need to address onsite in order to achieve the best results in the SERPs.
11. Assuming link quantity is more important than link quality.
Quality over quantity. Please repeat this over and over until it is engraved in your mind. If this was 2005, then yes, quantity would win and I would be telling you to fire off as many links as possible with zero regard for quality. Times have dramatically changed though, and you need to now focus on quality.
The entire SEO landscape has shifted in this direction. Just a few years ago there were hundreds and hundreds of directory submission websites that everyone would use to build NAP (name/address/phone number) links for local SEO. Now, you just build directory links to the main directories that people actually use, like Yellow Pages and White Pages.
I would take one high quality link that is on a niche relevant website over dozens of links on generic and spammy websites. Think of your website as a long term asset that will continue to increase in value as long as you focus on quality links.
As you can see, there are plenty of common mistakes that can really slow down your SEO gains and even compromise all of your hard work and money spent. Imagine spending several months of manual work and thousands of dollars only to see your rankings and organic search traffic disappear in a matter of hours? That would be devastating, right?
If you know what to avoid before you start you will stand a much better chance of experiencing results. It’s important that you remember that SEO doesn’t happen overnight and you are never fully safe from a penalty or a malicious attack from a competitor. I can’t stress enough how important it is to diversify your traffic sources. I have blogged about this many times, and if you need some suggestions for additional traffic sources, check out my previous post here.
If you have any questions please post them below and I will do my very best to answer them all. Even if you are an SEO noob, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be embarrassed, as SEO isn’t an easy topic to fully grasp. Let me know how I can help you, as it’s one of the main reasons I’m putting out this content.