Just to be clear. I’m not saying that you are stupid. Just some of the things you do are stupid.
Like that time in Austin, Texas when you were sleepwalking through the hallways of that hotel. Because you didn’t have your glasses on, you couldn’t see the numbers on the door and weren’t able to find your way back to the room. And you were naked. Now that’s the kind of stupid I’m talking about.
We all…wait, are you saying I am the only one that happened to?
(Insert awkward silence here)
Well, regardless. The specifics don’t matter. My point is that we all do some pretty stupid stuff. All of us.
And that includes a lot of the actions you take in your quest to increase the traffic to your website. In fact, even with the best of intentions, many of the things you are doing to help your website are actually hurting it.
So, in an effort to stop you from the proverbial naked stroll through the hallway (whatever the search engine optimization equivalent of that is), here are eight of the stupidest mistakes you make when optimizing your website.
Stupid Mistake #1: Rely on SEO for All of Your Traffic
Search engines can’t be ignored. We all get that. But what most of us may not know is that search engines only amount to an average of about 40% of our traffic each month. And if my math is correct, that means 60% of our traffic comes from other sources like referrals, e-mail marketing, social media, offline marketing and several other methods.
Search engines are merely piece of the puzzle. Granted, they are a big piece, but if your plan is to rely solely on search engines for all of your traffic, you are setting yourself up for failure.
The problem with focusing all of your efforts on search engine traffic is that it puts you in a very vulnerable position. Search engine results are fluid. There are a lot of moving parts. A change in the algorithm or an aggressive competitor is sometimes all it takes to knock you off page one, possibly putting you out of business if there is no Plan B.
A successful strategy for increasing traffic is one that includes several other online methods including:
- A consistent e-mail marketing plan
- A small (but strategic) Adwords campaign
- A strong social media presence
- A valuable and informative blog
But that’s not enough. You should also have an offline strategy for driving traffic to your website as well. For example:
- Local networking events where you can meet other like-minded professionals
- Direct mail that drives people to your website for information or discounts
- Speaking engagements
- Writing articles for locals newspapers and magazines
Not all of these are going to work for every possible industry, but you can’t cross it off your list until you have at least tried it and have proof that it doesn’t work. So try everything.
Diversifying your traffic in such a way will make you invincible to any environmental or technological changes online.
Stupid Mistake #2: Optimize Your Site Using Keywords Based on Traffic and Competition
For most of us, search engine optimization is all about targeting the right keywords. The idea is that if you can find keyword phrases that are high in traffic but low in competition you won’t have a care in the world. Not so.
Ranking well for a keyword only because it gets a lot traffic is not a good enough reason to optimize your site for it. Last I checked, traffic does not pay the rent. Quality visitors interested in purchasing your product or service do. Which would you rather have? One hundred visitors a day with no interest in what you are offering or one visitor a day ready to make a purchase?
What I am suggesting is to see the problem a little differently. Rather than doing extensive keyword research to find words to target, try doing extensive people research to find the specific types of visitors you want to target.
Knowing more about the people you want to target will help you determine a lot about how they search and what they expect to see when they get to your site. For example:
- You know what language to speak
- You know what problems they need solved
- You know what words they are searching
- You know how to exceed their expectations
- You know how to connect with them
Speaking to visitors in their language, solving their problems, using the words they are searching, exceeding their expectations and connecting with them is how you build a relationship through search. And we all know that people like to do business with those they feel a connection to.
It’s just an added bonus that, because you specifically targeted them, they are people that you want to do business with as well!
Stupid Mistake #3: Think SEO Stops as Soon as Someone Lands on Your Website
When it comes to search engine optimization, there is so much talk about how to get visitors to your site but very little about what to do with them when they get there. If you don’t have a specific plan for your visitors once they land on your site, all of your efforts are wasted.
We all know that a website is a sales tool. But that doesn’t mean you have to make your visitors feel as though they are being sold to at every turn. If your website is the digital equivalent of that annoying pre-pubescent teen standing at the doorway of The Gap trying to upsell you on a belt, it’s time for a change.
New visitors land on your site in an effort to solve a problem. Their problem, not yours. So when you start out by trying too hard to sell them or give them the 100-year history of your company, chances are that you are going to lose them. Even if you have the solution to their problem.
First and foremost, your website needs to:
- Educate visitors
- Position you as an expert in your industry
- Give your visitors a voice by allowing them to leave comments on your blog
- Showcase your quality of work through images and videos
- Increase your credibility through your design and testimonials
Make sure that you are setting specific goals of what you want your visitors to do and be sure you are measuring them (without making “Stupid Mistake #4″ of course).
Stupid Mistake #4: Spend Too Much Time Looking At Reports and Analytics
This was a typical day in the life of my blog. I would first publish a new post before counting to five and running over to Google Analytics to see my stats. Next, I would Tweet the post and refresh Google Analytics again to see if anyone clicked on the Tweet that I just posted four seconds earlier. Finally, I would share it on Facebook and then, you guessed it, check Google Analytics again.
This would go on throughout the course of the day. Every day. Weekends too. And do you know where all of that effort got me? Absolutely nowhere.
Stats are great provided that you are able to see them for what they are. Numbers. A mathematical formula that gives you a small window into what is happening with your website. They tell a story, just not the whole story.
You see, what happens when we get obsessed by statistics is that we find ourselves making decisions based solely on those numbers:
- We stop writing for our target audience and start writing to generate traffic. Any kind of traffic.
- We take to social media to see if we can squeeze out a few more visitors by over-sharing our posts instead of engaging with our communities.
- We become tinkerers. Constantly changing little things thinking they might make a difference.
- We use questionable SEO tactics in order to increase the quantity of visitors at the expense of the quality of visitors.
Some of which might get us the result we want (more traffic) but not the result we need (more customers).
Instead, spend 15-20 minutes each week looking at your stats. Review the number of visitors, what pages they frequent, the terms they searched to find you, their location, your bounce rate and any other information that could be valuable to you.
Learn from it. But take it with a grain of salt. Allow it to alter your plan but not control it.
Stupid Mistake #5: Blog Everyday Thinking More Content Equals Higher Rankings
It goes a little something like this. The more content you create, the more often your site will show up in a search. The more often your site shows up in a search, the more your traffic increases. The more your traffic increases, the more your phone rings. The more your phone rings, the more successful you are. The more successful you are, the better you look at your high school reunion.
In theory it sounds great. But it doesn’t work.
All of this assumes that you will be writing extraordinary content each day. Not counting weekends, that is 260 groundbreaking posts each year. It’s not sustainable. Eventually you are going to have a hard time coming up with a topic. Or your quality is going to suffer. Or you are going to miss a deadline. Or you are just going to burn out.
Eventually, your content is going to become mediocre. At best. And visitors don’t share mediocre content. They only share extraordinary content. This is where your efforts need to go.
Write every day, but only publish once or twice a week. Write extraordinary stuff. Stuff that matters. Stuff that is thought provoking. Stuff that is educational. Entertaining. Different. Cutting edge. Valuable. Controversial.
Stuff that makes other people wish they wrote it.
Do that and your website will be an overwhelming success for readers and search engines alike.
Stupid Mistake #6: Think You Are Smarter Than Google and Can Beat the System
This one is for all of you “SEO Rockstars” out there. If you honestly think that you can beat the system and cut to the front of the line because of some “flavor of the month” SEO technique you uncovered, boy are you in for a surprise.
I see it all of the time.
In nearly every workshop I teach, there is one person in the group that is there because they lost 90% of their traffic overnight. You can tell who they are by the bags under their eyes and their tear-stained collar. And because they always ask the same question:
“What’s the fastest way to get my ranking back?”
Some people never learn.
Even the dumbest person at Google had a higher IQ as a fetus than the rest of us do now as grown men and women. Stop trying to outsmart them. Whatever hole you are able to find in the boat today will inevitably be plugged tomorrow.
All you have to do is look at the past.
There was a time when you could write a few crappy articles and post them all over the web and in no time find yourself on page one. Until of course the Google Panda update smacked you well into next week. So you moved onto link building and the theory that he who has the most links wins. At least until the Google Penguin update danced all over your hopes and dreams.
It’s not worth it.
These shortcuts offer nothing but a little short-term gain with a lot of long-term pain. The results won’t last.
You must approach search engine optimization ethically and morally. It may seem like a lot of work, but if you look at the long-term gain of consistently building quality content and a community that relies on it you will find that it snowballs.
Much like how compound interest works, if you were to invest a year into turning your website into an incredible resource, you will be untouchable for years to come.
Stupid Mistake #7: Think too Much “Today” and Not Enough “Tomorrow”
The reason most of us do what we do is because of what it will give us right now. Skip the gym and sleep in because it feels good right now. Get that extra scoop of ice cream because it tastes good right now. Take the short cut because of what it will do for your business right now.
It is the sum of all of these “cheats” that creates enormous problems for you in the future.
The smartest thing you could do for your business is to future-proof your online marketing efforts. Stop searching for short cuts and put in the work now with the faith that you will get the results you want. So you won’t be adversely affected each time there is a new algorithm change. So new technology will only enhance your current standing.
So you can sleep at night.
Stupid Mistake #8: Worry More About What Google Thinks Than What Your Visitor Thinks
Want to know what “SEO friendly text” looks like? It goes a little something like this:
“Carpet Munchers is a professional landscaping company in New Jersey that focuses on professional landscaping in New Jersey. So if you are looking for a professional landscaping company in New Jersey, look no further as we are known as the premier professional landscaping company in New Jersey.”
And this is what so many websites sound like in a poor attempt to try and give Google what we think it wants. We write content with Google in mind. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t.
The problem is that whether it “works” in the eyes of Google or not is irrelevant because even if you did make it to page one with that tragic description of your business, no one in their right mind would hire you. Why? Because you have given your visitor no thought whatsoever. You are not helping them solve a problem. You do not appear to be concerned about their needs or expectations. And of course you sound completely incoherent.
Stop thinking about what Google wants and how you can benefit and start putting your visitors first. Offer them more value than they could possibly imagine through your website. Answer all of the questions that started them searching in the first place.
If you can become an irreplaceable resource for visitors, Google will take notice. Don’t worry.
Bonus Stupid Mistake #9: Leaving This Post Thinking This is a One Sided Conversation
My purpose behind this blog is not to stand on my soapbox and point out the various things I see people screwing up. Granted, I find a lot of joy in that, but it’s not my purpose. My purpose is to lead a conversation and a conversation requires more than one voice.
So, in order for this blog to succeed I am going to need your voice. Your involvement. Your feedback. Your ideas.
If you are struggling with something, ask. If you disagree, debate. If you have something to add, jump right in. That’s what the comments below are for. Please use them!!
We are all here to learn. Including me.