There are few aspects of website traffic more dynamic and baffling than search engine optimization (SEO). Thus, there is a lot of outdated and unreliable information about it. In today’s article, I round up the most common SEO mistakes and what to do about them.
Search engine optimization (SEO) remains an important part of a blog’s overall traffic strategy.
There are a lot of things you can get right.
BUT there are also mistakes you can make that can actually hurt your rankings.
In today’s article, I’ll zoom in on the most common SEO mistakes and what you can do to correct or prevent them. The less mistakes you make, the more likely your content will be found by people who search for it, and the more traffic your blog gets.
Let’s get right to it.
I’ve divided the mistakes that I’m going to be discussing into three major categories: maintaining your content and your site poorly, disregarding user experience, and gaming the system.
Content is the most important aspect of your blog, and obviously has to be kept relevant. Secondary, but also important, your content’s home, i.e., your site, has to be maintained as well so that search engines would know that your blog is a valuable one.
If you followed my advice here, you should already be including at least a few links in your blog posts, both internal and external.
Over time, some of these links won’t work anymore. Maybe other sites relocate to other domains, or maybe simply changed the URL of that article. Maybe you changed the URLs for some of your blog posts.
If you don’t take the time to check your blog posts for broken links and update them, readers of your blog post would have a bad user experience when they try and click on those broken links.
Also, this sends a signal to Google that your blog post isn’t updated, which is a no-no because Google prioritizes updated content in their search results page.
I’ve made it clear in a previous article that keyword research is crucial to your blog’s success. However, keyword research should be done strategically.
Your keywords need to be something that users are likely to be searching for, but at the same time not to competitive as to be too difficult to rank for. The most common mistake here is choosing keywords that are too generic and thus difficult to rank for.
Remember that trying to rank for many different long-tail keywords would eventually bring you more traffic than trying to rank for generic keywords.
What to do instead: Use the right keyword tools to find long-tail keywords that have medium search volume and low to medium competition.
It’s tempting to just phone it in and create lots of haphazard, keyword-stuffed blog posts and believe that the more blog posts you put out there with keywords in them, the faster your blog will rank faster in search results. But it’s a myth; an old-school SEO technique that’s no longer tolerated and is even being penalized by Google.
Similarly, you might want to just repost a useful blog post that you found online that you know is going to rank for the keyword that you’re targeting. First of all, that’s plagiarism, and it has legal consequences if you get caught. Plus, Google will know that what you’re posting is duplicate content and will lower your rankings accordingly; not just the content that you stole, but your entire blog.
You might also have previously written a blog post that seems to be ranking really well, and you might think that you can replicate that success if you merely repost that article. Unfortunately, yet again, Google is one step ahead of you. If they find that you’re doing that deliberately, your blog’s rankings will suffer and quite possibly be removed entirely from the Google index.
What to do instead: Write excellent, unique content that your target audience will find useful.
Note: Repurposing content is different from merely posting the same blog post. Repurposing a blog post means turning it into something else, or presenting it in a different format. For example, you can repurpose a popular blog post into an ebook to use as a lead magnet, or you can turn a text blog post into an infographic. This is not counted as duplicate content.
Sometimes life gets in the way and you neglect to publish new blog posts. Or you become complacent in your old posts that are doing well in the rankings that you don’t think you need recent content.
On the contrary, Google looks at how fresh your content is when trying to figure out your page rankings. There are a lot of factors that come into play here, but the main thing is to always make sure that you post new articles regularly and also update your old content whenever there is a new development in the topic or when there is more recent information available.
For example, if you had a blog post about the best free mobile apps for productivity, it’s best to keep track of these apps periodically because some of them may already have closed down, or changed to a paid pricing model. Plus, it’s best if you come up with this kind of list article every year, as this niche sees a lot of changes in a matter of months.
What to do instead: It’s good practice to maintain at least a semi-regular schedule for posting new articles on your blog that benefits your target audience. It’s better if you have scheduled posts in advance so that no matter what’s happening in your life, your blog is sure to be updated.
Create a schedule as well for looking over your blog posts and seeing if anything needs to be revised. Prioritize updating the main body of your blog posts over updating less important like the navigation links or your call to action for subscribing to your blog updates.
Focusing on pleasing search engines can sometimes cause you to overlook how your visitors interact with your site and whether you’re giving them the best possible experience. Remember: traffic comes from people, not machines.
Browser compatibility is often overlooked because it’s not as exciting as finding a keyword and creating content around it that will rank well. But overlooking browser compatibility can possibly alienate people from reading your content.
Unlike Google’s dominance over search, Google Chrome is not the only browser in town, although approximately half of internet users use it. People still use other browsers like Safari, Internet Explorer, and Firefox.
Think of the last time you clicked on a search result and it took you to a page that you can’t read because some images obscured the text, or moved when you scrolled, or used a font that’s too small or too big. Didn’t you click away as fast as your mouse could take you?
Your visitors are no different. They’ll click away from your page if their browser doesn’t render your content properly. The sooner visitors click away from your posts, the less time they spend on your page, which Google also tracks. If they see that visitors spend mere seconds on your page, that’ll be taken as a sign of low-quality content and result in lower rankings.
Quite simply, faster sites provide a better user experience than do slower sites, and Google knows this. Your blog will quite likely be penalized for being slow to load.
The usual culprit is image size, so try to upload smaller-sized images or optimize them so that they load quicker.
In case you haven’t heard, Google has announced back in November 2016 that they’ve started experimenting with making their index mobile-first; that is, their algorithms will use the mobile version of a website’s content for rankings. In fact, it has been revealed in a recent conference that mobile-first has already rolled out for a few sites, although it’s a long way from full implementation.
Why are they doing this?
Google is well aware that the number of mobile searches is steadily going up, as more and more people get access to smartphones. Thus, they have to take into consideration the mobile user experience as well. It just makes sense for them to serve up the mobile-friendly sites to mobile users, who are slowly becoming the majority in terms of the number of searchers.
So what does this mean for your blog?
If your blog is already mobile-responsive, then you don’t need to do anything else. However, if you use a mobile subdomain (it would look something like “https://m.yourblogurl.com”) to show your content on mobile devices, your blog rankings may go down as mobile-first indexing is implemented.
A good way to test if your blog is mobile friendly is through Google’s own tool. If it tells you that your site is mobile friendly, then you’re good. If it doesn’t, then it’s time for a web redesign.
What to do instead: Switch to a mobile-responsive theme if you’re not already using one. Here’s a helpful article from Google describing the process of moving from m-dot URLs to a responsive site.
The old days of SEO involved gaming the system; that is, using Google’s own algorithms against itself to boost a site’s ranking on the search results page. What makes it extra horrible is that this is often done at the expense of user experience and providing valuable content.
Nowadays, Google has gotten smart and changed its algorithms, but questionable “SEO experts” remain and peddle “easy, quick, guaranteed” solutions to boost your ranking. Don’t be fooled. Remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
If you’re not familiar with the phrase, “keyword stuffing” means filling a webpage with keywords to try and influence a site’s ranking in search results.
For example, if your keyword was “gifts for Father’s Day” and you were trying to rank for it, this is what extreme keyword stuffing would probably look like:
“Father’s Day is coming up, and everyone is already looking for gifts for Father’s Day. Here are some awesome gifts for Father’s Day that you can give as gifts for Father’s Day.”
And then the whole blog post would look like that, using the keyword “gifts for Father’s Day” just everywhere, even if it sounds idiotic and robot-like.
This practice likely came about years ago, when site owners, marketing experts, and SEO specialists noticed that the more keywords a page contained, the higher it ranked on Google.
Well, those good old days are over. Google itself has weighed in and said that cramming pages with keywords when it makes zero sense results in a terrible user experience. If all the articles in your blog are nothing but keyword-filled gibberish, no one will want to read them, and Google wouldn’t want to serve up content like that to their users.
Ultimately, Google will penalize your blog and lower your ranking, which is the exact opposite of what you were trying to achieve.
What to do instead: Focus on creating high-quality content and include keywords only when it makes sense. Also, be open to using similar or related phrases naturally in your blog content.
Anchor text is simply the text inside the link. So the anchor text in this link: Stopping Scams is “Stopping Scams.”
Google looks at anchor text as one of the factors that help determine what terms to rank your pages for. For example, if your page is linked with “home organizing tips” as anchor text, then there’s a good chance that page is about home organizing tips.
Because you can’t control how other people link to your page, some bloggers look for things they can control. So some bloggers always put the target keywords of their articles as the anchor text when they link to them on their other blog posts.
This technique won’t fly with Google. It looks unnatural, because who uses the exact same anchor text when linking to a page? Depending on the context, some might have “how to organize your home” or “organization tips” or sometimes even just “check this out” or “click this” as anchor text.
When Google senses the same anchor text for all links to a page, that’s a signal to them that you’re being spammy and you’ll get penalized for it by having a lower ranking.
What to do instead: Use anchor text that flows naturally in your content and fits the context.
Link schemes are strategies designed to manipulate a website’s ranking in Google search results, including any tampering with incoming links to your site or outgoing links from your site.
These schemes include, but are not limited to:
Participating in this kind of shady SEO practices will get you on Google’s s**t list for sure, instead of the top of the search results page.
What to do instead: Education is your best defense here. Google’s guidelines to know what type of practices are considered as link schemes.
For now, if you’re not sure whether it’s allowed or not, just don’t do it. If someone offers to build links to your blog for a fee, or tries to get you to join a private blog network or a link directory, or convinces you to participate in a link exchange scheme, just say no.
Spend your time, effort, and money (if you have a budget for it) on creating high-quality content and legitimate blog promotion. Build links naturally by reaching out to potential collaborators and influencers for guest blogging opportunities.
First, let me recap the most common SEO mistakes in this article:
This list is by no means an exhaustive one. There are many more SEO mistakes to make. Thus far, these are the most common ones that anyone from beginners to more advanced bloggers make, are relatively simple to correct, and have the most potential to improve your rankings when corrected.
Before you review your blog for these SEO mistakes, let me just leave you with one final thought that should always guide your SEO efforts:
Google may change their algorithms, but quality content lasts forever (or however long the internet will last). Similarly, your blog may go in and out of the first page of Google’s search results, but a great relationship with your readers is irreplaceable.
Don’t spend your time and money studying how to manipulate the Google algorithm to rank higher. Rather, create content that BELONGS on the first page and promote your content fair and square. If your content is truly valuable, Google will eventually take notice and place your content at the top of the list.
Have you made any of the above mistakes with your SEO strategy? How did you prevent or fix them? Let me know in the comments!
JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.