Let’s Talk SEO Mistakes and Myths

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Stephan and mona I heard Stephan Spencer and Mona Elesseily speak recently on SEO mistakes shortly after hanging out with him and his ten pound book The Art of SEO, which he co-authored. He graciously gave me a copy but it’s fatter than three bibles put together – translation: full of incredibly great content yet despite my laundry list of new tips and knowledge, I likely won’t be able to execute.

Here’s my thinking on experts, books, tips and tricks: unless it’s something you really love, breathe and wanna do, get knowledgeable by reading the best books, then hire someone to execute and map out a strategy who does live and breathe it and more importantly, find someone who’s wired that way. A lot of people ‘do’ things in areas where they’re not wired.

The book will make sure you don’t hire the outdated SEO expert wanna be’s who don’t really know how to get you to “go” never mind long-term success.

Stephan and Mona divided their talk into common mistakes to avoid when implementing a SEO campaign and a hands-on workshop, where they ripped apart a few sites, and shared what worked and what didn’t on those sites and why.

The summary of the mistakes they covered in their talk are below with my insights scattered throughout:

  1. Jargon – get rid of it. Your customers don’t care, don’t understand and don’t think that way. It’s interesting how often this applies to just about everything we do verbally or in written form isn’t it? Clearly, it doesn’t just apply to SEO.
  • Poor Keyword Brainstorming – they encouraged folks to think laterally rather than choosing words that are simply not common search terms. In other words, it’s not rocket science – Google and others have tools that can tell you what the most common search terms are so you don’t have to reinvent the wheel.
  • Not Using Keywords Properly – broad matching is a default in Google which give you inflated data. It’s key that you get as specific as possible – the broader you go, the less successful you will be. Give Google AdWord tool a try, which is free.
  • Avoid Cannibalization which stems from poor or no measurement. Here, they talked about organic tracking versus results that may come in from other sources. Organic is obviously what you want.
  • Ignoring Competition. Why reinvent the wheel? In other words, look at what is ‘working for your competitors.’ You can see what keywords they’re buying, take a look at their ad copy. You can also use known tools on the market such as Spyfu.com (learn how much companies are spending, the top ten key word terms, the top ad competitors and so on), Semrush.com, Adwords and others.
  • Playing the Social Media Game Minus the SEO. Social media with poor or no SEO is a tough game to play unless your story simply becomes so viral that linking and love just takes care of itself. Bottom line: combine the power of two tools for maximum impact. Social media should be driven by SEO needs. Use “link bait” and seed it into social media tools like Digg and others. Remember that power users on Digg, Delicious, Reddit and other platforms can get you a lot more mileage out of your submissions than if a no name Digg user simply throws up a link.
  • Duplicate Content. This is one I hear about frequently because there are so many blog networks and other platforms that aggregate content. Duplicate content triggers Google’s duplicate content filter and it can also result in page rank dilution.  Personally, while I understand Google wanting diversity in its search results, I think that smart aggregators are key to us making sense of a never-ending cluttered web-world. I think that original content combined with aggregated content is an ideal solution, particularly if it means that reader has the best experience and doesn’t have to filter through tons of other sites to get what they need. They also talked about how using the same tags, meta descriptions and page copy can trigger the duplicate content filter.
  • Focus on Low Value Activities. Here’s one we can all learn from and it most definitely doesn’t just apply to SEO. The suggestion here is to be OUTCOME focused rather than ACTIVITY focused. Identify what your outcome needs to be and create a plan that gets you there in the most effective and efficient way.
  • Unintentionally Spamming Search Engines. Examples include too many keyword stuffed text links, SEO copy which isn’t meant for human consumption, reordering text with CSS for SEO, inappropriate use of CSS “Image Placement,” hidden text or hidden links, and targeting irrelevant keywords.
  • Buying into SEO Myths. SEO ‘so called experts’ and other industry folks have us confused about what works and what doesn’t. A few myths worth noting:
  • –personalization means no one is #1 anymore

    –metatags will boost your rankings

    –country sites are duplicated content

    –JavaScripted links will keep spiders away

    –Googlebot doesn’t read CSS.

    –Update home page will make a difference.

    –Linking out helps ranking.

    –SEO is a one-time activity.

    –Using flash will tank your SEO.

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