What is the cost of SEO in 2017?
Try $65 billion, according to Borrell Associates’ most recent estimate. Well, that’s how much money companies are expected to spend on SEO. The question to ask yourself is “What’s the cost of SEO if I don’t do it correctly?”
In other words:
A) How much is bad (or no) SEO costing you in sales?
B) How much will it cost you to fix it?
So what exactly is bad SEO? Some of these mistakes may be ones you don’t realize you’re making.
Here are 10 big mistakes that drive up the cost of SEO.
1 – Poor Quality Content
The ways businesses increase their cost of SEO by using poor quality content are many and we’re only scratching the surface with these common errors.
Hard to Read Content
Google’s algorithms focus on far more than keywords. Google measures time spent on a page to see if visitors are reading your content.
Avoid things that make your content hard to read, like large blocks of text. Keep paragraphs to 4 sentences max. Use subheadings with appropriate headline tags to break things up and assist with SEO.
Have you been tempted to pay a penny, or less, per word for your blog content? Don’t. Your readers won’t like it and Google will notice.
Pay good money for good writing. Quality writing that’s SEO optimized and appealing to your visitors will win over them and the search engines.
And when quality content leads to email opt-ins and conversions, the cost of SEO starts going down.
Have you ever read a good blog post and went looking for others, only to find the site hasn’t been updated in a year? You probably won’t be back.
Visitors like new content. It keeps them engaged and gives them more to share with their social networks. The more they share, the more new visitors arrive.
And when new visitors like what they see, they visit other pages and stay longer. This is good for search engine rankings and can lead to more conversions.
Post new, optimized content regularly and look for ways to update and repurpose existing content.
2 – Poor Use of Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
A website without meta tags for each page is like a book with no title or table of contents. Meta tags, like title and meta description, tell search engines the purpose of each page.
High quality content, with targeted keywords, can go unseen without well defined title and meta description tags. Your cost of SEO increases with the large number of visitors you’ve missed.
Some sites have title and meta description tags, but they’re not unique for each page. An example is a site that uses the company’s name for every title tag. This is bad for SEO and user experience.
Page titles are shared in tweets and appear as text when your site is bookmarked. Unique page titles are more descriptive to the reader and, when tied to your page’s target keyword, better for search results.
As for meta descriptions, think of them as your page’s elevator pitch. You get 160 characters to give searchers a reason to click through to your page. Make descriptions unique and persuasive while including relevant keywords.
3 – Poor Quality Internal Links
A modest number of internal links, placed within your body content, help build a solid site structure, engage your readers, and lower the cost of SEO. It’s surprising businesses don’t use or misuse this technique. Below are the common mistakes they make.
Google looks at the total time spent on a site and page views as a measure of your website’s quality. If you’re not internally linking to other pages in your body content you’re inviting visitors to read one page and head back to the search results. As a result, Google concludes you have poor quality content and ranks it accordingly.
Quality internal links are relevant. Many sites only link to top-performing pages to make them even stronger. But if those pages are unrelated to the page you’re linking from, don’t link to them. You’ll risk a poor user experience, which could chase visitors from your site.
No Anchor Text
No doubt you’ve seen many links that say, “click here” or “learn more”. This is lazy SEO. It’s easy to link from your CTA and get an SEO benefit.
Use relevant keywords as anchor text in your internal links. For example, instead of “learn more” as anchor text from a blog post to your services page, use “learn more about small business web design”.
For multi-page blog posts, use anchor text like, “Mistakes that increase the cost of SEO – continued,” versus “Next Page”.
4 – Outbound Link Mistakes
Contrary to popular belief, a moderate number of outbound links is a good thing. There’s evidence to back this up, according to a recent outbound link case study. Reboot Online’s study shows sites with quality outbound links perform better than those without them.
In addition, Matt Cutts, the former head of Google’s web spam team, wrote on his blog, “In the same way that Google trusts sites less when they link to spammy sites or bad neighborhoods, parts of our system encourage links to good sites.”
Unfortunately sites make mistakes with outbound links too and here are some of the worst.
Remember Matt Cutts’ quote above? Outbound links should go to relevant sites with good reputations and rankings. Search engine algorithms can tell the difference, so don’t risk a penalty — stick with quality.
Anchor text rules apply to outbound links, as well. Use anchor text to tell the reader, and the search engines, what the link is about. Also, avoid using the same anchor text over and over. Search engines may see this and interpret your links as spam.
First, placing outbound links in your site-wide navigation is often seen as spam. Any Google PageRank losses you may suffer are compounded because they affect every page. The only outbound links in your site navigation should be to your company’s social media profiles.
Second, outbound links should not open in the same window because this covers up your content. The goal is an easy transition from the linked content back to your site. Make all outbound links open in a new window.
Finally, don’t link to your direct competitors. While this isn’t an SEO issue, it’s bad business. The exception would be a joint venture requiring cross promotion.
5 – Bad Keyword Research
What keywords are more valuable to rank for — ones based on how you define your product or how your customers define it?
Who’s doing the searching anyway?
Not considering search engine preferences and not using long-tail keywords are still the biggest keyword research mistakes businesses make. Optimizing for the wrong keywords drives up the cost of SEO. Here’s a few other keyword research mistakes.
- Optimizing global keywords for local customers – “web design” vs. “Atlanta small business web design”
- Optimizing keywords that attract uninterested visitors – “best trivia team names” when you’re a company selling trivia as a team building activity
- Keywords that attract lookers, not buyers – dog toys vs. squeaky dog ball
- Optimizing broad, highly competitive keywords that big companies spend big money to rank for
In 2017, keyword research is about listening as much as it is about ranking. The goal is relevant content your visitors want to consume and search engines want to rank you high for.
6 – Not Having a Mobile Friendly Site
With more Google searches taking place on mobile platforms than desktop, there’s absolutely no excuse for a business not to have a mobile-friendly website. Still, several times a day, we’ll click a website link only to be welcomed by minuscule print and “impossible without pinching” navigation.
Your site’s appearance in Google mobile search results can be affected if it’s not mobile-friendly. In this context, mobile-friendly means the actual appearance of the site and Google’s ability to see the code making it mobile-friendly.
Why risk losing such a large portion of your potential traffic?
Make the necessary changes to make your website mobile-friendly. Also, focus on creating content that’s easy to view and attractive to mobile users.
7 – Slow Site Load Speed
Have you ever left a website because it was taking too long to load?
So have your visitors and who knows when they’ll be back. Images, videos, banners, and graphics do make a website more appealing. But when they negatively impact page loading speed, visitors get frustrated and leave.
When a visitor arrives at your site from search engine results, page load time and time on site are measured. When visitors leave quickly because pages aren’t loading, your rankings can take a beating, along with your bottom line.
How badly can your bottom line be affected? If you’re Amazon, that’s $1.6 billion dollars in sales lost per year for a one second decrease in page load speed. Just one second.
There’s plenty you can do to make your pages load faster. Start by analyzing your site to find what’s causing your load speed issues.
8 – Neglecting Analytics
Small business websites produce large quantities of data. But if you aren’t using that data to assess site performance and make changes, the sales you’re losing are increasing your cost of SEO.
Free tools like Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools are great to learn the basics of analytics. Knowing things like each page’s bounce rate, total time on site and page views per visit will show you where to focus your SEO efforts.
From there you can branch out into tools that track conversions for your keywords. When you can see your conversions for each keyword you’re optimizing, you can focus on the ones that lead to sales and identify similar keywords with high conversion potential.
9 – Questionable SEO Practices
Some “black hat” SEO tactics still work, temporarily. That’s why they’re still used. But once discovered, they can damage your rankings and visitor experience. And that, you guessed it, drives up the cost of SEO.
Would it shock you to learn you might be using some of these tactics without knowing it?
Google frowns on all methods of purchasing backlinks. Buying product reviews or paying for guest blogs with a link back to your site are a no-no. The only way to avoid a penalty is if the link back to your site is nofollowed.
This also applies to paying for banner ads without nofollowing and placing followed links on web tools or templates you sell or give away. Don’t do it.
Google dislikes any redirect that keeps search engines from seeing the same page as the visitor sees. They also don’t like redirects that send visitors to pages they weren’t expecting to visit. If your choice is between a page going 404 (page not found) or redirecting to an unrelated page, Google would rather it go 404.
To remain Google-friendly, redirect pages in one of two ways. When permanently transferring content from one URL to another, use a 301 redirect. This passes SEO benefits directly to the new URL. When taking a page temporarily offline, use a 302 redirect. This retains the original URL’s SEO benefits.
10 – Ignoring Local Search
If your customers are local, or regional, ignoring local search makes your cost of SEO go way up.
The Google 3 Pack appears at the top of search engine results pages 93% of the time for local searches. Take advantage of this by listing your site in Google My Business and optimizing for local and regional keywords.
Next, check other relevant local directories and search engines to make sure your business name, address, and phone number are correct. From there, list your business in Yelp, Merchant Circle, and FourSquare. These simple actions build up your citations.
Citations are when your company name and information appear on the internet without a link back to your site. Citations validate your business and establish it as part of your local community, which can help your local search results.
Control the Cost of SEO
You can control the cost of SEO by avoiding the 10 mistakes discussed above. If you’re making any of them right now, fix them, before you do anything else. Your SEO dollars are being wasted otherwise.
Solid practices decrease the cost of SEO by getting the maximum benefit for every dollar spent. We’re experts in onsite optimization, local SEO, and analytics who can help you reduce the cost of SEO by doing things right the first time.
Click for a free website analysis by one of our SEO specialists.