Keywords are arguably one the most valuable and high return items in a marketing manager’s arsenal. But they don’t always rank as a high priority among the myriad of meetings and shifting company priorities. As a result, mistakes are made and opportunities are missed that affect the search performance and how well their companies rank.
What kinds of mistakes? Here are 5 of the most common ones:
Mistake #1: Winging It
Keywords are too important to your site for “winging it” to be your strategy. The biggest mistake you can make in SEO is spending time creating content without having concerted thought for your overall targeting strategy and positioning. Consider what your personas are searching for? How does that fit with what you have to offer?
Where do you start to develop the right keywords for your business? Sit down at your keyboard (or find a napkin and pen) and start writing. My writing mentor referred to this as the "chaos stage," which means it doesn’t have to be perfect right out of the gate, just get the ideas down. Start putting down the words and phrases relevant to your business and let it flow without overthinking it. Use the following prompts as a guide:
- What are all the different things your business does?
- What products and/or services do you offer?
- What pain points do you resolve for customers?
- What questions do you hear from customers?
- How do your competitors describe what they do?
Once you have the words down, organize them into appropriate categories and then assign them for use on key pages of your site and, if appropriate, paid campaigns. Make sure your list includes broad, “head-match” keywords (short words or phrases that are more general in nature, e.g., control systems) as well as long-tail keywords (longer words or phrases specific to your company, industry and/or location, e.g., electomechanical control systems for packaging machinery). After that, do a search with your keywords to assess who is already ranking for them and how difficult is may be to rank for the terms you’ve selected. For advice on tools to use for developing a keyword strategy read this post.
Mistake #2: Too Many Missed Opportunities
When setting up new web pages or landing pages in a hurry to get that new product or offer launched, it’s easy to forget all the different places keywords ought to go:
- Page Titles – These appear on the browser tab as well as in search results and do impact whether someone will click through to your site. Include appropriate keywords in your title to increase relevance to searchers and remember to keep the title between 55 and 60 characters.
- Meta Descriptions – While these don’t have a direct impact on search rank, these descriptions directly indicate to searchers whether the page’s content is relevant to what they are looking for. As with titles, incorporate an appropriate target keyword in the description and remember to phrase the description in a way that encourages click-through. Target your meta description length to be 155 characters.
- Alt Tags for Images – Probably the most overlooked area for incorporating keywords, alt tags help Google find your site pages in image searches and improves accessibility to your content for the visually impaired who use screen readers. Alt tags are a minor factor for search rank, but are another opportunity to include keywords in a natural way in your image titles and alt text.
- URLs – If you can work keywords into page URLs, do it. This is especially a good idea if you’re publishing blogs to your site regularly as each blog will have a unique URL. Again, just be sure the words flow naturally and describe the page content well.
Mistake #3: Focusing Content Writing on Keywords
During your career you’ve probably run across a webpage where the content was so focused on working in a single keyword 12 times based on someone’s miracle keyword formula. It was awkward. You quickly moved on to the next site trying to find what you needed…and that page was most likely demoted in search for overusing keywords.
Page content should flow naturally and speak to your target personas, rather than being single-keyword-focused. If you speak to your personas first, the headings and paragraph verbiage you use will inherently cover the general theme of the keywords for which you want to rank. So draft your text with your target in mind first and then revisit it to see where you may be able to appropriately and naturally sprinkle in the keywords you’ve identified.
Mistake #4: Going With Your First Idea
We talked about the value of putting keywords in all the right places on your website, but if you’re not taking the time to draft multiple options or variations for page titles and meta descriptions, you’re selling your site short.
Yes, you’re busy and it’s way easier to just use the first thing that comes mind for a page title or meta description and move on to more important things. But as with any piece of writing, when is the first draft ever the best? Is that description as optimized as possible the right keyword placed in the appropriate context? Could the words in that page title be more descriptive or more concise? Unless you take a few extra minutes to craft multiple options, how will you know?
Mistake #5: Going Short Instead of Long
It’s easy to just focus on the short, head match keywords for which you want your company to be known. However, these 2 to 3-word phrases (e.g., process controls) are typically too general—they may also apply to other industries— and ultimately too competitive for you to rank highly for in organic search results.
Rather than putting effort into these head match keywords, focus on long-tail keyword phrases (4 to 5 words) that reflect how your potential customers may search for the items they need, such as “process controls for cheese processing” or “paper machine process controllers.” These long-tail phrases will be easier to rank for and will deliver the right kind of traffic to your site.
As a marketing manager, you’ve got 99 problems, but keywords don’t have to be one of them. The trick is to learn from other people’s mistakes and make keywords a priority for your to-do list.