In organic search marketing, even a small mistake can translate into substantial business losses. Have you considered what impact an SEO mistake might have on your business? Do you have an alternative/disaster plan? What measures do you regularly take to prevent business-lethal SEO mistakes?
A short example with some scary calculations will show why you must plan to avoid mistakes. Let’s say for the sake of an example that your site receives a robust 50 percent of its traffic from search and, due to an SEO misstep, is penalized with the result that, overnight, you suffer a 30 to 50 percent loss of search traffic. (As a math student, I hated word problems, so hang tough. We won’t do too much heavy math.) This means that your traffic would drop 20 to 30 percent overnight. If the bulk of your search traffic comes from just a few highly desirable top placements on business-essential keyword phrases, then the gash might be even deeper. There is no denying that humans do SEO, and to err is part of the human condition. So expect at some time, no matter how competent your SEO practitioners are, a mistake will occur. As they say in football, the best offense is a great defense. Here are a couple of ways to avoid mistakes.
1. Monitor Your Search Results — Don’t just watch your overall traffic. It is simple to just look at the top line and not look very deeply until it is too late. Watch your search traffic for anomalies that might signal a problem. If you do not regularly review your Google Webmaster Tools, you may find that you could have headed off a drop by taking remedial actions. For example, if your site is throwing errors or your servers have not been available for Google’s crawlers, you can expect to see your results drop. If you are flagged for having a large number of missing Titles and duplicate Descriptions, check into what is causing the problem. With large database-driven sites, a minor miscue on a template revision can create huge problems. They are often easy to fix, if caught in a timely manner.
2. Revisit the Best Practices for On-page SEO and Follow Them — On-page SEO tactics have been much-maligned and denigrated in recent years; however, best practice still puts Titles and Descriptions high on the list of simple must-dos. As Google continues to wage war against duplicate content, unique content becomes more important, and the Title and Description are a clear signal that a page is unique. If you do not create a unique Title and Description for every page, you are courting disaster. Screen for duplicate content and root it out before the Google Panda slaps you down.
By the way, it goes without saying that errors of omission can be avoided by keeping current on what are the current points of emphasis in search. Unique, high-quality content is the currency for top rankings. So focus on good-quality content, and you will not be making a mistake.
3. Don’t Buy Links — Although this admonition is part of the best practices, it is important enough to highlight on its own. Buying links is a mistake in two directions. First, you are wasting your money on the purchase, and second they are a mistake that can be easily avoided. Also, neat little reciprocal link exchanges can be problematic, too. Beware of any scheme that creates links unnaturally or in great numbers in a brief span of time. Link growth velocity is quite easy for search engines to measure and once caught, rapid growth will be punished.
Bonus: Get Your Site Audited — Periodically have your site reviewed and your SEO practices audited by an outside SEO professional. Even if your team is on top of what has to be done, it is very easy to get too close and miss a potential pitfall. It is well worth the fees, even if the yield is simply peace of mind.