While hosting is one of the most important aspects of building a successful website, even the fastest and most reliable web hosting in the world isn’t going to make your site a success if you fail to use it to build something that will attract visitors.
Search engine optimization, as many SEO pros will tell you (repeatedly), is a complicated process. But the basics are easy to grasp. Once you get the essentials in place on your site, you can tweak the details to your heart’s content, extracting every last drop of potential traffic from Google. But, without solid foundations, nothing you do will earn Google’s love.
Unfortunately, the web is full of misguided or outdated SEO advice, which leads businesses to focus their efforts in the wrong place. That can have a serious impact on the success of a site. SEO costs money, even if it’s bad SEO, so it’s important to spend your money where it counts.
Here we examine five common SEO practices that will kill your site's traffic:
Ignoring recent developments in SEO is probably the No. 1 cause of wasted investments. The idea is to rank well in search engines for relevant queries. Search engines are constantly changing as they innovate and improve. So, clearly, the techniques necessary to achieve success change as well.
If you trawl the less wholesome SEO forums and blogs, you’ll come across plenty of advice that was useful 10 years ago but is harmful today. I’ve seen many companies pay a content farm to produce low-grade keyword-stuffed content for $5 per 1,000 words. That’s a complete waste of money.
Ranking well in Google these days is all about high-quality, relevant, shareable, readable content, which is more expensive to produce, but also many times more effective than low-grade rubbish that no one wants to read—and Google would be ashamed to send its users to.
Keeping up-to-date with recent changes to Google’s algorithms and the best advice of reputable sources of SEO information is crucial for success.
Lets say you sell roses in your online store. You want to rank for roses, but so do a million other companies that sell roses. The primary keyword “roses” is going to be very difficult to rank for because of all the competition. But, there are thousands of “rose” related phrases that people with an intention to buy roses might search for.
If you concentrate on producing reams of content around the keyword “roses,” your content is likely to end up in the SERP wastelands because it has to compete with other rose retailers and non-transactional results like Wikipedia. On the other hand, if you give some thought to subjects related to buying roses, you’re likely to have more luck.
The long tail has less traffic potential for each keyword, but the total search space for the long tail is actually much larger, more valuable and less hotly competitive than core keywords.
Most site owners know if they fill their pages with boilerplate content, they aren’t going to do well. But there are some aspects of a page that often aren’t given the individual attention they deserve. This is particularly true of the two most important metatags: the title tag (not a true metatag) and the meta description tag, both of which are given particular consideration by search engines when they are trying to discover what a page is about, and both of which are used to populate the actual results as they appear in the SERPs.
Each of these tags should be unique to and descriptive of the page on which they appear, rather than containing generic branding. While we’re on the subject, the keywords meta tag is all but worthless, so don’t expend too much effort on it.
Links are important, but not all links are equal. If you have a choice between investing money in creating compelling content that will garner 10 links from high authority sites or paying a shady character to have his bots spam 10,000 forum links, choose the former. The latter is going to be worthless at best and will get your site penalized at worst.
Small numbers of organically achieved backlinks from high authority sites are worth more than any number of junk links from worthless sites.
At the core of all this advice is this simple proposition: You should be optimizing for your users and not for the search engines. To do this, you need to know your audiences, what they are searching for and the content they find valuable.
If your site is going to succeed, it’s the users you need to impress. Search engines stand between you and the users, but search engines want the same thing you should want: to send their users to sites that will meet the need they signal through their search query.
The best SEO trick in the book is to make sure that site is yours.
Rachel Gillevet is the technical writer for WiredTree, a leader in fully managed dedicated and vps hosting. Follow Rachel and WiredTree on Twitter, @wiredtree, Like WiredTree on Facebook, and check out more of their articles on the company's web hosting blog, www.wiredtree.com/blog.