Why Your Keyword Research Isn’t Getting You Anywhere — Top 6 Mistakes Site Owners Make

Some keys to business success are timeless. The customer is always right. You should build solutions, not products. The best advertising doesn’t feel like advertising.

Newer on the list of business tenets is the art of SEO. Since the early 2000s, a business’s online presence has worked its way toward becoming akin to its brand reputation as a whole. There are still industries that thrive on word of mouth, radio ads, and TV commercials, but more and more individuals look to web browsers rather than billboards to find a product or service.

As in anything else business-related, there are about a million ways to get SEO wrong. Let’s cover the top six things you don’t want to do as a business site owner if you want your brand to crawl its way up the search results ladder.

You’re Putting All of Your Keyword Eggs In One Basket

Just as your high school English teacher taught you not to rely on Wikipedia as your only source of information, Google Keyword Planner, Moz Open Site Explorer, or any other analytics or SEO platform should not be your sole source of data as you’re planning content for your site.

Pull from multiple sources, and make data-driven decisions:

Basically, use the powers of Google, Moz, Alexa, and SEMrush combined. If you’re not already doing so, use an SEO-friendly platform to manage your site content. I find WordPress to be the best for this, if for no other reason than SEO plugins are abundant in the WP world. Take advantage of the complimentary SEO tools offered by a hosting provider like InMotion, too. May the search engine force be with you! 

You Suffer From Keyword Confirmation Bias

See if you can relate: You see a high-volume term and assume its context based solely on your own experience. You think of why you would be searching that phrase, and not necessarily how someone else may have a different reason or intent.

Let’s say the term you’re trying to capitalize on is “best event catering.” The implied question here is, “What’s the best catering company for events?” If you limit your answer to only apply to a portion of the asking audience, e.g., only covering parties with 50 or fewer guests, or not thinking about corporate gatherings, you run the risk of capping your keyword success. You’re essentially cutting your content, and its potential search engine success, off at the knees.

Let the search numbers (and the articles that rank, i.e., competitor research), do the talking, and don’t let your personal opinions overpower their voice. You want to answer user questions from all sides—factoring in every potential scenario and user profile.

You’re Misusing HTML Headings, Hindering the Success of Any Research

Certain HTML structure rules you just don’t mess with. You know the big ones: Each page should only have one <h1> tag, you shouldn’t haphazardly jump up and down the heading hierarchy, and to keyword stuff is to kiss your rankings goodbye.

What about the not-so-obvious stuff?

  • Mix up headings with synonyms (e.g., “top” instead of “best,” “low-cost” in lieu of “cheap”)
  • Capture more searches with eye-catching modifiers (e.g., “free”, “2017”, “for families”)
  • Don’t use heading tags for aesthetic emphasis; use bold or underline styling instead
  • Don’t only bold for emphasis; break up content with <h2>s where appropriate
  • Think of the user intent behind the search, and don’t use keywords in nonsensical contexts

In general, headings indicate the importance of the copy that follows. Your H1 is the most important; H6 tags represent the least important sections. So it makes sense that you’d want to add keywords into your headings for search purposes, and you’ll want to get your terms as close to the H1 or H2 levels as possible for the best SEO results. It’s a slippery slope to giving off a spammy vibe, though, so proceed with caution. A good rule of thumb is to focus on user experience when crafting your skeleton for your website content.

You’re Researching the Terms, Not The Topics (Write more! Write better!)

To truly rank #1 for competitive terms, you have to become an expert on the topic at hand. Don’t expect to rank with a few measly paragraphs when others have written 1,500-word dissertations on the subject (that are both easy to follow and well-cited).

Think from the perspective of your prospective customer, visitor, or reader (every one of them).

Your Heading or Anchor Text Language is Unnatural or Repetitive

Wording variation, or the use of mixed, natural language, is key in keyword research. Don’t get me wrong, keyword-rich anchor text continues to influence search rankings. However, don’t force it. Just because “women’s running shoes” has 27,100 monthly searches and is a pivotal term for your brand doesn’t mean you need to jam it into every H2 on your site and every link back to it.

Use mixed language throughout your site content, including headings, body copy, image alt text, and link anchor text. Not only does this dilute your keyword density and safeguard you from penalties, but this actually reinforces your credibility in the eyes of search engines. Google knows by now that “coffee shops” and “coffee houses,” or “best real estate agents” and “top real estate companies,” essentially mean the same thing or are at least related. No need to repeat yourself.

It doesn’t matter how buttoned up and professional you aim to come across as a brand, you want to sound human! Forcing head terms into unnatural positions in a heading or redundantly jamming competitive phrases into every link you build to your site does not a human experience make.

Your Blog or Site Lacks an Editor—Everyone Needs an Editor!

This tip seems to come up in just about every how-to or how-not-to article I write when it comes to site building, web marketing, or content in general. It’s basically the Golden Rule of content quality, though, so I’ll continue to drive the point home: Everyone needs an editor! It is impossible to be your own second set of eyes, so if you don’t have the resources to bring aboard a proofreader of some kind, at least give your content a second look-over the day after writing (before you publish).

More experts note the significance of grammar, spelling, and semantics in SEO:

Whether you’re attracting foot traffic to your brick and mortar or web traffic to your WordPress site, you have to know your audience and how to capture their attention. In the online world, attention goes hand in hand with searches. Avoid these six faux pas above, and your business will be well on its way to the top (of search results, that is).

Alexandra Leslie manages HostingAdvice.com as the Tech Vertical Manager of Digital Brands, Inc. Boasting 50+ years combined experience in various tech fields, the HostingAdvice team is the web’s leading source for information on all things web hosting.

5 Misconceptions Marketers have about their Customers

Understanding your target audience and customer base is the most important component in formulating effective marketing campaigns and communications. While understanding the value of your product to your prospects is the first step to increasing conversions, a lack of knowledge of your customers’ tendencies and pain points will sabotage your efforts.

Here are five common misconceptions marketers have about their customers, and some helpful suggestions for how marketers can align their efforts with the mind of the most important person in their business: the customer.

1. You = Your Customer

As much as we may want to believe this, it isn’t true. Many marketers and business owners fall into the trap of thinking that they know everything about their customers and how they behave. Don’t let personal opinions and preferences dictate the design and content of your website.

Re-align: Continuously interact with your customer find out who they are and what they want.

  • Use email and social media to deliver surveys and feedback forms
  • Place comment boxes on web pages
  • Utilize analytics software (like Google Analytics) to understand what your customers are telling you with their behavior on your website
  • Take advantage of web-based testing with services like UserTesting.com

2. The customers don’t know what they want

A 2012 report titled “Digital Evolution in B2B marketing” put out by CEB and Google revealed that, on average, customers progress nearly 60% of the way through the purchase decision-making process before engaging a sales rep.

Re-align: Recognize that today’s customer is educated and in most cases has already done a great deal of research before initiating the sales process.

3. More is better

Even though the consumer may be in the market for information, that doesn’t necessarily mean that more information is better. Ease of access to information and clarity of messaging is more important. According to Taylor and Francis Online, you only have about 0.05 seconds to make a good first impression on your website. Make it count.

According to a study by Google, users’ first impressions of websites are influenced by two design factors:

  • Visual complexity: How complex is the visual design of the website
  • Prototypicality: How representative a design looks for a certain category of websites

Re-align: Follow the K.I.S.S. principle (Keep it Simple, Stupid) when it comes to your web design and content and you’ll have a better chance to keep your customer on your site (and convert).

4. My customer doesn’t use mobile devices

According to the annual State of the Internet report by Mary Meeker from KPCB, mobile usage continues to grow rapidly and is at 25% of Total Web Usage vs. 14% Year over Year. This trend is even more prominent in emerging markets. For example, in Asia mobile usage is more than 35% of total internet usage. Mobile data consumption is at an all-time high of 81%, with video content being consumed even more.

Re-align: Start preparing your mobile strategy NOW if you haven’t already.

5. Personalization is optional

This is true, but it’s no longer about just including the customer’s name in an email message. Personalization has become much more sophisticated over the past few years.

According to a study last year by MyBuys and the e-tailing group, customized messaging and promotions based on past shopping or buying experiences increases the likelihood of buyer engagement and corresponding sales.

Re-align: Understand that consumers are aware of online personalization and they  tell us that they both value and expect it, as it makes it easier for them to find products that are most important to them.

Team Member Profile: Jeff Matson

Hometown: Laconia, NH
Position: Customer Community Team Member
InMotion Hosting team member since August 2012

Jeff MatsonHow did you get started in the web hosting field?
My initial exposure to hosting was when I was around 13 years old when I picked up a book on HTML and learned how to make some basic websites. Of course, I needed hosting so I chose a host that would suit my needs.

A few years down the road, a mentor of mine named Adam Fisher gave me my first introduction into affiliate marketing and I used those basic skills to become profitable down the road. Operating several websites, I became familiar with the hosting aspect of things.

I later became interested in Linux and started maintaining my own servers along with my websites so that I could have further control of things on the back end. This gave me a great overall versatility at a very young age.

I was always looking for a more efficient way to develop my sites and already had skills in PHP, so I moved things over to WordPress where a lot of the work was already done for me as opposed to building things from scratch.

My first true role in terms of hosting larger enterprise-class sites as when I joined a large manufacturing/wholesale company as a developer and SEO manager. I quickly moved up the ladder to become the Head of eCommerce in which I saw all direct interaction between customers, businesses, and hosting providers.

Jumping to several years later, I am now part of the Customer Community team here at InMotion Hosting, specializing in WordPress. I have further evolved that role to become a direct point of contact between WordPress users and InMotion.

What’s your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
My current role is as part of the Customer Community team in which I specifically specialize in WordPress-related news and tutorials. My position has greatly evolved over the time that I have been part of the team to become a direct point of contact between WordPress users and the hosting side of things.

I absolutely love every aspect of my position here. I have the opportunity to interact and make lifelong friends within the WordPress community. Without WordPress, I would not be where I am today so the ability to give back is priceless. When you do what you love, you will never work a day in your life.

Coolest gadget you own, want, or have read about?
The coolest gadget that I own would be my custom-built arcade machine that I built around a month ago. While it’s not quite where I want it to be in terms of appearance yet, the functionality is complete so there are a lot of fun nights playing arcade games with my friends on a full sized machine.

One thing that I do not yet own, but hopefully will in the future is Google Glass. With all of the things on my plate that I am constantly monitoring and working on, I feel like a huge burden would be lifted in terms of productivity. Anyone who knows me sees that I am constantly checking Twitter, email, WordPress news, and other things on my phone, so the more opportunities to leave my phone in my pocket, the better.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
I love WordPress and enjoy getting active in the community. If you use WordPress, be sure to search for WordCamps or WordPress meetups in your area.

What’s one word that would describe your personality?
Quirky

Team Member Profile: Christopher Fenning

Hometown: Combe Martin, Devon, England.
Position: Project Manager
InMotion Hosting team member since May 2013

How did you get started in the web hosting field?
Aside from some programming classes at school my first real exposure to web hosting came from my dad. He started his own business based around online retail and I watched through the early 2000s as he adapted to changes in technology for websites and web hosting.

ChristopherFenning

Throughout university I started to dabble with website design and ended up working on a few sites for myself and friends. That naturally led to me becoming a reseller, although on a tiny scale, and as the traffic on my websites grew I was forced to learn more about the hosting side of things.

The real plunge into hosting came when I joined InMotion Hosting to set up a Project Management Office for the company. There is nothing quite like taking on new product deliveries or large scale system changes to encourage rapid learning about hosting environments!

What’s your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
My main role is project management, helping the larger scale pieces of work to be delivered on time and to spec. The projects can be anything from defining and delivering a new product to replacing core systems such as the chat system.

Training and mentoring staff in Project Management is an important part of the role and is something that brings me great satisfaction. It helps the company grow as more people become able to take on the challenge of delivering large pieces of work. The best parts of the job are the variety of work to be done and being able to work across all the teams in the company. There is such a diversity of people and roles here, it is great to be able to be a part of that.

Coolest gadget you own, want, or have read about?
In a previous job my role was to manage the customization of cellphones for a major network in Europe. This meant I always has the newest phones before they were released to market. The most unique was a 3D phone from LG, launched around the same time as 3D films were coming out at the movies. The phone took both 3D pictures and video and even the games were in 3D. At the time it was pretty cool to have that level of tech in such a small package.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
Firstly I should say I am not from around here. Prior to 2012 I lived in England and worked mostly in Europe and occasionally in Asia. My wife and I moved to Virginia after she was offered a Job and without that I’d never have found InMotion Hosting. We are both very active and love being outdoors. The mountains are our biggest love with climbing, mountaineering, hiking and skiing being high on our list of regular activities. Most weekends, if I’m not catching up on the week’s activity in my UK based sports equipment business I can be found either in the hills or in the sea, and very occasionally I may be spotted at a craft beer or wine festival.

What’s one word that would describe your personality?
English

 

Team Member Profile: John Quan – Marketing

Team Member Profile - John QuanHometown: San Gabriel, CA.
Position: Marketing Program Manager
InMotion Hosting team member since December 2009

How did you get started in the web hosting field?
Before I joined InMotion Hosting, I was a freelance web designer and would host my clients’ websites. Here I was mostly dealing with managing domains and setting up emails.

When I joined InMotion Hosting as part of the Web Design team, my primary role was answering phone calls and replying to support tickets. This means I would help clients with questions related to hosting – some of which I had never heard of before. This is where I got my first exposure into what web hosting really was – restoring databases, monitoring usage, running backups, etc.

What’s your current role at InMotion Hosting? What do you like most about it?
I’m currently a Program Marketing Manager. For some detail, I would say this role is a blend of traditional marketing, product management/development, ux, web design and customer service.

What I enjoy most about this role is that I get to do different types of work on a daily basis. One day I could be brainstorming a new email campaign; on another I could be designing a landing page.

Coolest gadget you own, want, or have read about?
I think the coolest gadget I’ve read about is the Oculus Rift. This is a virtual reality headset that from initial reviews, looks to be a game changer and will take gaming to a whole new level.

What would you like to tell us about yourself?
One of my favorite hobbies is photography. I picked this hobby up about 8 years ago when I got my first digital camera. From there I upgraded cameras, got new lenses, and have been an enthusiast ever since. Some of my favorite types of photos include landscapes, candids, and night photography.

Here’s one of my favorite shots from the past year:
Sunset Flower

I’m also a big fan of being outdoors. I really enjoy hiking and cycling as they allow me to be outside white at the same burn some calories. One of my hiking goals this year includes day hiking Mt. Whitney.

What’s one word that would describe your personality?
Easy going.