You know SEO has changed.
You’ve cleaned up low-value backlinks. You’re varying anchor text. Heck, you’re even including universal anchors. Something you’d never have done only six months ago.
You’re now building a natural link profile. But sometimes you wonder – does Google agree your link profile is natural? Could the almighty Google still punish you in the next algorithm update? For a small unnatural faux pas?
You can never be absolutely sure. But you can minimize the risk of Google’s ire, and protect your Web traffic and your business by avoiding silly missteps.
Let’s have a look at six senseless SEO mistakes people are still making.
Senseless Mistake #1: You’re Building Links Instead Of Developing Content
“Google hates old-fashioned link building.” ~ Greg Boser
Why should you value content creation above link building?
Link building should not be your purpose, but a by-product of your content marketing efforts. Your objective should be to drive profitable traffic to your website. On your website, you want to engage web visitors with high-quality, shareable content.
Don’t you think you’ll create the most natural link profile by having others link to you naturally? And don’t you think others will only link to you naturally if you have useful, fascinating content on your website?
So how can you create link-worthy content?
Follow these six suggestions for strategic content creation:
- Become an industry expert; be the first to report industry news;
- Define your niche more narrowly; share specialist advice;
- Educate customers and prospects; provide the most comprehensive FAQ section in your field;
- Have an opinion; show thought leadership on your blog;
- Become a newsjacker; inject your ideas and angles into breaking news;
- Interview other industry experts; it’s a quick way to generate quality content.
A solid social media strategy requires quality content to share. And a future-proof SEO strategy needs optimizable and link-worthy content. Sounds like content is the Holy Grail, right?
So how do you create quality content? Let’s have a look.
Senseless Mistake #2: Your Content Sucks
“I see too many SEOs putting days or weeks of effort into crafting the perfect low-value scheme, when that same time could’ve easily gone into content that has real staying power and drives sales.” ~ Dr. Pete
Of course – you know that’s the type of content that Google will never devalue. That’s the type of content that gets shared, and liked, and plussed. And the type of content that gains links naturally. But how can you create such content? It may sound difficult, but it really isn’t.
Spend more time developing content. Put in more effort. Get more people involved. And focus on quality rather than quantity.
Follow these tactics for creating higher-quality content:
- Start by writing for your audience. Match keywords later on.
- Create content that matches your brand.
- Publish only content you can be proud of.
- Experiment with different formats such as podcasts and videos.
- Learn how to write headlines. No one will pay attention if your headlines are dull.
- Include visuals, because not everyone likes reading. Consider photos, infographics, info doodles, and cartoons.
- Don’t go it alone. Talk with your customer service team. Involve your sales team. Hire a copywriter, or a photographer, or a cartoonist.
- Avoid grammar goofs and typos. Study copywriting. And maintain a consistent, unique tone of voice.
- Be creative. Be passionate. Let your personality shine through.
Your brand differentiates you from your competitors, and so should your content. Forget about hastily written blog posts. Ignore the urge to produce lackluster, poorly researched infographics. And please, don’t use those drab, dull stock photos.
Don’t publish anything that doesn’t suit your brand. Don’t write content that doesn’t respect your unique tone of voice. And don’t share anything you’re not proud of.
Ready for the next mistake?
Senseless Mistake #3: You Don’t Understand Marketing
“It dawned on me recently that link building is an interesting phrase that has misled people. (…) So instead of thinking [of] it as link building, think about it as PR/marketing.” ~ Eric Enge
What’s wrong with link building?
Nothing is wrong with link building per se. But it shouldn’t be your end goal. Your purpose should be to promote your content; to market your thought leadership; and to communicate your opinions. And then links will follow.
You need to think like a marketer. Like someone marketing content. How?
Follow this four-step process:
- Research what content your audience finds interesting.
- Create content to meet your audience’s needs.
- Find out where your audience hangs out: which other blogs are they reading, and which social media channels are they using?
- Consider how you can promote your content:
- By joining the conversation and commenting on other blogs;
- By sharing your content on social media;
- By using social media to build relationships with key influencers;
- By reaching out to bloggers in a professional way;
- And by writing quality guest posts.
Remember: You need to build authority. And you’ll build authority by having an opinion; by promoting your knowledge; and by standing out.
Of course you can promote your authority by guest blogging, too. And you can’t get guest blogging wrong – or can you?
Senseless Mistake #4: You’re Getting Guest Blogging Completely Wrong
“The new world of content marketing is not about building links, it’s about building relationships.” ~ Mark Schaefer
Guest blogging provides a good way to gain links.
The problem is…
If you approach guest blogging as link building, you might easily be ignored.
Instead consider how you can offer something of value to the blogger. What insights can you share with the blog’s audience? How can your stories inspire the blog’s audience? Can you write a quality guest post with valuable information?
Guest blogging is an opportunity to build your authority and your credibility. It’s not just about the links you’ll get. It’s about promoting your knowledge, your standpoint, and your opinions. It’s about networking, and building awesome connections with key influencers inside – and possibly outside – your niche.
To guest post successfully on a top-ranked blog:
- Spend a few hours reading comments. That’s the best way to get to know the blog’s audience.
- Read all popular posts, because you’ll need to write something that will be popular, too.
- Engage in the conversation. Leave valuable comments and interact on Twitter, Google Plus, or Facebook. Don’t send a pitch without first connecting with a blogger.
- Study the guest posting guidelines of the blog. That’s obvious, isn’t it?
- Write a proper pitch. Without grammar mistakes. And addressed to a person. Show you’ve done your homework and demonstrate you understand the blog’s audience.
Guest blogging isn’t a quick fix. It’s not an upgraded version of article spinning. You have to do your homework. And you have to have something to say – long posts are preferred.
If you do guest blogging right, it’s immensely valuable – and not just because of the links. Guest blogging will help you gain visibility for your brand, to build connections with key influencers, and to enhance credibility. And Google will recognize your increased authority. And reward you with more rankings and more traffic. Sounds good?
Now, what about improving your rankings through social media?
Senseless Mistake #5: You Don’t Have An Integrated Social Media Strategy
“I see people referring to content marketing, social media marketing, and search engine optimization (SEO) as three different things — as if each is a tactic that can get you there alone.” ~ Brian Clark
It sounds straightforward: integrating content marketing, SEO, and social media marketing.
You create quality content.
You optimize it.
And then you share it via social media.
But that’s only half the story. You can’t just share your own content on social media. Nobody likes robotic, self-promotional broadcasters. Only sleazy salesmen promote their own stuff without considering others. Only windbags talk incessantly about themselves.
Sure. A successful social media strategy requires your own great content. But you also need to share other people’s content. Set up an RSS reader and share posts that your target audience will enjoy.
Follow these tactics for a more engaging social media policy:
- Don’t be self-centered. Be interested in others. Show you genuinely care.
- Listen. Observe. Lurk. Understand the platform culture before you jump in.
- Show up. Don’t solely rely on scheduling tools. Interact in real time.
- Don’t sound like a company. Use conversational language.
- Be humble. Be patient. And be generous.
- Have fun. Yep. That’s important.
Sharing good content will build your authority. You’ll get more followers, friends, and connections. And more likes, shares, and plusses. That’s how Google will recognize you as an authority in your field, too.
Senseless Mistake #6: You’re Still Caring Too Much About Google
(…) “that is part of what our algorithm does: work to find quality diverse results that help solve problems for users. I would discourage people from thinking about [it] from an algorithmic perspective though.” ~ Matt Cutts
How can you stop thinking from an algorithm perspective? How can you become less nervous about future algorithm changes? And less obsessed with your natural link profile? Solve users’ problems. Provide useful information. Answer questions. That’s what Matt Cutts wants you to do.
If your SEO strategy is driven by Google’s algorithm, you have to change your approach each time the algorithm changes. Rather than be worried about Google’s algorithm changes, be obsessed with your audience’s wants, desires, fears, and dreams. Your starting point should always be your audience. Not Google.
Do your market research – consider feedback boxes, online surveys, and usability tests. Read what your audience has to say in forums, blog comments, and social media. And talk to your audience off line, too: over the phone, at exhibitions, or in store.
This is what you have to find out about your audience:
- What questions does your audience ask?
- Who are their heroes?
- Where do they hang out?
- What do they read?
- What do they watch on TV? Listen to on the radio?
- What do they worry about? Dream about?
- What are their obstacles and challenges?
- What words do they use?
- What information is relevant to them?
- What content do they share?
- What content format do they prefer? Audio, text, video, images?
If you know your target audience better than anyone else, you’ll create the best content out there. And you’ll be rewarded with links, traffic, and business. It’s that simple.
The Harsh Reality Of SEO In 2012 And Beyond
“SEO is still alive and kicking.” ~ Aaron Wall
Of course SEO isn’t dead.
But SEO has changed. No more quick fixes. No short cuts. No tricks.
To avoid Google’s wrath in the next algorithm change, you have to do SEO the hard way; the natural way. Don’t pretend to build a natural link profile. Instead: be natural.
Develop a brand with quality content. Promote your content. Share other people’s content. And interact with key influencers. Become a leader in your own niche.
Your audience will reward you with likes, and tweets, and plusses. Other websites will reward you with links. And Google will reward you with more traffic.
Which parts of SEO do you find most challenging? Please let us know in the comments!