Search engine optimization (SEO) plays a key role in a successful website. And while we often focus on what you should do in order to improve your rankings and visibility, it’s equally important to consider what you should not do.
In this guide, we’re going to show you some of the biggest SEO mistakes we see website’s make and how you can avoid them. Consider it a favor from us to you!
Table of Contents
Why SEO Matters
You know you need SEO, but have you ever paused to consider why?
In other words, what is it about SEO that’s so important that businesses would spend thousands of dollars on it every single year?
The answer to that question is multifaceted. And while we could easily make this entire blog post about the importance of SEO, we’re just going to give you a quick 30,000-foot view of the top reasons why SEO matters.
- Visibility. In a world where most people discover brands online, visibility is everything. And even though social media and advertising are important, nothing beats Google in terms of discoverability. SEO is designed to improve search rankings and generate more organic visibility for key search terms.
- Traffic. When you’re highly visible in the search results, you’re naturally going to generate more traffic for your website. (Approximately 75 percent of all clicks go to the first five search results.) This helps you procure more leads and, ultimately, more customers and revenue.
- Authority. Want to increase your authority online? What better way than to rank well in the Google search results? It indicates that Google finds your website authoritative and simultaneously increases the chances that other blogs and websites will link back to you as a source or reference for important ideas.
- User experience. At the end of the day, Google doesn’t pick arbitrary ranking factors. They’ve developed their algorithm with the intention of encouraging websites to design more user friendly web experiences. Because after all, they (Google) are judged on how relevant the search results are. (If people find that Google is consistently giving them bad results, they’ll eventually find a new search engine.) Thus an investment in proper SEO is also an investment in a positive user experience.
When you layer all of these issues on top of one another, you can see why SEO is such a valuable investment. And it also becomes painfully obvious how meticulous you need to be in order to maximize these benefits.
The Problem With Improper SEO
An investment in SEO is a good thing. But not all SEO investments are productive or beneficial. If you implement the wrong SEO principles and/or over-optimize your website, you may actually generate diminishing returns.
Negative consequences of improper SEO include:
- Lower search rankings. The Google algorithm has stops in place that identify improper SEO techniques and over-optimization. This actually leads to poorer rankings and less visibility in organic search.
- Penalties. If you continue to use improper SEO tactics and/or appear to be intentionally manipulating Google’s search algorithm, you could get slapped with a penalty. At some point, your site could get banned and completely delisted.
- Lack of trust. It’s not just the search engines that notice black hat SEO techniques and over-optimization. Your website visitors will take notice as well. This will hurt trust and negatively impact customer loyalty to the point that you lose customers.
In other words, SEO is important, but it needs to be done properly. Take the time to understand the difference between good and bad SEO and you’ll increase your chances of being successful.
16 SEO Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make
Want to maximize the benefits of SEO without risking diminishing returns? Here are a few of the top SEO mistakes you’ll want to avoid:
1. Excessive Use of Keywords
It’s an easy mistake to make if you’re focused on specific keywords. In the early days of the search engine age, keyword frequency was straightforward; the more keywords you had on a given page, the more likely it was you would rank for those keywords. Then, it was deemed that keywords should only represent three to five percent of your total content. Now, any unnatural use of keywords can be detected—so keep your selected keywords to a minimum and focus on quality content.
2. Multiple Keywords in a Title Tag
Along similar lines, don’t try and artificially stuff keywords into your title tags. At most, a title tag should have one strong keyword, and that keyword should be the one most relevant to your business, not the one with the highest competitive advantage. Describe your company in less than five words, and use that as your primary keyword phrase. Any other keywords you try to shoehorn in will be irrelevant or counterproductive.
3. Skipping Title Tags and Schema
It’s important that you give your blog posts and content all of the proper title tags and meta descriptions. It’s also necessary to provide context with schema. A failure to do so will only undercut your efforts.
Schema markup basically tells Google how to interpret different parts of your content so that it knows how and when to serve it to searchers. (This is especially important when it comes to multimedia elements like images, videos, and graphics.)
4. Keywords Over Subject Matter
Blog strategies used to be solely dependent on keyword strategy. You would select a handful of keywords and write a blog post around each of them. Nowadays, specific keyword frequency is antiquated and unnecessary. Instead, focus on writing high-quality content about a specific topic. That will give you the highest chance of ranking for keywords relevant to that topic because they appear naturally in the body of your blogs.
5. Thin Content for the Sake of Quantity
Too many webmasters focus on writing a specific number of blog posts or a specific number of new pages on a regular basis in order to maintain a high authority with search engines. It’s not a viable strategy. Posting great content on a regular basis is important, but remember, it’s better to have a smaller number of better blogs than a larger number of weak ones.
6. Fluff Pages
Old search engine marketers used new page creation as an easy way to build traffic for a specific keyword. For example, if the keyword in question was “strawberry ice cream,” they would create a page called “strawberry ice cream” with “strawberry ice cream” in the title tag and in the body of the page several times. Today, it’s a form of over-optimization, and should be avoided unless it truly adds value to the user.
7. Page Duplication
Google hates to see duplicate content on the internet. Even if you take a piece of content and spin a few words so it’s not an exact copy, Google can still take notice. Too many webmasters think they can get away with this kind of content spinning, but it’s an unnatural form of over-optimization, and if Google catches you doing it, you could be penalized.
8. Unnatural Keywords
Some keyword phrases are simply unnatural in any context. For example, try working the phrase “beaches Cleveland oh” into natural sentences. It’s practically impossible. Google can detect the unnatural use of language, so if you attempt to slip these into a blog post, you’ll be noticed as an over-optimizer. Instead, focus on the topic of the keyword phrase and write naturally.
9. Stuffing Backlinks in a Guest Post
Guest blogging is still a great strategy for SEO and for brand building, but you need to be careful with the backlinks you include in the body of the post. If you over-optimize the text with too many links pointing back to your site, you could get penalized for over-optimization; to avoid this, use the rel=nofollow tag to mask the existence of your links to search engine algorithms while preserving them for your readers to click.
10. Poor and Low Quality Backlinks
It’s hard to find great sources to use for backlink building, so when you do find a source that works, it’s tempting to rely on it for your strategy. However, building too many poor backlinks on one source can be considered over-optimization, and can get you negative attention from Google. Instead, diversify your sources and spread your links throughout them.
11. Too Many Backlinks in a Short Period of Time
Backlinks need to appear natural, and if you build too many in one day, there’s no way they’ll look natural. There’s no specific number that warrants a red flag of over-optimization, but don’t make it a point to hit a certain number every day. If you’re running a small site and building more than 20 backlinks in one day, you might want to consider scaling back your strategy.
12. Backlinks, But No Brand Mentions
Backlinks aren’t the only factor that Google considers when evaluating a site’s authority. Brand mentions, with or without a link, are becoming increasingly important as well. Use a combination of pure backlinks, brand mentions with backlinks, and brand mentions without backlinks as equal parts of your overall strategy. Otherwise, you could be penalized for over-optimizing offsite.
13. Using Only One Backlinks
Similarly, if you only link back to your homepage, you’re asking for trouble. Google wants online users to have a great, relevant online experience, and that means your links need to be valuable and appropriate for the average web user. Direct users to specific pages within your site that are relevant to the conversation instead of funneling all your traffic to the homepage.
14. Repetitive Anchor Text
Anchor text is the content that supports your link. If you use a specific keyword phrase as your anchor text in the hopes of increasing your rank for that keyword, be careful. Using the same anchor text multiple times is a form of offsite over-optimization, and can earn you a penalty.
15. Lack of Backlink Context
We all know Google is well on its way to becoming omnipotent, but even now it can tell when your links are relevant to their environment and when they are not. If you post a link in a forum thread that has nothing to do with your industry, you’ll be considered an over-optimizer, and you could be penalized accordingly. Make sure your links are all appropriate by naturally replying to the conversation and establishing a context for your link.
16. Prioritizing Quantitative Over Qualitative
The biggest mistake is one that applies to both offsite and onsite optimization, and every webmaster is guilty of this at one point or another. If you focus on quantitative tasks and efforts, such as hitting a certain number of blog posts or external links, instead of the qualitative experience of your readers and followers, eventually you’ll over-optimize.
The best way to avoid over-optimizing your site is to focus on giving your users the best possible online experience, and forget about the numbers. After all, high-quality online experience is Google’s ultimate goal. The better experience you give your users, both onsite and offsite, the more likely they are to come back and the more likely Google will be to favor you in its ranks.
How to Choose the Right SEO Agency
We know better than most just how many options there are for SEO.
SEO agencies and companies are a dime a dozen. You can find thousands of them on Google, including dozens that are based out of your city or area.
The question is, how do you select the right one?
Every business has its own unique goals and priorities, but you’ll want to keep your eyes peeled for factors such as:
- Social proof. Is this SEO agency a random company with no clout? Or do they have good reviews, positive testimonials, certifications, and features in prominent publications? Social proof will tell you a lot.
- Case studies. What better way to know if an SEO agency is for real than to study what they’ve already done for other companies? Any SEO company that’s serious about generating results is going to have a few case studies on hand. Ask for access to these studies so that you can see the kind of results they’re getting.
- Detailed processes. Don’t be afraid to ask an SEO company for a detailed breakdown of exactly what they’ll do to enhance your search rankings and online visibility. They should be able to provide a very clear step-by-step outline.
- Realistic and fair. Be wary of working with an SEO company that promises a number one ranking or guarantees your traffic will double in 30 days or less. There’s no way to make promises like these. And if they are, you can bet they’ll attempt illegal practices to achieve it. The right SEO agency will get you results, but they’ll be realistic and fair.
The only way to truly know if you’re working with the right SEO agency – one that will help you improve your search rankings and visibility without over-optimizing – is to get to know the team. By asking questions, listening to what they have to say, and then slowly easing into a business relationship, you can get a feel for what they do and whether it will work for your website.
Working With SEO.co
At SEO.co, we don’t make outlandish promises or lofty claims. We let our track record do the talking.
Through high quality content marketing and strategic link building, we’ve been able to help thousands of clients scale their organic traffic and achieve their individual business goals.
Whether you’re looking ot increase your visibility, generate more leads, or turn prospects into dollars, we can put you in a position to be successful.
Contact us today to get your free site assessment!