While 2020 was a doozy for most businesses in general GLOBALLY… 2021 is going to prove to be just as much a Pandora’s box when it comes to search engine changes that Google is rolling out. Being proactive and flexible is the only way to have a chance in 2021 and beyond. Something everyone quickly had to learn in 2020. We just have to apply it to our websites too.

There are classic SEO ideas that are still true today like 70 characters or less Meta Title Tags, or 155 character max Meta Description tags. However, some things change on search engines faster than some businesses can keep up with. Here is an easy to follow list of overlooked mistakes that will keep you from the top of the search results. Follow this outline to avoid problems and keep current. Help your SEO stay white hat and performing well.

1. Domain Name with Keywords

In the past, if you got the domain “RedShoes.com” you would have a leg up on Google for the term “red shoes” when someone searched for it. That is no longer the case. Get a memorable domain that can be easily read and remembered after only a second. The keywords included have ABSOLUTELY NO BEARING on your search rankings. So don’t think it will help. Avoid excessive dashes, including numbers, or commonly misspelled words.

2. Site Speed / Page Speed

While already a user experience factor, Google is introducing the speed of a site and it’s individual pages as a primary ranking factor beginning in May 2021. Less than 3 seconds total load time is the standard now for general user experience. As fast as possible is the recommendation. On mobile devices, 1.5 to 2 seconds is going to be the benchmark. AMP pages are still the easiest way to achieve this with less design and more focus on delivering only the content. On desktops, 2.5 seconds or better should be the goal for all pages by May 2021.

3. Missing Important Keywords in Your Page URLs

Stop making /services, /about, /contact, /locations pages. It’s useless and a pain for SEO’s to redo correctly. When you are creating pages, be mindful of your page naming conventions to capitalize on a more robust keyword or branding opportunity. One of the first things search engines look at for ranking factors is the URL (not the domain, just the page name) so get rid of weak URLs.

4. Diluted Content – Focus Pages on One Keyword Phrase per page

Search engines are going to read all the pages you have built and why not have some organization and some keyword focus. Choose one primary focus keyword per page and stick with it. Yes, you should use that phrase elsewhere but its core definition and a full detail of the product or service should be covered in one all-inclusive page. If you don’t have enough content to write a full solo page about a service, you can’t expect to consistently rank for it.

5. Don’t stop doing ongoing SEO improvements. There is NO End to SEO…

I can’t tell you how many times I have been asked how long SEO will take and how much more work will get a page to the top. It’s not a set distance, there is no max out. You can do too much too fast when it comes to SEO, but your SEO effort should be ongoing as long as the site is live.

Don’t blow your annual marketing budget on SEO alone. Diversify and try new avenues and use Google Adwords, it’s there to help businesses get visibility quickly. Improving your quality score on Adwords with appropriate content on landing pages will help two fold, the Adwords spending will increase and your organic results can climb due to the great content. Double win!

6. Not Showing a Secure Connection – Get an SSL, Even If You Don’t Need One

Having an HTTPS is an SEO ranking signal on Google whether we like it or not. If your website is built properly and it should have a contact form or lead generating tool of some kind to connect with your customers, an SSL is not out of the question for you. SSLs were meant for ecommerce sites collecting credit card info. That doesn’t mean people don’t appreciate it when they know their phone number and email aren’t being distributed either.

Having an SSL is now a requirement for collecting data of any personal level in Europe due to the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation). So, if you plan to do business in Europe, your website should get an SSL. Even if you don’t do any business in Europe, still get an SSL to secure your website and the information collected on it.

7. Not having a Mobile Friendly site – It’s already hurting you if you don’t have one

Google already is verifying compliance with their Mobile Friendly standards by adding a very obvious tag on mobile device search results. “Mobile Friendly” means your site meets the Google standard for mobile sizing, alignments, buttons, text size, etc. Your site already may meet the requirements but it’s not hard to comply with.

So take the time and get your site Mobile Friendly. It has already become a ranking factor in that Google gives priority to mobile friendly sites and it’s only going to get more strict in standards. Allegedly, mobile users are already trending to only click mobile friendly sites so it could be a good marketing tool as well.

8. Link Audits

Who is linking to you matters. Companies don’t pay attention to links coming into the site as much as they should. Think of inbound links as a popularity vote. And each vote is cast by a judge whose own rank varies from 1-10. All of your scores are averaged and you get the mean. If a Judge whose rank is 2 votes for you (links to your website) then your score is now averaged with that low 2 included. If ALL the inbound links you have are “2’s” then your link profile will reflect a 2. You want 10’s. So, doing bi-annual link audits to disavow and remove poor quality inbound links has become a staple in our SEO process to weed the garden of hindering links.

9. Content Length

Having the bear minimum is not okay when it comes to SEO and content. “Content is King”, while I abhor that phrase with the intensity of a thousand suns, its frankly true. The quality of the content is absolutely gospel and a must. The length is also a factor. Like a real ranking factor. So It’s not “quality over quantity”. Its “quality in quantity”. The minimum recommendation from Google to be considered a “page” for SERP (Search Engine Results Pages) consideration is 300 words.

The length recommended for GOOD rankings is 1200. Bit of a difference. 1200 words is a lot of content. At this point in this post,  we are at 1189 words. So, about this long is the recommended, to give you some perspective. My REALISTIC recommendation is meet in the middle. 500 words or more and you should be good. Not because it’s awesome, but because most other companies are not doing it. You will stand out and you can get ahead by putting in more than the minimum.

10. Social – Do it until it hurts

People spend more time on their phones checking social media than they do talking to their families. That is a sad but very true fact. So get on there. If you own a business and your only form of communication is your website… just go home. You are done. Having as many avenues flowing into your business is how you gain customers, recognition, and growth.

Social media has so many platforms for business to engage with. Photos only, full posts, videos, client testimonials, industry groups, event participation, etc. You can reach more people today with Twitter than you could with a nation-wide print and TV ad campaign 10 years ago. Social has also become a sizable rank factor for search engines to consider. Do you engage with your audience? If the answer is no, you are only hurting your SEO.

Get out there and let your audience find you. In a WORLD of social distancing, people need information in order to make decisions. Before they even consider picking up the phone, customers want to know that you are the expert and you are what they need. Help them find you and get them the expertise your business offers by getting on top of search engines. Make your site the best resource for information, ecommerce, and expert advise in your field by making your site faster, with more content, with social sharing features and feel the difference between surviving as a business and thriving as a business.