Despite what you’ll read elsewhere online, the reality of SEO is much as it’s always been. By simply creating great content and actively promoting it, you’ll be well ahead of the vast majority of your marketing peers when it comes to driving organic traffic to your site.
That said, there are still a number of potential pitfalls out there to avoid, and the enormous amount of historical chicanery and misinformation out there in the SEO space over the years certainly hasn’t helped matters. It can often be hard for even experienced digital marketers to get all their ducks in a row
With a view to helping you escape disaster, we’ve put together a list of five classic SEO traps to avoid, and thrown in some handy open-source SEO tools for good measure. Let’s start with the most obvious trap to steer clear of!
1. Short-term thinking
When something goes truly horribly wrong with SEO efforts on a site, the root cause can more often than not be traced back to one simple thing – short-term thinking. The most obvious manifestation of this is trying to game the system or spam the search index to drive results.
In 2017, there are as many dubious ways of attempting this as ever, and we won’t dwell on any specific ones in particular. Suffice it to say, if you’re actively trying to cheat your way up the rankings in a hurry, there’s an excellent chance you’ll come a cropper eventually. While most experienced marketers can probably point to one or two sites that briefly got away it, it’s an eventual road to ruin for most – sooner or later that site penalty hammer will fall.
It’s a long way down if you fall victim to short-term SEO thinking.
As a digital marketer, you also need to be aware that the organic channel in general is a long-term one. If you’re looking for instant results, social and SEM campaigns are probably what you want to put your weight behind. Despite the fact that indexing has never been quicker, SEO is something that will pay off over months and years rather than weeks. Be patient and most of your surrounding SEO decisions will inevitably be better ones.
2. Not committing to the basics
The second trap to avoid is an equally obvious one, but the number of marketers who fall into it is nevertheless staggering. There’s simply no getting around having to take care of the tried and tested basics of on-page SEO optimization when it comes to putting together your sites. What this means in practice is the following (at a minimum):
- Your meta titles and descriptions are present and correct.
- On page structure is clear and broken out cleanly using appropriate paragraphs and headers.
- All images are optimized for search engines.
Fortunately, open-source platforms such as WordPress enable easy integration with tools like Yoast SEO plugin to make much of this straightforward for even non-technical users, and will also help out considerably when it comes to ticking off boxes such as dealing with sitemaps.
The Yoast SEO plugin is your new best friend as a digital marketer.
3. Engaging only in Ad Hoc efforts
If you’ve been around the SEO block a couple of times, you may be wondering how any responsible digital marketer could fail to tackle basic items such as the type of on-page optimization discussed above. The truth is, it can happen to the best of us – ad hoc efforts are one of the most common ways this problem rears its head with SEO.
Modern digital marketers are faced with two fairly tricky realities to navigate:
- Putting together overarching campaigns in an omnichannel world is an increasingly intricate affair.
- SEO remains very much a marathon rather than a sprint.
Though it may well make sense to run or consider individual SEO efforts as campaigns in their own right, you need to be keenly aware that the SEO health of your site as a whole will require ongoing attention. You can’t just get it all out of the way at site launch or check in now and then; this is a full-time job for someone.
Seers SEO Toolbox can save you some day-to-day SEO heavy lifting.
Check out Seer’s SEO Toolbox for a power list of open-source SEO tools aimed specifically at marketers that you and your team can use to stay on top of things day to day and ease that overall burden.
4. Skipping the Search Console
As a digital marketer, you’ll naturally be spending a portion of your average working day immersed in Google Analytics or Piwik to track the results of your initiatives, but make sure you also take full advantage of the range of SEO power tools that Google Search Console (GSC) opens up to you.
Be certain that all your sites are fully set up with Search Console.
If this is your first time approaching the topic, your one-stop shop for diving into the SEO options available here is Neil Patel’s guide to using Google Search Console as an SEO tool over on Quicksprout. It’s a long read, but an absolute goldmine for both general digital marketers and those focusing exclusively on SEO. By the time you’re through it, you’ll be making pretty darned sure that Search Console account is up and running and in regular use on all your sites.
5. Antagonizing your users
There’s one particularly fine line that many digital marketers have been walking for many a year now – just how far should you go to get your hands on those precious inbox details of a potential lead? While pop-ups, interstitials, and all manner of obnoxious requests for email addresses have become something of a norm over the last five years, the golden days of the aggressive ask may well be drawing to a close.
Google’s guidelines show they’re beginning to crack the usability whip on mobile.
Though site owners have had a solid six months to prepare for it, Google’s January roll-out of their pop-up penalty will still catch many by surprise. At the time of writing, it’s still early days in terms of just how much impact this will have on the standard digital marketing toolbox, but one thing is relatively certain – Google is fully committed to making all content easily browseable on mobile and prepared to punish those who fall short of expectations.
Your eventual SEO success will be as much defined by the mistakes you avoid making as it will be by the minutiae you master. Get off to the best possible start by making sure you’re steering well clear of the five classic traps we covered by doing the following:
- Always resist the temptation to take the ‘easy’ road with spammy short-term SEO tactics.
- Fully commit to taking care of SEO basics with a particular focus on on-page factors.
- Realize that SEO success is an ongoing commitment. Ad hoc tinkering won’t cut it.
- Take full advantage of the power of the Google Search Console.
- Don’t needlessly antagonize your users in the quest for contact details.
The points above will get you a long way, but there are of course many other SEO traps lurking out there.