SEO is fast-paced and fast-changing, so making SEO mistakes can easily be done without even realising. This is especially true because of all the SEO myths floating around (if you want to see a few dispelled, check out our talk with industry experts on the topic), and black-hat SEO masters peddling dodgy practices to unsuspecting customers as quick, cheap solutions.
These mistakes can be result in your web pages ranking lower than they could, leaving them with unfulfilled potential. In other cases, they can result in severe penalties from Google that drastically knock down your chances of ranking at all!
We spoke to experts from the SEO industry to find out which SEO mistakes they’ve come across most often in their careers. They gave some really insightful answers which we’ve listed below, along with another couple of quotes we felt also ring true. Read on to learn about the mistakes to avoid in your future SEO work.
Having a poor keyword strategy
Simon Fryer, CandidSky
“Honestly, [the most common issue is] poor keyword strategy. It’s surprising, as the concept of a ‘keyword’ is the most understood part of SEO. Even so, we consistently see brands failing to really empathise with their audience to understand how they might search and all the different ways they could express themselves. This will become even more apparent as voice search increases in millennial and younger generations.”
Poor content quality
Mischa Weston-Green, Transcend Marketing
“[A common issue I’ve found is] thin and duplicate content, especially on eCommerce websites.”
Thinking you can ‘trick’ Google into giving good rankings without consequence:
Tom Lynch, Novi Digital
“We see this from two angles; clients who haven’t yet realised, and clients who have used SEO companies using dubious practices in the past who now need help fixing those issues as well as optimising for the future.
You can boil both categories down to people believing Google can be ‘tricked’ into giving good metrics – usually rankings – and that there are no downsides to that.
Getting results through shortcuts can have serious long-term negative effects. Receiving a manual penalty from a search engine can see your site effectively vanish from the listings overnight – and not return until a lot of work has been done, ideally including the work needed to persuade the search engine to lift that penalty.
Even if this doesn’t happen, most shortcuts will attract visitors who aren’t interested and won’t make good customers – and their disengagement hurts the site’s performance long-term.”
Using cheap, bulk backlinks:
Mike Lawson, trCREATIVE
“I’ll stick with [the issue I mentioned in the previous article] – backlinks. We’re finding more and more sites are forcing us into the reluctant process of creating and uploading disavow lists. They’ve bought 10,000 links for £5 and expect to be on page 1, where in fact they’ll probably get blacklisted.”
Starting with poor website design and architecture:
Farky Rafiq, Liquid Silver
“Beyond standard mark-up, often issues are created at a design level. SEO can be quite time consuming, so if designers took more time during the build process to think about UX and information architecture. then many structural issues could be avoided. This would then leave us to think more about content strategy and promotion / link building.”
Daniel Foley, Assertive Media
“[The most common issue is] poor quality site architecture. We see a lot of client websites which suffer from either canonicalization problems or keyword cannibalisation caused by multiple pages trying to rank for the same things.”
Missing out on quick wins:
Haris Chechi, Digital Uncut
“For me the common issue is easy rankings being missed from on page SEO. This is something that can be fixed before any link building campaign starts – making sure the target keyword is on the homepage, above the fold, having enough content around those keywords on the homepage, using Google Search Console to find pages that have good Page Authority (PA) but are not getting clicks, and either redirect these pages to another similar page or link back to using keywords that are lingering on page 2 of Google.”
Rob Stoubos, Odyssey New Media
“Google wants websites which read well and whose content hasn’t just been stuffed with keywords at the expense of readability. In the last 1.5 years Google has put more emphasis on website owners writing content which reads well, is written in a natural, clear and concise way.
As a rule, two or three word keyphrases shouldn’t exceed 4% of the overall landing page content.
Ideally keyphrase density of every major landing page should be analysed individually, and use of target phrases should be reduced if it goes over the 4% threshold so that it doesn’t flag any over-optimisation penalties with Google.
A great free tool for analysing keyphrase density is SEO Book’s Keyphrase Density Analyser.”
Not understanding SEO fundamentals
Joe Friedlein, Browser Media
“[There’s often] a lack of understanding about the basics of on-page optimisation. We have seen some incredible improvements from some relatively simple application of keywords in page titles / headings / body copy. Where website owners have paid for dodgy SEO in the past, we often see some catastrophic backlink profiles.”
Being unsure which goal to chase
Stephan Spencer writing for Search Engine Land
“When somebody tells me they added H1 tags to their site and it really bumped up their Google rankings, the first question I ask is: “Did you already have the headline text there and just change a font tag into an H1, or did you add keyword-rich headlines that weren’t present before?” It’s usually the latter. The keyword-rich text at the top of the page bumped up the keyword prominence (causation). The H1 tag was a correlation that didn’t move the needle.”
Ignoring page speed
Ben Cope, The Content Works
“Page load speed issues. Did you know that 40% of your website’s visitors will abandon your website if it doesn’t load within 3 seconds? The fact is, no-one likes waiting and the majority of websites have unnecessarily long page load times that can be easily addressed on a server-level. Any improvements you make to the core-code will benefit every page on your website, increasing user engagement and conversions.”