“To err is human; to forgive, divine.” – Alexander Pope

Mistakes — we all make them.

They’re a normal part of being human and integral to the learning process. Without mistakes there’s no way for us to know how to improve, and improvement is everything when it comes to content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO).

Now that you’ve taken the initiative to start optimizing your website for the search engines, I’m going to alert you of some common mistakes you should steer clear of along the path to marketing success.

1. Selecting the wrong keywords

Your keywords need to be relevant to both your business and what your target customers are searching for. Don’t make the mistake of choosing keywords that are too general (because that usually means they’re way too competitive) or irrelevant (because irrelevance is the opposite of optimized). If you do this, you might as well not write new content at all.

For example, let’s look at Ryan Pinkham’s recent Constant Contact blog post “A 5-Point Checklist for Online Marketing Success”. It would not have made any sense for him to focus on a general keyword like “checklist” because you wouldn’t know what sort of checklist he’s referring to. He would also be competing with content from checklist gurus Evernote and Any.Do.

He wouldn’t want to use an irrelevant keyword like “Movie Tickets” either because it has absolutely nothing to do with the content of the article or what Constant Contact helps their audience with.

Begin by researching your keywords the right way to make sure they’re not super competitive, yet in-demand and relevant to your content. Then add them in all the most important on-page fields to properly optimize your pages.

2. Trying to do it all alone

Do-it-yourself is a common means in the small business world. I’m sure you’re probably used to doing things yourself and doing them well. There’s just one problem – doing SEO and content marketing by yourself just doesn’t work.

It’s too time-consuming, ineffective, and unsustainable.

Do-it-together is the best way to market your business online. It’s called co-marketing and it  works.

It is  much easier to work with other online marketers who are already working with your next best customers. There are thousands of other businesses who could benefit from your unique, insightful content. Build co-marketing partnerships by reaching out to other businesses in your industry that you have already have relationships with and see if you could exchange content with one another for backlinks.

These types of symbiotic partnerships build authority and save time, making content marketing and SEO sustainable, effective tactics for your small business.

For instance, if you’re a bike shop you should connect with a health food store across town to exchange content about healthy foods to eat before or after a long bike ride. Or if you’re a marine audio equipment shop, you should reach out to a custom boat builder and exchange content about the best speakers for pontoon boats. You see the relevant connections there?

3. Building backlinks manually

All small business websites need to build their relevant backlinks from their partners to build their authority. Relevant backlinks are the rocket fuel that blast your pages to the top of the search results.

Backlinks are typically built following a very arduous process that requires a lot of time and legwork. You have to find the partners, vet them, contact them, pitch them on your content, write/deliver the article, then make sure they publish and promote it. It’s a sales process. And it’s a lot for a small business to handle.

A backlink is considered relevant when there’s some sort of connection between the two businesses that link to each other, like the example I gave in point number two. Although all backlinks are good, those that are relevant and from more authoritative sites are better as they benefit you much more.

Based on recent guidance from Google (via Moz) the most valuable links for SEO are links are also the most valuable for general marketing, because they deliver the right audience of new visitors to your website.

Leverage the power of your best partners by having them link to you!

For example, it would be helpful for Constant Contact to have an inbound link from one of their small business customers like a BBQ joint in North Carolina, but it would be much more beneficial and relevant for them to have an inbound link from an authoritative email marketing evangelist and key influencer like John Jantsch of Duct Tape Marketing.

There is a strong correlation between their audiences. Both are small business marketers looking for useful email marketing tips, and John’s audience is large and extremely engaged, making the link much more authoritative and impactful.

To automate the backlink process, you should set up Google Alerts and hashtag streams in your social media aggregate (I suggest HootSuite) to be made aware when specific keywords and content relevant to your business is published by your potential partners. Then engage with these businesses to start building rapport. Once you’ve established a solid relationship it’s time to make the ask to exchange helpful, relevant content that will benefit their audience.

Mitigate your SEO mistakes

When it comes to SEO and content marketing, the three aforementioned mistakes should always be avoided. I hope you take my advice and don’t spend another minute using the wrong keywords, working alone, or building inbound links manually.

Do you want an even easier way to avoid these mistakes?

BoostSuite analyzes all your keywords to determine the best ones for your content marketing, connects you to thousands of marketing partners you never knew you had, and builds relevant inbound links to your website automatically instead of doing it the manual way.

There are certainly other SEO mistakes that you can make while optimizing your website. Do you have any stories of SEO strategies that have missed the target? If you know of other common mistakes or want to share your experience, please leave a comment!