15 Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid as a MarketerRead Time: 12 minutes

seo mistakes

Ranking high in search results is the biggest factor in driving organic traffic to your website. The further away you get from the number one spot, the fewer page views you can expect. The best way to get to the top of search engine rankings is to avoid common SEO mistakes, which can cost you both traffic and profits. 

1. Choosing the Wrong Keywords

Keywords are the foundation of SEO success. These are the words and phrases that people put in the search bar to find your content. Focusing on the wrong keywords is the biggest SEO mistake you can make. Many people go for high-volume keywords because they think this will drive more traffic. However, high-volume keywords are often extremely competitive, so it’s almost impossible for a smaller site to rank with a generic keyword. 

Generic keywords such as “vegan” are overly broad. Instead, you have to do advanced keyword research to find relevant keywords that align with your content and target your audience’s search intent. These can be fat head keywords, which are one or two words but more specific than generic keywords. However, focusing on long-tail keywords is often a better strategy. Long-tail keywords are three to five words and are much more specific and less competitive, making it easier to rank higher with them. Instead of the generic “vegan” keyword, you might target the fat tail keyword “low-carb vegan” or the long-tail keyword “easy vegan Instantpot recipes.” 

2. Keyword Stuffing

Once you’ve chosen the perfect keyword or phrase to target, you may be tempted to use it as much as possible in your content. Don’t give in to keyword stuffing: overloading a webpage with keywords to help improve search engine rankings. 

This outdated tactic may have worked briefly in the early days of search engines, but it’s a losing strategy today. No one wants to read the same long-tail keywords repeatedly. It sounds unnatural and awkward, and Google’s updated algorithm focuses instead on helpful content made by humans for humans. 

Search engines like Google are adept at recognizing and penalizing keyword stuffing. Instead of overloading your content with keywords, focus on creating high-quality, relevant content that naturally incorporates keywords. This approach ensures that your content remains engaging and informative while still being optimized for search engines.

3. Ignoring Your Audience and Their Buyer Journey

Even if you have the right keyword, you have to deliver it to your audience when they’re ready for it. You want to attract the right traffic at the right time. You don’t want to deliver a heavy-handed sales pitch to people who are just discovering your brand. Understanding your audience’s needs, preferences, and the stages of their buyer journey will help you tailor your content so they’ll be receptive to it. 

Create “top of the funnel” content for people who are just beginning to research the topic and are exploring their options. For buyers in the later stages of the customer buying journey, the ones who are ready to make a purchase, you can create content that is more sales-driven and focuses on the awesome features of your product or service. 

Creating content that addresses questions and concerns at various stages can help build trust and guide your audience toward conversion. Ignoring this aspect can attract visitors who aren’t ready to engage or convert, so they’ll quickly leave and possibly never interact with your brand again. You can get a better idea of where customers are in their journey with your brand by measuring awareness KPIs such as positive and negative brand mentions and share of voice. 

common seo mistakes

People are impressed when others speak highly of you, and Google is no different. Backlinks are inbound links from other websites to your own. They’re a form of social capital and can bring in referral traffic. Backlinks tell search engine sites that your content is valuable and trustworthy, especially when they come from other trusted businesses. When search engines see that other large and authoritative sites link to yours, they’ll give your content more weight. 

Without high-quality backlinks, you’ll find it harder to reach that coveted top spot in rankings, regardless of how valuable and well-written your content is. Your backlink strategy should include: 

  • Creating valuable, shareable content
  • Guest blogging
  • Broken link building
  • Internal linking
  • Leveraging social media
  • Using the “skyscraper” technique 

5. Forgetting Technical SEO

Technical SEO optimizes the technical aspects of your website so search engines can crawl and index your pages effectively. Neglecting technical SEO can lead to issues such as: 

  • Slow page load times
  • Broken links
  • Your site not getting indexed or ranked
  • Poor user experience

Regularly audit your site for technical SEO issues and fix them promptly to improve your site’s visibility and performance in search results.

6. Having Duplicate Content

It’s easy to think more is better when it comes to content on your website. However, having duplicate content is an issue for SEO because it can confuse your readers and search engine crawlers. 

Duplicate content is identical or very similar content on multiple pages of your website. If you have two articles titled, “How to Perfectly Press Your Work Shirts,” Google won’t be able to figure out which version to index. This dilemma can dilute — and lower — your rankings. 

Make sure each page on your site has unique, valuable content. You should also use canonical tags to indicate the preferred version of a page to search engines. Regularly check for and eliminate duplicate content to help maintain your site’s authority and ranking.

seo mistakes to avoid

7. Not Using Mobile-first Design

In the US, over 85% of Internet traffic comes from mobile devices. Google uses mobile-first indexing, meaning it predominantly uses the mobile version of content for indexing and ranking. 

If your site is a glorious wonder to behold on a large desktop monitor but confusing and difficult to navigate on a smartphone, you’ll have higher bounce rates and lower search engine rankings. You’ll be better off with a clean, simple design that’s easy to use even on a palm-sized screen. 

Check that your site is responsive on mobile devices, with fast load times and easy navigation. Use mobile-friendly design elements, such as larger fonts and touch-friendly buttons. Prioritize mobile-first design to improve your site’s SEO performance.

8. Ignoring Google Search Intent

No matter how optimized your site is for specific keywords, if you don’t understand the user intent behind the keywords, it will fall flat. If you’re targeting the keywords “fencing near me,” you need to know if the people searching for that want to enclose their backyard or learn a new sport. 

Search intent is the reason behind a user’s query and what they hope to achieve. Failing to understand and address search intent can result in content that doesn’t meet user needs, leading to lower engagement and higher bounce rates. There are four main types of search intent: 

  • Informational
  • Navigational
  • Transactional
  • Commercial

If you create your content with the user’s search intent in mind, it will be more relevant and valuable, which translates into higher rankings. 

9. Not Checking Your Site’s Crawlability

Search engines use automated programs — called crawlers — to follow links on the Internet and save them to a database that they use to determine rankings. Crawlability is how easily search engine bots can access and index your website. 

If your site isn’t easy for these bots to crawl, search engines can miss important pages and avoid indexing your site. While it’s hard to rank highly when you’re indexed, it’s impossible if you’re not. 

Common issues that negatively affect crawlability include:

  • Broken links
  • Poor site architecture
  • Blocked resources in your robots.txt file

Tools like Google Search Console can help identify and fix problems with crawlability. Your site should have a clear and logical structure, working links, and accessible resources to make it easier for search engines to index your pages.

competitor analysis

10. Not Doing Thorough Competitor Analysis

Knowing what your competitors are doing can help you understand what works in your industry and what doesn’t. You certainly don’t want to copy their strategies exactly — after all, what makes you valuable is your uniqueness. However, competitor analysis helps you identify keyword opportunities, backlink strategies, and content gaps that you might otherwise not be aware of. 

Studying your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses can help you refine your own SEO strategy to gain a competitive edge. Use keyword analysis tools like Semrush to analyze your competitors’ keywords, content, and backlinks and drive strategies to attract more qualified traffic to your site.

11. Having Low-Quality Content on Your Pages

There’s no point in putting in the effort to rank highly with SEO strategies if you’re going to deliver low-quality content. Content that is poorly written or provides little value to your readers will lead to high bounce rates and low engagement. Search engines notice when people leave your site quickly and will lower your ranking for it. 

Ultimately, search engines are trying to find content that’s informative and well-researched so users can find a comprehensive answer to their questions. 

You can provide high-quality content by focusing on elements such as: 

  • Thorough research
  • Clear and concise writing
  • Explanatory images and videos
  • Relevant links to more authoritative information
  • Updating content regularly with new information

12. Not Optimizing Images

Compelling images can draw in more visitors and help you get your point across. However, large, uncompressed images make your pages slower and less responsive, which will cause your audience to bounce quickly. If your page takes just one to three seconds to load, you’ll increase your bounce rate by 32%. People do not want to wait for huge images to load on the Internet. 

You can decrease your load time by optimizing your images with the following methods: 

  • Compress files to reduce sizes
  • Use descriptive file names
  • Include alt-text
  • Make sure your images display well on mobile devices 
page speed

13. Ignoring Page Speed

While optimizing your images will improve your page loading speed, it’s not the only factor. A fast-loading site improves user satisfaction and your chances of ranking higher in search results. There are two main metrics to consider when evaluating your page speed. 

First Contentful Paint (FCP)

This is the time it takes for the first piece of content to appear on the screen, whether it’s an image or text. It’s the soonest a user can start interacting with your site. FCP gives users visual feedback that the site is loading, which reduces the perception of load time and makes it less likely they’ll click away in frustration. 

The following factors can slow down first contentful paint: 

  • Render-blocking resources from Javascript and CSS
  • High network latency
  • Slow server speed
  • Large, uncompressed image files

Time to First Byte (TTFB)

The TTFB is the time from the user’s request to the first byte of the response being received by the browser. It includes how fast the domain name is translated to an IP address and how fast a connection is established and processed by the server and browser. 

Factors that can slow down TTFB include: 

  • Slow server performance
  • Poor quality network conditions
  • Slow back-end processing

You can analyze your site speed with tools like Google Lighthouse to identify performance bottlenecks.

meta data

14. Forgetting to Add Metadata

Metadata, such as title tags and meta descriptions, give search engines information about your page’s content and influence click-through rates (CTR) from search results. Search engines use metadata to index and display information about your webpage. Browsers use it to interpret and accurately present your content. 

Your title tags should be concise and descriptive. Don’t forget to include your targeted keywords in your metadata.

Each webpage on your site should include meta descriptions that are compelling and accurately summarize the page content. This will show up under the title of your webpage on search engine results.


15. Not Monitoring Your Organic Search Traffic

The point of search engine optimization is to increase your organic search traffic, so you won’t know if your efforts are succeeding unless you track your progress. Regularly analyzing your traffic data helps you understand how users are finding your site, which keywords are driving traffic, and how well your SEO strategies are performing. 

Tools like Google Analytics and Google Search Console can help you understand your organic search traffic. Track key metrics such as bounce rate, session duration, and conversion rate to identify areas for improvement. These numbers can help you make data-driven decisions to improve your SEO efforts. You’ll also be able to adapt to changes in search engine algorithms and user behavior for sustainable growth.

Don’t Make These SEO Mistakes

You need a multi-layered approach to address all of the components involved to rank well on Google. Start by analyzing your site and correcting the biggest SEO mistakes you find. As you get a handle on those, you can work on more from the list. Reach out for a free strategy session for more information about how you can climb to the top of search engine results pages. 

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