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The 8 Most Common Content Optimization Mistakes We Saw In 2014
Your content may be great, but it won't help your marketing efforts if search engines aren't indexing it. Columnist Arnie Kuenn explores 8 common optimization errors and how to address them.
As content marketing involves influencing customer purchase decisions through content creation and distribution, most marketers understand the necessity for compelling content.
However, many often forget about the impact SEO can have on content marketing success. In addition to publishing high-quality, helpful content, your content and website must be well optimized in order to be found by search engines, and more importantly, your audience.
Unfortunately, with the amount of misinformation about SEO published online, marketers make many SEO mistakes without even realizing it, which could be costing their businesses traffic and search engine rankings.
In an effort to minimize the number of marketers making common SEO mistakes, I want to share the eight most common content optimization mistakes we saw this year:
1. Duplicate Content
Publishing duplicate content is a mistake website owners usually make completely unintentionally, and they often aren’t alerted to it until they notice a drop in rankings or website traffic.
Though most website owners know not to outright “double post” content, there are less obvious ways duplicate content can crop up, like secure HTTPS pages, URL parameters and CMS templates.
If you have detected duplicate content issues, you’ll need to tell search engines not to index specific pages through the Noindex, Nofollow tag or rel=canonical to preserve your rankings and traffic.
2. Bad Backlinks
Link building remains a crucial part of SEO, but not all links are created equal. There are good links and there are bad links, and too many bad links can cost you.
Bad backlinks include links from irrelevant websites, spammy websites, gambling sites, link directories and ad-heavy sites — links that look (and most likely are) unnatural.
Luckily, there are many tools, like Open Site Explorer or SEMrush, you can use to gather your backlink portfolio. Once you have your backlink data, you can attempt to remove bad backlinks by contacting website owners and using Google’s link disavow tool.
Though this process can be timely and difficult, it is necessary to sustain your search engine rankings and online reputation.
3. Keyword Cannibalization & Over Optimization
Though many businesses have a few target keywords that could be used throughout many pages of their website, putting the same target keywords on every page can severely hurt your SEO strategy. As a result, each page of your website content should be optimized for a specific keyword.
Search engines work to display the most pertinent pages for a specific search query. If there are a number of pages on your site optimized for the same keyword, how will search engines know which page is the most relevant?
Short answer: they won’t. In other words, you’re leaving the search engine no choice but to choose which page to return in the SERP for that specific search term.
Additionally, over optimization can be detrimental to your SEO success. You want each page to focus on a specific keyword and to use that keyword throughout the page copy and in page tags and descriptions. However, you don’t want to use the keyword too much, as that can result in over optimization. Confusing, right?
To avoid this, your target keyword should appear naturally throughout the page and within the title tag, headings, meta description, etc.
For example, say you’re a staffing firm, and your title tag reads as follows: “tech staffing services | tech staffing firm + company name | company name + tech staffing services.”
Though this may look nice as a title tag, it surely doesn’t look natural. You’ve over optimized by using the same keyword multiple times, which can look spammy to search engines and users.
4. Image Optimization
Optimizing images is often an afterthought for many website owners, though it certainly shouldn’t be. Image file names, titles and tags can affect SEO. Though search engines can’t “see” images, they can see the text and code associated with images. You can effectively optimize images by:
- Saving the image with a descriptive file name, as that can provide context as to how the image relates to the rest of the content on the page (e.g. “funny-cat-pic.jpg” vs. “IMG10003.jpg”)
- Utilizing the alt tag to serve as alternate text when an image is not available
- Including keywords and phrases in image title tags to provide context when the image is scrolled over
5. Page Load Times
Search engines use page load time as a ranking factor, solidifying it as a significant factor in SEO. Additionally, page load time affects user experience, as just a 2-second delay can result in abandonment rates up to 87 percent.
Fortunately, there are many tools available to analyze page load speed and potentially diagnose what is causing the lag in load time. Additionally, you can preemptively optimize page load time by reducing the number of redirects used, using suitable image sizes, and avoiding excessive plugins, CSS and HTML.
6.Low-Quality, Poor Content
Yes, we still see it — a lot. Ever since Google’s first Panda update in 2011, search engines have been cracking down on websites with thin content and/or content that isn’t catered to the human user. Though you want your content to contain keywords and be optimized for search, content should still always be created for the end user first.
Your content should be useful first and foremost. If you’re writing content only with search engines in mind, you’re failing your human audience. Focus on speaking to customer pain points, answering frequently asked questions, and acting as a resource for your audience; optimize for search along the way.
7. Keyword Misfocus
When optimizing a page for a specific keyword, you must be sure to focus on the same keyword throughout the page to avoid keyword misfocus. For example, say you are optimizing a page for “blue polo shirts,” and use that keyword in the title tag. Then, throughout the page, instead of “blue polo shirts,” you just reference “navy polos.”
This can result in keyword misfocus and can be confusing for search engines and users alike. Whatever keyword you are optimizing for should be consistent throughout the title tag, H1 heading, page URL, page content, and image tags.
8. Indexability Issues
As I mentioned earlier, if your content can’t be found, you’re in trouble. This is especially true if you have indexability issues from blocked pages, missing pages and broken links. After all, your content needs to be optimized for search for search engines for your audience to find it organically.
If search engines can’t find and index your pages, your content may never even make it to the end user. Because of this, it’s extremely important for website owners to frequently check that pages and links are working correctly.
Overall, there are many SEO mistakes that can result in low SERP rankings, but the eight featured above were the most common offenders of 2014. However, these mistakes can be remedied; though some may be easier to fix than others, all must be repaired in order to achieve optimum SEO success.
What SEO mistake did you see most in 2014?Image credit: FlickR Commons, Vertical Measures, Michael Mafy
Some opinions expressed in this article may be those of a guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.