96% of marketers use search engine optimization tactics to improve their site's visibility in search. While best practices may have changed significantly over the past few years, optimizing your content for search engines and your target customers is critically important.
An estimated 81% of buyers begin their search for products or services using a search engine. If your site doesn't appear on the first two pages of search results, you're missing critical opportunities to connect with prospects.
SEO Tips and Tricks for 2016
If your SEO strategy and knowledge of on-page optimization best practices hasn't changed in a few years, it's almost certainly time for a refresher. While some people have declared that SEO is dead, it definitely isn't. It's simply changed to a far more people-focused practice. In this blog, you'll learn some outdated SEO tips and tricks that may have worked several years ago, but are definitely ineffective today.
1. Short Content
Research by Moz indicates that first-page search results are almost always over 2,000 words in length. In-depth content is more likely to earn social shares and links, causing Google to reward the page with a better ranking.
There are almost no absolutes in SEO. If you're able to cover a frequently-asked customer question or another topic extremely well in 400 words, that's okay. However, including in-depth content in your strategy is almost certainly the right approach.
2. High Keyword Density
A 4% keyword density won't win you any favors with Google. In fact, if you're consistently using keywords in an unnatural way throughout your content, you're more likely to be penalized than rewarded.
There is no optimal keyword density. Using your target keywords naturally throughout your content is the right approach. Use variations, too. But for the love of all that's good, avoid keyword stuffing.
3. Awkwardly-Phrased Titles to Accommodate a Keyword
Search engines are increasingly semantic, which means they have human-like ability to translate the context of queries. In other words, your site won't benefit from a keyword that's awkwardly crammed into a title.
Example of an Awkward Title: 10 Reasons Why Don't Marketers Pay Attention to SEO
Even if your keyword research has revealed that "why don't marketers pay attention to SEO" is exactly what you need to focus on, there's no reason to publish a page with a title that feels robot generated. Instead, modify the title.
Appropriately Modified Title: 10 Reasons Why Marketers Don't Pay Attention to SEO
This will likely yield the same results, without making your grammar-conscious audience member's eyes twitch.
4. Using Keywords in Site Footers
As SEO blogger Travis Bliffen highlights, using keywords in site footers was once an incredibly effective SEO tactic. By optimizing the links and text in your site footer, you could boost your ranking for terms significantly. Today? Well, not so much. In fact, Bliffen reports that this overt SEO trick is more likely to get you penalized than improve your rankings.
5. Keyword-Rich Anchor Text
Including links to internal site pages is still an important component of on-page SEO optimization for bloggers. However, be cautious that you're not using too many links or you could be perceived as a spammer.
Try to keep your anchor text density to around 1% or less. While internal links are not as valuable to SEO results as they once were, they still matter. Cramming your text full of links to your previous blogs and offers can cause a drop in rankings.
6. Outdated Content
Inaccurate or poorly-written content can damage your brand's reputation and ability to rank well. Keeping content up-to-date can represent a significant chore, particularly for companies that have been blogging prolifically for several years. However, it's important to prioritize updates to your best-performing and evergreen content, especially the assets that continue to drive organic search traffic.
7. Failing to Perform Page and Content Audits
Can poor SEO optimization techniques from 2010 come back to haunt your brand today? Absolutely.
An annual page and content audit of your website isn't exactly glamorous. However, it's crucial. Regularly review your site's pages and blogs to correct SEO mistakes of years past, such as missing meta descriptions or excessive tagging.
8. Focusing on High-Search Keywords
Unless your brand is a content powerhouse, you're relatively unlikely to rank for the keyword "marketing." Or "banking," "finance," "software," and any other number of terms that receive hundreds of thousands of searches each day. Focusing your SEO efforts on trying to gain traction for highly competitive phrases could be the equivalent of spinning your wheels.
Fortunately, modern search users are probably more likely to enter highly-specific queries than you may think. Mobile users in particular are especially likely to enter detailed queries in question form into search engines. By directing your keyword research to discover longtail phrases, or combinations of key words, you can gain far more ground creating content for specific, multi-word queries.
9. Poor Page Naming Strategy
If your blog is named "blog," and your "about us" page is called just that, you're missing out on important opportunities to optimize for industry and location-specific keywords. For most organizations, the site pages that receive the most traffic are also likely to be listed in primary navigation; the homepage, about us, contact, and blog. Include optimized page title descriptions to obtain the most traction possible, which could resemble the following:
- "About Us | Tulsa Content Marketing"
- "Contact SMM | Inbound in Tulsa"
It's important to note that your page titles do not have to be listed in your site's menu navigation. While your company's blog should probably be named something specific like "Inbound Marketing Agency Blog | Tulsa," a similarly-wordy entry in your internal navigation could look like word soup. Keep your page names simple in the navigation, and more detailed for page titles.
10. Terrible Site Navigation
User experience (UX) factors certainly impact your SEO. While many marketers have little control over their website's design, poor SEO results may not be caused by your content marketing efforts. It could be your site's navigation, page load times, or any number of other components of how users engage with the site.
Your site navigation needs to be intuitive. Modern consumers aren't patient enough to "learn" a complex navigation structure without bouncing back to search results. Aim for simplicity above complex stylization, and ensure your navigation UX is as intuitive as possible.
11. Overly Large Images
If your marketing team is uploading raw, high-resolution images into blog posts, you could be adding critically-important seconds to your page load time. Every second it takes for your pages to load can increase your bounce rate, particularly among impatient mobile device users.
Avoiding this SEO mistake is incredibly simple. Reducing image size in a free tool like PicResize takes just a few seconds.
12. Excessive Plugins
Plug-ins can play a role in page load time. If your pages are loading slowly, this could be another culprit. Gain an easy baseline measurement of your page load time by using Google's aptly-named PageSpeedTools.
For marketers with the ability to make simple modifications to their company's content management systems, evaluating your plug-ins can be an important step to troubleshooting loading issues that aren't caused by image sizes. Reducing the number of plug-ins associated with your site could remedy issues and speed up pages significantly.
13. Low-Quality Guest Posting
There's a whole world of problems associated with guest blogging, which lead Google's Matt Cutts to declare several years ago that guest blogging was dead. Honestly? It isn't completely dead. But Google, Bing, Yahoo, and other search engines carefully scrutinize websites that engage in sketchy guest blogging tactics.
If your site openly accepts guest posts, there's a good chance you receive a high volume of pitches. A large majority of these may be written by non-native English speakers, appear to have been randomly generated or translated, or ask your company to link to an irrelevant website. Never accept guest posts that aren't written by a subject matter expert, and link to a site that's clearly in your niche. Any other approach to accepting or publishing guest posts can yield a penalty.
If SEO hasn't been a focus of your marketing team in quite some time, make 2016 the year you tackle optimization again. By performing a content audit and integrating best practices for optimization going forward, you can significantly improve your search rankings.