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?
#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.....