When working at a digital marketing agency, as we do here at Kanuka Digital, you help many clients to realise their online marketing goals.
During these conversations we often face a flurry of questions when taking on new projects, refreshing existing websites or answering day-to-day queries.
Invariably, most of these questions centre around search engine optimisation (SEO). Our clients often ask about where they rank compared to their competitors in search engine results pages (SERPs).
The intrigue is always intensified by how shrouded search engine providers are about the algorithms and how they select which pages rank above others.
SEO has come a long way since the Black Hat, link farming days which focused on quick wins and short term planning. However, some misconceptions still survive and cause concern for website owners when we advise against them.
So here are 5 of the most common questions, misconceptions and general missteps we come across. We have also included some fixes and solutions for how to deal with them.
#1 Underestimating the importance of keywords
When carrying out keyword research to understand what drives traffic to websites, we consider a raft of variables. This way, we can make sure we’re setting our sights on the right targets.
These variables could assess the number of monthly searches. This can include keywords that are likely to lead to a sale, general browsing or changes between geographical locations.
A common request is to use industry jargon or colloquial terminology as a primary keyword on landing pages. Whilst this might be fine when dealing with suppliers on the shop floor, it doesn’t always translate well to search.
To combat this, we tend to have to go with where the data lies and avoid anecdotal research. This means optimising pages for the best keywords and phrases which are driving high quality traffic and other key metrics.
We don’t want to alienate visitors, so we’ll still incorporate colloquial phrases in product descriptions, meta data or other copy.
#2 Link building: quality over quantity
When discussing the importance of backlinks, it’s easy to get carried away thinking that more links lead to higher rankings and more traffic.
Whilst this is true, this can lead to an abundance of poor quality backlinks. This is the case when referring domains are not properly vetted beforehand and websites with poor domain authority or high spam scores are selected.
This was pretty commonplace 15 years ago when link farming and other Black Hat SEO techniques were used for quick wins and short term successes. However, these would ultimately lead to more issues further down the line.
So avoid undoing all your good work from content creation, social networking and developing your UX. We make sure to only target backlinks from websites with a high domain authority and a low spam score. Some good tools available to check these include Moz or SEMRush.
#3 Spending big on PPC to tackle a competitor
Although Google has attempted to ensure that paid and organic search results are easily distinguishable, anecdotally there is still confusion.
Understandably you’d be concerned if you think you’ve lost ground to a competitor if they’re ranking ahead of you. Even if it’s only as a result of a heavy spending PPC campaign, it can still be cause for concern.
These days, hundreds of factors can affect search results. Therefore, throwing yourself into a retaliatory PPC campaign might capture additional traffic and clicks. However, this can result in costs wildly spiralling without proper foresight and planning.
While organic rankings may fluctuate, the best thing you can do to retain your position is not to panic. Just ensure your website is optimised, mobile friendly and serving your customers well.
Targeting achievable and realistically attainable keywords with content, on-page and off-page SEO is a good, long term plan. It can also provide better return on investment further down the line when your competitor has blown their budget.
However, if you do decide that you want an additional boost through a paid campaign, make sure there’s a clear plan, budget and goals. Otherwise, you could get roped into a bidding war.
For existing sites that are being optimised or re-skinned, SEO work consists of improving current rankings and smaller optimisation tweaks.
For brand new builds, starting from nothing can seem like a daunting task. So when we’re asked why websites don’t appear in Google immediately, it opens up a can of worms when we unravel how many different metrics and variables are involved.
Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts to hitting page 1 of Google, as much as you want to beat your competition.
Firstly, we can start by submitting your website to Google and directories with high domain authority and low spam scores. Setting up Google My Business also helps for businesses with a physical location.
Following this is days of crucial technical tasks. This includes weeks of planning outreach, months of link building and domain authority and a continuous stream of tweaks, optimisation and maintaining algorithm changes to help you rank.
#5 Suddenly pausing SEO activity
We always carry out a full SEO audit when starting on a new project or build a new website. This highlights priority key tasks that need more focus, with suggestions for future campaigns and long term goals to work towards.
After this initial period of optimisation, keyword targeting and outreach, there may be a sudden lift in traffic which feels full of gains and activity.
However, 6 months down the line and the tweaks become smaller, gains more marginal and bigger tasks fewer and farther between.
When it seems like there’s not much happening on your website, it can be tempting for some to pull the plug on their marketing activity and suddenly stop.
It’s so important to understand that ‘doing SEO’ is not a one off task. It’s an ongoing project to meet new algorithm changes, serve your visitors better and adhere to trends. Suddenly pausing activity can derail progress and may result in you having to invest heavily further down the line to recover.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of common SEO complaints, hopefully it provided insight into some of the most common obstacles website owners face. In particular, with niche businesses or those that are starting out online for the first time.
The main takeaways when working in SEO are quite simple: set realistic and achievable goals, plan ahead, commit to budgets and be patient.