There are plenty of good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) companies out there, but there are also some not so good SEO companies around. There are even more companies who either do a little bit of SEO on the side of their marketing speciality, or a little bit of marketing on the side of their SEO speciality. These approaches are strong in their own right but can lead to an SEO approach that misses marketing opportunities, or a digital marketing approach that misses SEO opportunities.
We’ve seen lots of good SEO from companies and lots of bad SEO from companies. We’ve seen even more that’s somewhere in between. SEO is a complicated game and it’s only natural that things can get missed, particularly in the above scenarios. Here then are the four things we’ve noticed cropping up again and again, when we’ve come across previous attempts at SEO.
Missing meta descriptions
There’s a fairly valid reason why meta descriptions are often missed: they contribute little or nothing to your rank. Because of this, some SEOs seem comfortable to leave them entirely blank. If you spot this happening: don’t stand for it!
Whilst it doesn’t contribute to rank (where you appear in search) it almost certainly contributes to performance (how many people click through to your website from Google). Your meta description is the one part of prose that people will see before clicking through (beyond the URL and title), so it’s your one opportunity to ‘sell’ your content to the user.
If the user’s search term is in your meta description it will also show up as bold in the search results, so not only can you improve performance with a strongly-worded description, you can get a nice little aesthetic boost as well. Make sure your SEO company is using meta descriptions! They’re not as redundant as some would like to think.
Length of… well… everything.
I’m afraid that size does matter in SEO. Your title needs to be around 55 characters but certainly no more than 60. Meta Descriptions should be around 155 characters. The thinking on the length of the page content itself varies, but most research points to content of around 2,000 words ranking better than the alternatives. That may seem long but it fits in with Google’s thinking around your content answering questions searchers didn’t even know they needed to ask.
A failure to follow any of those length guidelines - and we’ve seen plenty of examples of this happening - means that Google will cut you off in the search results at the limit and add an ellipsis, potentially rendering your meta description or title as nonsense. For content length, it just means that, no matter how much effort your SEO team are putting in trying to get you links, if the blogs aren’t long enough, they could be trying to ice-skate up a hill.
Blame the poor Panda/Penguin
If you’ve been hit by a sudden drop in search results then the typical response is to point to a Google algorithm change, or a tweak to a part of the algorithm like Panda or Penguin. Efforts are redoubled and the marketing company goes off in search of more links, or tries to erase a load of old links that might be causing the problem.
On occasion, this may be true but frequently we’ve seen sites that don’t appear to have had a penalty applied. More often than not, the reason for the drop in rankings is just that something hasn’t been done, down to the fact that titles and meta descriptions haven’t been optimised, or ‘thin’ content (pages with very little text on them) has been rewritten poorly.
An algorithm change is a definite possibility for a sudden drop and not just at the time the algorithm rolls out (it takes time for Google to crawl huge numbers of sites and apply the change). But before you or your SEO company blame the Panda/Penguin, just check that there’s nothing that’s been missed elsewhere. Think of the animals!
The below is a conversation that happens fairly often when a client moves from a mediocre SEO firm to a good marketing firm.
Client: “We’re trying to rank for the keyword ‘widget’.
New marketing company: “Oh. You do know that there is zero monthly search volume for the keyword ‘widget’?
Client: “No, we just told those guys that we wanted to rank for ‘widget’.”
SEO, like every other strand of digital marketing, is nothing without strategy. Ranking for keywords with no search traffic is useless. Ranking for keywords that attract browsers but not buyers is potentially useless. Attempting to do SEO at all in an industry that doesn’t attract search users (and there are some) is useless.
Know why you are doing everything you are doing and what impact it is having on your business. Every marketing company should be able to tell you those things.