SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and it’s the process of optimizing your entire online presence so you can rank higher in search engine results and be found by engaged couples and your target audience. You may think SEO has fundamentally changed in 2016. And you’d be right. I’m sure you’ve heard of the dreaded Panda, Penguin, and Hummingbird algorithm updates from Google. These cute and innocuous-sounding creatures ruined businesses from 2011. From that standpoint, SEO may sound tougher than ever. But really, it’s not.
The good news: SEO is easier than ever for normal folks like you and me. It’s no longer just about keywords and optimizing your website from a technical standpoint. In fact, anyone can start optimizing their website for search today!
At its heart, Search Engine Optimization is about posts and articles being the most useful resource for web visitors as possible.
Let me repeat that, because it’s crucial. When you write an article or blog post, your job is to make it the most useful and valuable article or blog post on the entire internet.
Take a moment to let that sink in.
If you can satisfactorily answer questions searchers have, and even give them the most useful and valuable information that they can find on the internet — perhaps information they didn’t even know they needed, — you will win at the search engine optimization game.
The bad news: SEO takes time and consistent effort on your part. Many wedding professionals get it wrong by rushing through it or ignoring it altogether. Here are the top 9 SEO mistakes I see wedding vendors make (and how to fix them easily).
Mistake #1: Not Doing Keyword Research
Like many marketing endeavors, SEO starts with solid research. Every day, Google receives around 3,734,752,349 searches. Your job is to figure out the questions your Ideal Clients are asking, that you can answer. You’re looking for the topics they are interested in and the keywords they are using to find out how to solve a problem. This problem is special in that you can help them with it – and rank on a search engine!
There are numerous free and paid tools you can use. Regardless of the tool, when you’re conducting research, you want to keep these three things in mind:
- Volume: You want to find keywords and phrases with enough people searching for them to justify the investment;
- Competition: You want to identify keywords and phrases you can actually rank for, and
- Intent: You want your content to match the intent of the user who is searching.
Start by brainstorming a huge list of keywords based on your own experience. Take the list and start plugging terms into keyword search tools and to find keywords and phrases you think you can rank for. As you do your research, actively ask yourself, “Can I rank for these keywords?” There is a sweet spot between volume and competition that you’re looking for. In the end, you should have only a handful of keywords to work on at each time.
Mistake #2: Forgetting to Optimize for Location
Once the bride and couple are through the inspiration phase, it’s time for them to start researching potential vendors. This is when they are looking for you, in your specific location, which is the place at which they are getting married. For example, they aren’t just searching for random “wedding planners,” like anyone, anywhere. They are specifically searching for wedding planners in your location (or wedding photographers, or florists, or cake bakers, and so on). Therefore, if you live in San Francisco, and you’re a wedding photographer, you’ll want to optimize for wedding photographers in San Francisco, along with any related terms and locations.
Mistake #3: Failing to optimize your images
Be sure to optimize the file name, title, alt text and descriptions of your images with keywords and related terms to help with on-page SEO. Good image optimization will also help you to be found on Pinterest and Google Images searches.
Optimizing image file sizes can speed up your site, which will help your rankings. Both Google and visitors hate slow-loading sites. Not only will Google penalize you for a slow site, but if it sees visitors “bouncing” out of your site quickly because they don’t want to wait for images to load, you may get a usability penalty too.
Mistake #4: Not Having a Blog
Many SEO companies are rebranding themselves as content marketing agencies, and for good reason. Google is a voracious reader with a huge appetite for fresh, relevant content. Therefore, creating high-quality, evergreen content is actually a secret weapon for ranking.
It’s no longer enough to build a brochure-style website and walk away from it. You need a constant stream of content for Google to read and index in order for you to keep its attention. The added benefit is that you have a steady stream of great content to promote and re-promote on social media.
I recommend blogging at least once per week and sitting down once per month to plan, outline, write, and schedule your posts.
Focus on producing high-quality content that your ideal clients, trusted colleagues and online influencers are likely to share. This type of “evergreen content” will serve as your website’s foundational content, addressing the myriad needs of your ideal clients. It also had the added benefit of attracting more links and engagement over time, which in turn affects what’s called your off-page SEO.
Mistake #5 Forgetting about Off-Page SEO
Creating amazing content is only half the battle. Google is looking for signals of your popularity and value to others. Since its inception in the early 2000s, Google has gauged website authority by looking at links coming in from other authority sites. This is still the core signal that drives ranking.
Think of it as a popularity contest online. While there have been significant changes in the algorithm that prevents “black-hat” practices which try to game the system, Google still values content that is so valuable and of such high quality that people want to share it far and wide.
Start your off-page SEO strategy with a distribution plan. The idea is that if you can get your content in front of a large group of people from your market, a portion of that group will link to you. (This is not the same thing as targeting all of your Facebook groups and everyone you’ve ever known and start spamming them with every piece of your content.)
Instead, use your personal networks, social media, email marketing and other content marketing channels to get your message and exceptional content to the exact people who will love it the most.
Be purposeful, thoughtful, and above all, helpful.
You can also get inbound links through guest blogging, forum participation, comments on other blogs and websites, and engaging in PR strategies. Again, this isn’t about ‘spraying and praying’ with your content. Your strategy should be thoughtful and get the right content in front of the right people so it’s shared.
You want to develop high-quality, meaningful, and useful content that not only attracts links but also gets web visitors to stay on your site longer. The longer people stay on your site, the more trust you can build. The more trust you build, the more clients you can book. Remember, at the end of the day Google isn’t planning a wedding, brides and couples are. If they get to your site from a number-one ranked search result and don’t find what they are looking for, you lose (no matter what your ranking in Google is).
Mistake #6 Having a Flash Website
Google cannot see any of the content on your Flash website. It does not see your text, it does not see your images, it does not see anything but some meta tags that you may have entered. And meta tags alone no longer affect ranking. Basically, if you have a Flash website, your site is practically invisible to Google.
Furthermore, flash does not work on iPhones and is typically not mobile-responsive.
Mistake #7 Not Having a Mobile-Responsive Website
On April 27 2015, Google made a huge change to its algorithm. Now, if you have a mobile-responsive website, it will be “positively impacted” in mobile search. If you do not have a mobile-responsive website, then Google may downgrade your mobile search rankings.
This is important because 86% of engaged couples are considered Millennials, and more than 85% of Millennials use a smartphone. In fact, many of them rely on their smartphones as their sole method for accessing the web.
Basically, if a potential client can’t find you online when she is searching on her smartphone, then you do not exist. Therefore, you cannot book her and you lose.
Mistake #8: Writing for Google Rather Than Your Reader
Ranking well on search engine results pages (SERPs) is only the first step.
Google’s success lies in its ability to deliver the best search results to a user’s inquiry. Google cares about more than just your website and the way you optimize keywords. Google also cares deeply about the experience the user has on your website. Google wants to see that web visitors are satisfied with your website and that you have answered their search question and offered value.
To this end, Google is monitoring what people do on your website once it sends you all that search traffic. To determine that you are providing useful and engaging content, Google looks at things like time on site, pageviews, and bounce rate. If it seems like web visitors don’t like what they find once they click to your site from Google, Google may downgrade your rankings.
Therefore, it’s important to write content that your website visitors will adore and find useful. Are you seeing the pattern here?
Mistake #9: Giving Up Too Soon
Do not expect instant results. SEO is a long-game endeavor. It will take a while before you see results. You should plan on at least 8 to 18 months, depending on your competition. However, if you do the work and carve out time each week to optimize, you will see results. A little goes a long way over time.
Bonus: 4 free tools to get you started with Keyword Research!
- Google Keyword Planner is a free tool that will give you information on search volume and make suggestions for further keywords. It also groups related keywords into ad groups, which you can use to create fresh content around related keywords and phrases. The keyword planner is great because the data is actually coming from Google. Be careful about paying too much attention to the competition tool. That data only includes Adwords advertisers. Instead pay attention to search volume and related keywords.
- Uber Suggest: I use this with Grepwords Chrome extension for a huge list of related keywords and phrases and their search volume.
- Keyword Eye: This is a new tool that allows you to type in your keyword and it will show you all the other related phrases it finds associated with that term. This helps you find all of the ways people are talking about your topic, so pages that contain that term are more likely to be related to that topic.
- Keyword.io: This is similar to Keyword Eye but it will also let you look at all of the pages that are ranking for your keyword and find words and phrases that are associated with it. It will also give you all sorts of other information like trends.