Five common SEO mistakes (and six good ideas!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To help you avoid common mistakes webmasters face with regard to search engine optimization (SEO), I filmed a video outlining five common mistakes I've noticed in the SEO industry. Almost four years ago, we also gathered information from all of you (our readers) about your SEO recommendations and updated our related Help Center article given your feedback. Much of the same advice from 2008 still holds true today—here's to more years ahead building a great site!

If you're short on time, here's the gist:

Avoid these common mistakes

  1. Having no value proposition: Try not to assume that a site should rank #1 without knowing why it's helpful to searchers (and better than the competition).
  2. Segmented approach: Be wary of setting SEO-related goals without making sure they're aligned with your company's overall objectives and the goals of other departments. For example, in tandem with your work optimizing product pages (and the full user experience once they come to your site), also contribute your expertise to your marketing team's upcoming campaign. So if your marketing team is launching new videos or a more interactive site, be sure that searchers can find their content, too.
  3. Time-consuming workarounds: Avoid implementing a hack rather than researching new features or best practices that could simplify development (for example, changing the timestamp on an updated URL so it's crawled more quickly instead of easily submitting the URL through Fetch as Googlebot).
  4. Caught in SEO trends: Consider spending less time obsessing about the latest "trick" to boost your rankings and instead focus on the fundamental tasks/efforts that will bring lasting visitors.
  5. Slow iteration: Aim to be agile rather than promote an environment where the infrastructure and/or processes make improving your site, or even testing possible improvements, difficult.

Six fundamental SEO tips

  1. Do something cool: Make sure your site stands out from the competition—in a good way!
  2. Include relevant words in your copy: Try to put yourself in the shoes of searchers. What would they query to find you? Your name/business name, location, products, etc., are important. It's also helpful to use the same terms in your site that your users might type (for example, you might be a trained "flower designer" but most searchers might type "florist"), and to answer the questions they might have (for example, store hours, product specs, reviews). It helps to know your customers.
  3. Be smart about your tags and site architecture: Create unique title elements and meta descriptions; include Rich Snippets markup from where appropriate. Have intuitive navigation and good internal links.
  4. Sign up for email forwarding in Webmaster Tools: Help us communicate with you, especially when we notice something awry with your site.
  5. Attract buzz: Natural links, +1s, likes, follows... In every business there's something compelling, interesting, entertaining, or surprising that you can offer or share with your users. Provide a helpful service, tell fun stories, paint a vivid picture and users will share and reshare your content.
  6. Stay fresh and relevant: Keep content up-to-date and consider options such as building a social media presence (if that's where a potential audience exists) or creating an ideal mobile experience if your users are often on-the-go.

Good luck to everyone!