It’s been a while since I’ve written a list here, probably close to a year, but I think it’s nice to summarise some tips in short-sharp form, whilst simultaneously granting yourself license to snap at those who keep making the same mistakes.
SEO-optimised content is what it says on the tin – web content that’s optimised for a search engine. However, many people assume that, rather than taking the SAS Commando route, they’d rather play at being James Bond and run in, guns blazing, painting everything a horrible shade of keyword with highlights of link. It’s horrendous, and you’re going to not only suffer the indignity of looking like a website designed by someone who’s usually hanging out in a padded cell rather than the local Starbucks, but you’re also going to put potential consumers off ever visiting your site again.
So, without further ado – here’s the top five biggest mistakes I see being made on small business websites.
1: Content saturated with keywords. Everyone loves a good article, and of course, over the course of an immersive bit of writing you’re going to cover a fair few topics to ensure you’re ranking highly enough in the ole’ SERPs. But when your content reads “John Doe loves SEO, social media, social networking, using social media websites, Facebook, Twitter, and tweeting,” instead of just “John Doe loves SEO and social media,” you’re going to look a little manic. Write naturally, but instead think about how to write concise sentences that use simple language that will turn up in Google searches more often rather than spamming your latest screed with every high-ranking word or phrase farted out by Google Analytics.
2: Links being overused. I run a couple of sites, and they both have pages with link-lists on them. I also have a few links in the sidebar of one, too. But what I don’t do is link to affiliate sites all over every single page. It’s fine to link to one or two sites within an article, or in your sidebar, but keep it to a minimum. Sites with more blue, underlined text than average-Joe-black is going to give people the worry that if you’re keen to show them every site but yours, yours can’t be that good at all.
3. Not hiding over-tagged posts. If you’re going to tag stuff to high heaven, rather than three or four times, you’re going to hide those, right? No? well, in that case, get ready for people to roll their eyes and not bother to comment. I tag like crazy when writing for certain sites, but those sites have tag clouds, rather than displaying the tags themselves. You don’t need to show people the fifty different international spellings of the niche product you’re selling – just categorise well and use a cloud – clouds will also eventually give both you and your readers a better idea of what your focus is.
4. Not quoting your sources. Seriously, I know it’s hard to sometimes link to a bigger, better site because they’ve got the skinny and you want to look like you have, but unless it’s widespread already, you must link to world exclusives. Not doing so implies one thing – that you’re a bad journalist. And, sadly, though you may not even realise it, blogging is simply a more modern form of journalism. The more you say “hey, this person said it first, but here’s what I think,” rather than “hey! I know something! No one told me, I just know! Isn’t that incredible?” is bad form and you’ll find yourself blacklisted in your own industry soon enough, whether you notice it or not. No point in people sending you press releases or news tips if you’re a plagiarist.
5. Failing to include any call to action. A call to action, in SEO terms, is simply a way of phrasing content titles or the final paragraphs of an article (or even using parts of your user interface design) to encourage people to get involved with your site’s content. Blog posts that use titles as a way of asking the site’s visitors a strong, opinion-dividing question cause debate, and even social drama. That’s fine – use it to your advantage. If you can provoke debate, then good! More traffic, more retweets, and more attention to the fact that you want people’s opinions as well, rather than endlessly spouting your own pseudo-neutral waffle.
So there you have it. Trust me, sites do tend to write that sort of stuff, and it drives me up the wall. If you’re trying not to be The Man, then don’t act like your only focus is traffic (I know it is, but the art of SEO is making it clear that that’s not really the case as far as the user’s concerned). Don’t let AdWords make you all stupid when it comes to putting fingers to keyboard (sorry, “pen to paper”), and focus on what makes your site the best possible experience for your visitors. Like Hemingway once said – “the first draft of anything is sh*t”. It’s never too late to edit old posts or revamp your content attitude. So go do so.