The Biggest Search Optimization Mistake Marketers Make

15 Search Experts Give Their Advice on Optimization Mistakes

Biggest search mistakesSearch optimization is a critical component of every marketing plan because it extends the reach of online and offline content and interactions. [Here’s some SEO tips to start.]

Search engines are where consumers go to get their questions answered 24/7 via computers, smartphones and tablets and how you optimize for that behavior influences the purchase process at each step including offline advertising, content and events, as well as in-store questions. As a result, your firm must appear when and where your audience seeks information related to your offering. The challenge is ensuring your search optimization is on track for success.

To help, here are the suggestions of fifteen search optimization experts with a variety of different approaches.

  1. Too often, marketers don’t focus on the end goal. In The B2B Social Media Book we talk about about focusing on revenue for the results of your social media efforts and not awareness, positive sentiment, followers or other top of the funnel metrics. We have seen too often marketers obsessing about where they rank for a particular keyword regardless of how that keywords helps to contribute to their revenue goals. Quite often keywords can send a high amount of website visitors that convert poorly into leads and customers. Focusing on these types of keywords is a major mistake.  Kipp Bodnar, Inbound Marketing Strategist at HubSpot (@KippBodner) and Jeffrey L. Cohen, Social Strategist at Salesforce Radian6 (@JeffreyLCohen) Co-authors of The B2B Social Media Book: Become a Marketing Superstar by Generating Leads with Blogging, LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Email, and More.
  2. The biggest mistake I see many good marketers make is having great blogs without any optimization.  Lisa Buyer – The Buyer Group (@LisaBuyer).
  3. People place too much emphasis on ranking. Barely anyone uses actual data to determine what people are using to find their products or services. The same is true for determining success once a visitor lands on your site.Conceptually, this is all very simple:
    1. Determine what words people are actually using to find products and services in your vertical. (Or, if you’re a blogger, the categories that you write about).
    2. Optimize on-page content toward those keywords, keeping in mind to write for humans, not engines. Gear your marketing efforts towards your quality content and offer incentives to share your content on-page.
    3. Set goals and measure conversions. Too many people don’t look at the right data afterwards. Thousands of visitors who don’t buy is not good. Thousands of visitors who buy your loss-leader or least profit-generating products isn’t much better. Handfuls of visitors who buy your highest profit margin items does wonders for your bottom line.  All visitors are not created equal. But you can sure pigeon hole them by groupings. Determine which visitor segments give you the best results and fine-tune toward that audience. Determine why other segments aren’t performing and make the right adjustments to change them from browsers to buyers.  Thom Craver – Rochester Institue of Technology (@ThomCraver)
  4. SEO has been undergoing some radical changes in the past few years, to the point that here at DragonSearch we say “old school” and “new school” SEO. Old School SEO is that myopic focus on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP) – “how are we ranking for this competitive key phrase?” Instead, in New School SEO, we focus on the traffic that is brought to our sites using a wider range of key phrases – and how that traffic behaves on our site (is it relevant traffic?). Ric Dragon – Dragon Search and author of Social Marketology (@RicDragon).
  5. Too much or too little. Once people learn about SEO they go in one direction or the other.  The “too much” crowd gets obsessed and start looking for every possible tweak to squeak out one little ranking gain or another.  This is a little bit like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.  There are too many big thing happening in Internet marketing to spend your time tweaking and re-tweaking title tags over and over again, or creating boatloads of new pages to thin slice on every conceivable search phrase.  Some of this is healthy, but many people go way to far with it.  Most of your efforts should remain on the bigger picture on why your business is special and making sure that the world (and the search engines) know it.

    The “too little” crowd oversimplifies what SEO really is. They may do a complete redesign of their website and then ask the SEO team to come in and do their SEO wizardry, as if it were some magic pixie dust you can sprinkle on after the fact. It does not work that way, and as the old saying goes, “you can do it right, or you can do it over”. Or, they may ignore the promotional side of SEO, and focus only on the on page factors.  On page factors are primarily about establishing relevance, and promotion (links and social media mentions) is the main driver of rankings.  You need both to get the impact you are probably looking for!  Eric Enge – Stone Temple Consulting Corporation  and co-author of The Art of SEO with Stephan Spencer, Jessie Stricchiola and Rand Fishkin (@StoneTemple).

  6. The biggest mistake I see many marketers making with search optimization is a check-the-box approach to a laundry list of what they think are once-and-done tactics (e.g., tags-check, keyword content-check, links-check, etc.).  As algorithms and ranking factors continue to evolve, marketers need to take a strategic, integrated and on-going approach to leveraging multi-channel tactics for search optimization success.  That means integrating SEO with PPC as well as with blogging, social media, content marketing, video and mobile. This holistic, strategic marketing approach leads not only to search success but to better down the funnel conversion/ROI success as well. Marc Engelsman – Digital Brand Expressions (@marc_engelsman).
  7. The biggest mistake that I see marketers making with SEO is to leave it in the same spot in the company’s org chart where it was put 12 years ago.  Back then, SEO required technical skills in order to be effective.  But, most of the popular methods used to improve rankings in November 2000 – when AltaVista was the leading search engine – are now considered “illicit practices that may lead to a site being removed entirely from the Google index.”  On May 16, 2007, Google took its critical first steps toward a universal search model that incorporated videos, images, news, maps, books, and websites into a single set of results.  So, there should have been a reorg five years ago that put SEOs in the same group with the company’s PR people.  Then, earlier this year on Jan. 10, 2012, Google introduced Search, plus Your World.  This transformed Google yet again into a search engine that understands not only content, but also people and relationships.  This means SEOs need to sit next to community managers in order to be effective today.  So, it’s time for another reorg. Greg Jarboe – SEO-PR and author of YouTube Marketing An Hour A Day (@gregjarboe).
  8. Not using web analytics or consistently studying web analytics. You have no idea what is or is not working if you are not looking closely at visitor behavior.Ron Jones – Symetri Internet Marketing and author of Keyword Intelligence (@Ron_Jones).
  9. Marketers sometimes fall for risky link-building schemes that violate Google guidelines and lead to penalties.  Make sure you practice safe organic link building, adding only links that are merit-based, relevant, and non-transactional. Chris Keating, VP, SEO and Conversion Optimization – Performics.
  10. That search is set it and forget it. It’s not. Search engine algorithms change, content is constantly updated, topical trends come and go. Search is ever evolving, which means SEO efforts can’t sleep. They also can’t be an afterthought – they have to be baked into digital planning from the get-go.   Rebecca Lieb – Altimeter Group and author of The Truth About Search Engine Optimization  and Content Marketing (@lieblink).
  11. Over-reliance on shortcuts or tactics that have nothing to do with customer acquisition and everything to do with moving the needle on SEO  based KPIs like rankings on certain keywords or how many specific anchor text links were acquired.Consumers expect a lot out of search engines and marketers, along with Google and Bing, need to deliver more in order to keep their attention. That means more than keywords and links. SEO has to fit within brand messaging, empathy with customer needs and product storytelling. Search is not mutually exclusive of consumer interactions with other media. The customer journey to purchase can be very diverse and search can play a minor or the only role in that experience. The mistake is when marketers think that SEO is the only way their customers can be reached. orks through search can increase subscribers, fans, friends and followers. Lee Odden – President, and author of Optimize (@LeeOdden).
  12. Over-optimizing. There are no shortcuts in SEO. Although traditional SEO tactics, such as on-page optimization, are still essential, concentrate your efforts on generating inbound links, traffic and leads through remarkable content and social media participation.  Paul Roetzer – CEO, PR 20/20 and author of The Marketing Agency Insider (@paulroetzer).
    1. Not giving their SEO campaign enough time! SEO is a long term and ongoing process. Depending on a variety of factors, it might be 6-9 months before you really see the effects of your SEO kick in. SEO is not for the impatient, so you have to be willing to make a move and then wait it out. Changing direction too often because you’re impatient won’t make your SEO campaign any better.
    2. Not taking a rounded approach to Internet marketing as whole. SEO is important, but without traditional link building, onsite SEO, social media marketing and content marketing all working together, your SEO efforts are eventually going to plateau. Get your SEO out of the silo and involved with the rest of your marketing efforts. Nick Stamoulis – President, Brick Marketing  (@NickStamoulis).
  13. I think the biggest mistakes in SEO involve believing the myths and the hype, and then allowing those beliefs to cloud your judgments. For example, how many times have we read that you have to constantly update your website because search engine algorithms change all of the time, or that you have to add content almost every day due to the “freshness” part of the algorithm? Believe it or not, there are SEO best practices that have existed since the mid-to-late 90s that are just as applicable today as they were almost 20 years ago. Having that solid and usable SEO foundation is the key to long-term, sustainable search engine visibility.

    The hard part? Getting people to build the foundation. For some, it’s a baby step. For others, it is a giant leap. Shari Thurow – Founder and SEO Director, Omni Marketing Interactive and author of When Search Meets Web Usability (@sharithurow).

Search optimization is challenge for many businesses since it touches many different areas. Unlike other aspects of the marketing mix that are totally controlled by the marketing department, search optimization requires combines technology, content and marketing.

What would you add  in terms of the biggest mistake you see marketers making with search optimization? What do you recommend they do about it?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

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