SEO is incredibly powerful, but it’s not always easy to get right. Making all your website stand out and rank higher than your competition takes a lot of careful thought and effort, plus a million different techniques.
If you want to be found, you need the boost only well-done SEO can give your site. Just throwing keywords into your content and code isn’t going to get the job done.
One of the toughest parts about SEO and identifying your best possible keywords is avoiding the many potential pitfalls. There are lots of them, and it’s very easy to fall into a trap and then be left scratching your head, and wondering what went wrong.
You might already be contemplating why your results aren’t as impressive as you’d hoped. Or maybe you’re looking at other sites ranking above yours and feeling a whole lot of “page 1” envy.
So, let’s talk about some of the keyword mistakes you’re probably making without realizing it, and how you can avoid them to get your best rankings ever.
1. Staying Only “On Brand”
A business’s brand name, and all the keyword variations of it, known as branded keywords, are important to include in your content and SEO strategy. Sometimes, though, your branded keywords need to take a seat and make way for your highly relevant off brand keywords, the ones your primary audiences are seeking.
All too often, you see branded keywords filling up every portion of a site’s title tags, headlines, subheads, and body copy on the most important pages. What happens then is your target keywords lose their most valuable real estate, which means your site is NOT being found or clicked on by the right people.
Your keyword research should tell you which words and phrases your audience is looking for, and which questions your content can help answer. Those are the gaps you need to focus on filling most.
It can be a bit of a delicate balancing act, because you do need your brand to be represented. At the same time, you’ll always rank number one for your brand name, so don’t put all of your eggs in that basket.
Think through what’s missing right now, and try to thoughtfully integrate those off brand keywords into titles and across your site’s content.
Remember to balance your branded keywords with your best off-brand ones, and you’ll see optimal results in search rankings.
2. Being Too Broad
A classic mistake is trying to target everyone by using the highest volume keywords around. The problem with that technique is there’s a ridiculous amount of competition for broad, high-volume keywords. If you’re just starting out, you’ll never stand a chance against the brands who dominate those keywords.
What’s more, you could be attracting site visitors who won’t ever convert to sales, because they aren’t truly interested in you or your product. They won’t be as engaged with you and they’ll click off to another site, and fast.
Keying in on the most specific search terms that fit your content and target what your top audience personas are looking for is the smarter way to go. Find your niche through good keyword research and you’ll tap into the specific keywords that get results.
3. Ignoring Images
Some people might think SEO is only used for text. It’s about much more than title tags and web copy, though. Images are a major factor in your digital marketing, so why ignore them in your SEO strategy?
People tend to skip over or not really think about the keywords they’re using in image tags. Your site’s images can really improve your SEO if you take the time to optimize them.
Remember to fill in the three components of an image: the title, the alt tag, and the description.
Here’s the one tricky part, though. Don’t repeat the same keywords for all three! If you simply regurgitate the same text across the three image components, it’s not going to help you as much.
Repeating your image keywords means you’re not using the array of strong choices you’ve got in your arsenal. So mix it up!
Another image mistake is thinking of your tag as only a quick caption naming what’s seen in the picture. That’s completely missing the point.
If it’s a picture of a building in a garden, definitely do not write only: “Building in garden.” Incorporate your keywords and say something relevant to your content, like “New commercial space with flower garden in Boston’s Market Square Town Center.”
If, however, that same image’s purpose is to help you sell garden supplies, talk up the scenery and describe the tool used to make it look that way. Customize your SEO for imagery in a way that makes the most sense for your business and your goals.
Your alt tag is the most important, so save up your very best keywords for that spot, and then liven up the image title and description with some of your other keyword goodies.
4. Picking Plurals
One consideration you need to make is whether to target plural keywords or singular keywords. The answer? Usually, you’ll want singular.
As you’re developing new content, you might be thinking about the massive variety that exists for your product or service. You could be focusing on keywords related to the many different “coffee mugs” you’re selling on your site. What you need to do instead is think about how people perform their searches.
It turns out that most search queries are for the singular “coffee mug.” So it’s best to target just the one mug, then, for a better ranking.
This one is a super simple fix, but it takes a different way of thinking to keep up the consistency. It means doing some deliberate keyword fine-tuning to ensure you keep using singular keywords throughout your site.
That said, remember to make exceptions in cases when the singular version of a word is rarely used. For instance, you’ll get better results for “winter gloves” than for just the one “glove” because everyone buys them in pairs.
5. Stuffing Keywords
We’re sure you’ve heard this “no-no” before. Keyword stuffing is a common mistake that most people know to avoid, but it’s worth repeating, since it still happens often. Thinking that overstuffing your content with keywords will help your SEO is absolutely a mistake.
You always want to think of your audience before all else. They’re your number one priority, so write with them in mind rather than just counting up and adding in keywords.
First, thinking from the audience’s perspective creates more quality, useful content that keeps readers around and gets them where they need to go on your site. Second, search engines prefer quality content over keyword quantity.
As you probably know, Google, Bing, and other search engines have gotten a whole lot smarter. Their algorithms change regularly, and they can easily spot keyword stuffing. Which means you could get penalized for doing it. So…don’t!
If you follow the rule of thinking about your audience first, this isn’t a trap you should fall into again.
These five keyword mistakes are all really common, but they’re also rather easy to remedy. As you develop new content and tweak your keyword strategy, remember to check for mistakes you might not notice. The best way to do that? Think like your audience.
Now, tell us: What keyword mistakes have you made before? Have you made any of these, or are there others we missed?