Contributed by Jackie Carrillo, a content coordinator and contributor who writes on technology, marketing, business management and education.
SEO is often touted as one of those essential business practices that are simple enough to do yourself. After all, you probably have the power to edit your business’s website, so you can stuff pages with keyword phrases, sprinkle links galore and alter other factors that could improve your performance on the search engine results pages (SERPs). Thus, you could conceivably save tens of thousands of dollars by going the DIY route — unless you run into some SEO trouble.
SEO is simple until it isn’t. Unfortunately, SEO can get exceedingly complex exceedingly quickly. To prove the point, here are a four relatively typical SEO problems that tend to be too complex for the average business leader to solve.
1. Your Website Indexing Is All Wrong
You can put all the care into optimizing your webpages—researching keywords, tinkering with metadata, etc.—but if Google can’t find your webpages, it is all for naught. Websites and pages don’t automatically join Google’s search. Google deploys digital spiders to crawl the web looking for new pages and content, and then the search engine indexes those new pages, or adds them to it search capabilities.
Some creators intentionally hide webpages from Google’s spiders or prevent Google from using those pages in search. In fact, this is a good SEO tactic if some of your content is lower-quality or non-vital to the user’s experience of your website, like archives of tags. Then again, many more websites accidentally prevent their pages from being indexed through shoddy coding. Unfortunately, you can’t tell your website developer to fix the problem because they don’t know what pages to index and what to leave hidden from Google.
If you are wondering what an SEO company is for, it’s knowing the difference between webpages that should and shouldn’t be indexed. You should work with an SEO agency to help you with indexing your website properly, so the right content has the chance to rank on Google’s SERPs.
2. Your Pages Are Competing Against Each Other
Many SEO DIY-ers use a tool like this one to research viable keywords, choose a couple relevant phrases and integrate those keywords into every bit of content on their website.
This strategy is called keyword cannibalization and it is not an effective strategy for getting multiple webpages on your site to rank. Instead of competing against other sites, your pages compete against one another, hurting the chances of all pages involved at ranking high on Google’s SERPs.
The solution is to create a keyword map, which will help you identify which keywords are used on which webpages. Then, you should strive to diversify not only your keyword phrases but also the topics of your content, so you avoid overcrowding. Again, you should work with SEO professionals to choose the best keyword phrases for your pages and compete with other websites, not only yourself.
3. Your Content Isn’t Structured to Google’s Liking
The number of backlinks to your website matters. The quality of your content matters. However, these factors matter a bit less if your content isn’t taking the right form.
Consider this example: You spend days developing a comprehensive, 3,000-word list of the best travel destinations for this year, replete with a few stunning, high-res images of a few destinations—but when you publish it, it doesn’t come close to ranking.
That might be because Google only deems content of this sort acceptable when they take the form of an image gallery with minimal text. You can determine this with a bit of research using keywords similar to your content, like “best travel destinations 2020.”
However, the differences in format between what you publish and what Google likes might be all but indiscernible to the average web user. Thus, you should rely on an SEO pro to perform thorough research on content styles before proffering instruction on content development.
4. Your Website Speed Is Embarrassingly Slow
Surprising to many SEO DIY-ers, website speed is one of Google’s top-ranking criteria. Google’s spiders don’t like wading through a slow website, and users hate waiting for pages to load, too. Thus, Google knocks points off websites that aren’t prioritizing haste and hustle, and that goes double for mobile.
SEO isn’t the only reason you should invest more energy into increasing your website’s speed on traditional and mobile platforms. Research shows that users will only wait about three seconds for a page to load before bouncing in search of a swifter page. Slower pages don’t just rank lower; they also are less likely to cause conversions because of their subpar user experience.
Yet, increasing speed isn’t as easy as it sounds. Typically, you need to tinker with exceedingly technical aspects of your site, like compression and code optimization, caching and content distribution. A simple speed boost comes from reducing the size of your images. Still, it helps to have a pro on hand to help you optimize your website for speed without compromising its quality.
Ostensibly, you can manage basic SEO on your own—but when your business encounters obstacles in its efforts to rank, you shouldn’t try to solve any problems without professional help. Your website is simply to valuable to harm with shoddy SEO practices.