It’s a universally accepted fact that a search marketing strategy — composed of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO, or organic search activities) and Search Engine Marketing (SEM or paid search activities such as pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or Google Adwords) — can place brands at the top of the search engine results page (SERP). By extension, this visibility allows brands to reach potential customers, which, in the long run, could mean increased revenue. Seems straightforward right?
In reality, the road to implementing a search marketing strategy is marred with many pitfalls.
With the many statistics that prove why a search marketing strategy is important, no wonder, digital marketers of big and small brands alike jump into the bandwagon to apply their know-how on SEO or SEM, expecting that adding keywords and placing ads will easily result in massive success.
Soon enough, they realise that all their efforts, following random search marketing strategy tips, have made minimum impact on their search position, and traffic hasn’t increased as expected.
To avoid falling into this trap, one must first know how to develop a search marketing strategy, before avoiding these search marketing strategy pitfalls at all costs:
Pitfall #1:Neglecting quality content
As the world’s largest search engine, where most SEM and SEO activities take place, Google has a few guidelines that help describe their definition of quality content. The basic principles:
• “Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”
• “Don’t deceive your users.”
• “Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.”
• “A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you, or to a Google employee. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”
• “Think about what makes your website unique, valuable, or engaging. Make your website stand out from others in your field.”
In addition, Google discourages the promotion of “Thin content with little or no added value.” Types of content that fall under this category are automatically generated content, thin affiliate pages, content from other sources (scraped content or low-quality guest blog posts), and doorway pages. According to Google, such techniques don’t provide substantially unique or valuable content to users.
Pitfall #2: Using the wrong keywords
Content marketers will likely pepper their articles with keywords in hopes of making their pages rank. However, a search marketing strategy pitfall they could be victim to is writing with a very narrow mindset: using keyword lists that are simply based on their internal branding goals, without consulting research or past performance data to substantiate their keyword set.
Thus, an ideal keyword list might be composed of keywords associated with your brand, as well as sales keywords, or keywords that users might type to find products or services like yours. One way to know if the keywords are effective is by testing their performance — a step that a great deal of marketers often forget to do.
Pitfall #3: Keyword stuffing
When keywords play a huge role in making a page rank, a rookie mistake that content marketers could make is overloading a page with keywords. By putting too many repetitive keywords, the language seems unnatural, and user experience is lessened. The ultimate point of SEO — delivering high visibility to your audience — is thus defeated.
Examples of keyword stuffing, according to Google, are:
• Lists of phone numbers without substantial added value
• Blocks of text listing cities and states a webpage is trying to rank for
• Repeating the same words or phrases so often that it sounds unnatural, for example:
We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Pitfall #4: Not optimising URL, title and meta tags
URLs that are well-crafted give humans and search engines an indication of the destination page’s content. By well-crafted, we mean:
• Simple, relevant, definite and concise
• Uses words that people can understand.
• No underscores or space and uses hyphens in lieu of spaces to separate words
• Uses lowercase letters, because uppercase letters can cause issues with duplicate pages.
Meanwhile, the title tag, which appears in the header, must also be optimised and must contain keywords. The meta description, on the other hand,catches the user’s attention. We recommend the length of the title be kept at 70 characters, while the meta description be no more than 170 characters.
Pitfall #5: Misusing links
Backlinks play a crucial role in SEO, but misusing them could hurt your search strategy. Search engine algorithms review the number of sites that link to you, as well as quantity and quality of the links, with the expectation that high-quality content is what attracted these backlinks. If your links were obtained some way else, your site can merit a lower ranking. These are the things you want to avoid:
• Link swapping: Finding a site willing to backlink in exchange of another backlink
• Link farms: a collection of websites whose sole purpose is to direct people to your site
• Private blog networks: network of expired high-authority domains loaded with links to a target site
Pitfall #6: Not optimising images
Large images make webpages load significantly slower, resulting in a less-than-optimal user experience. According to HTTP Archive, images comprise up to 21% of a total webpage’s weight. Thus, optimising images can lead to decreased file sizes, which in turn speeds up the webpage’s loading time.
Some image properties to consider: PNG produces high-quality images at the expense of a larger file size. JPEG makes images that are not as good as PNG, but anyone can adjust the quality level to balance out the size and image quality. GIF, meanwhile, only uses 256 colors and is best for animated images.
Pitfall #7: Not doing a website audit
A website audit entails evaluating a website for its ability to appear in SERPs. Professionals will have a list that will allow them to double-check which issues need to be fixed, that are hindering your page from reaching its full potential. An audit such as this, which is ideally done by an SEO expert or a digital marketing agency allows you to get an overview of your website’s weaknesses, and compare yourself to competitors. Among the KPIs to be considered are site speed and performance, as well as mobile friendliness.
Pitfall #8: Falling behind trends
Search engine sites such as Google often change their algorithms. They also introduce features that can make doing a search marketing strategy relatively easier. In order to adapt to the times, digital marketers must be on their toes at all times. That’s why sometimes, it may be best to outsource SEO services where a full team is composed of experts.
Pitfall #9: Not reading into analytics
Aside from reporting numbers on traffic, Analytics can also provide important information such as which topics or links people are clicking, what their scrolling behavior is, and where people hover. Such information can provide leads as to what your users are looking at, thus empowering you to optimise their experience.
Pitfall #10: Not having a search strategy
Last but not the least, the biggest pitfall that digital marketers may encounter is not starting with properly planned-out search marketing strategy. An effective search marketing strategy begins with a website audit, where you can first identify pain points, before launching into implementing search marketing tactics. By merely employing random techniques culled from different sources, digital marketers could end up doing so much with little result.
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