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If SEO had existed in Shakespeare's day, the playwright might have written, "The fault, dear colleague, is not in our stars, but in our website's poor optimization."

A poorly optimized website cannot serve its purpose. Many factors go into on-site optimization, but three items stand out as being not only crucial but also frequently shortchanged or completely overlooked.

Let's examine each and discuss how you can give them their due and dramatically boost your SEO performance.

1. Keyword Pitfalls

Keywords should be made of sterner stuff.

Keyword research drives SEO. If a company optimizes for the wrong keywords, two bad things happen:

  1. The SEO campaign attracts traffic, but not qualified traffic.
  2. The SEO campaign attracts qualified traffic, but only on the fringes, handing competitors the bulk of traffic and the juiciest leads.

Prevent those outcomes by conducting keyword research properly and fully. Here are important factors to take into account:

  • Search volume. Which relevant search terms are most popular? Many companies err by assuming a particular term is popular. They put all of their efforts into being number one for a term few people care about—an enormous waste of SEO resources.
  • Intent. Without considering a search engine user's intent, you will attract too much unqualified traffic. For instance, "credit card fees" may be a popular term, but users might be looking for a credit card or information on how to reduce debt or calculate fees. On the other hand, "best credit card to use" is more likely to be researched by someone looking to get a new credit card.
  • Longtail terms. Often, the best SEO strategy is to focus on long tail terms—search terms that are highly specific, relevant, and with strong buying intent. For instance, there may be several terms along the lines of "buy new credit card in phoenix arizona" that would produce relatively little traffic but a high percentage of sales.
  • Don't overreach. A company may be able to identify thousands of keywords worth optimizing—but do they have a big enough SEO budget to handle that workload? A smart keyword strategy tackles only enough keywords to be supported with a robust, multifaceted on-site and off-site campaign. Trying to be jack of all keyword phrases will make you master of none.
  • Don't do it one-off. Keyword research must be updated periodically: Search terms fall out of disfavor as language changes, a company introduces new products and services, and so on. Flawlessly executed keyword research from 2010 is likely to be flawed by now.

2. Content Pitfalls

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image of Brad Shorr

Brad Shorr is the B2B marketing director of Straight North LLC, an Internet marketing agency near Chicago that assists middle marketing firms with SEO, PPC, and retargeting campaigns.

Twitter: @bradshorr