Even the most seasoned content marketers make mistakes. In the world of SEO-driven content, with constant algorithm tweaks and changing search patterns, it’s nearly unavoidable. However, those same mistakes can often lead to discoveries that enable even better content performance. The key is being able to recognize those easy-to-fix SEO mistakes and address them. As a result, your content will become an optimized, integrated network of metaphorical highways, leading searchers to best-answer content in a strategic and purposeful way. So, what are the most common SEO mistakes, and how can they be addressed? Below, I’ve singled out the ‘usual suspects’ along with guidance on how to fix them while setting yourself up for long-term SEO success.
SEO Mistake #1 – Choosing Target Keywords Based on Volume vs. Relevance
How Keywords Affect Content Marketers: Great content isn’t great unless people see it. But when content marketers overemphasize high-volume keywords, they miss out on meaningful engagement. It’s tempting to plug into your keyword research tool of choice and select keywords with the highest search volume as your focuses for new content. But if the content you’re creating doesn’t match the search intent for that high-volume keyword, it’s unlikely to perform to your expectations. The Fix: Google it! All jokes aside, evaluating the first ten search results for your target keywords can help you understand what searchers are trying to find, and what supporting content you should provide to truly be the best answer for that query. While you’re analyzing those top results, pay attention to key factors that will shape your content creation and promotion strategy:
What type of information is NOT included in top content, but is topically related? This can help you inform how you differentiate your content.
What’s the content demand for that keyword? For example, are mostly top of funnel blog posts ranking, or are you seeing mostly product or service pages?
How many backlinks and referring domains are pointing to the top search results? This can help you understand how competitive the first page of results is, and whether or not ongoing link building should be part of your content promotion strategy.
How long is the top-ranking content for that keyword? This will help you determine ideal content length for your own post.
SEO Mistake #2 – Targeting the Same Keyword with Multiple Pages or Posts
How Same-Topic Targeting Affects Content Marketers: Pressure to create comprehensive content on a topic can actually result in dilution within search. The conventional wisdom that more is better doesn’t apply universally — especially when it comes to SEO-driven content. Creating multiple pieces of content that target the exact same keyword is a surefire way to stand in your own way of success. There’s enough competition out there for B2B marketers without having to compete with your own content. For example, a B2B technology company that wants to rank for B2B software consulting should optimize their service page for that term based on what is currently being served in search results. But, if they also create a series of blogs or resources that are targeting that specific term, search engine bots will be confused about which page is the best answer for that query. This could result in none of the content appearing in the top 10 results, in favor of competing sites with a more clear ‘answer’ to that query. The Fix: Determine which of your pages or posts is the best answer for that particular query by analyzing ranking and analytics data. Which post or page sees the greatest amount of engaged organic traffic for your target keyword, and most closely matches the associated search intent? Once you’ve determined your target page, it’s time to evaluate the remaining content targeting that keyword. Look for opportunities to:
Remove or prune low-value or outdated content. Is there a blog post full of stats from 2009 that’s hindering your priority page’s chances of ranking? It might be time to consider removing that post and implementing the proper redirects.
Optimize existing content for related, but different, keyword targets. For example, if you have a priority post for Chocolate Chip Cookies, and another post that more closely relates to ‘Crunchy Chocolate Chip Cookies’, consider optimizing that post for the latter and implementing internal links back to your priority cookies post.
Combine closely related content. For example, if you have several blog posts around your targeted keyword(s), consider combining those posts into a longer, more robust piece of content.
SEO Mistake #3 – Ignoring Internal Link Structure
How Internal Linking Affects Content Marketers: Links are like electricity on the web, lighting up content for people and search engines alike. Content is discovered by links. Your site’s internal linking structure tells bots (and users) which pages are most important, and which pages are most relevant to specific keywords. If you link to several pages from the same anchor text, for example, there will be some confusion about which page is truly ‘about’ that topic. Other times, you could have pages or posts on your site that are orphaned, with no internal links directing users or bots their way. This can confuse your site users, search engine bots, and even your own team. Confusion is not a ranking factor! The Fix: Make sure you develop and continue to update your site’s keyword map. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet that lists your page’s URL and associated target keyword(s). This keyword map will help you determine what anchor text should be used to link to your target pages. Next, conduct a site audit to determine:
If there are orphaned pages that need internal links
If you are linking to multiple pages with the same keyword-rich anchor text
Where there are opportunities to create additional supporting content
Where you might have opportunities to reduce and prune existing supporting content
Next, you’re going to want to crawl your site to find any orphaned pages. Then, map those into your overall keyword strategy and implement internal links.
SEO Mistake #4 – Ignoring Data from Other Digital Tactics
How Marketing Data Affects Content Marketers: Inspiration often drives ideation for many content marketers, but data drives optimization for ideal content performance. Marketing performance data can provide both. Any data you can collect about how your audience engages with your content has the potential to be an SEO gold mine. For example, analyzing the keywords from your paid search campaigns can give you insight into which keywords are your best converters, and what content best suits searchers for those terms. Social posts that get the greatest amount of engagement can tell you which topics your audience is most interested in. Ignoring data from your other marketing and sales channels means missing out on an opportunity to better engage your prospects. The Fix: Meet with different teams or departments to find out what kind of content performs best on their channels. Look at the data each platform or channel provides and compare that with your site analytics data for a full picture. And, be sure to share your channel performance data with the rest of your marketing team. The more information available related to content and marketing performance, the better equipped you are to optimize.
SEO Mistake #5 – Giving Up
How Persistence Affects Content Marketers: Content performance in search is a long game and persistence is essential for success. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint. Sometimes a lack of results can feel demoralizing, but giving up is simply not an option. You wouldn’t stop building your house just because the nearest lumber yard ran out of wood, right? You’d find another lumber yard and keep plugging along. The Fix: Take a step back. Re-evaluate the search landscape, your competitor’s organic presence, and your site’s overall health. Being able to remove yourself from the frustration can help you find opportunities you may have missed and additional whitespace to tackle. Next, seek out advice from other SEOs. Ask questions on social media, in specific groups or forums, or send a question to your favorite SEO blog. If budget permits, enlist the help of a consultant or SEO agency that can help you break through your roadblocks. Finally, we have two big SEO bummers that are tougher to fix, but absolutely necessary to address.
Bonus SEO Mistake: Migrating Your Site with No SEO Plan
How Migrating Without a Plan Affects Content Marketers: A bad migration can effectively undo your hard work, reducing content visibility and creating more user friction. If you listen closely, you can hear the sound of SEOs cringing around the globe. A botched site migration can wreak havoc on your organic positioning and torpedo your results. It can take months, even years to recuperate organic visibility to pre-migration levels. The Fix: Always, always consult your in-house SEO team or SEO agency when you’re considering a website migration. Before you move forward, it’s imperative you have a plan for technical, on-page, and off-page factors. If you’ve already migrated your site and have experienced a loss of organic traffic and rankings, start with a site audit. Check for the basics, like whether or not your site is being indexed, first. Then start to evaluate technical factors like broken links, crawl errors, and duplicate content. When in doubt, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. Recovering from a site migration is a challenge for even the best of SEOs, and sometimes those big challenges call for a little teamwork.
Bonus SEO Mistake: Not Optimizing for Mobile
How Not Optimizing for Mobile Affects Content Marketers: Even the greatest content can’t stand up to a bad mobile experience. Users will bounce, reducing engagement and sending negative signals to search engines. Mobile accounts for about half of web traffic worldwide. Knowing this, in March 2018 Google started migrating sites to mobile-first indexing. Providing a seamless mobile experience is no longer optional, especially when you’re living in the wild world of search. Sites that didn’t properly prepare for this can and will likely see some declines in organic search traffic and rankings as a result. And, as more sites follow mobile best practices, more users will notice and become frustrated by poor mobile experiences. This leads to declines in other pivotal ranking factors like on-page engagement. In short, if not properly addressed, a poor mobile experience can wreak havoc on your search visibility. The Fix: The first thing to do is to conduct a mobile audit on your site. Understanding your site’s mobile performance is step one toward making improvements. Look for things like:
Mobile site speed. A couple great tools for this are Google Page Speed Insights and Pingdom. These tools can tell you where to look for issues like slow-loading code, images that aren’t optimized, and other technical issues.
Mobile experience. Visit your site on your phone. Ask someone who doesn’t use your site regularly to do the same. Record your experience, take notes on where you get stuck and why. Click on everything. Turn your phone into horizontal mode. Try to think of every single way a user could browse your site. And, don’t forget to try a site search on mobile.
Look at mobile analytics. This will tell you key metrics like mobile bounce rate, mobile time on page and pages per session.
These steps will help you build a hypothesis to test against. Is your mobile bounce rate crazy high? Does your site take a long time to load? Is your time on page way out of line with desktop traffic? Then, use A/B testing to root out the discrepancy. Use these same metrics to test if the fix is working. Then, repeat with another element. So, What Does This All Mean for You? Ultimately, following SEO best practices as a content marketer can reduce performance-related headaches and set you up for long-term success. For example, when Innovatech Labs decided it was time to make major changes to their website, they worked with our team at TopRank Marketing to implement a safe website transition strategy, minimizing their risk of reduced content visibility on Google. This assessment involved avoiding many of the big risks mentioned above, including linking, use of data and keyword research which allowed us to act quickly post-migration to combat organic traffic declines. The result? Double- and triple-digit increases in organic traffic (and increased conversions, too!). A best-answer content strategy focused on creating content with the most relevance to their audience was the ticket to better marketing performance for a martech SaaS company. Working with the team at TopRank Marketing, long-tail and hyper-relevant keywords were researched for a comprehensive content strategy to help the brand content become the best answer for those queries. The “best answer” approach and topics were applied across organic and paid efforts. As a result, the volume of both paid and organic MQLs increased, leading to better content performance and spontaneous proclamations of love from the client’s sales team. Fixing these big SEO mistakes aren’t only for short-term wins. Our longtime partner Antea Group USA has achieved amazing triple-digit growth over three years by avoiding these big mistakes and implementing an ongoing commitment to SEO-driven, best answer content. As I mentioned earlier, even the most experienced content marketers can make these common SEO mistakes. But, with the right SEO strategy driven by diligent execution and monitoring of results, you can get back on track. The key is to be intentional about your site’s architecture, as well as the content you create, and to never, ever give up. Still feeling stuck? Or maybe your team doesn’t have the resources to take on this battle alone? Check out our SEO services, tweet us your thoughts @toprank, or drop me a line in the comments. We are here to help!
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