Guest post by Brian Watkins
First off, let’s reiterate something: SEO is a lot more than installing a plugin. Site builder commercials always show footage of filling out a meta title with voiceovers spouting off about “complete SEO solutions.”
Or my favorite one when talking to business owners confused that they aren’t ranking and they say, “But I’ve installed the Yoast SEO plugin!”
When I started The SEOptimist I did a lot of consulting on the basics with local businesses, and found it illuminating about what people struggled with the most.
Realizing that a lot of people see SEO as filling out some basic info in software, pressing ‘save’, and kicking the feet up, it makes a lot of sense how “bargain” price SEO remains prevalent. No one knows to raise their eyebrows at the idea of someone offering a “comprehensive campaign” for less than a hundred dollars.
Before we dive into the 3 target areas to review on your site, I want to make one final point that helps clarify everything that follows.
There are layers to SEO. The deeper you go the more expertise is required, the more subtle the changes, and the more cumulative the results. But even nailing the simpler, foundational elements of SEO can mean some fast changes on a site with issues.
The #1 thing sites usually get wrong: poorly optimized titles.
This one is probably a product of the assumption mentioned above. If you’ve installed an SEO plugin and thought you were done, it explains why you likely didn’t go any deeper with your page titles.
In fact, I’d rather write strong titles with no SEO plugin and wing it than work on a site with a plugin like Yoast but have terrible titles.
That’s how important this is. In short, there are two reasons for this:
- The title compels the reader, builds interest, and reassures that they’re in the right place.
- The title is the strongest on-page ranking factor for Google. That means if it’s a weak title, it’s the biggest missed opportunity on your site.
Let’s look at an example. In fact, it’s the most common example I see on websites I work on.
It’s a service page called… Services.
It might have seemed fine when you built the site. “People know what I do,” you probably thought, “they know what my services are.”
Let me challenge that notion in a few important ways:
- Do they, though? Why else would they click on the Services page if they already felt like they knew everything about your business?
- “Services” can mean all sorts of things to a search engine. Don’t rely on Google contextually making assumptions about your page based on other parts of the site. It’s always better to be specific.
- Being vague is a missed opportunity to show some personality and reaffirm who the services are for.
Even renaming your page to “Plumbing Services” is a heck of a lot clearer to Google. But to go a step further, what if you called it something like, “Residential & Emergency Plumbing Services?” Now readers understand you serve homes (that you’re not a commercial plumber) and that you also offer emergency services. Not all plumbers do.
Or what about something like, “Bookkeeping Services for Busy Entrepreneurs?”
If that’s your target customer, they know immediately you’re specialized in what they do, that you are used to the rigors are circumstances of their situation. It’s good for Google, and good for humans.
Don’t do your site the disservice of bland, single word titles.
Mistake #2: Using content that is all about YOU and not about the reader.
I get it. You have competitors and everybody is trying to beat out someone else. The temptation to say, “Here is why I’m better than that guy,” is real.
First of all, this approach usually comes off as adversarial and can actually scare people off.
Second, it also fails because all that time you’ve been talking about how great you are, you haven’t addressed the reader’s fears, challenges, or concerns. They have no reassurance that you really understand them.
After all, people don’t buy when they understand you. They buy when they feel understood.
Think about that for a minute.
I’ve found the best way to overcome your competition is to focus so hard on serving your best customers that the benefits of working with you are obvious. If you have to trash someone else to show your value, you need more value.
Last one: having a cluttered and confusing navigation.
Oldschool SEO techniques often involved making a separate page for every keyword one wanted to rank for. That often meant having a 36 page site when an 8 page site would’ve worked.
Remember the old sales truism: A confused mind doesn’t buy.
Mix that with the short attention span everyone is always saying we have these days, and ask yourself this. “Do I think the average reader is going to sift through a dozen pages to find an answer to their question?”
It helps to reorganize your material. What are the most important services you offer, and can they be broken down into a few core pages that answer all a reader’s questions? This works for the human reader, but also for Google. Google likes well-explained content that thoroughly answers user questions. The trouble with breaking one major concept down into a half dozen small pages is that it forces the reader to go through a ton of clicks to get the information, and they may not be clear on where to begin.
That’s when the reach for the ‘back’ button begins.