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Are these Ten SEO mistakes harming your startup?

Evan Cunningham-Dunlop
Evan Cunningham-Dunlop
SEO Mistakes and Optimisation
// In her first article for Startup News, local SEO expert Hayley Patrick, from Living Online, takes us through ten SEO mistakes too many startup businesses make...

In her first article for Startup News, local SEO expert Hayley Patrick, from Living Online, takes us through ten SEO mistakes too many startup businesses make…

If you’ve created a successful business or you’re about to launch yourself into entrepreneurship, you may be starting to realise that good search engine optimisation (SEO) practices for your website are somewhat of a moving target with Google’s constant stream of algorithm updates and new advances in innovation.

Rest assured, if you have a thorough understanding of your market place and how you help your specific customers, then the backbone of your SEO strategies should always work in your favour.

A website that is well designed and provides relevant content designed to engage and convert your customer will help to get you a pat on the back from Google. Simply because you are actually helping your target market.

But I’m thinking you’re here because your SEO methods are potentially harming your business, be it you’re seeing possibly a drop off in traffic or you’re not ranking that well or your bounce rate is soaring which is resulting in fewer conversions from your website.

Or, perhaps you’re at the point where you’re just about to launch your new website and now you want to know how to use SEO to drive more profits.

So here I’ll be covering off the crucial SEO mistakes you can make when you don’t understand your customer enough, your content is failing to be seen and deliver results, what happens when you focus on ‘doing more’, and some of the technical SEO factors that could be hindering your success.

Thanks to evolving search engine developments and users’ changing perspectives, it’s not always that easy to stay on top of the most successful optimisation techniques and there are some common SEO mistakes that are hard to avoid.

Whilst optimisation is ever-evolving, there are some practices that are particularly harmful and should be avoided to drive the best results from your website.  So, let’s get into it!

1. Are you targeting the wrong keywords?

On-site optimisation is all about the keywords that you want your website to rank for. But are you choosing keywords that your potential customers are searching for?

One of the biggest SEO mistakes that businesses make is neglecting the use of ‘long-tail keywords’ and the preferences of search engines and your ideal users.

Whilst it’s important to define your product and services, it’s more important to align them with the search terms that your potential customers would be using during their researching. Most businesses fall trap to targeting too generically or simply not understanding the solutions that their customers are looking for. If this is the case for you, you may be optimising for all the wrong keywords and letting golden prospects slip through your fingers.

If you want to avoid being too generic, make sure you have a good understanding of your prospects searching behaviour. The more you can get into their heads and understand what they’re looking for, the better you can keyword target and position your products or services as the solution. This will result in more relevant users visiting your website, finding what they’re looking for and increasing the likelihood of converting. It’s a no brainer that Google will reward you for helping your users.

Imagine you are a potential customer who wants to find a business like yours but has no idea you exist – what would they type into Google?

2. Are you cramming in your keywords to trick Google?

You’ve nailed your keyword targeting and now you’ve crammed those keywords into every sentence of your website content in order to persuade Google to boost your ratings.

This strategy couldn’t be more wrong!

In fact, it can do a lot more harm than you may realise.

Whilst once upon a time you could trick Google with this tactic, nowadays it’s simply seen a spammy ‘black-hat’ tactic. Google doesn’t want to show users spammy content, particularly when it affects the user experience of their search engine. In fact, if Google catches you doing this they’ve been known to heavily penalise your site by demoting your rankings or even removing your pages altogether.

What’s more, this approach has the potential to look very unappealing and confusing for your intended audience because your content will end up sounding unnatural. Take a look at the below example:

Are you looking for cheap golfing lessons? If you’re looking for cheap golfing lessons, then look no further. We offer cheap golfing lessons and you can book in your cheap golfing lessons right here on our website today. Feel free to check out our range of cheap golfing lesson packages from our cheap golfing lesson section below.

Not exactly the finest piece of content writing.

In fact, if people are searching for cheap golfing lessons and you show up on page one, the chances of someone staying on your website is pretty slim. No one is going to feel inspired by that slap together effort and think ‘wow this business really cares about improving my golf swing’.

3. Are you creating content that’s doesn’t focus on your keywords?

Are you creating really awesome pieces of content …that aren’t targeting your keywords?

This will generally happen if you’re trying to write about too many things all within the same piece of content. What you may end up with is a low-quality piece that you’re trying to optimise for multiple keywords.

Google wants to serve content that is relevant for users. So, if you’re creating pieces just for the sake of trying to include as many keywords as possible then the search engines are going to have a tough time trying to work out what you are trying to optimise for. Plus, you run the risk of not actually providing insight and answers that your target audience is looking for… if no one engages with your content… it most certainly won’t rank well.

4. Are you an advocate of copy-paste?

“I never studied for this test, I’ll just look over someone’s shoulders and copy the answers.”  

Well guess what, Google is just as smart as high school teachers. Duplicating content is heavily penalised by Google (even on your own site) and it’s seen as spammy.

Whilst it’s common practice to want to replicate or draw on really good content that you’ve seen and read, the only way you can avoid any push back from search engines is by creating your own personalised content that draws on your knowledge or expertise. Create content that sells you and how you can help.

Not only will your ‘ideal’ customers resonate with you and your solutions, Google will help you get in front of more of your potential customers.

5. Did you see those title tag and meta descriptions things …and hit skip?

Have you ever played tennis barefoot? Weird question I know but if you have you know it’s possible but incredibly hard to play the game well.

Well I liken that to businesses who write great pieces of content, most don’t bother with title tags & meta descriptions. When search engines crawl your site these bits of information are picked up and basically, they let Google know what you’re trying to optimise for.

Also, consider how your users are going to see your content in the search results. You want your descriptions to clearly identify what your content is about and why they should check it out. If you have images on your content pages, make sure you include alt tags as well. Search bots can’t see your images the same way we can (at least not yet) – but they can read alt tags, so this information can provide some extra insight into how you’re targeting your content.

So, the next time you create your amazing piece of content, don’t skip this step.

If done properly, this can only help improve the performance of your content in search and help put it in front of more of your users.

6. Do you have external advocates linking to your website?

A high-quality backlink to your website represents a vote of confidence from someone else’s site to yours. This can be incredibly valuable for your SEO.

In essence, a good quality backlink to your website tells search engines that other websites think your content is great and helpful. It’s a vote in your favour. If you can multiply the amount of high quality websites linking to your website, search engines are going to qualify that your content as worth linking to and worth showing on Google or any other search engine results page (SERP).

Whilst backlinks can positively affect your sites ranking and search visibility, tread with caution. Many businesses employ a backlinking strategy that focuses on quantity not quality. So, make sure that your backlinks are industry relevant and they come from high authority websites that have a great reputation that can help bolster yours. For example, if you’re selling golfing lessons it doesn’t make too much sense to have a backlink from a home improvement blogging site.

7. Your website looks great on desktop but what about mobile?

Take a look at your analytics and consider what devices people are using when they browse on your website. I’m picking that mobile devices will be clear cut winner almost every time. But wait, are your bounce rates also high for mobile device users?

Search engine optimisation also factors in the performance of your website on mobile devices, which as you’re likely aware, are users’ preferred choice for online browsing. Google and other search engines also understand that this is important for the user experience, so they have tools that can determine whether your site is mobile-friendly or not.

If you haven’t considered how to give your users a great mobile experience, this could be really hurting your sites SEO performance and ultimately deterring people from hanging around to read your great content.

8. Speed matters… is your site keeping up the pace?

How many times have you abandoned ship because you got fed up having to wait for the site to load?

Chances are, if your website is slow your users are also jumping ship to your competitor’s website that doesn’t make them wait so long. How devastating if you have funnelled someone all the way to the cart page but the long load time or unnecessary barriers stop them from converting.

Google has indicated that site speed and page speed is one of the signals that it uses to rank your website. If your site and pages are loading slow this can affect the number of pages that search engines can crawl, which could seriously impact your indexation. In a bad way.

If you want to avoid this SEO mistake, there are lots of things you can do to improve your sites speed such as: optimising your image sizes, improving server response times, leveraging browser caching, optimising your code or minimising the use of blocking JavaScripts.

If your website has extensive elements that could be affecting your site speed, it might be best to source the support of a web designer to help you speed things up for your users.

9. Telling search engines to ignore you. Yes really…

It might come as a surprise, but there are actually fundamental SEO mistakes that you can make where you’re specifically telling Google to ignore you.

For example, by leaving your robots.txt file set to ‘disallow all’, or by telling your CMS to ‘ignore search engines’, or by setting your meta robots file to ‘noindex’, or by setting your ‘rel=canonical’ tag to point to an incorrect page. While these points might sound a little technical, they’re not too hard to fix with a little research, so make sure you tick these ones off. Then while you’re at it, also make sure that you have your XML sitemaps configured correctly, so that you give search engines the best map to find you.

10. Finally the best tip and most frequent SEO mistake that businesses make…

Forgetting to track and measure your SEO strategies.

If you plan on guessing your way to growth and progress you’re in for a long road ahead. Most business neglect the numbers, but it’s one of the biggest investment mistakes you can make.

Google makes this super easy for you with Google Analytics and Webmaster Tools which can help you understand your data clearly and measure your website and SEO results for success. Equally, it can help you identify what went wrong and what not to do so that you can develop a more robust SEO strategy.

If you can hammer down on search engine optimisation, it can be one of the most cost-effective foundations you set for your business, particularly if you’re implementing a content marketing strategy. Rather than getting swept up in all the ongoing optimisation techniques, these key SEO mistakes can easily be turned into great SEO wins for you and your business. So, get well acquainted with them so that you can avoid them in your marketing efforts.


The author works for Living Online, a local SEO and digital marketing agency.

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Evan Cunningham-Dunlop

Evan Cunningham-Dunlop

Evan is the CEO and Founder of internationally recognised and Perth-based digital marketing agency, Living Online. With more than 17 years of direct digital marketing experience working on some of the world’s most highly trafficked websites, and a breadth of experience that spans multiple industries and continents, Evan provides advice to the world’s most innovative and forward-looking companies.
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