Everybody wants more traffic to their website, especially B2B companies that can use their sites to turn that traffic into qualified leads and new business prospects.
But the million-dollar question is, How to get that traffic?
Unfortunately, all too many companies waste money and time on search engine optimization projects that don’t bring in traffic. Wrongheaded SEO won’t help you with Google. And it won’t improve your website’s position in search results for your desired keywords.
But stupid SEO tricks can actually hurt your traffic and repel visitors from your site, instead of attracting them. Avoid these five SEO mistakes at all costs:
1. “Black Hat” SEO
You probably already know that you shouldn’t try to trick Google into thinking that your site is more interesting to web searchers than it really is.
But your web guy may still be pushing dumb ideas like “stuffing” keywords into your site by repeating desirable terms (eg, “preowned Lexus” or “Tampa real estate”) hundreds of times in white text on a white background — invisible to the human eye but detectable by search engine software.
The obvious problem: Google has been wise to this con for years. They will punish your website for this and other Black Hat tricks and may even banish you altogether from search results. A disaster for any business.
2. Ginormous navigation menus
Some companies think that, when it comes to their site navigation, more is better, at least for SEO. So they create big hover menus for each top-level navigation choice and pack each submenu with 40 or 50 choices of pages because they think that the pages will show up better in searches.
As long as all your pages are accessible to the public through links somewhere on your site, Google will crawl your whole site, and its algorithm doesn’t give any higher priority to pages “near the top” than anywhere else.
3. Unnecessary subdomains
For really big sites such as those for colleges and universities with dozens or even hundreds of departments and programs, subdomains (eg, physics.mycollege.edu and humanities.mycollege.edu) may be a good way to segment off large amounts of content for different audiences. And some sites may need to connect an offsite blog or third-party e-commerce system to their main site using a subdomain.
But only the biggest business or institution websites will benefit from using subdomains just to organize their own content. For the average small or medium-sized business, adding subdomains won’t add any value. Attaching subdomains to your website address just to make Google happy is a dumb idea with no search advantage over using one domain for the whole site and organizing your content in directories of pages accessible by clear menus.
There’s even evidence that subdomains may actually hurt your search engine ranking. Whatever they do for search engines, subdomains will definitely make your people unhappy, from the site visitors who find it confusing that you have more than one website address to your online marketing staff who will find the added complexity of managing subdomains confusing.
4. The homepage says it all
From the same school of thought as ginormous navigation menus, some web guys claim that the more content you squeeze onto your homepage, the better Google will like it.
And of course everybody in your company will want their stuff on the homepage. That’s just office politics. “How come the sales department gets their products all over the homepage, but there’s nothing about our strict financial controls? Sheesh. The accounting department gets no respect around this place.”
Unfortunately, overloading your homepage won’t help with Google — they rank your pages based on content, not location in your site. And since humans are put off by clutter and may even experience a kind of mental shut-down if presented with too many choices, a crowded homepage can scare off visitors.
As long as a page or post is accessible through links available to the public somewhere on your site, then it doesn’t matter if your CEO’s bio is on the home page or more sensibly tucked into the inside of the site. Even your CEO will prefer that once you explain to her that the homepage will get more traffic if it’s clean and uncluttered.
5. Writing for robots
So you already know that keyword stuffing is bad. But you still want to score well for good keywords. Your web writer tells you to use as many of those keywords as possible in your pages and blog posts. So far, so good.
But it’s possible to overdo the keywords and make your prose sound awkward or even mechanical by using keywords where they don’t make sense for meaning.
Write your pages and posts for your human audience and not for search engines. Then, based on the content, use a tool like Yoast SEO to help you edit the text and make it perform better in searches.
Also consider putting your keywords in spots where Google will give them extra weight — headers (H2, H3, etc), bulleted and numbered lists and hyperlinks.
Not tech fixes, but content
“SEO takes more than just being a technical person,” writes Sadiq Lakhani. “Ask anyone in the industry how many clients come into their offices giving stories about how they entrusted their SEO to their IT guy or Web Designer or similar and have not had any results.”
Avoid technical fixes that just don’t deliver traffic. Instead, do real SEO — which is usually based on your content — and you’ll be on your way to ranking well with Google while pleasing your human audiences. This will give you good on-page SEO.
But remember the off-page SEO too.
Google also cares that high-traffic websites link to your site. Inbound links are a vote of confidence from the Internet for which Google will reward you. So once you have that great content, be sure to solicit links from other websites and also do the next best thing — post your content, from blog articles to photos to infographics, on your own social media services.
Facebook, LinkedIn and other social media services may offer only “nofollow” links that don’t give you any inbound link mojo with search engines. But they’re still valuable to get traffic, which will help indirectly with SEO by making your site more popular.
— Erik Curren, Curren Media Group