95% of conversion rate optimization (CRO) experts prioritize their split-tests. Here’s how you can find (and test) the ones that are worth the effort.
Marketing | May 23
Kevin Kononenko on April 26, 2018 • 31 minute read
And, the importance of those ranking factors changes every 2-4 years, so the SEO techniques that brands leverage must also change.
Do you know the full range of SEO techniques you can use to quickly analyze a site and suggest improvements?
You might have a handle on some of the important factors like backlinks or keywords, but if you neglect others like the URL, title tag, or time-on-page from site visitors, you might find that your strategy isn’t a very comprehensive or effective one.
It’s easy to overlook important ranking factors. It’s easy to make mistakes. So rather than fill a post with our own SEO techniques or unique approach to ranking, we surveyed a field of experts to help fill out the topic.
We asked 28 SEO experts about the common mistakes marketers are making as well as ways for addressing them with tools like Google Search Console, Google Analytics, or through a CMS like WordPress.
We grouped the techniques around the common mistakes so that you can skip to the error that you may be making. For more details on these errors, check out our guide to common SEO mistakes for more detail.
You might be asking, “How do I measure the impact of my page design? Do I really need to spend time on design when I could be writing more content?”
Google uses “time on page” as one of its ranking factors in order to measure whether your content is actually helping visitors. So, if your time on page is low, you will fall in Google’s rankings. This could be due to poor writing quality, or a design that does not makes your content difficult to scan and read. Regardless of the keywords that you are using, it will be difficult to rank highly if Google sees that visitors do not stay on your page.
Most Common Mistake: Not Investing in a Fast and Mobile-Friendly Experience.
The design is a very crucial part of a website. If you don’t have good design and layout, even if you have astonishing content, chances are your audience will leave your site.
Google and other search engines can recognize when your website is not mobile-friendly.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Develop a website that is mobile friendly and responsive across all platforms. Forget about using a m.yourdomain.com version for your mobile users. This is considered duplicate content by search engines.
Overall you need to implement a KISS(Keeping it Stupidly Simple) approach.
Most Common Mistake: The most common SEO mistake I see on the web is not putting user experience at the top of the priority list.
Let’s take this article as an example. It is clean and has enough “white space” between the lines. As a result, it is easy to read.
Now consider this page. I will not spend even a second after seeing this ugliness. You can expect similar behavior from the majority of the internet users.
Dwell time is a ranking factor that Google uses to understand the value of the content to the visitor. If you cannot keep the user’s attention long enough (2 minutes at least as per the link above), your content is not valuable, and its ranking will decrease over time.
One Popular Way To Fix This: To fix user experience issue, you need to address certain things one by one.
As Yoast pointed out, SEO and UX go hand in hand. Having a user-friendly website will help your content rank higher, convert the visitor better and ultimately you will make more profit.
Measure the dwell time on your blog with the free Blog Quality Metrics dashboard
Most Common Mistake: There are a lot of mistakes local businesses make when faced with the challenge of bringing in organic traffic to their websites. The biggest mistake I see from Local Businesses that are trying to generate organic traffic is, not claiming and optimizing their Google My Business.
Local businesses frequently contact use when someone searches for a specific local business online, but their competitor’s Google My Business shows up instead. We are contacted with this issue more often then you would expect. This obviously causes them to lose business because their competitors are inadvertently drawing in potential customers and leads who had originally thought to search for that business through word of mouth.
One Popular Way To Fix This: When businesses contact us who don’t necessarily know much about Google My Business, they are often under the impression that their competitors are doing something mischievous in order to gain someone else’s organic search traffic, and are prepared to get a lawyer involved.
By just claiming The Google My Business for our clients, we are able to solve this issue.
If you are trying to grow organic traffic, you need to have an idea of how Google’s users are actually going to discover your page. Usually, that means targeting the number one spot for a specific keyword. But, if your pages do not include the keyword in important places like the H1, URL and page title, then Google will not be able to rank your page for any one keyword or phrase.
Most Common Mistake: A very common mistake and serious missed opportunity for SEO is taking advantage of alt-tags for images.
Of course, this strategy only works in conjunction with other best practices, but I can’t tell you how many times we identify this oversight when doing our SEO audits. So much careful time, thought, and research go into establishing the best keywords for a brand, and then one of the best locations for keywords gets completely forgotten. Particularly as we see the continued trend of shifting from a written to a visual culture, I can’t emphasize how important these tags are. As we see visual search get better and better, these tags will be key to any site’s success. The fact that this also helps with ADA compliance is icing on the cake!
One Popular Way To Fix This: Make sure the image alt-tags are working for your SEO! If your content has images (and let’s face it, it almost always does!) don’t miss this extra ranking opportunity. Both the image name and the image alt-tag are often overlooked areas for additional keywords.
Fabrizio Di Tata
Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake that I see on many websites is skipping or missing title tags, meta-descriptions and alt-text for images. These tags are very important because they are considered by search engines when crawling a website. So, by skipping it, you’re missing a BIG potential for your SEO.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Is very easy to fix, just start adding title-tags and meta-descriptions on all your pages. Describe the content on each page and also have in mind the keyword that you want to position on search engines. For images, just add image tags describing the image. Search robots don’t visualize images, but they can read these alt tags and then add this information to their index.
Web Solutions, Inc.
Most Common Mistake: Not optimizing for voice search. According to Google, one in five searches come from voice queries, and comScore predicts that by 2020, half of all searches will be done by voice.
One Popular Way To Fix This: If your site isn’t optimized for voice search, those searchers may not find you. Unlike traditional searches, which use keywords or phrases to search, voice searches are usually formatted as full sentences and phrased in a natural conversational style. Research the types of sentences that people might use when searching for your company and product and use those longer keyword phrases in your website content. Make sure your business shows up in mobile voice searches by optimizing your website for Siri, and other virtual assistants.
Josep M Felip
Most Common Mistake: I always see marketers underestimate the power of meta tags: Page Title, Meta description and H1.
The first one is crucial for Google to understand the topic of your page.
The second one helps users understand what your page is about and what benefits they’ll get.
The latter helps Google understand what your page’s main content.
Having these factors well set is a really a quick win.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Conduct thorough keyword research to determine the best keywords that relate to your topic/product. Try to find the most relevant ones for your users and for your business. It is not always easy to find the balance.
This is the real challenge of SEO. Once you think that you understand a couple ranking factors, you can still be handicapped by other ranking factors that harm your authority from the perspective of Google’s page crawlers. So, you cannot simply focus on backlinks, for example.
At the same time, you don’t want to spend tens or hundreds of hours learning SEO just to analyze your own domain. You can decide whether you need to spend time on investigating SEO or writing more content by tracking progress to a lead or revenue goal. If your site has a minimal amount of content, you don’t need more SEO improvement. You need to write content. If you get plenty of traffic but no conversion, you don’t need more SEO. You need a conversion goal and a series of calls-to-action.
But, if you have plenty of content and calls-to-action and minimal traffic, you may need to look into your on-page SEO.
Most Common Mistake: I have found that the biggest mistake in SEO that any business owner makes is not planning their SEO correctly and then not implementing on-site SEO page by page to reflect that plan. The key here is knowing what every page should rank for and then giving that page its best chance at ranking for that term.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Plan each page of your website for a specific search phrase. Once you have that done, implement on-page SEO on that page. Use the search phrase in the headings, image names, image tags and content. Also, ensure you only reference one page per search phrase.
Most Common Mistake: The mistake of failing to organize your content into a logical structure using Cornerstone Content or Content Silos.
Cornerstone content pages are dense in content and are part of the core (most important) keyword for a website. Blog posts link back to cornerstone pages to reinforce their importance to the reader as well as the search engines. Cross-linking between blog posts in the category that supports the leverages your SEO juice even further.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Cornerstone content lives at the intersection of SEO strategy and marketing strategy. Cornerstones are the niches you should focus on. This is a super foundation for a website redesign… “Bake in” that SEO for best results.
Most Common Mistake: I frequently see marketers disengage SEO from the original website design and development. They shoe-horn SEO as a tactic after the website has been launched and indexed. It costs companies money every day.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Conduct keyword research and competitive research, determine the best keywords to target based on that data and company goals, and construct a keyword-optimized file structure.
Most Common Mistake: SEOs spend time trying to optimize SEO factors that have lesser relevance to ranking.
For example, I know that page speed is very important and that all big sites are moving towards HTTPS but the question is, should that concern you?
Is a HTTPS redirection worth the money and time expenditure?
I would say, use the Pareto Principle… focus more on quality link building, writing comprehensive and high-quality content and the rest will follow.
Obviously, an extremely slow site will lose you many visitors and in no way do I recommend that. But, don’t focus on the small details like optimizing your site from a loading time of 3 seconds to 1 second unless you can do it with ease.
Google has said that content and quality links are its two most important ranking factors and when these factors are weighed against the other strategies, they outweigh the others by a huge margin.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Write guest posts and build backlinks. Reach out to other bloggers, website or business owners. Research and add quality, comprehensive content to your site.
Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake we see is that organizations use the “publish and pray” method. They have no real strategy to promote their content, they just hope people will find it.
One Popular Way To Fix This: The easiest way is to do your research. There are so many great articles written about the topic of content promotion and outreach. Also, share it more than once on Social Media.
Most Common Mistake: A lack of understanding about the importance of content.
Simply having a website won’t mean it ranks. Content on a website has a direct bearing on what it’s found for in search. If you don’t tell Google what you do, then don’t expect it to rank. This goes for not just the quality of the content but also its relevance to the audience.
Businesses need to be aware of Google’s mantra, E-A-T (the expertise, authority and trust of a website). They should ask themselves, “Why would Google rank their website?”
Does it tell people they’re an expert?
Does it build authority?
And is it trustworthy – especially compared to competitors who will be adding to and updating their website on a regular basis?
For example, a client with holiday properties is near a fishing lake and has a page promoting the attraction. However, the content is only 157 words long. This won’t be engaging for the website visitor, informative, or of much use to anyone in reality. In contrast, a competitor with content on types of fish, access, weather conditions, nearby tackle shops, nearby food and drink, shelter in bad weather, and a whole lot more will be an all-around better piece of content.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Create a content plan.
Brainstorming and mind-mapping are great methods to achieve this. The aim is to generate ideas about what questions customers might have about your industry or business then try and create a plan as to how best to might answer them.
Develop a logical structure that answers each of these questions in turn without cannibalizing each other – that is, create a single piece of content about each topic. The outcome may answer questions along the customer journey or it might be several pieces on a particular topic.
The content won’t be created overnight but the aim should be to build sufficient authority and trust to tell both Google and the visitor YOU are the business people should be paying attention to.
Most Common Mistake: Most people think that they need to do a ton of keyword research and fill up as much space as possible with those keywords, but they misunderstand what keywords are for. Keyword research is just to find out how congested that part of the internet highway is on Google.
Almost every client I’ve ever worked with, as a result, ends up sounding too formal or corporate. There’s no personality in their writing. (We’ve all seen websites that feel too corporate!)
Technical jargon, even (and especially) if its proprietary, needs to be avoided. Unless you’re writing a Wikipedia article, people are going to be looking for answers, not pure information.
One Popular Way To Fix This: People need to write their website copy as if they were sharing it with a friend. Be clear about who you are! Be clear about what you do! It all needs to be obvious and in plain, simple language, because that’s all any of us have time for.
This all helps with the design as well. A good designer bases their work on the language of the client or project. If there’s synergy between the visual details and the words, your work will be a lot more successful. If you want your website to look inviting and simple, your copy needs to be that way too.
Most Common Mistake: Many clients take a very short-term view of SEO. Maybe they’ve never invested in it before or maybe they just don’t understand how it works. It takes time to gently move clients away from the show-me-the-results-now approach that they may expect when using Google Adwords or Facebook advertising for example, where results can be instant.
This short-term viewpoint usually translates to clients being overly-obsessed with their competitors SERP rankings, which can result in undue focus and short-sighted tactics. These expectations can then be put on the SEO agency to “perform” in a short time frame and may incentivize less than white-hat tactics to get some runs on the board and keep the client happy.
This isn’t helped by some SEO agencies who “guarantee” Google page 1 keyword rankings within 30 or 60 days. This only commoditizes SEO and takes the focus off the end game – creating amazing content that will solve a problem or help our customers.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Clients need to understand that good SEO is a long-game. Investing in it long-term can lead to an exceptional return on investment compared to other types of marketing and promotion.
When done well, SEO is really the gift that keeps on giving! I often explain it to my clients like the miracle of compound interest. There’s lots of similarities. For starters, the most important thing for compound interest (and SEO) is to start. Once you’ve started, time is your best friend. Investing regularly plus time equals exponential growth. The same is true for SEO.
To support this, I find case studies can be really helpful. For example, comparing a business who didn’t invest in SEO at all (or invested in black-hat tactics) with a business who did invest in SEO and did it well. Numbers don’t lie and real-life examples can be powerful.
Sky Alphabet Social Media
Most Common Mistake: We’re seeing more new clients call with questions about social media but when we look into their situation, they also have big problems with their search results. Either they have fallen off page one or they’re not getting phone calls like they used to because pages that used to rank have become too competitive.
A few common signs that a client could see massive traffic gains from an SEO overhaul:
One Popular Way To Fix This: Schema is critical to have on the site- Webpage schema for every page and BlogPost schema for every Post. Go crazy with implementing schema and make sure Corporation, LocalBusiness and SiteNavigation are all present on the Homepage. Test your schema using the Google Structured Data tool.
Customer reviews are viewed as high value by Google and will improve your search results, especially if the reviews are on Google. If you have Google reviews, include a link to them on your website (go to the review and click ‘share’ to get the embed link to put on your website). If you don’t have Google reviews, go get some!
Register the business with Google My Business. Wait for the Pin. Fill out your profile using 230 words and make that description the same across your new Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts. Make sure the description mentions your #1 keyword (the one you want to rank for i.e. Leicestire logo design).
It is really helpful to have a descriptive home page, “About” page and “contact us” page. Use only one H1 tag, a Title tag that has the keyword you want to rank for and make sure you use images that also have keywords in the “Alt Text” field. Make the pages contain 1300 words or more, longer if you can. Use internal links for navigation so people can skip to other content on the same page or to other related content elsewhere on the site.
First Steps Online Marketing
Most Common Mistake: Obsessing over keywords.
Many new marketers think that stuffing their website full of keywords is The Answer to SEO. Google and friends though, are not stupid. Search engines are intelligent enough to employ algorithms that pick up the gist of the content.
Yes, this is based on keywords, but when you add content that flows naturally and discusses the topic at hand, Google and Co will pick up on it. To boot, just adding keywords is not going to put the site on page one of the search results, because there is so much more to ranking higher than the keywords used.
For instance, is the content geared for the right target audience? It is this aspect, more than keyword obsession, that gets results.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Firstly, you have to understand what’s important to search engines. Let’s take Google, for example. Google’s vision is, “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
What does that tell you?
That Google wants to match useful content to the right audience. Keywords alone will not cut it. In essence, rather than obsessing over keywords, focus on providing relevant, useful content to the right audience. When you get that right, you’ll get the right kind of traffic for higher conversions.
Are you running a “content mill“? In other words, do you churn out new pages with minimal content that compete for the same keywords? This will make it incredibly hard to rank for any valuable keyword. If visitors cannot get a solution to their problem on your site, they will leave quickly, and Google will penalize you for a low “dwell time”.
Most Common Mistake: Don’t write content for search engines, write for your visitors.
Sometimes when we get caught up trying to make sure our content will rank on Google we forget what really matters the most – the experience our visitors have on our site/blog. Your attempts to appease search engines shouldn’t mean the quality of your content is compromised to the point that the people visiting your website don’t find what they’re looking for.
One Popular Way To Fix This: If you make it your goal to create content that provides value to your target audience you will most likely find your visitors will reward you with their business (or sharing your content) and search engines will reward you in their rankings.
Most Common Mistake: One common SEO mistake is writing content and pages around keywords, without providing any useful information about the topic to the reader.
One Popular Way To Fix This: The best way for companies to overcome the SEO mistakes they are (probably) making is to write good content! The key to writing good content that search engines pick up is to write relevant content that users actually want to read. This will show in the stats with a lower bounce rate and longer time on site, showing the search engines that your page is an authority on the topic, giving helpful information to readers.
Most Common Mistake: Writing content for the search engines instead of the user. For instance, focusing too much on including keywords in your blog as opposed to adopting an interesting (and read-worthy) angle on your topic of choice – there are ways to do both!
One Popular Way To Fix This: Whilst it is important for businesses to consider key search phrases when producing content for a blog or website, they also need to ensure they are actually meeting their consumers’ needs with useful, informative and relevant content. There’s no point generating traffic if users aren’t engaging with the content, as this will lead to high bounce rates (also not great for SEO!).
Most Common Mistake: Patience – Many customers believe they can hire any SEO guy which will fix their rankings within no-time.
Sometimes this impatience has to do with the fact some SEO companies sell guarantees such as “we guarantee number 1 spots” or “only with us will your website rank highly”. We also see this trend with so-called social media agencies bragging about how ‘their’ campaign generated thousands of likes in a day. Only to see a few months later hardly any of these likes actually interact.
We believe this all has to do with mistakes clients are making by actually believing these agencies. We’ve all heard of the phrase “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is”. So we sometimes see clients underestimating the work and all the data which is necessary for an SEO to actually get some work done.
Even the best SEO will make mistakes and that’s because trying to improve rankings is all but an exact science. Of course, most SEO companies know the basics but sometimes even the most knowledgeable SEOs will make mistakes. The difference is the knowledgeable SEO will learn from the mistakes.
Because of impatience and in some case unrealistic expectations (due to lack of competitor knowledge etc) we’ve seen customers turn over to the ‘dark side’ by mass publishing articles with little worth for the reader.
They suddenly decide to feed Google by publishing many articles a week and in some case, daily. These people have stopped thinking about their visitors. They believe ranking high will actually bring more revenue.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Customers need to understand that we’re dealing with algorithms based more heavily on user interaction.
We tell our clients – Google isn’t going to make you money, they supply your company the possibility to turn your visitors into clients. So if I’d give you 100,000 users today – do you believe all customers will become clients?
So is ranking high in Google the priority, or is converting users to clients the real goal you’re trying to attain?
Don’t forget – your clients are the ones buying your service or products, not Google. Google is nothing more that a fantastic tool which can help you with potential clients.
Most Common Mistake: The content doesn’t add any value to the reader.
I’ve been working with some local businesses in the last months, and they all get that they need to write more content. After all, if done correctly, it’s an effective way to communicate with prospective clients and generate more business opportunities.
The problem I usually see is that most of the articles are short, boring, and I can find the exact same info in dozens of others blogs.
I see business owners that are really putting great effort into content marketing and that are writing even five articles a week, but they don’t see any improvement in traffic and sales.
One Popular Way To Fix This: What I usually recommend is to write less, and write better.
The first step is to do thorough research: what are others bloggers talking about, and which pages are getting most shares? I recommend Buzzsumo to understand what kind of content is gaining more traction online.
When the research is done, there are lots of ideas floating around in your head. Now it’s time to be extremely selective and choose only the topics that can have the highest impact. I recommend to focus only on one article at the time, and to really take the time to create a fantastic piece with custom images, interesting facts and if possibles with quotes from a few experts.
Finally, the last step is promotion. Without promotion, even the best article won’t get any traffic. I recommend making a list of bloggers that are potentially interested in the content and to reach out to them directly to get mentions, links, and shares.
Most Common Mistake: I commonly encounter mistakes around low-quality content and landing pages.
Most customers don’t put the time and the effort into content. Or, they are not well-informed that they should be building landing pages for the keywords where they want a high ranking. Or in other cases most of them just build the landing pages and add just a few words in the description.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Think as your customer. What would you like to find when you are searching for whatever it is that you are presenting, selling etc. Is your site user-friendly? Is it easy to navigate in? Does it load up quickly?
Google uses page load time as a ranking factor because if your site takes a long time to load, visitors will not be able to answer their questions quickly. This could be due to large images, a slow CMS or another reason.
Most Common Mistake: Whenever a new client signs on with us, we always begin the engagement with our SEO audit. Along with the audit, we detail the client’s current SEO standing as a baseline report so we can examine progress come 3 / 6 / 12 months later.
It’s like the SEO version of the Before and After shots from every single weight loss television show ever made.
And among all of the different points that we go through in our checklist, the problem that shows up in 9 out of 10 websites is page speed related. Slow desktop and mobile sites are by far the most common issue we come across – usually in the 30 to 45 range in the Google Site Speed tool. And those issues can lead to other SEO problems. For instance, I’ve seen a slow site directly lead to a poor, unoptimized mobile experience which leads to a low organic CTR and in turn low rankings.
One Popular Way To Fix This: We have an excellent development team that pulls data from the Google Site Speed tool & Pingdom and through different efforts, always manage to get the speed into the green (often to 100 on the Page Speed tool).
If you are going it alone, there is a ton of great information out there with details on how to increase your site speed, like this great guide from Moz. But the simplest thing fix I can recommend is to prioritize it, quite simply.
If your development queue is anything like most companies, there is a laundry list of projects that are much sexier and frankly, easier to explain to the C suite than say optimizing image sizes. Don’t let that stop you. Page speed has been at the low end an indirect ranking factor, if not more, for quite a long time and it’s more important now than ever. Since we now live in a mobile-first indexing world, site speed is going to become more and more important to SEO. In fact, Google has come right out and said it.
Google’s algorithm has been able to discover poor-quality links for years. It will lower your rankings for spammy links, so you are actively harming your domain by soliciting cheap links simply to raise your backlink count. On the plus side, links from highly-regarded domains in your niche will create disproportionate improvements in your rankings.
Most Common Mistake: There are several basic areas that companies overlook or overrate when building organic traffic. The key areas are poor backlinks (or lack of backlinks), broken links, lack of site optimization and lack of keyword search. These key factors coupled with failed implementation of proper tracking can greatly affect whether or not your site ranks in Google and Bing.
SEO heavily relies on how your backlink are set up and communicating. You have to remember, quality over quantity. Organic growth is almost exclusively reliant on this. Poor backlinks will almost always work against you, so it’s in the best interests of your company to check how they are integrated into your site.
Most Common Mistake: I’ve seen some companies still use old-school SEO methods such as:
One Popular Way To Fix This: The number one thing would be to ditch these outdated strategies.
The effectiveness of mass blog comment link building is debatable. Instead, focus on creating worthwhile discussions in comment sections of blogs where you can find a relevant and engaged readership.
Instead of creating short articles revolving around the same subject and using slight keyword variations, just write a longer, more comprehensive article that covers all of these and focus on promoting this heavily.
30 Degrees North
Most Common Mistake: Surprisingly, we still see quite a few websites that come to us with harmful backlinks, and this is why we check a website’s backlinks as part of our onboarding process.
Late last year, we had a medical practice sign-up for SEO services because they weren’t happy with their organic search rankings. After an initial site audit, we found that they had a significant number (428!) of toxic backlinks to their website. It turns out the web company that built and maintained their website was still practicing link farming (or excessive link building) and it was not helping the website’s rankings. It was hurting them.
One Popular Way To Fix This: Don’t try to be sneaky with your website backlinking! We preach quality over quantity at 30 Degrees North. If you think that your SEO rankings are being compromised because of excessive link building, remove those backlinks at the source. Or you can ask Google to disavow those links using their “Disavow Links” tool.
Let’s say you’ve successfully implemented an SEO plan that drives relevant traffic to your website.
You need to continually optimize your website and content in order to keep your domain competitive.
Google’s algorithm is built and maintained to serve the most relevant content to its users. If you don’t update your content, manage both your internal and external link-building strategy or simply stay in touch with Google’s algorithm updates, you could see your search rankings for important keywords start to slide.
That’s why, in addition to staying on top of industry trends and Google’s latest updates, you should have a good way to measure the output of your SEO strategy.
This way you can spot sudden and/or dramatic changes in organic sessions, conversion rates, new vs. returning sessions, and other important metrics that act as indicators for when things are going well or perhaps need to be addressed.
To start tracking your organic traffic metrics in real-time, you can start with this free Search Console basics dashboard.
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