How to Drive Your SEO Crazy

It’s understood that nobody actually sets out to drive their SEO crazy, but you wouldn’t know it to listen to SEOs tell their side of the story. Many problems can be boiled down to a lack of understanding and a lack of communication. In this article, I’m going to list some of the common mistakes that site owners make which drive their SEOs crazy – and derail their own SEO campaigns.

I got this list from Stoney deGeyter, writing for Search Engine Guide. I plan to expand a little on many (but not all) of the mistakes he mentions to show you why each one is a bad idea, and what you should do instead. This way, you’ll avoid the horror of, as deGeyter puts it, “waking up in the morning to find that Google has forgotten who you are and kicked you to the curb like a drunken date the morning after.”

The first mistake deGeyter mentions is overwriting your SEO’s changes by editing an outdated copy of your website and publishing it live – and worse, forgetting to tell your SEO about it. Your SEO created, or helped you create, the new version of your website for a reason: it’s supposed to perform better than your old one. If your new site needs work, editing an old copy of it and then publishing that one will undo all of the positive changes (and hard work) your SEO already put in. This is why you should always discuss changes to your site with your SEO first.

The second way you can mess up your SEO campaign is by uploading a robots.txt file that “disallows” the search engines from crawling and indexing your entire site. Sadly, that’s a pretty simple mistake for someone who is not technically inclined to make, if they’re trying to do things they don’t fully understand. You’re trying to keep scraper bots from getting at your content? That’s great; just don’t disallow the bots that really DO need to see your content! This is one mistake that can keep Google from seeing your site at all. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to learn how to handle the technical aspects of your website, but if you’re not entirely sure of what you’re doing (and maybe even if you are), let your SEO check over these kinds of things. His or her job involves making sure you’re visible to the search engines.

Along those lines, the third mistake deGeyter mentions involves changing and re-developing your CMS. Yes, sometimes the CMS needs to be updated – but if it isn’t done cautiously, it can lead to well-ranked URLs losing their ranking. That’s another technical aspect of your site and its ranking in which you need to have your SEO as well as your website developer involved. Sometimes, you can’t avoid changing URLs. In that case, you can at least set up proper 301 redirects as soon as possible – and your SEO can help you with that as well.

Have you ever heard the saying “if it isn’t broken, don’t fix it”? That brings us to the fourth mistake site owners make that drive SEOs crazy: changing all of the website’s URLs to be “keyword friendly” when you’re already ranking very well for your keywords. I have to give site owners credit for trying to understand SEO here. Yes, keywords are important; yes, URLs and title pages are important; and yes, it’s possible that keyword-friendly URLs can help your standing in the SERPs. But before you make those kinds of changes, please check with your SEO. Anything that involves a change to a URL is pretty serious; you’re likely to lose whatever ranking that page held previously. That’s why you try to avoid changing URLs when your pages are ranking well.

I’m just going to quote deGeyter on the fifth mistake he mentions, because it conveys the point so much better than I could: “Use your really important keywords really often so your really important visitors are really able to see what’s really important on the page and the search engines really know what your really important page is about. Don’t be shy because this is really important. Really.”

To be honest, I quoted him because I didn’t want to be forced to type a sentence that would make me run screaming. Keyword stuffing hasn’t worked for years, and keyword density is meaningless. Don’t believe me? Google the phrase “click here,” click on the top result, and count how many times that phrase occurs on that page. You’ll find it nowhere on the page. Even the website at www.clickhere.com ranks third. That’s because links matter more than keyword density, and the web page you visit to download the Adobe Reader has acquired lots of links pointing to it with the anchor text “click here.”

A number of the mistakes deGeyter lists involve forgetting that your SEO is on your side. Treat your SEO as your partner; he really wants to help you succeed. How do you think someone who wants to see you do well feels when you ignore their most important recommendations for months at a stretch, but still complain that your competitors are doing better than you are? They feel frustrated, to say the least. Remember that your SEO is making those recommendations for a reason – the same reason that you hired him or her in the first place.

Speaking of ignoring SEO recommendations, how did you respond to your SEO’s last set of keyword recommendations? If you thought that they made no sense and you gave him or her your own list of keywords to try…well, you might want to reconsider. In fact, you might be wearing a set of keyword blinders and not even know it.

It also helps to keep in mind that the amount of traffic a keyword receives is less important than the amount of conversions. Which would you prefer, a keyword that gets 1,000,000 impressions and .01 percent conversions, or a keyword that gets 20,000 impressions and one percent conversions? Believe it or not, the second keyword gets twice as many conversions, even though it only gets one-fifth the traffic. And it’s conversions that add money to your bottom line, not traffic.

Three other mistakes deGeyter mentions that site owners make reveal problems finding the balance between too little communication and too much. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t try to get (or expect) daily contact with your SEO. They’re busy doing SEO to your site, and that often involves a lot of learning in a hurry, especially if they’re not totally familiar with your field and your audience. Your SEO will probably ask you a ton of questions, and you should feel free to ask questions as well; it IS your site, after all! But if you’re just wondering about the progress he or she is making on your site, you might want to set up regular (say weekly or monthly) progress reports to give you some peace of mind.

Another communication mistake site owners make with their SEOs is failing to include them in the loop for their website’s design and development. Of course, this is not unusual when you’ve built your site, had it up and running for a while, and decided to hire an SEO to improve things; that’s normal. What drives SEOs crazy about this, however, is that many site owners, once they hire SEOs, say that they don’t want to pay for any more changes to their site. You’ve basically just told your SEO to do their job while wearing a gag and a strait jacket. Could you do YOUR job that way? Of course not!

Part of the problem, deGeyter notes, is that it’s not uncommon for developers to “create massive code bloat, place text in images” and fail to “use any search-engine friendly design practices.” Do NOT assume your website developer knows anything about SEO – and if you didn’t have an SEO involved in your website’s design, figure that the SEO you hire will need to make some changes.

But deGeyter saves the worst communication mistake for last. Do you really want to drive your SEO stark raving bonkers? Then you should stop taking their calls, and stop replying to their emails. They’re not contacting you because they like to talk; they’re trying to get in touch with you because they need answers to their questions to do their job – the job YOU hired them to do. And the information they need is, more than likely, information that only you can provide. Your SEO is, in some sense, your partner; treat him or her as such, and the website ranking you save will be your own. Good luck! 

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