Kids look at their parents from two perspectives. They either put them on a pedestal and strive to inherit their finer qualities, or curse their bad habits and promise to change. Inevitably, all people become their parents. It’s hard not to follow the footsteps, even if they don’t lead in the desired direction.
The same is true in online marketing. Some of us had great supervisors who passed along all of their wisdom. Others stumbled into the field and are trying to figure it out as they go. As a result, many organizations are committing crippling search engine optimization (SEO) errors.
Now, before the confrontational tweet in defense of your mentor’s honor, understand that it is not his or her fault. Times have changed and your mentors were not able to prepare you or your organization’s website for modern inbound marketing challenges. This week’s Rich TIP, written just for us by our friend Andrew Garberson from Lunametrics, fills in the gaps and moves you from SEO nothing to something in just a few minutes.
Recently, the same transition occurred for a group of organizations in a pro bono SEO program in Pittsburgh. The seven participating organizations all had five common characteristics that impeded their performance in search engines. Can any of these be found on your website?
1. Local organizations that aren’t local. Do a Google search for the name of your organization. The top result should display its name in blue underlined text followed by the website’s URL and a brief description of the organization. Is your location visible anywhere? It should be if you are a community organization. The same goes for your home page. It should be obvious all over the website that you are a [insert your city here] organization so Google makes the association. Otherwise, when people search for related resources in your city, they won’t find you. Where should you write the city name? Look at #2 below.
2. Poor title tags and meta descriptions. The blue underlined text from above is the title tag. It tells search engines (and visitors) more about a page than anything else on the website. The best part: you can change it. Just remember that every page should be unique and that there is a 70-character max. Everything after 70 characters is cropped. You can also control the black text below the title tag and URL (from the Google example above). It is called the meta description. Although it does not influence search engines, it tells potential visitors about the page. Pages with meta descriptions have a higher click-through rate because people can predetermine more about the destination. Meta descriptions are limited to about 150 characters and should include a call to action at the end, i.e., “Keep reading for more SEO tips!”
3. Overuse of industry terms. How would people outside your organization or industry describe the work you do? I doubt that they would call you an “educational inequalities advocate” or “resource center for underprivileged adolescents.” It is essential to incorporate the keywords used by your target audience in title tags and copy so Google can direct search queries in your direction, particularly if you serve those affected by educational inequalities or underprivileged adolescents who are not likely to use the same lingo.
4. No social signals for guidance. Some of the pro bono program’s partner organizations had links to their social media, but none of them had social buttons, even on a blog. If you find this SEO article interesting and informational, I would like you share it, and that desire would be more intuitive if there were buttons at the end of the post that said “Like this on Facebook” or “Tweet this.” One click and this article would be exposed to everyone in your network, providing the same opportunity for them to read and share it.
5. Duplicate duplicate duplicate content. Do a Google search for site:your-domain.org (but please use your website domain, not “your-domain”) and look for the number of results, located between the search bar and the first result. It will say something like “About 1,370 results (0.16 seconds).” That is approximately the number of pages on your website that Google has indexed. If that number is higher than it should be, which is quite common, the website has duplicate versions of pages. Think of duplicate pages as extra (unneeded) mouths to feed that take rations from other valuable pages the website and dilute its domain authority. I could talk for hours about why that is problematic, so for brevity’s sake let’s just agree that it is. There are lots of resources out there to explain it further.
That’s the overview of the most encountered SEO issues that plague small organizations. If you would still like to defend your mentor, I prefer to field criticism on Twitter and Google+. Thanks in advance for not bringing my mother into it.
Interested in learning a bit more about SEO? Andrew Garberson, director of SEO at LunaMetrics, is hosting a free webinar to cover the items above in more detail. Visit Garberson.org for more info.