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Whether you’re new to search engine optimization (SEO) or have been helping websites generate organic traffic for years, it can be easy to overlook simple issues that can hurt a site’s performance on search engine result pages (SERPs).
Small errors in SEO implementation can cause rankings to drop, web traffic to suffer and your company’s bottom line to falter. Thankfully, most of the common SEO mistakes in digital content production can be fixed fairly easily.
As with most SEO matters, it can take some time to see the effects of correcting these issues. It’s important to know what to avoid and how to fix problems before they hamper your site.
Here are the 10 biggest SEO mistakes — and how to correct them.
Effective, scalable SEO requires constant monitoring, but it can be easy to let things slip through the cracks without performing consistent audits.
Technical audits are used to uncover many problematic SEO mistakes, including most you’ll see on this list. Indeed, indexation issues, linking problems, content discrepancies and more are bound to pop up from time to time, especially on older, larger sites with thousands of pages.
Some webmasters, however, wait months between audits. Doing so can leave critical errors on your site that leave you wondering why rankings, traffic and conversions are dropping when it could be easily fixed.
If your site is young or you’ve never done a full-scale audit, go do it now. Seriously, it will help tremendously. After the initial deep-dive, the frequency of your technical SEO audits will depend on the size and complexity of your site. We don’t recommend going for more than 2 weeks without taking a look at your site.
There are many tools out there that will do most of the work of discovering problems for you, including SEMRush and Ahrefs. They will help you understand and take care of any SEO mistakes on your site, and can even be scheduled to run automatically and send results straight to your email.
Although the practice is all about bringing visitors to a site, one of the biggest pitfalls in search engine optimization is ignoring what converts.
Generating thousands of “free” organic visitors is great, but most websites rely on getting a high percentage of those users to convert — buy a product, download an app etc. Focusing too much on trying to rank for the most searched keywords can be a waste of time and resources that are better spent on content directed toward what will increase conversion rates.
Utilize tools such as Google Analytics to track which pages, keywords and more are leading to conversions. Doing so allows you to manage your SEO strategies effectively and could uncover a previously untapped goldmine of long-tail keywords for your site.
Ah, keywords. For better or worse, they’ve been at the forefront of SEO forever. But now, it’s not all about finding keywords, it’s about understanding them and how they relate to a user’s search intent.
One of the biggest SEO mistakes that you can make is ignoring search intent when performing keyword research and optimizing content. Simply looking at a list of keywords and cherry-picking those with high search volumes isn’t enough. Many digital marketers still subscribe to this old way of thinking, which simply doesn’t work anymore.
These days, you need to match keywords to what the search engine thinks users want. It can be the difference between ranking in the top 10 and spending resources on a page that will never crack the top 50.
Think about it: how many times 5-10 years ago did you search for something and the page just wasn’t what you wanted to find? Maybe you were looking to learn how to change your car’s oil, but all of the search results led to pages trying to get you to go to local repair shops for the service. That isn’t helping you find the info you want.
How often does that happen to you now? In a world where Google and other search engines are using machine learning with natural language processing capabilities to understand exactly what users want in a search, it’s more important than ever to dig deeper in keyword research.
Take your list of keywords to Google and see what's ranking. Is it a high-level informational piece or a product page meant for users ready to buy? Trying to create a page centered around a keyword in the wrong stage of the user funnel can negate any chances of success.
Content is king. The main goal of search engines is to provide users with the best experience. That means taking their search and providing them with not only content that matches their intent, but content that's of the best possible quality.
A common SEO mistake for business-to-business and e-commerce sites is posting 500-word walls of texts with no substance and calling it a blog. That’s going to do more harm than good for your SEO efforts.
Instead, look at what is already ranking in the top 3 and make your content better. Add informative visuals, data and focus on making sure your reader is engaged and leaves your site without having to look elsewhere for answers.
Creating high-quality content shouldn’t be a strategy, it should be a goal.
Obtaining unnatural links — through link farms, private blog networks, etc. — is one of the top SEO mistakes made today. The practice of paying for backlinks remains rampant, but it’s killing sites. If you’re still doing it, stop. Seriously.
Google has repeatedly told webmasters its stance on link schemes, yet people still flood SEO forums and support threads wondering why a manual action has been placed on their site. Search engines are getting better every day at finding and penalizing sites full of unnatural links, ending its run as a viable tactic to increase a site’s authority.
Instead, focus on letting your quality content generate backlinks. Email webmasters who create content that aligns with yours and, if your content is done well, you can create a healthy backlink profile made up of quality sites. That’s what gets rewarded on SERPs in the 2020s.
Whether it’s backlinks or blogs, too many SEO strategies make the mistake of prioritizing quantity over quality.
Obtaining dozens of low-quality, spammy links can do more to squash your SEO goals than a handful of quality links can help achieve them. It may not be possible for every site to get backlinks from web giants, but even small blogs can gain a reputation for having great content.
Which means it’s better to focus on making one blog that you’d be proud of instead of churning out 5 mediocre posts. The quality will help rankings, user retention, conversions and help make sites want to link out to you, bringing in more qualified traffic.
Slow site speed is a top SEO mistake, user experience killer and a contributor to low rankings and missed conversions.
As we’ve discussed, search engines want the best experience for their users. Sending them to a site that takes forever to load and navigate won’t accomplish that goal, so they use speed as a directive in their algorithms.
But some webmasters continue to pack their sites with uncompressed images, unnecessary scripts and more, leading to bloated load times. This can lead to a beautiful site that people won’t see because they can’t crack the top 10 on SERPs.
Google already has said it will soon be prioritizing a few key speed metrics it calls Core Web Vitals, making now the time to focus on improving your site’s performance.
Using a free tool such as GTmetrix you can get data on your loading speed and get suggestions on how to improve. Do this as soon as possible. Your customers — and the search engines — will thank you soon enough.
A major pitfall in search engine optimization for even global companies is not optimizing for local SEO.
Search engines treat queries differently based on what it is and where the user is located. Even a query without a location in it can prioritize local results. A simple example is the SERP for “best plumber” that returned results centered around finding the best local plumber for me, not the best plumber in the world.
Notice that even national companies can optimize pages at the local level. Failing to do so could leave valuable keywords on the table that can help motivated buyers find your page.
Make sure to include your address and telephone number on your site as well, as search engines will use that to determine if you’re a local business to users.
Often, webmasters are focused so much on getting links from other sites that they forget to worry about linking internally.
A lack of a solid internal link structure creates orphan pages that are difficult to find for both users and search engines. It also misses out on opportunities to guide users down the sales funnel, from a high-level blog all the way to a checkout page.
Perhaps the best way to structure your internal links is to follow a hub-and-spoke approach. This tactic involves creating hub pages, such as a product category page, then linking out to related pages that users will want to visit. The hub-and-spoke model encourages users to stay on your site, increasing the potential for conversions.
For SEO, properly structured links tell search engine crawlers what pages are related and what page is most important. For instance, having multiple blogs about the intricacies of SEO linking to a hub page about what SEO is will help them understand and rank pages accordingly.
Of all of the SEO mistakes in digital content production, it’s the little things that are forgotten the most.
On-page SEO mistakes that are often overlooked include keyword stuffing, using generic anchor text, underoptimizing headers and broken links.
Even something as trivial as a small typo in a statistic can have consequences for your SEO success, so it’s important to take time to consistently check for any errors that may have been holding you back.
Create workflows and templates to help all members of your team ensure that the introduction of errors is minimized, if not eliminated, and use consistent technical audits to clean up any issues that fell through the cracks.
While all of these SEO mistakes can hurt your chances of achieving top rankings and generating traffic, it’s important to take a measured approach to fix them.
Start out with a thorough audit to get a list of any issues your site has. If something is critical to your site’s SEO efforts, begin there and move on until you’ve checked off all the boxes.
It’ll take time, but fixing any current issues and ensuring you don’t make any of the common SEO mistakes on this list in the future will help you get the most out of your organic strategy.