Warning Signs That Your Search Engine Optimization Sucks

Don’t be shy.

As you think about your website right now… what’s working, what’s not — your face turns into a sour one… (yeah, I know the feeling, you are a bit embarrassed too, that’s OK… read on!)

Sleepless nights.

Maybe even lost some sleep over its poor performance in serving your clients, or the website is not making any money. Maybe your SEO is not working properly (nobody is finding you), or the pages are not “pretty enough”, or “slow loading”…?

Modifications not taking.

What’s worse, you’ve made some changes, but nothing is working or it’s just taking to darn long! How patient do you have to be?

SEO experts are telling you: “hurry up and wait – your SEO will starting working soon”.  And, when researching into forums, blogs and buying training courses – you get conflicting messages. Frustrated, you ask: what’s the right way to do this stuff?

How can you remove the pressure of waiting for Google’s friendly smiles, web traffic and then… finally … more business sales?

I feel your pain.

I’ve been where you are. You’re right – sometimes it’s not pretty. And yes, it’s a battle!

Ultimately, we business owners know what we are doing, and the value we provide to our marketplace. But, we need more help, especially when it comes to the “search engine (SEO) world”.

The good news is that you don’t have to be an Einstein here.

The 21 warning signs for bad search engine optimization should help open your eyes. You are not alone.

You have to (boldly) embrace “Google Eyes Spying On You”. But, it’s not as scary as you may believe.

You need to understand how the Google search engine works. Then, let me ask you – how would you grade your own website? From a 1 – 10, are you a 2 or 3? 7 or 8?

The Google Engine is like a baby. Simple, and well intentioned. Treat it like one.

So…why does Google search work so well? It’s really simple: content & links. Simple, right?

But, simple is not easy. Take a look.

1. Is your brand accidentally blocked?

Do not make the mistake (happens more often than you think!) of blocking the search engines from you. Yes, a simple command in the robots.txt will do this. When you are copying development files to production web servers, developers forget to make that change. It’s found in the root of your website.

So, for example: domainname.com/robots.txt.  Make sure that the Disallow flag does not contain the ‘/’ (forward slash). Unsuck your SEO here.

2. Did you name your page correctly – or at all?

A top consideration for search engines is the html TITLE tag. If you have placed keyword rich TITLE tags, and with a benefit-driven statement (if you can), you win! The rule of “keywords in copy, early & often” is useful … and, it starts with your TITLE. Unsuck your SEO here.

3. Visitors repeatedly ask themselves this question.

While many don’t consider this “SEO”… making sure the visitor gets what s/he wants is important.

The big G looks at user behavior, and if you are not appropriately serving the visitor with simple navigation, call to action and providing the information they are looking for, you lose. Part of this game will be user-centered design.

4. How fast can you answer the visitors question(s)?

Marketing online (and anywhere else for that matter) is PSYCHOLOGY. Human communication on steroids. Do you understand the user searching for you? Or, asked in a different way: are you matching your message to the market, and with the right media? Make sure you do.

5. The “Inception” character lived, every day… this way?

In the popular movie, Leonardo DiCaprio is a thief, given a chance at redemption, and his toughest job to date. But, every new change or action seems to push him further away from his goal.

But, sticking to his project assignment, his journey provides him with the opportunity to:

  • Meet new people
  • Trust new people
  • Find (search) more reliable information to help him move ahead

You may feel the same… every new turn provides less valuable information.

And, I’m talking about being a good guy here. Thieving or scamming is reserved for Black Hatters. While everybody (white hat or black hat) has the opportunity to win in search, only great relationships and networking, both offline and online will change your world — for the better.

Don’t too geeky.

6. Feeling like it’s 1999?

Is your content, layout and design dated?

And, for search..specifically… how often do you publish? How do you know when & if Google is visiting and storing your valuable information? While not a ranking signal per se, it’s a big one for users, and traffic tends to follow.

How would you like to visit your own site, and see old data. It’s like giving them a week old newspaper. Content & marketing can be your friend.

7. Serve delicious coffee & scrumptious cookies.

We know Google is watching bounce-rates, click-through-rates and repeat visits.

Do you know, for each page – what your metrics are? What are the most important?

8. Nobody likes you.

How many times have you built out a new website or blog post, toiled for hours (weeks?) – only to have nothing to show for it?

There is a reason, you know. Let’s get social, and offer useful, interesting conversation.

9. Put on your labcoat.

In the TV show CSI – many of the critical & revealing scenes are from the labs.

They are analyzing data, and at a microscopic level. An average webmaster doesn’t have to do it for SEO, but you must test, test, test. For example, adding new content and optimizing it with keywords (from text to rich media).  Do you know how well it works by just checking rankings? I think not.

10. The pecking order doesn’t matter.

PageRank is out. Consider that to be a marketing play only. I remember when I saw the green pixie dust moving from a 3 to 4, to a 5 to 6. How exciting! Turns out, it doesn’t matter. (I once had a client who said he’d hire me if I could get him from a 2 to a 4 PR. I told them no). Is PageRank dead?

11. Gutenberg would not have been impressed.

Adding text to a page filled with keywords, matching the background color of your page is lame, and it doesn’t work. In fact, it can and will work against you. Don’t do it. Value text/content for what it is: communication to/with your users first, then search engines.

12. What does #winning mean to you?

When you search in Twitter, you might still see references to Charlie Sheen for that word.

Try it in Google, and Sheen rocks again. And, outside of a Jack Welch book, a dictionary and a movie reference from 1969, he “owns” that word in search. The power of a celebrity, social media and people attracted to them, can shuffle results very quickly. And, in your favor. Not having a well defined social media campaign for your business means you are #notwinning (don’t think I want to own that word).

Search engines need your output. Then, create input (social), and become a #realwinner with words.

13. The SEO Commander-in-Chief does not exist.

True. Not even Google. You are the SCIC. Believe it, know it.

Test it.

Verify it.

And, consider local SEO kick-ass tactics to get closer.

14. Linking Yourself To Death.

Links pointing back (external links) to your web pages are key to long term success. However, with the recent Panda updates and the daily tweaks in Google, consider smarter link vetting and optimization of those.

Getting a high link count for sake of numbers is not as important as the quality of the links. The game has changed.

15. Are You a Big Dog? Watch & Learn.

A great way for you to get educated fast about what is working, is to watch what others are doing. For example, if you are an e-commerce webmaster, review Amazon.com, eBay.com, Shopping.com.

Not just for meta TITLEs, meta DESCRIPTIONs use, but how the websites operate, what content is offered, from unique and seasonal offers, navigation and checkout. Make sure you are converting & profitable.

16. Naming Your Kids.

Everything that is near and dear to you has a name. So be it with search/SEO.

For example, an image, a video, an audio file, a web page… they are named for what they represent. When you use keywords that are relevant and targeted, it can/will increase click through rates and search engines will better know how/where to classify them.

17. Get Movie-ing.

There is NO REASON for you not to have a video for your business.

Get moving, and create 2-3 videos that explain what you do. A simple FAQ format, or a ‘side-view’ interview is fine. Ask somebody to interview you, and answer the questions. Make it simple, and less ‘sales-pitch’ oriented is good. If YOU are the brand, try to make it personable, fun, interesting and useful. YouTube is owned by Google, and has the highest pageviews and activity for Videos online.

You can share these within social networks as well. How to make a YouTube video today.

18. Don’t dupe yourself.

While syndication (distribution) of your content is ok, duplicating content on your own website is not. We call this the “slow ranking death”. CMS (content management systems) often will create copies of web pages each time they are edited, for example.

You may not know it’s happening, until you see pages dropping.  Duplicate sets or URLs – how to resolve.

19. Diagnosticate.

It’s FREE: Get set up on Google & Bing with their Webmaster tools. Diagnose and operate. It’s that easy. Google Webmaster, checklist & Bing Webmaster logins here.

20. If you trust Google, Get This for FREE.

Download the free SEO guide and ask this: does it make sense? What appears self-serving?

21. On the 7th day, he rested.

You too.  Take my challenge below. Think about it. Take note of your own mindset on this. And, don’t be afraid…

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Yup, you know it: the fast-paced game of Google, social, search and SEO is constant.

And, every day Google fights millions of web pages trying to ‘illegally’ enter into their databases (yes, it’s spam).

However, you are on the good side, but feel like running on a treadmill that not only gets you to work out, sweat and burn calories (good), but it doesn’t let you stop (bad). The power is always on, and with you connected by the hip.

Finding the time and energy to jump on in the first place… that’ s one thing, but to keep up — is seemingly an “other-worldly” task. It may only be for the few warriors in us who want to make a change for ourselves, our families and, perhaps, the world.

But, ultimately, a warrior is what you have to become.

Combine this attitude and way of living with the smarts of a wizard (the art & science of it), and power of your “outer” and “inner” game.

Stay the course, don’t give up, and continue your search marketing education.

I’m game.

Are you?


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Entrepreneur Magazine says Jon Rognerud is one of the most sought-after Digital Marketing Experts. His clients extend from high-end brands and middle-tier businesses in both B2B and B2C. His SEO website optimization book, "The Ultimate Guide to Optimizing Your Website" from Entrepreneur Press is in bookstores now.