Habits get a bad rap. They aren’t bad on their own. We develop them so we can get more done without having to think carefully about everything we do each day.
After any substantial amount of time in the SEO industry, you develop certain habits. Many of those habits are born of necessity, others reinforced by positive experiences, still others implemented for the sake of convenience. Regardless of their source, these tendencies influence the way we SEOs manage our client’s websites and behave online — and not always for the best.
Here are 5 habits that even the most experienced SEO analysts can fall into that could be harming your ability to successfully direct and manage a client’s online marketing campaigns.
1) Signed in searching – you never do it
One of the first things you’re taught as an SEO analyst is to limit personalization when viewing search results. The goal is to view the rankings for your client’s websites without the dramatic effects of personalization due to location and search history. While non-personalized search results are important for judging a site’s ranking strength, they also hide important aspects of the average users’ search experience.
Seeing the impact that localization and things like Google+ and blended search results can have on a SERP page can be exceedingly useful for an SEO. Very few of your client’s potential customers search Google without the benefit of some personalization, and while it is impossible to recreate their experience exactly, knowing the kinds of SERP variations your visitors are seeing on their path to your website is a requirement for any comprehensive online marketing strategy. Your users’ experience begins with the SERP; considering that experience is vital to the success of online marketing campaigns.
2) You check rankings daily
Make no mistake about it, the success of an SEO campaign is often tied to a site’s rankings. Being ignorant of how and where the search engines are returning your client’s site for important search terms is a surefire recipe for disaster (and a one way ticket to the unemployment line). Daily monitoring of rankings, however, and the resulting paranoia and madness that ensue are not ideal for the success of an SEO campaign.
Rank chasing can cripple the effectiveness of an online marketing campaign since reactionary tactics can often do more harm than good. When outlining the best course of action for an SEO campaign, especially in its initial stages, it is important to stick to the plan, even if there are temporary dips in rankings. As an SEO, you know the best practices for a site over the long term, and getting caught up in every little ranking position shift can get you in trouble. Have faith in your process and the work you are performing and stay the course. SEO is a marathon, not a sprint.
3) You blindly implement the “newest” SEO enhancements
Focusing on enhancing your client’s website is a major goal of any successful SEO campaign, but it is important that the enhancements make sense and don’t clash with your client’s business model.
Making sure that all of the pieces of a site are fine-tuned to work as part of a larger mechanism. Converting visitors into customers should be at the heart of all of an SEO’s decisions. This doesn’t always happen, however. A prime example would be SEOs who try to implement authorship and ratings and review markup when it’s not a relevant or beneficial enhancement.
I’ve seen ecommerce websites set up authorship on their pages even though there is no individually authored content. I’ve also seen attorneys add rating star markup to their websites even though testimonials don’t use a numbered rating system.
Google’s recent decision to dial back the amount of rich snippets they display in SERPs is evidence that these types of tactics do not work and may do more harm than good. Some have speculated that the abuse of rich snippets could be a low-value signal to search engines that could one day result in ranking losses. Getting caught up in the latest SEO trend can take your focus away from what truly matters — targeting and bringing interested visitors to your website.
4) You’ve seen your site too many times
There’s an old saying that you “can’t see the forest for the trees,” and it can apply to SEOs and the websites they optimize. I liken it to the writer who needs to step away from his work and revisit it after a time to truly gauge its quality. Visiting a client’s website on a daily basis and getting caught up in the nuances of on-page optimization can prevent you from seeing the big picture items that may be hurting your ability to convert visitors into customers.
While I wouldn’t recommend that SEOs stop visiting their client’s websites, it is very important that your work is viewed with a fresh set of eyes every now and again. One of the benefits of working with the knowledgeable SEO analysts at Bruce Clay, Inc. is that we collaborate with each other. Throughout my career, I’ve always found it useful to gain advice from my colleagues, something most are more than happy to offer when you do the same.
5) You optimize content for search engines, not for searchers
This is a biggie and I see it happen all the time. Toeing the line between conversion and optimization can be hard for the most seasoned SEO professionals, but too many SEOs sell their online marketing souls trying to rank for that money keyword term. Making changes to a page to optimize for specific keywords can often have disastrous effects on the usability of a website.
While ranking for important search terms is an important aspect of SEO, keyword optimization is becoming less and less important. Anyone who has done more than cursory research into the type of keyword searches that result in conversions to their site know that people find your website using the most odd and non-intuitive searches imaginable. The old SEO axiom that long-tail keywords are the best at converting is true and the most effective means of capturing that long-tail traffic is by naturally, intelligently and completely writing about a topic, not over-optimizing for one keyword term.
It bears noting that Google itself has made some very specific changes to its algorithms that shift the focus away from keyword-based SEO to instead reward topic-based SEO. Google Hummingbird improved the ability of the search engine to properly respond to conversational queries by clearly identifying the entities and topics that those queries relate to. This shift in search engine query processing is best taken advantage of by websites who devote their content to offering the most complete information and answers for a subject, not for individual terms.
As SEO Evolves, So Must Our Habits!
We all have our client’s best interests driving us. No SEO sets out to jeopardize the success of the websites they manage, but it is important to recognize that the tendencies that we fall into as SEOs can be holding our client’s websites back. SEO is a dynamic discipline, which is a major reason why so many of us love it. But, the constant evolution of search engines requires SEOs to constantly and critically review their tactics.
Are you guilty of any bad SEO habits you intend to break? Confess in the comments.