According to one recent study, about 68% of all online experiences begin with a search engine. When you also consider the fact that only 0.78% of Google searches will ever make it to the second page of results to click on a link there, it’s easy to see why search engine optimization is a topic worth paying attention to.
But at the same time, SEO is not the silver bullet that some people assume it to be. It isn’t as easy as filling a page with relevant keywords and calling it a day. There are very real mistakes that you could be making without knowing it – and worse, they could be hurting your ranking instead of helping.
Mistake #1: Failing to Pay Attention to What Analytics are Telling You
One unfortunately common SEO mistake that a lot of business owners make (especially when attempting to tackle search on their own) involves not embracing analytical tools that will tell them what is working and, more importantly, what isn’t.
SEO is a lot more purpose-driven than most people realize. You need to start with your audience and work your way backwards to create the content they want to experience, how they want to experience it. You can’t get there if you’re flying blind without any idea of which keywords and phrases are converting and which ones aren’t.
You need to know exactly which keyword phrases are sending you the most traffic as well as which ones are converting. It’s vital to understand which phrases are producing your best overall results. Not only does this help you more effectively optimize your site for your actual audience – it also gives you an indication of which techniques you can stop using so that you can double down on what is working, too.
Mistake #2: Failing to Properly Optimize for Local Search
Along the same lines, these days many businesses make the major mistake of either poorly optimizing for local search, or not optimizing at all.
According to another recent study, about 46% of all searches performed on Google are by people looking for local information. About 72% of customers who conduct these local searches will end up visiting a store located within five miles of their home. Likewise, 88% of local searches performed on a smartphone or other mobile device result in a call or visit within just 24 hours.
Do you see now why local search is something you want to embrace with open arms?
Local SEO is all about not just using keywords, but location-specific keywords. It’s about making sure contact information like your address and phone number are on every page. It’s about knowing what to put in your headers, page titles, and meta descriptions. The list goes on and on.
Is it easy? No, not necessarily. But if you’re able to master the fine art of local SEO, you’ll quickly begin to realize that this is one investment that has more than paid for itself.
Mistake #3: Failing to Optimize for Search Intent
Another major mistake that a lot of small businesses in particular make involves paying too much attention to what people are searching for in terms of keywords, which takes the emphasis on the intent behind the search in the first place.
Search intent is an important term in the SEO world, as it helps shed light on WHY someone is looking for information in the first place. Is a potential customer looking to make a purchase? Are they just trying to learn more on a topic they’re interested in? Are they trying to answer a lingering question?
All three of these are quite different intentions – but someone could attempt to address them using the same sets of keywords.
Therefore, even going beyond the keywords themselves; you need to try to understand why someone is searching for what they are. If you just focus on keywords, you may initially rank highly for your desired words and phrases – but once users start to realize your content isn’t as relevant as they assumed it to be, you won’t stay in those positions for very long.
Mistake #4: Ignoring Mobile Traffic
As mentioned above, a significant portion of your traffic these days is coming from mobile devices like smartphones and tablets – and make no mistake, that isn’t a trend that is slowing down. Therefore, you need to consider the mobile friendliness of your page alongside all the other SEO best practices.
For the best results, make sure that your website A) is responsive on all types of devices, and B) that it loads as quickly as possible on mobile connections. Google has already indicated that these are important factors towards determining page rankings, which means that whether you like it or not – you must consider them important, too.
Mistake #5: Assuming It’s Still 2005
Finally, one of the biggest mistakes that most businesses make when it comes to SEO involves if we’re still living in an era that has long since passed.
Search engine optimization is in an almost constant state of evolution – meaning that the “best practices” of even five years ago will be woefully inadequate today. Users’ behaviors are constantly changing, and it’s in Google’s best interest to change with them – which is why the tech giant changes their algorithm countless times per year.
Therefore, SEO is not something you “do once and forget about”. Even if your page ranks highly initially, if you allow it to grow stagnant – meaning if you don’t return to it and embrace whatever the modern SEO best practices are of the moment – you will soon find yourself left behind by your savvier competitors. This is not a matter of “if,” but “when”.
For true SEO success, you need to be proactive about what you’re doing. You need to be constantly learning about what works today and what doesn’t. That’s not just how you capture the attention of an audience – it’s how you keep it in a way that serves you both well for years to come.