SEO is like any other industry that you can master over time: If you get too comfortable with it, you can think of yourself as being above making mistakes.
We all know how it goes. You’re in it for five years, 10 years, or longer, and you get into a sort of autopilot mode.
But wait a minute, someone else might say. Isn’t SEO the very thing we can’t “set and forget?”
Absolutely, but it’s a strange thing that the more knowledgeable you get at something, the easier it can be to forget the details.
And with SEO, you also have to keep in mind that Google changes its methods pretty much all the time.
With this in mind, every SEO out there could use some prodding on how to be better.
Here are 10 of the worst SEO mistakes even the old masters can still make.
1. Presenting a Poor Internal Link Structure
As your website balloons in size with all of your awesome content, you’re bound to encounter some pretty basic internal linking errors.
This includes everything from producing mass duplicate content to 404 page errors cropping up.
Internal links provide five valuable benefits for your website:
- Providing clear pathways to conversion pages.
- Spreading authority to webpages hidden deep on your site.
- Providing additional reading or interactive material for users to consume on your site.
- Organizing webpages categorically by keyword-optimized anchor text.
- Communicating your most important web pages to search engine crawlers.
Resubmitting an XML sitemap to search engines is a great way to open up crawl paths for search engines to unlinked webpages.
Along the same lines, it’s important to use your robots.txt file and noindex tag wisely so you don’t accidentally block important webpages on your site (or a client’s).
As a general rule of thumb, no webpage should be more than two clicks away from the homepage or a call-to-action landing page.
Reassess your website architecture using fresh keyword research to begin organizing webpages by topicality, in content and topic clusters.
2. Creating Content for Content’s Sake
Best practices dictate that you should produce content consistently to increase your brand’s exposure and authority, as well as increase your website’s indexation rate.
But as your website grows to hundreds of pages or more, it becomes difficult to find unique keywords for each page and stick to a cohesive strategy.
Sometimes we fall for the fallacy that we must produce content just to have more of it.
That’s simply untrue and leads to thin and useless content, which amounts to wasted resources.
Don’t write content without completing strategic keyword research beforehand.
Make sure the content is relevant to the target keyword and utilizes closely associated keywords in H2 tags and body paragraphs.
This will convey the full context of your content to search engines and meet user intent on multiple levels.
Take the time to invest in long-form content that is actionable and evergreen. Remember, we are content marketers and SEO specialists, not journalists.
Optimized content can take months to reach page one results; make sure it remains relevant and unique to its industry when it does.
3. Not Investing in Link-Worthy Content
As we understand it, the quantity and quality of unique referring domains to a webpage is one of Google’s three most important ranking factors.
The best way to acquire links is naturally is by leveraging stellar content that people just want to link to.
Instead of investing time in manual research and creating hundreds of guest posts a year, why not invest in a piece of content that can acquire all of those links in one day of writing?
As previously stated, invest the time in crafting long-form content that adds value to the industry.
Here, you can experiment with different forms of content, whether it’s a resource page, infographic, interactive quiz, or evergreen guide.
Dedicate some of your manual outreach strategy to promote a piece of content published on your own website and not someone else’s.
4. Failing to Reach Customers with Your Content
Continuing this discussion, you must have a strategy in place to actually get people to view your content.
I believe that much of the industry and many businesses don’t invest as many resources into content promotion as they do in production.
Sure, you share your content over social media. But how much reach does it actually acquire without paid advertising?
Simply posting your latest article on your blog, social media channel, and e-newsletter limits its reach to a small percentage of your existing audience.
If you’re looking to acquire new leads for your business, you’ll need to invest more resources into promotional tactics.
Some strategies include:
- Paid social campaigns.
- Targeted sharing using keyword-optimized hashtags.
- Promoting content over influencer channels.
- Link building.
While it’s rather chicken and egg, you need to promote content to get links to it.
Only then can you begin to acquire more links organically.
5. Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords
So you invested the time in crafting a piece of long-form content, but it’s not driving large-scale traffic to your website.
Just as bad, your visitors have low time-on-page and are not converting.
More than likely, you’re optimizing for the wrong keywords.
While most of us understand the importance of long-tail keywords for informational queries, sometimes we run into some common mistakes:
- Failing to segment search volumes and competition by geography.
- Relying too much on high-volume phrases that don’t convert.
- Focusing too many resources on broad keywords (external links, internal link anchor text, etc.).
- Ignoring click-through rates.
- Trying to insert awkward exact match phrases into the content.
- Ignoring Google Ads value.
- Allocating target keywords to irrelevant content.
- Choosing keywords irrelevant to your audience.
It’s important to actually research the search phrases that appear in top results for both national and local searches.
Talk to your customers to see what search phrases they use to describe different elements of your industry. From here, you can segment your keyword list to make it more relevant to your customers.
Use keyword tools like Google Keyword Planner and Semrush’s keyword generator for relevant keyword ideas.
Don’t forget to optimize for informational and commercial search queries.
6. Not Consulting Paid Media
As the industry currently stands, SEO focuses on acquiring and nurturing leads, while paid media focuses on acquiring and converting leads.
But what if we broke down those silos to create a cohesive message that targeted the buyer at every step of the journey?
As an SEO provider, do you even know what your client’s advertising message is or the keywords they use? Are you promoting the same products/service pages with the same keywords as the paid media department?
There is a lot of insight that SEO consultants can learn from PPC keyword research and landing page performance that can aid them in their own campaign.
Beyond this, Facebook and Twitter’s advertising platforms offer robust audience analysis tools that SEO consultants can use to better understand their client’s customers.
By focusing on a unified message and sharing in each other’s research, SEO consultants can discover keywords that convert the highest and drive the most clicks in the search results.
7. Forgetting About Local
Google’s Pigeon update completely opened up an entirely new field of local SEO.
Between local directory reviews, customizing a Google My Business page, and the local three-pack, local SEO is highly targeted and high converting.
Consider some of the statistics:
- 76% of searches over a mobile device result in an in-store visit that day.
- Half of local, mobile searches are for local business information.
- 97% of people read an online review before making a purchase.
- 79% of people trust reviews as much as personal recommendations.
It’s important to segment your keyword research for both local and national intent.
If you provide local services, be sure to create content that reflects local intent, such as including city names next to target keywords and in the body of content.
While many of us focus on growing business at a national scale, the importance of local SEO should not be ignored.
8. Not Regularly Auditing Your Own Website
One of the biggest mistakes we all make is not continuing to optimize our own site and fix mistakes that crop up over time.
A site audit is especially important after a site migration or implementation of any new tools or plugins.
Common technical mistakes that occur over time include:
- Duplicate content.
- Broken links.
- Unoptimized meta tags.
Duplicate content can occur for a number of reasons, whether through pagination or session IDs.
Resolve any URL parameter errors or duplicate content from your cookies by inserting canonicals on source webpages. This allows all signals from duplicate pages to point back to the source page.
Broken links are inevitable as you move content around your site, so it’s important to insert 301 redirects to a relevant webpage on any content you remove.
Be sure to resolve 302 redirects, as these only serve as a temporary redirect.
Auditing your website is paramount for mobile search. Simply having a responsive web design or AMP is not enough.
Be sure to minify your CSS and JS on your mobile design, as well as shrink images, to provide a fast and responsive design.
Finally, one part of the audit that is often overlooked is reevaluating your onsite content strategy. Most industries are dynamic, meaning that new innovations crop up and certain services become obsolete over time.
Screenshot from Google Analytics, September 2021
Remodel your website to reflect any new product offerings you have.
Create content around that topic to showcase its importance to your hierarchy to both search engines and users.
Continually refresh your keyword research and audience research to find new opportunities to scale and stay relevant.
9. Not Regularly Examining Google Analytics
This next point is on Google Analytics. It’s not quite the same as auditing your website, since an audit shows you technical errors on the back end that you need to correct on your own.
Google Analytics is more audience-facing, and examining the data presented in the program is crucial to discovering where your website needs attention.
Have bounce rates been increasing on this or that page? Look into it to figure out why.
Has traffic from one channel been steadily decreasing over time? Check out your resources to fix it.
Even if you’re intimidated by data and numbers, Google Analytics presents things in easy-to-understand ways so that even a beginner can comprehend what’s going on.
The point is, installing a Google Analytics tracking code and then ignoring it completely is the wrong approach.
I know it takes time and effort to go in every so often to check things out, but you’ll learn so much about how the public is interacting with your site that you won’t be able to ignore the problems you find.
10. Ignoring Technical SEO
Finally, you can’t forget the nitty-gritty technical SEO stuff.
This may not be an area that many website owners want to tackle due to the often mind-numbing nature of fixing these issues, but I can guarantee you that if you’re ignoring technical SEO, you’re doing it wrong.
Do you have uncrawlable pages? Broken internal images or links? A thousand temporary redirects?
How about orphaned pages, pages with no internal linking, or broken external links?
These are all problems that negatively affect your site’s crawlability and increase your crawl budget.
What’s the bottom line? Those problems will keep you from being found by the people who matter most to you.
Use tools such as Semrush or Screaming Frog to identify and correct these issues before they build up too much and cause you a big headache. Maybe audit these technical issues once a month to stay on top of them.
It may not be the most glamorous part of SEO, but fixing technical problems is vital to a successful website, so get to it.
Everyone is susceptible to mistakes in their craft and one of the best ways to rectify them is to consult the best practices.
My best bit of advice: Keep your mind nimble and always take a step back here and there to evaluate whether you are doing the best to scale your or a client’s business.
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