Top 5 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid when Optimizing a Website

by Jennifer Osborne December 19th, 2007 

Most people think of SEO as a technical role. While CSS, PHP and other programming skills are invaluable to SEO, I tend to think of SEO more as Marketing with technical requirements. More often than not, the marketing part of an SEO's job is overlooked.

#5 Writing Body Content for the Search Engines

Writing for the web can be pretty challenging. You often have many different audiences to appease: your Potential Customer, Shareholders and Investors, and of course, the Search Engines. Each of these have different objectives and can require a significantly different language and tone.

When writing for search engines there can be a tendency to focus on making sure that the content has the right keyword density, keywords in the headings, etc. Sometimes this can make the writing seem too stiff and unnatural. It's important to remember that the Search Engines are not finding your content all on their own, there is a real person behind that search who will be reading the piece. Follow SEO guidelines but write for the consumer!

#4 Writing Title Tags for the Search Engines

Many people consider the title tag to be the single most important On-Page Factor. As a result, many title tags are written primarily with the Search Engines in mind. What I mean by this is focusing on making it keyword rich. Keep in mind that the title tag is used as the headline in your search result.

Keep in mind that two things have to happen for search to drive traffic to your site. 1) your site must "get found" in the search results but let's not forget that 2) consumers / searchers also have to click on your search result for it to in fact drive traffic (and maybe even sales). A compelling headline can make a number 5 result get clicked moreso than a keyword stuffed number 2 result!

#3 Putting your brand first in title tags.

I don't know if it's just laziness but a lot people seem to use a basic formula for writing title tags "brand name: page name" like you see Pepsi doing here:

Or perhaps the Brand Police dictated that their company's brand name must be prominently displayed. Yes, some companies actually have rules around this sort of thing. But this isn't necessarily good marketing (or SEO for that matter). Remember the old saying "sell the sizzle not the steak"? Well "Pepsi USA- Pepsi Brands " isn't exactly a strong buying proposition. And from an SEO perspective they'd be way better off starting with a keyword first. I know Pepsi is a keyword but I think they've got that one covered.

Shortly after Matt Cutts discussed this issue, Paypal recently changed their title tags to have their branding come last and their keywords / marketing plug come first:

This is so much more compelling than Paypal: Send money, money transfer.

#2 Paying little or no attention to the meta description

This is a personal pet peeve of mine. It stems from my PPC background. Our PPC department spends a tremendous amount of time and attention writing and testing the creative. We have different people doing the keyword research than we do writing the ads. Okay, maybe we've over analyzed this one but one function is more left brained or analytical and the other is right brained or creative. In any case, we've had situations where the change of ONE word has improved a CTR from 0.8% to 20%. Really. I"m not sh*^&ing you

IMO the Creative in PPC and the meta description in SEO are pretty much the same thing. Not technically speaking of course but from a buyers perspective they're both the "blurb" or snippet that entices them to click or not. Yes "blurb" is a technical term.

Here's a great example of what I'm talking about. I did a search on Google for the phrase internet services. Telus didn't even bother to fill out the meta description so Google grabbed some text from their homepage. Which SERP would you click on?

BTW if you're wondering how the search engines determine what to use as your snippet (blurb), Jill Whalen has a great posting on this subject.

#1 Optimizing in a vacuum

We've long said here at Search Engine People that SEO should be a part of your Overall Marketing Mix (I said mix not Mixx). Well the converse is also true, your Overall Marketing Mix should be part of your SEO.

whaaatttt? Really doing a great job at optimizing a site is sooo much more than just title tags and other on-page factors. It involves understanding client objectives. It's about focusing in on value propositions, it's about using traditional marketing to support digital marketing.

I usually ask new clients take me through their marketing plan. It's truly amazing how much of the rest of the marketing plan we can impact through Search. There have been many studies that examine the symbiotic relationship between online and offline marketing. Jeff wrote a great posting about it earlier.

Here's an example: there was once mention of quarterly White Papers in the clients marketing plan. I hadn't seen any white papers on their existing website so I asked him about it. It turns out that they have 20 years of white papers that they've been publishing and they've NEVER put one up on their site!!! Wow what a tremendous opportunity!!!

I could go on and on about optimizing in a vacuum, and this post is getting rather lengthy, so perhaps I'll save it for another Wedensday Rant…..

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9 Responses to “Top 5 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid when Optimizing a Website”

  1. Suzanne says:

    Great tips, thanks, I like the way you explained it with the Pepsi example. Look forward to more such tips on your blog.

  2. thanks Suzanne, I really appreciate it! If you're not too full of Christmas turkey next Wed I'm going to be writing about other uses you may not have thought of for Stumbleupon…It's not just social media!

  3. [...] Top 5 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid when Optimizing [...]

  4. David Rosam says:

    I may not agree with you on every point here, but that's being picky.

    I do agree with you 110% that SEO is about marketing and people. The technical stuff is really there to enable the communication.

  5. MariaSeo says:

    Sometimes companies need to put their brands first on titiles for reputation management purposes. That could be one explanation.
    I totally agree with you on the importance of Marketing actions on SEO strategies!

  6. Hi Jennifer, a good SEO primer.

    The issue of brand intrusion is one of a misunderstanding on the part the marketing department web designers are most likely dealing.

    If the corporate guidelines dictate such things as company name first, let them do that on the home page and nowhere else. Then the keyword damage is limited.

    Ironically, there's a better chance of landing a Sitelink from Google by doing this.

    Additionally, set up some landing pages and run some split testing to demonstrate which page performs best — one with title leading with company name and one with company name after keywords.

    SEO is often one of gradual education, with successive failures being a pretty good motivator that often encourages companies to listen to the people they're paying to help them!

  7. Wayne, thanks for the feedback, some excellent thoughts.

    Maria, I agree. I think you're right,

    David, thanks for not being too picky, I was trying to keep it really simple :)

  8. [...] Top 5 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid when Optimizing [...]

  9. [...] Most of us think of SEO only from the technical aspect without so much as consider its Marketing requirements. Well that's just what Jennifer Osborne from SearchEnginePeople.com tells us sharing her Top 5 Marketing Mistakes to Avoid when Optimizing a Website. [...]