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Ways that bad SEO can impact your website performance and revenue
Search is a powerful tool for any business that wants to be seen online, helping you draw vast audiences from search engines like Google towards your website.
By targeting relevant topics related to your products and services and creating optimised content that answers users’ questions in those areas, you can add real value to the customer journey and encourage people to click your website link ahead of your competitors, when you appear in the search engine results page (SERP).
Better yet, the traffic you receive will most likely be people who are already interested in the type of solutions that your business offers. This will dramatically improve your conversion rates, meaning the visitors you receive online are more likely to become paying customers.
With 68% of online experiences beginning with a search, getting SEO right is crucial, and will help to achieve increased visibility on search engines and increase meaningful traffic to your website.
In this digital world, it’s incredible to think that there are still brands that too often, ignore the worth of effective SEO or do not understand how to put it into practice. Worse, some brands may look to employ underhand tactics that give a ‘quick route’ to SEO success – but often end up having disastrous consequences.
This guide explores what bad SEO looks like and the impact it can have on your performance and revenue, plus how to implement good SEO techniques for your brand website.
What is bad SEO?
There are many ways to do SEO ‘badly’. Typically, bad SEO will refer to incidences where SEO practices have not been implemented correctly, or poorly researched, resulting in low or non-existent search traffic and low search rankings.
Examples of bad SEO might could include:
- Not understanding what your customers are searching, and therefore not matching search intent
- Targeting the wrong keywords (for example, using jargon when users tend to use more common language)
- Not answering the questions or providing the right information your audience is seeking
- Having a non-user-friendly website, such as being slow to load or hard to navigate and with no clear calls-to-action (CTAs)
- Not using meta-tags (e.g. H1s, H2s, meta-description and alt-text) to make it clear what your content is about and how to easily find what you want to read
All these factors affect how different search engines such as Google, crawl and understand your website. Ignoring them and excluding them from your site will cause you to rank lower in the search results and significantly reduce your access to revenue opportunity.
Another form of poor SEO is known as ‘negative’ or ‘black hat’ SEO. Negative SEO is associated with tactics that seek to give you a shortcut – or a ‘quick win’, using questionable and sometimes unethical methods. Examples include keyword stuffing (where you repeat the same words multiple times in a bid to rank higher for that keyword in search), unnatural links (creating fake sites that link to yours or seeking unnatural links to raise domain authority) and spamming (sharing your content multiple times, in irrelevant places, to increase your backlinks). At worst, hackers might even break into competitor sites for their own gain.
Although this approach is touted to get results quicker, it can have long-term risks to your SEO. Google is getting smarter at detecting negative SEO, and periodically change their algorithms to thwart these practices. If you are caught, you will be penalised. So, always avoid being tempted into such practices or ensure that your third party SEO practioner isn’t deploying these underhanded tactics without your knowledge.
The effects of bad SEO
Whatever form of ‘bad’ SEO you are carrying out, intentionally or unintentionally, there will likely be a knock-on effect to your website performance and broader success. We’ve listed the most significant impacts.
- It harms your traffic potential
SEO aims to get your content in the top result of Google when someone completes a search relevant to your brand. With the first page of results receiving 70-90% of all clicks, ranking high is crucial in gaining exposure to your online audience.
If you successfully rank in those top spaces, you will benefit from increased clicks and visits to your website provided that you are answering the questions searchers are asking and offering that aligns to their interests or needs, which will then encourage those users to click your link. This can kickstart a customer journey, allowing you a level of control in guiding them through their awareness, consideration and decision making stages of their journey, countering their pain points and providing the right advice and information that ultimately results in a positive purchasing decision with your business.
If your SEO efforts are poor, you’re unlikely to secure a spot on the first page of Google, meaning searchers will seldom see you and most likely click on a competitor’s link, or elsewhere, and your own traffic simply won’t grow.
It’s also worth noting that bad SEO can result from low domain authority due to too few backlinks. As these backlinks often act as a referral from one website to yours, this can further limit your traffic potential and make people less aware of your content.
- You’ll miss opportunities
Utilising SEO is a fantastic way to jump onto trending topics and understand what your customers are interested in and what they are talking about right now, using keyword research and social listening to monitor their behaviour and discussion points.
Once you have identified the topics that your audience is aligned to, you need to utilise the right keywords and search terms. If you don’t do this, you are unlikely to capture relevant users to your brand, who will remain unaware of what you have to say, even if it’s insightful. This could lead to missed opportunities, where you could have contributed value to conversations, attracted significant traffic and even generate backlinks by offering your unique perspective, all of which would improve brand visibility and reputation.
- It creates a poor user experience
When compiling a search, a user will have a specific need they are looking to fulfil, such as finding a product or getting an answer to a question. Good SEO should understand and meet that need and offer an easy ‘pathway’ to access the different types of information that they might need on their journey.
Poor SEO may use the right keywords but not actually address what the user is looking for. For example, if I search ‘quick vegetarian dinner recipes’, I’m probably expecting to see a dish that I can create in less than 30 minutes. A webpage could use the word ‘quick’ to appear for that search, but if I then click through to a two-hour recipe, I am left disappointed because it’s not what I want. This frustration and dissatisfaction makes for a poor user experience between customer and brand and can leave a lasting impression!
Ineffective SEO is also associated with unclear, disjointed, or slow user experiences (such as hard to navigate websites, unreadable text and slow page loading times), which will make your website difficult to engage with. A user is unlikely to have the patience to deal with it, so will swiftly exit and go to a competitor link instead. This means you alienate potential customers, lose traffic and damage your brand credibility.
- There could be long-term damage
Consistently bad SEO will make Google unlikely to rank you for any search term. Its priority is serving Google users by delivering beneficial results – so if you continually offer a terrible experience, it won’t want to recommend you. This is generally gauged by factors like a low domain authority score, limited traffic and a high bounce rate (meaning people are quickly leaving your website). Using black hat tactics will also cause Google to penalise and even ban you, preventing you from appearing in the results at all until the issue is rectified.
As SEO practices take months to have an impact anyway, the slower you are to understand and implement it properly into your website, the longer you will wait for results. This means you could be looking at long periods of low traffic and unexposed content. You won’t be benefiting from the conversation rates and sales associated with search marketing during this time either.
Even if a searcher has one negative experience with you – for example, clicking a result that turns out to be no good and not aligned with what they are looking for – they’re likely to remember it and avoid you in the future. This means you will need to deal with ongoing consequences to your reputation that can be hard to resolve.
By improving your SEO now, you will start generating backlinks and improve your search presence. With this, you can begin attracting more users to your websites, with sales and revenue potential behind each visitor.
- It wastes time and effort
You could spend hours and plenty of money crafting amazing content, but it’s unlikely to draw a crowd if you don’t use best SEO practices. By neglecting SEO, you are simply making it harder for people to find you and see how valuable your brand is.
Alongside wasting opportunity and limiting traffic, you will prevent your content from driving the results you want – such as better brand awareness, a lower bounce rate, more conversions and rising sales. This means the time, cost and effort spent creating content will be wasted without offering you the return on investment you would hope to see.
Great SEO steps for your brand website
Whilst bad SEO is a quick and dirty option, it does have it’s risks and can have a detrimental effect on your website. The reality is, it’s pretty easy to implement great SEO instead – so why wouldn’t you? We’ve put together a quick six-step guide for effective SEO on your website.
Understand what searchers want
Start by developing insight, this includes undertaking keyword research, to understand precisely what topics people are interested in, that may align to your brand. This usually means searching any words you can think of that relate to your products or services and then looking for similar searches that people have compiled. You can also look at the terms that your competitors are using, and check how those rank as search terms. This will help you to put your findings into context.
This research has two benefits. Firstly, it allows you to identify the language your audience is using around that topic and align your content accordingly, targeting the right keywords that they will most likely use. Secondly, it will empower a refined content strategy filled with titles that are in current public demand and can help you to draw in relevant traffic that will likely have an interest in your brand.
Follow best practice
SEO is comprised of many technical on-page aspects, all of which are simple to implement. This includes using elements like heading tags (H1s and H2s), meta-descriptions, URLs, image alt-text and so on, in your website code and optimising them for your chosen keywords.
While this might sound like jargon if you’re not familiar with SEO, they will quickly become second nature once you get into the habit, and most good content management systems (CMS) will allow you to administer them. They are also essential in enabling the Google search robots to crawl your website, and help them determine where to rank your content under the appropriate search terms.
If you’re unsure what H1s or meta-descriptions mean, Moz has created a useful beginner’s guide to explain what each is and how you should use them.
Offer value, always
The best way to rank highly and drive traffic to your website is by creating excellent content that fully meets user expectations and offers value to their lives. In doing so, you should fulfil search intent, beat your competitors, and guide your customers effectively along their journey. It should also cause your conversion rates (and therefore sales!) to skyrocket.
Remember to review and adapt content over time so that you can continually optimise it and find new ways to add value to drive long-term results, as trends and appetites change.
Improve domain authority
We’ve already touched upon the importance of domain authority. By having a high score, Google will see you as as being a more reliable source of content, adding value to its users and will therefore will be more likely to consistently rank you highly.
Domain authority is measured on how many backlinks you have and the value of those backlinks (for example, a backlink on a credible site like the BBC is worth more than one on a little-known website). You need to build backlinks by reaching out to other websites and employing link building tactics to improve your score.
The additional benefit of having a high domain authority score is that you will be seen as a highly reputable brand and industry voice, meaning people will more likely listen to you and link to your website, over other similar entities, fuelling your backlink efforts further.
Create a great user experience
A sure-fire way to ruin your SEO effort is to have a slow, complex, or confusing website. That’s why it is essential to consider the user experience of your website if you want Google to rank you highly.
Ensure your website loads quickly (a good goal is 1-2 seconds for maximum SEO rewards), is easy to use and navigate around, and makes it obvious what you do. This means having legible copy, correctly formatted images and graphics, a sensible navigation and linking structure, and clear calls-to-action. The best way to test this is by conducting usability tests that measure how easily people can complete set tasks on your website.
Having these fundamental elements in place along with good quality content will make it simpler for Google to understand that what your website is offering correctly aligns to the relevant searchers. It also means that once a customer lands on your website and interacts with your pages, they are left satisfied, without any disturbance to their experience.
Although using ‘shortcut’ tactics may be tempting if you’re trying to save time or get quick results, the risk of being penalised simply isn’t worth it. If you do get any traction, the results are likely to be short-term compared to the long-term benefits of proper SEO.
Avoid measures such as keyword stuffing, duplicate content or fake backlinks. These tactics will be quickly identified by Google, and will lower your rank accordingly or they may even ban your content entirely until you take the necessary remedial action.
SEO is incredibly powerful, but only for those who implement the correct practices and spend the time creating the foundations that allow for optimisation. While bad SEO is easily done, whether it be through a lack of time, a lack of understanding or a temptation to resort to underhand methods, it can have dangerous consequences for your business, leading to you missing out on substantial traffic, sales and revenue potential.
By understanding the importance of doing SEO properly and what will help you succeed, you can embed the right practices into your website and content creation processes. Through this, you will grow your search presence, enabling relevant users to find you and turn you into customers. You’ll also enjoy the benefits of increased brand awareness, satisfied customers and better website performance results.