Internet marketing can be a minefield. There's no official textbook on proper strategy or tactics. It's up to business owners, and the marketing and search engine optimization ( SEO ) professionals they might hire, to figure out what works and what doesn't.
Since becoming an SEO consultant several years ago, I've stumbled over many of these proverbial mines, and so have the clients I've worked with. Not every mistake is a terrible one, though some should have been avoided.
Here are five fatal online marketing and SEO mistakes that you should steer clear of:
Related: Beyond Basic SEO: When Hiring a Consultant Makes Sense
1. Not having an onsite content strategy. Prior to Google's Panda algorithm update last year, it was common to see small, one-page microsites dominating the search engine results pages (SERPs) based on the strength of their inbound link profiles -- the links pointing to these microsites from external websites -- rather than the quality of their onsite content.
One of the important changes that occurred as a result of the Panda update was the promotion of websites in Google's search results with lots of strong, quality content. It's nearly impossible to get ranked for any sort of competitive keyword if your website doesn't have great content. Google differentiates high-quality from low-quality content by:
• Quantity and quality of inbound links to the page
• Quantity and quality of social signals linking to the page
• Grammar and spelling on the page
• Text formatting queues on the page (bold, italics, bullet points)
• Use of subheads
• Length of content
• Outbound links from the page
When planning your onsite content strategy, create quality content that adds lasting value. Examples of ways to do this include:
• Infographics that dissect data in a new way, offering a fresh perspective
• Offering advice based on personal experience
• Publishing internal data that isn't available elsewhere and is difficult to gather
2. Not having an offsite content strategy. A strategic SEO link building campaign is critical for the success of your online marketing initiative. A few reasons why:
• Inbound links are the heaviest-weighted factor in Google's ranking algorithm
• When highly-authoritative websites link to yours, you gain exposure, positive branding and referral traffic
• Links are like roads to your website. Having more links can result in more paths for potential clients and customers to find your product or service
But when building links to your website, be cautious if you hire someone else to do it. Post-Penguin link building requires an intimate knowledge of the search engine algorithms and how they've changed. Building links that appear to be unnatural or manipulated can do more harm than good.
Related: Why Buying Backlinks Is Bad for SEO
3. Not giving it enough time. Online marketing can be a lot like the stock market. Over time, the return on your investment should trend upward, but if you stop too soon you might end up worse off than when you started.
Before starting any SEO initiative, it can be worthwhile reading a post by Sam McRoberts, CEO of Seattle-based SEO services firm Vudu Marketing. It outlines the volatile nature of organic search rankings and why companies shouldn't consider online marketing to be a short-term tactic.
4. Not devoting enough budget to the campaign. I've often seen business owners get lured in by low-priced SEO service providers promising them the world and delivering useless service. One time, for instance, after reviewing the previous work of a low-budget SEO firm, I discovered it had populated the client's site with various posts that were written in broken English, keyword-stuffed and delivered no real value or service. They were all about 250 words in length, which is generally not enough to be considered thorough. My first thought was, "No one would want these posted on their website."
Unfortunately, many low-budget SEO providers are stuck in a pre-Penguin era of SEO, convincing business owners that low-quality spam tactics still work, and taking their money while yielding negative results or none at all.
So, what types of tactics should you focus on?
• Build your personal brand by guest blogging
• Engage in social media marketing to organically build your brand's social presence
• Design and execute a quality content strategy for your website to attract inbound links
5. Not distributing the workload. Online marketing is too vast and complex to be managed by a single person. To be done right, it requires a team of professionals knowledgeable across one or more of each distinct discipline. Of course, hiring an in-house team can be costly, which is why many business owners choose to source their online marketing to agencies.
For example, you could hire freelance writers and an editor from sites like Elance to write content for your company blog. You could also hire a social media marketer to manage your stable of social media channels.
Point is, there are cost-effective ways to perform many aspects of online marketing. Think outside the box and you can distribute the workload effectively and efficiently.
Related: How to Optimize Your Site for Search Without Actually Doing SEO