SEO is an essential investment for growing your business online. There are definitely best practices to follow and a lot of great advice to try out for your website. But, there’s a lot of bad advice too, and plenty of mistakes and outdated tactics that can hurt your efforts. Here are a few common SEO mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1 – Not Investing in SEO at All
One of the most common SEO mistakes to avoid is not investing in SEO at all. You have a website, your business is online, and your potential customers are searching for your products or services.
If you’re not doing anything to build authority and drive traffic to your website, your potential customers will find your competitors’ websites instead. That’s a lot of missed opportunities, and missed revenue!
Mistake #2 – Stopping SEO Because You’re Not Seeing Instant Results
Unless it fixes a huge problem on your existing website, SEO will not offer instant results. SEO is a long-term investment with long-term goals. If you’re looking for instant traffic, you will need to invest in PPC or other paid marketing methods.
SEO focuses on consistent efforts over time. SEO efforts also compound over time. So, you have to give it time to work and the work needs to be done consistently, especially if you are just getting started online. New sites don’t tend to have any authority in the search engines; you have to build it, and good SEO over time will help you get there.
Mistake #3 – Producing Low-Quality Content
Publishing and updating content regularly on your site can help it stay relevant, build authority, grow traffic, and more. In addition to making sure your main website pages are meeting user needs, a blog is one of the ways to ensure your site has fresh, updated, relevant content on a regular basis.
As a business owner with a lot of responsibilities, content creation and regular blogging can be a chore and often get put last on the list. Because of this, it’s tempting to outsource it. There’s nothing wrong with doing this as long as the content is well-written. The SEO mistake happens when you go for cheap, quick content that is low-quality. You could even end up with duplicate or plagiarized content if you are not careful!
In order to build authority and credibility, and compete with the other content in search, the content you create needs to be relevant to the keyword topic, comprehensive enough to compete with what’s out there and satisfy search intent, and both well-written and well-structured for good readability. Anything less is a waste of time and resources.
Mistake #4 – Overoptimizing Content
SEO is an art and a science. You do want to be targeting the right keywords and using phrases that your potential customers are searching to find your products and services in the content on your website. You do want to provide context for search engines, so their spiders and algorithms can understand what your website is about.
But, you also want to be careful of how much you are optimizing your content. It is possible to overoptimize, which makes your content look unnatural and spammy. If it makes sense for users for you to add a keyword or add an outbound link, do it. However, make sure you are not stuffing keywords into your pages too many times and forcing them in unnaturally just to include them.
A Brief History of Keyword Stuffing
Keyword stuffing is an outdated tactic from the very early days of SEO that has, unfortunately, stuck around in some places. In the early days of search and SEO, the number of keywords held more weight.
The sites that had the most mentions and variations of a keyword on the page tended to be shown higher in results. Quantity was the focus and not quality. This led to a lot of low-quality content ranking high in the SERPs (search engine results pages).
Search engines and technology caught up, which allowed them to better process content on websites and context. This caused a major shift in SEO and coincided with the Panda and Penguin Google algorithm updates. Quality of content now mattered more than the quantity of keywords on a page.
Sites that were keyword stuffing, which was almost every one of them, suffered major losses in traffic from search engines. If they updated and fixed their content, and fixed other spammy things that were popular, they were usually able to recover that traffic. Many sites that didn’t fix it and weren’t huge brands never recovered.
This is why you need to be cautious of overoptimizing your pages. You have to include relevant keywords enough so that users and search engines understand what the page is about, but your content still has to make sense and flow naturally.
Mistake #5 – Duplicate or Competing Content
Another one of the common SEO mistakes to avoid is creating duplicate or competing content. Search engines have evolved to be able to understand context and search intent better than ever before. You don’t need a separate page on your website for every single keyword variation for the same topic.
If you have a page that covers the broader keyword topic, search engines understand that variations of that keyword with the same intent (ie: synonyms and similar phrases) are related. Creating multiple pages that target the same topic can result in duplicate content, which is not good for your website.
At the very least, it will result in competing content. This is also called content or keyword cannibalization – when multiple pages from the same website are competing against each other in the results for the same keywords.
Mistake #6 – Shady Link Building
Shady link building often results in a lot of low-quality, spammy links pointing to a site. Links and SEO are connected. It’s like keyword stuffing and has a similar history. In the early days of SEO, the sites with the most links tended to rank at the top. When SEO shifted to focus on quality, the same concept applied to the links pointing to your site.
Now, shady link building and tons of spammy, low-quality links can hurt you in the search engines instead of helping. Because backlinks are like votes of confidence for your site from other sites, quality matters. The number of links can still come into play when comparing sites, but, all other things the same, quality will win every time.
Mistake #7 – Skipping SEO Basics When Changing Your Website
Whether you are making changes to a few pages on your website, adding new pages, or redesigning your website, one of the biggest SEO mistakes is skipping SEO basics when you do it. Content, links, redirects, speed, and more all make a difference, and if you’re making the wrong changes or skipping out on necessary next steps, you’re making a mistake.
Content and Internal Links
There are cases for removing content on a page or for deleting pages entirely. However, if you are going to change the content drastically on a page, you need to make sure it’s going to help you instead of hurt you.
If a page has well-written, optimized, and relevant content that is performing well, removing it or replacing it with less relevant or optimized content can harm that page’s performance in search. This includes removing necessary internal links or forgetting to make sure those are included in your website redesign.
If you are changing a page’s URL or deleting a page from your site entirely, you need to have a plan for redirects in place and to make sure you’re using them appropriately to avoid common redirect mistakes. This is particularly true anytime you redesign your site.
Ignoring redirects is one of the most common website migration mistakes to avoid and it’s a major SEO mistake too. Without the right redirects in place, you lose any authority those pages have built up, cause user experience issues, potentially create duplicate content issues, lose revenue, and more.
Mistake #8 – Messing Up Your Robots.txt
Your robots.txt file provides directives for search engine crawlers and other bots. It lays out what is allowed to access and crawl your site, and which pages are allowed to be crawled and indexed in the search engines.
Getting it right is essential, and getting it wrong can be catastrophic. The wrong setup in this file can “noindex” your entire site, which blocks it from being shown in search engines. There are other issues where crawlers are blocked from accessing content at all, blocked from accessing the pages they should, allowed to access and index pages they shouldn’t, and more.
These are just a few common SEO mistakes to avoid. Sticking to SEO best practices, testing out tactics to find what delivers results, and doing the right things consistently can help your business grow online over time.
If your website is underperforming, it may be time for a refresh or a complete website redesign. Contact us for a meeting of the MINDs to talk about how we can help get your website back on track and performing for your business!