Three situations came up over the last couple of weeks with clients who learned important lessons about search engine optimization that I want to share with you, because you may well be suffering from the same confusion and can benefit from their experiences.
A client with a service-oriented business has been getting pretty good search results and leads from the site we built during the recession. Recently, to help him get even more business, his wife decided to SEO their site and added some more content. But the opposite thing happened: Traffic took a nose dive and now they are getting very few leads from his site. He called me in a panic to ask: What happened?
Diagnosis: Well-meaning spouse implemented some strategies that she has seen used for years by service businesses trying to get ranked in locations that they served. You have seen sites where there is a paragraph of all of the cities or neighborhoods or zipcodes where they do business? She did not realize that since 2010 Google has made a series of changes to their algorithms designed to help high quality sites come up higher in search results. Her heart was in the right place, but very often people don’t know that their “help” is now considered spammy—what she did is considered keyword stuffing and Google slaps sites down for it. Small businesses are just trying to do their best and it is hard to keep up with best practices when SEO is not their expertise.
Solution: In the short term, their best bet is to restore a backup of the site to its former state before she added the extra content. Maybe after a month or so, Google will restore their good standing. For future reference:
- This Google article from 2011 is a guide to building high quality sites that rank well.
- Also check out my post about a client’s experience with the posting content that she had first posted to Forbes then added to her own site, which is duplicate content- a Google no no, and from assigning each of her blog posts to multiple categories with multiple tags. That practice is also considered keyword stuffing to Google.
- Brush up on my eight steps you can take to improve your local business listings in search engine results.
Another client has a manufacturing sales business. This past year he has spent a lot of money on ad words trying to compete with some major companies for particular search results for popular keywords, when potential customers search. This approach has not paid off with traffic or leads.
The keywords he has gone after are highly competitive, which is very difficult for a small business to be successful with. And they don’t have much organic traffic since his website features only occasional posts that have fewer than 100 words. These posts mainly show a finished product they are proud of, rather than offer information in their field that someone may be searching for. Google considers this low quality so they don’t come up in searches and overall traffic stays nil.
Their best best for getting traffic and leads would be to write informative posts on topics that their customers need and want to know more about. What would be most effective would be to write articles with over 300 words, around certain long-tailed keyword phrases which answer questions their customers might have about the use of their products. If their business was manufacturing shoes for example, they would never be able to compete with the big companies for the word “shoes” or even the phrase, “women’s high heeled shoes” but they may rank well and attract customers for “comfortable women’s high-heeled tango shoes.” Of course, fewer people search for that phrase, but they are out there—and a company meets that specific need, it will attract those potential customers.
A new website we are working on was getting ready to launch and the client wondered why we had not optimized her content for 10 keyword phrases, which was part of our proposal.
We had completed copy for her home page, about page and contact page but there were not pages or posts on topics related to what her prospects would be searching for. Without anything meaty enough to optimize, I had been nudging her to get me at least ten posts. I had even sent a list of potential posts ideas that she could write about that would give us the ability to optimize them. But alas, it is a lot to do to launch a new business and like many others before her, writing is not her best thing, and she had not gotten around to writing posts. When she wanted to launch without them, I finally realized that she did not know that the reason I was being the blog post nag was not that I just love blogging. Instead, I needed to have specific content to optimize.
We connected on the importance of her creating blog posts or pages on topics that her target clients would be searching for, ideally long tailed key word phrases (see Situation 2) that would attract her prospects. A good reference for this is my post about writing content that people will want to read. This captures the crux of what Google wants and Google rewards.
Avoiding an SEO crisis situation
Keywords aren’t enough. A blog post without context isn’t going to do you much good. Information that people find useful is what will gain you SEO and a foothold in web marketing to those you most want to reach.
Make your site insanely useful and of interest to your prospects, and Google will reward you and you will attract followers who you can nurture into customers. It isn’t easy but it is as simple as that!