Search engines are still the number one place people turn when they want to learn something new or solve a problem. If you want your startup to attract and retain the level of attention it needs to thrive, investing in SEO is an easy call. That said, poor SEO can end up being harmful, and it’s easy to make mistakes if you don’t have the experience. Here are some things to avoid if you want your startup to do well in the search engines.
1. Poor/No UI and UX
It’s amazing how often webmasters still believe that you have to sacrifice the user interface and the user experience in order to get the best results in the search engines. If anything, this is the opposite of how search engines work today. Design always starts with the user. Search engines come second.
2. Slow Page Load Time
Do not assume that everybody has an internet connection like yours. Avoid the use of interfaces based on Flash and don’t use images or animations where text will suffice. This is especially important with the recent push toward mobile, where internet connections are much slower.
A large portion of your audience will leave if the site doesn’t load within a few seconds. You don’t have to sacrifice multimedia, but it should load last, and the site should be useable without it.
3. Ignorance of Social Media
Even if all you cared about were the search engines (and what startup is that naïve?), you would still need to care about social media. Mastering social media requires more than testing the placement of your social buttons. It requires the creation of content that demands to be shared, and regular interaction with your target audience. Interaction with social influencers is perhaps even more important.
4. Blog Content with No Value
With every piece of content you create, you need to identify the problem it is attempting to solve, and make sure it solves that problem better than any other piece of content on the web. If you can’t do that, it means one of two things: you’re targeting saturated keywords, or you’re not investing enough in your content.
This is where it’s worth hiring outside talent. Hire somebody with a popular blog on the subject and leverage their reputation to bolster your own. This is what can really set you apart from the competition.
5. Targeting Search Engines Instead of Users
The days of keyword density are over, and they ended a long time ago. It’s amazing how often we still run into this misconception. If your keyword is in the title, and it’s what the article is about, you’ve already met your keyword requirements. Trying to impose any kind of artificial frequency on the use of the keyword just results in an article that looks like spam to anybody who reads it.
6. Poor Site Architecture and URL Naming Convention
This is an especially easy mistake to make and it can be harder to get right than you might expect. Here are a few things you should try to avoid:
Multiple pages with the same or similar content – This one is especially problematic for ecommerce sites, since they often host a huge number of pages with similar content focused on different products.
Dynamic URLs – You’ll want to make sure that your dynamic URLs are created in a folder that gets no-indexed, or it can lead to massive duplicate content issues and confusion about which page to show in the search results.
Meaningless URL Naming Convention – In order to maximize benefit from the search engines, you will want to adjust the way URLs are built in the future. A good URL naming convention makes the hierarchy of the site clear, and makes it clear what each page is about.
7. Not Claiming Google+ Authorship
Google+ is one of the less popular social networks, so it’s not uncommon for digital marketers and webmasters to wonder why it’s worth claiming authorship. This is a mistake, because Google+ is the social network that Google’s search engine has unfettered access to. Every interaction on that social network is monitored by the search engine, and Google can usually tell which accounts are run by actual humans by monitoring activity on their other properties like YouTube and Gmail.
8. Building Too Many Links Too Fast
Any strategy that allows you to build a large number of links yourself (or through automated software) is dangerous. Google frowns upon links that you build yourself. It’s as simple as that. In Google’s utopia, every link to your site would be completely natural, and nobody would point a single link to their own site ever.
9. Ignoring the Value of Content Marketing
Content marketing is the art and science of attracting attention and building trust with content alone. It’s about promoting your content in places where you can expand your reach, and retaining customers with content that keeps on giving. This means that you expand the benefits of content beyond pure SEO, start embracing the power of social networking and email marketing, and you start thinking about guest posts and other collaborations as an opportunity to send referral traffic to your site.
10. Hiring the Wrong SEO Agency
It’s almost always better to hire an SEO agency than to try to do the promotion on your own, but choosing the wrong agency can be even worse. The important thing to remember is that SEO done poorly can actually do more harm than good, so treat it the way you would approach an investment in the stock market.