I’ve been working in SEO for just over five years now and in that time, the rules have changed significantly. Problem is, unless you read continuously and test new theories regularly, what you think you know about SEO becomes very old very quickly.
I wanted to address five SEO mistakes that I come across a lot, and which are typical of ‘old school SEOs’, to help you start to make positive search changes in your business.
1. Chill out when it comes to keyword density and repetition
Many SEOs continue to meticulously measure keyword density using tools like SEO Quake; counting the number of times a keyword is used on a particular page in body content, meta data and alt tags.
Google is smarter than all the tools you could ever find to measure keyword repetition so my advice to you is to stop worrying so much about density rules and just make sure your core keyword terms are meeting the minimum requirements.
According to Rand Fishkin’s Keyword Repetition post, this is the general rule of thumb for keyword repetition:
In a nutshell, try not to get bogged down in counting repetitions and remember that Google values high quality content that meets the users needs. Deliver the content and experience they want, and answer the questions they’re asking. This is a far more effective way to boost rankings and improve usability.
2. Semantics and related topics are life
Lets journey back to my point about Google being smarter than us all; the search engine understands how words and phrases relate which is exactly why you haven’t got to worry too much about keyword repetition rules.
Google wants to see us using related words and phrases that connect semantically and logically to the queries being submitted by searchers. It’s all to do with using natural language (as opposed to keyword stuffing) that is relevant, credible and accurate.
If you’ve got great writers working for you, you should have no problem nailing well optimised, natural content. But if you’d like a little helping hand, think of it like this.
Firstly, you’ll need to select your subject, for example: “Blenders”. We want to rank for this term and its something relevant to our business. Now we need to think of certain words or phrases that are relevant to our core keyword term to ensure Google treats our article as ‘highly relevant’ and therefore ranks us higher in the SERPs.
Next, you’ll want to Google the phrase and check out which articles or sites are already ranking well for the term “Blenders” and what other words or phrases these other articles include frequently.
For example, related phrases include “food processor”, “smoothie”, “juices”, “nutribullet” etc. Ideally, you want to carve out a relevant but differentiated niche for your topic, for example, “soup recipes using a blender”, as these kinds of super long-tail phrases are likely to be less competitive and will help you build authority around your core topic.
Think of it as building a fort around your castle. All the little related posts surrounding your core keyword term will ultimately help you defend your space in Google results. You can use tools like Ubersuggest and KeywordTool.io to help you expand your related keywords lists too.
There are keywords beyond synonyms or repetitions that can help you dramatically boost on-page SEO and even appear in Featured Snippets if you get in there quick.
3. Answer unanswered questions
Put simply, it is your job to answer the questions your audience is asking. Before you start to think about keyword use, repetition or even semantic connectivity, find out what your people want.
An easy way to do this is to conduct some basic keyword research using Moz Keyword Explorer, Google Trends, AdWords or even simply Boolean search. I searched “Blenders” and was presented with a list of Keyword Suggestions based on what people are searching for online, such as “blender recipes”.
It’s much easier to start with a relevant topic that will help your customers rather than a keyword or phrase you’d like to rank for. The rule has always been ‘user first’ but I’m amazed at how many SEOs still try to produce content for ‘machine first’.
4. Links are no substitute for on-page optimisation
Ok yes, links are great to have. But many old school SEOs still believe that links are the lifeblood of well ranking pages and its simply not true. It’s another cart before horse scenario.
If you’re writing explicitly for links you’re not going to produce high quality content that better serves searchers, or deliver excellent user experience – both of which are deemed most important by Google right now.
Consider content formatting and searcher satisfaction as well as link-building and you wont be disappointed.
5. What your brand stands for could make or break your content
Of course if you write an outstanding article on a related topic you know well, you’re bound to generate results over time. However, what we’ve noticed of late is that the topics and subjects you write about must relate to your brand in order to start ranking well.
What does your brand mean to people? If you decide to try and rank for queries and keywords outside of your immediate area of expertise, you’ll need to work to create strong associations between your brand and that content space, and boost your “topical authority” otherwise you’ll struggle to rank well or make any significant progress.
Think brand before you decide on a topic. Work to your strengths and if you decide to diversify, expect to have to invest in developing brand associations.