Search engines are pretty sophisticated these days. There once was a time when stuffing keywords at the bottom of your pages was all you needed to get first page status. Not anymore.

These days, search engines use a complex system of rules to figure out who gets promoted and when. Google’s SEO algorithm, in particular, is shrouded in mystery and fog. No one knows for sure what exactly goes into Google’s search rank algorithm (it contains hundreds of unique signals), however we do know a few of the important factors, and that’s what we’ll discuss below.

Let’s go over the top mistakes to avoid when optimizing your website for search engines.

 1. You’re Not Focusing on Long Tail Keywords

You’re not still aiming for one word keyword dominance, are you?

Those days are long gone. If you work with non-profits, ranking for a one word search term like “fundraiser” is next to impossible. You’ll have to compete with big names like Pinterest, and likely get shuffled to the back of the line, in Google purgatory (also known as any search results past page one).

However, if you aim for a long tail keyword, such as “creative silent auction ideas,” you have more of a chance to compete. Your phrase will be super targeted. Not everyone searches for it – but that’s good news; if you’re trying to reach a specific group, you’ll have a better chance with a longer keyword phrase.

Use the Answer the Public tool to come up with the best long tail keywords. Enter in a keyword, and you’ll get a long list of suggestions, presented in a unique visualization.

You can also use Wordstream’s Free Keyword Tool to see what people search for.

2. You’ve Forgotten to Optimize for Local Search

You need to optimize for local search. At the very least, this means adding your address and local phone number to your heading or footer. Taking it one step further, it means getting listed in local directories.

Optimizing for local search helps to improve the credibility of your business and increases your chances of ranking in local organic search.

Not sure if your business is local? It is. Even if you don’t think of your business as local (for example, if you run a consulting business), search engines return results based on location proximity and phone number.

Learn about how you can avoid this SEO mistake by improving your NAP settings.

3. Your Website is Not Mobile Friendly

A mobile-friendly website is ever more important

Unless you don’t want your site to appear on search engines, you need a mobile friendly website. It’s not optional. Not sure if your site is mobile friendly? Enter in your URL here to find out.

And it’s also not 2010 anymore. Back then, you could have two versions of a website (a mobile version and a standard desktop version). These days, your website must be “mobile first”. That means that your website should be designed for the mobile user first before even the desktop user.

According to BGR Media, smartphones are more popular than desktop computers for searching the web.

That’s why search engines demand that your website offers a premium experience on mobile devices. Your website needs to look good on smaller screens, too. That means, no pinch to zoom, no teeny buttons, and equally tiny text.

Ir your site doesn’t automatically reformat to the device being used, it’s time for that website redesign you’ve been thinking about.

4. You’re Not Optimizing Your Title and Meta Descriptions

Two areas that are easy to overlook: the page’s title tag and meta description. But they have a big impact on when your content appears in search and who goes to your site.

You need to have a unique title tag and description for every page and post on your website. This gives vital information to web crawlers who are indexing your site. You should use keywords to optimize each title tag. This will help both web crawlers and, more importantly, humans understand what your page is about before clicking.

You can reach the right people if you take time to learn how to create a title tag and meta description that aligns with your content.

Learn what goes into a title tag. You can also check out how to write a killer title tag here.

5. Your Blog Posts are Unfocused for Search Engines

A great way to improve search engine ranking is to be intentional with your content.

Whether you have a blog, or you just have information pages on your website, remember to write for a specific goal in mind. More than likely, that goal is to get customers.

So it makes sense to target two or three keyword phrases that describe your product/ service – keywords that your potential customers use when searching on Google or Bing – and then write content that explores these topics.

Have a strategy to write blog posts that zero in on what it is your potential customers actually care about. (Hint: they don’t really care about your latest vacation, random experiences, or unrelated and unsolicited opinions.) Your potential customers only care about how you can help them solve the problem that landed them on your website to begin with.

6. You’ve Forgotten to Include a Call to Action

When visitors land on your page or blog post, hopefully they’ll get the information they’re looking for. But what will happen next? If you don’t give your visitor the next step to take, you’re leaving too much up for chance. The visitor may browse around your website, or the visitor may just leave your site and never return.

Instead, figure out how to engage your visitor and share the next step. Always ask for the order, but also give away free information that’s super useful. The rule of the day is to be creative and generous. You want your visitors to be glad that they found you. (See this post about design and lead nurturing.)

A call to action with help keep the visitor on your site longer. It will also encourage the visitor to interact with your content and hopefully build a more meaningful relationship with your business.

Final Thoughts

It’s time to get started. Giving your attention to each of these topics will pay off. We know they aren’t the easiest to do, but we’re not sending you on a wild goose chase: Our clients who have followed through have websites that now have great online visibility. We’re sure you will, too!

Janet Chiu, Strategic Team Blog Author

The creatives I work with ask provocative questions about the latest trends in website marketing. Strategic Team is where we work out the answers (and have a little fun).