Search Engine Optimization (SEO): the process of getting traffic to your website through "free," "organic," "editorial," or "natural" results on search engines.
The term "SEO" gets thrown around a lot in this digital age. It's seen as a short-term solution to bolster page hits and up website traffic. It seems to me, though, that what SEO really requires is a long-range perspective - one where what we're doing now benefits us in the future.
To make it a little less daunting (since I'm sure we're all a little overwhelmed on the SEO front anyway), here's a list of seven SEO mistakes we're all making now...or have made in the past.
1. "I don't have the budget for SEO activity...it's not that important, right?"
WRONG. SEO strategies help make your website high on the returned results list. Spending the money to ensure you're getting the most out of those strategies is an expense that definitely pays off in the end. Set aside a budget for SEO tools or for a consultant to help you build long-term SEO plans.
2. "The whole point of SEO is to bring in massive amounts of traffic."
That's like saying the whole point of Inception is to give you a headache. Sure, it's one of the side effects of the mind-bending movie, but it isn't the end goal. It's great if your site is getting a lot of traffic...but is it getting a high conversion rate, too? Use analytics to track how your traffic patterns compare to your conversions. That kind of knowledge will help you optimize your website for future users.
3. "People are very visual; no one's reading the copy on my site. Who cares if it's unoriginal?"
To be frank, I care. I care a lot. Especially if I'm the one who wrote that copy...for a different website...and you came along and copied it to use for your own. Plagiarism isn't something writers and artists take lightly, so if you're creating a website from the ground up, then make sure you're creating original content to go along with it (or giving credit where credit's due).
Also, try to limit duplicate copy - the content that appears in multiple places on your website and may have non-unique title tags and meta descriptions associated with it. This does you no favors, either, as it confuses search engines.
Content issues will push your page lower in the SEO rankings, hindering any kind of progress you were making. When in doubt, be original - that's the whole point of marketing yourself.
4. "Locals will find me; I don't need to worry about my SEO activity."
Um...no. I mean, you can go that route if you'd like...and remain invisible to your local clients who rely on their Google and Bing searches to guide their shopping and eating habits. Learn more about local search and use region-specific keywords in both your page titles and meta descriptions to ensure you pop up in local search results. And always include your address and local phone number - make it easy for your prospective customers to find you.
5. "We've finished building the website; let's worry about the SEO information later."
Speaking of which, building a website with SEO strategies and activities in mind will make your life easier in the long run. You can't go back into a house you've built and add the support beams AFTER you've completely finished building it. It'll cave in on itself well before then; SEO and websites work the same way. Make sure you consider and budget for SEO in the very beginning of your website build.
6. "If every other link works on the page, then what's the big deal about a broken one here and there?"
Broken links are not uncommon in the world of the Internet. Websites disappear, URLs expire - life goes on. However, if your site has a plethora of these, you're in trouble. You're also in trouble if your site's full of non-credible links instead of links to sources of authority. Not only are your users going to lose respect for you, but Google's going to penalize you for it. The moral of the story? CHECK YOUR LINKS!
7. "It makes no difference if I'm using generic keywords or keyword phrases."
False. Generic keywords are, unfortunately, mostly useless. Sure, they'll bring you a lot of traffic...in a decade or so. Think of how you conduct searches online...how specific do you have to be to find exactly what you're looking for? Don't forget - you're an Internet user, too; if it frustrates you then it probably frustrates your customers as well. Be as specific as possible and optimize your keywords and keyword phrases to fit your niche and your customer's vocabulary. Specificity is what drives conversion.