What if you knew that all of the content you’d put hours of hard work into to drive traffic to your site was amounting to little more than clutter?
Too many marketers are making the mistake of failing to optimize their content for SEO purposes. SEO isn’t tough when you know what to look for, but the price of failing to do some basic SEO with your content is high. It could mean passing all of your search traffic to your competitors, and the price of over-optimization might be even higher. Content marketers face the unique challenge of walking the fine line between creating content that works for Google and creating content that works for their customers.
If you’re creating new content for your business’s blog or website, or if you just want to audit your current content to make it work better for you, there are a few key things to look for to make sure you’re SEO ready. Google is fairly transparent about the things that will hurt and help your content marketing strategy. We’re sourcing info from Google’s guidelines and tips from SEO pros to help you optimize your own content. Check out these solutions to common SEO mistakes and tips for getting the most out of your content marketing:
Keywords are what make it possible to gain traffic through searches. When it comes to choosing keywords, you might think your most optimized choice is common sense. This is a mistake many companies make, meaning lots of competitive advantage for businesses who know SEO. The “common sense” choice for keywords isn’t what will get your customers on your site.
The problem with common sense keywords is that they rely too much on relevancy, but not enough on the value of specificity. If your competitors are already high ranking for these common keywords and have the resources to maintain that ranking, like a skilled SEO team working at all times to keep them at the top of the SERP, you’ll likely save time and money taking a different approach. For example, a cosmetics company will likely struggle to rank for a keyword like “lipstick”, since this is a highly saturated keyword.
But what about “long wearing hydrating matte lipstick”? With that, they’ll have better luck getting their product to rank. They’ll appeal to customers who are searching for specific phrases, indicating a high chance of conversion. They’ll also help those customers find exactly what they’re looking for in a product, meaning they get to solve that customer’s problem for them. Think about how the page or your product specifically serves visitors, and craft keywords that help you find the customers who are looking for you.
Another common issue that continues to persist despite changes to the Google algorithm that made it a pointless practice? Keyword stuffing. This is practically a hallmark of spammy pages, and it doesn’t work in your favor. Like nearly all elements of SEO, if it has a negative impact on UX, it also has a negative impact on you. Sites that use keyword stuffing, along with other “black hat” SEO tactics, will be penalized by Google and see their SERP ranking drop.
Invest in doing some research into user intent and keywords, and keep that research up-to-date. Adjust and update as needed to changes in search traffic patterns and in your industry in order to stay ahead of the competition. Make sure your content answers your customer’s questions and you’ll drive the right traffic to your site.
2) Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
Title tags are the clickable link that displays on a search engine results page (SERP) to users. Title tags are important for SEO and for user experience reasons — a title tag is often what catches a user’s eye on the SERP, and the right title tag can boost social shares. Meta descriptions are the block of text below the title tag in the SERP, where readers can learn about the linked page. Meta descriptions exist almost exclusively for user purposes. Combined, your title tag and meta description are your opportunity to catch the eye of Google users and convince them that your page is what they are searching for.
The most common mistakes content marketers and webmasters make when it comes to optimizing title tags are failing to write a tag that makes the most of the title tag’s capabilities, and writing tags that are too short or too long. Title tags have more influence on keyword relevance than any other tag on a webpage, so it’s especially important to think carefully about the words you use in this tag. Your title tag should always sound natural to users, but if you can avoid using stop words you’ll get a little more punch out of this element. Google values the relevancy of keywords included in the title tag based on how close to the beginning of the title tag they sit, so try placing your most valuable keywords near the beginning.
Next, make sure that your title tags are 70 characters or less. Title tags longer than this will likely be cut off by Google and leave users viewing a partial phrase with a trail of ellipses at the end — a waste of valuable space. You can use pipes, colons, or commas to avoid stop words, improve user experience and readability, and create distinction between different keywords on your page. It’s best if your brand goes last, after one of these. For example, a record label might use the following title tag for a band profile page on their site:
Band Name | Record Label Name
Band Name Record Label Name
Once your title tags are optimized, you can move to your meta description. Meta descriptions are primarily for users and don’t have as much SEO value as some other content elements. Use your meta descriptions to teach your target audience what the page behind the title tag is all about. This is your opportunity to sell your site to a potential visitor. Keep it between 135 and 160 characters long, use your focus keyword, make it unique, and make sure that visitors know what to expect when they land on your page.
You can use a tool like a SERP checker to make sure your title tags and meta descriptions are working for you.
3) Anchor Text
Once you’re sure that your SERP metrics are doing all they can to drive traffic your way, turn an eye to your anchor text (AT).
One common mistake marketers make when it comes to AT is poorly optimized anchor text. Have you ever read an info page about a product or service that ends with the call-to-action conveniently prompting readers to “click here” to be taken to a conversion page? That little phrase represents a missed chance to help Google’s crawlers rank that page in SERPs, and to build a clear information hierarchy on the site. It’s okay to use a call to action, but be sure to include some relevant and targeted keywords in the anchor text. For example:
To catch them on their latest North American tour, “click here for Band Name Tour Name dates”.
“Click here” to see the new dates for Band Name’s 2017 tour.
Another common mistake on many business pages is duplicated anchor text. It might seem to make sense to use the same AT each time you link to a given page, but this can come off as awkward to users who are now familiar with keyword stuffing techniques. Try to vary your AT while keeping it optimized, and don’t use the same phrase as AT more than 50 percent of the time. You can create some keyword relevancy when using a white noise AT, which is an AT that isn’t highly relevant by itself, by adding some relevant keywords as close to the AT as is naturally possible.
Finally, assess your content. Browsing the web, you’ll see many examples of companies that focus on all of the other metrics we’ve discussed so far but fail to think about the actual substance of their content. There’s no way around it: the content on your website has to be worth looking at, reading, and linking to if you want to optimize for both UX and SEO purposes. Do yourself and your customers a favor by investing in quality content.
Two of the most common ways that bad content ends up on a company’s site are: 1) using automation to produce “spun content,” and 2) hiring poor writers. Many websites hire inexpensive, low-skill writers to produce their content, or turn to using a computer program that proverbially puts several existing articles into a blender and produces a franken-content mess that looks like an article — but definitely doesn’t read like one. For marketers with basic SEO knowledge, it’s clear why these techniques hurt, not help, the SERPs. Unfortunately, there are also plenty of content farms and robot-writer developers who are using their own SEO skills to take advantage of a lack of SEO knowledge among marketers.
Again, remember this guiding SEO principle when it comes to your content: if it’s bad for the user, it’s bad for you. No customer wants to read the often ridiculous results of a content spinner. Take a moment to think about how it reflects on your brand when you host these articles on your website. You’re sending two messages to your visitors: I don’t care about wasting your time with bad content, and I’m fine with scamming Google to (try to) get my website to the top of the SERP. When customer loyalty is already low and a competitor is a click away, you’ve got to do better than that.
If you’ve put the time into creating some well-written pieces but they’re not doing you any favors, rethink the topics you’re covering and your tone. To gain links and traffic, your content needs to be interesting, relevant, and worth of your visitors’ time. If you wouldn’t want to read the article you wrote, your visitors probably won’t either. Try creating some relevant top-funnel content to get visitors spending time on your page and build authority. This kind of content is also best for building links to. Don’t forget to promote your content on your social channels either — a great way to build brand awareness and get customers to engage with both your website and your social.
Especially when it comes to content shared on social media, great content isn’t that great if it isn’t optimized to reach mobile users. You can use segments in Google Analytics to determine what percentage of your users are mobile, and it’s a great idea to plan for that percentage to grow in the future. Google also recently began penalizing sites that fail to go mobile, making this a major factor in optimizing content for lead generation and also opening up an opportunity to beat out any competitors who haven’t caught up.
Optimizing your content isn’t always easy, but it’s well worth the effort. Even great content that isn’t optimized is a waste of valuable space, time, and money. Try auditing your current content and keeping these tips in mind as you create new work and see what measurable impact is on your leads, traffic, and conversions. Some small changes to your site may mean the difference between a first page rank and hiding far from your visitors in the depths of the SERPs.