Stephen Pitts

When it comes to implementing smart SEO practices on your website, expert Stephen Pitts recommends starting simple.

“I have seen the most common mistakes coming from overlooking the fundamentals, getting into more advanced tactics without finishing with the basics,” the SEO director and craft lead at Rosetta says.

On his blog, SEOpittfall, Stephen offers advice to website owners on how they can recognize SEO opportunities while avoiding the numerous pitfalls that come with driving traffic to their site.

Here he tells us more about his blog, offers a few tips on how business owners can make their sites more search engine friendly and shares his predictions for SEO in 2014:

Tell us about SEOpittfall; when and why did you start the site?

SEOpittfall was the evolution of my first blog on SEO and digital marketing that started in 2004. I wanted a place to interact, educate others and learn about the craft of SEO and digital marketing in general. Since I was in-house at the time of its inception, it became my playground to test ideas as well as my outlet and “soap box” to present my thoughts and findings on digital marketing.

Who should be reading it?

My blog is intended for a broad audience. I try to speak to those in the know without talking over the heads of those not as familiar with a particular topic. I write conversationally, usually one with myself, in an attempt to be a little snarky and trying to not be too dry.

What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned over the years about SEO?

Nothing is as it seems or one size does not fit all. I have found that what works for one site won’t always work for another. Also, don’t overlook the fundamentals when starting with a website’s optimization.

What are the smartest things small business owners can do when it comes to making their site SEO friendly?

Focus on the visitors they are trying to reach. The five W’s are a good place to start:

1. Who am I trying to reach?
2. What are they looking for?
3. When are they looking for it?
4. Where are they looking for it?
5. Why are they looking for it?

If you can answer this for the people you are trying to get to visit your site, you will do well. Don’t overlook referring sites, display advertising, social media and other sites just because search engines get a lot of attention from users. Visits are only valuable if they convert.

How much DIY SEO do you think a small business owner can handle? When should he or she consider hiring a professional?

I think that a small business owner should be able to understand what SEO is before they consider DIY or hiring someone. There are a lot of people and services in the industry that aren’t good stewards of other’s websites so a small business owner should be informed prior to opening the hood on their website or hiring someone else to do it for them. If you are informed, you can make a better choice to do it yourself, hire a person on your staff or hire an agency.

What advice do you have on tracking and analyzing your SEO effectiveness? Any tools to make this process easier?

Don’t just focus on rankings. Metrics you should be monitoring are your rankings, indexed pages, unique keywords and inbound links for your SEO health; referrals, average length of visit, pages per visit, unique visitors and bounce rate for your usability health as well as conversions and revenue for business growth.

There are a number of tools to help monitor your SEO health (BrightEdge & Moz come to mind) and analytics tools like Google analytics to monitor the usability and business growth.

How has SEO changed since you started in the business?

The fundamentals have not changed: Break down the barriers for search engine crawlers to access and understand your site, be relevant and authoritative. However, the tactics leveraged to influence these has. Social media and blogging have had an impact, as well as what search engines have been able to understand about websites. These now influence the three fundamentals of SEO, accessibility, relevance and authority.

What are the most important SEO trends you’re predicting for 2014?

There are two underlying things that I feel are important that may or may not have an impact in 2014 … sorry, I’m not a fortuneteller (insert smile here).

The first is that I feel like there will be one or two more algorithm updates from Google to weed out sites trying to circumvent the system and sites that aren’t will likely be affected (happens almost every year, so it’s a safe prediction).

The second is the influence of the device on rankings. It’s clear to me that most of us have different expectations of what we see in search results on a mobile device versus a tablet or a desktop. Currently, search results are pretty similar. I think the search engines will focus on a good user experience on these types of devices as a primary driver of rankings sooner rather than later. I’m not saying that “2014 is the year of mobile,” that’s been overdone for five years or so. And I’m not saying responsive design will be table stakes either, but a good user experience across devices will be.


Stephen has been in digital marketing since 1999 and has a background in retail management and inside sales; he’s also a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.