By now, you’re probably well aware that search engine optimisation (SEO) is a very important aspect of your online marketing strategy. It helps your site rank higher in search engine results pages, increases traffic and ensures that your target audience can find you.
Google puts a strong emphasis on good quality content that really benefits the user. It has little tolerance for bad practices (often referred to as black hat SEO) which means that errors can be costly.
SEO mistakes can result in penalties which lead to poor website rankings. This is the last thing any business wants, so in this article, I’m going to look at five common SEO mistakes and how to avoid them.
Five SEO mistakes and how to avoid them
1. Keyword stuffing
When a user types a query into a search engine, it will only know to display a site if the correct keywords are being used. This means it can be very tempting for businesses to stuff as many keywords into their content as possible.
This is one of the more common SEO mistakes and doing it won’t have the desired effect unfortunately. High keyword density is a sign of poor-quality content and it can therefore harm a site’s rankings. What’s more, it creates a negative user experience which means people are unlikely to visit a site again.
What to do instead:
Use Google’s free keyword research tool to identify the words and phrases relevant to your business. Rather than having an endless list of keywords, focus on a few really great phrases which are going to direct high-quality traffic to your site. Moz.com has a great beginner’s guide to keyword research.
Google will always prioritise useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and within context. It’s very important that your keywords flow naturally with your content. A great tip is to go through all your pages and read the text out loud. If it doesn’t sound right, play around with the positioning of your keywords.
Other places you can add keywords include:
Meta data (title tags and descriptions)
Image ALT text
If you need help perfecting your keyword strategy, have a read of:
- An introductory guide to keyword research
- Is your keyword strategy affecting your search engine rankings?
- Are keywords still important for SEO?
- How to find secondary keywords to enhance your SEO
2. Poor link building
Link building is the process of getting other websites to link back to another. It’s a great SEO tactic because it drives referral traffic and helps build site authority. Backlinks tell Google that a website is a quality resource and is therefore more likely to reward it with higher rankings.
Businesses need to proceed with caution when it comes to their link building strategy however because there are a number of mistakes that can be made:
- Buying links may seem like a quick and harmless way to boost SEO efforts but it’s not advisable. Google is very smart and can detect unnatural links and could completely remove a site if they’re caught doing this
- While it is known to agree a link exchange with another reputable website, this can be harmful if it isn’t done correctly. Search engines can detect if sites have a lot of link exchanges coming from spam websites. This can result in being penalised with lower rankings or even being banned completely
What to do instead:
Social media is your best bet when it comes to sending good quality traffic to your website. These platforms are a trusted and reputable source in the eyes of search engines, so you won’t be penalised for utilising them.
Whether you have a product, promotion, landing page or new blog to promote, social media is the perfect place to alert your followers and direct them to your website.
Encouraging customers to leave feedback on review sites is another great way to acquire trusted links. If you look on TripAdvisor for example, there’s a website button which takes users directly to the business’s URL.
Ensure you’re set up on all the popular review sites relevant to your industry. As well as being a great link building tool, it’s important that you’re aware of the feedback you’re receiving and responding to it.
Internal link building can also give you a ranking boost; you could for example write a blog about a product and then link from the blog to the product’s page. Don’t forget to use your keywords in your anchor text for an extra SEO boost.
If you’re new to link building and want to avoid the SEO mistakes that can come with it, these articles can help:
- An introduction to link building
- A beginner’s guide to building backlinks – achieving maximum exposure when you have minimum time
3. Using duplicate content
On Google’s Search Console help page, it clearly states that the single most important thing a website can do for SEO is provide high-quality content.
Unfortunately, business owners are often too busy to produce fresh, informative and engaging content on a regular basis. As a result, one of the most common SEO mistakes is duplicate content.
When companies are short on time or are struggling to know what to say, it might be tempting to copy text from another website or part of their own site. Unfortunately, this won’t do anyone any favours. Search engines will very rarely show multiple versions of the same content which means that companies could be destroying any chance they have of appearing in results pages. It’s also not best practice, is unlikely to help a business produce high-quality, relevant content for their audience and there are copyright laws surrounding online content too.
In most innocent cases, the penalty will be a lower ranking. After all, with so much content out there, it’s almost impossible for the internet to be entirely original. Sometimes it’s even unavoidable – such as if a product is being described for example.
Intentionally or excessively posting duplicate or scraped content could see Google completely remove a site from its indexing which means it won’t appear in its results pages at all.
What to do instead:
If your pages contain useful information, your content will attract visitors, other websites will want to link to yours and as a result, search engines will recognise you as a good authority.
Content should be helpful, information-rich and clearly and accurately describe your products or services. Another top tip is to ensure your content is as informative as possible so that readers don’t have to go to another website to find out more.
Produce content that genuinely corresponds to the needs of your target audience. You can determine this by using analytics to identify popular pages, looking at keyword search queries or simply asking customers what they would like to see more of.
Using analytics to track how visitors are engaging with your content is key. Ask yourself:
- How long are people spending on the page? If it’s seconds, your content isn’t resonating with your audience and you need to make it more engaging
- Which pages lead to conversions? Use these pages as the foundation for the rest of your website because this is the strategy that’s working for you
If you don’t have the time to produce good quality content yourself, think about outsourcing the task to a freelancer or hiring an employee. It may be an additional expense, but it could help to generate income you wouldn’t be able to bring in yourself.
Another great tactic is to refresh existing blogs and webpages as this can help you share up-to-date content you know already resonates with your audience and can help give your SEO a boost too.
If you’re stuck for content ideas, here’s some inspiration to help get you started:
- How to write content that both Google and your audience will love
- Six ways to refresh your content marketing strategy for 2021
- How to build an editorial content calendar
4. Not optimising a website for mobile
Mobile devices account for approximately half of all internet traffic worldwide. This means that if a website isn’t mobile-friendly, it could be alienating half of its visitors.
It’s not just potential customers who will be put off either. Since 2018, Google has been using mobile first indexing which means it favours websites that work better on mobile devices.
To check if a site is responsive, simply use a smartphone to see if it automatically shrinks to fit the smaller screen. The site should be easy to navigate and it’s important that visitors can read all the text without scrolling horizontally (unless the website is set to scroll horizontally). Users should also be able to find and click on calls to action, pop-ups should be easy to close and don’t use flash because most mobile users won’t be able to see this content.
Below is a great example of a mobile-friendly site.
What to do instead:
A frustrating user experience will mean that visitors instantly click off your website. As well as making sales almost impossible, this will also hurt your SEO efforts. The good news is that your website can be made mobile-friendly.
If you’ve built your platform on a site like WIX, they have the functionality to make your website responsive. You don’t need any knowledge of coding, it’s simply a case of dragging and dropping to make sure everything’s in the right place.
You can also outsource to a digital marketing agency who can do this for you. If you can’t afford an agency, sites like Fiverr offer a cheaper alternative. Make sure you read reviews and ensure they can provide examples of previous projects.
If you want to learn more about this topic, have a read of this blog, ‘Why having a mobile-friendly website is more important than ever.’
5. Not using analytics
Analytics plays an important role in SEO. Among many other things, the data acquired from free platforms such as Google Analytics can tell businesses a lot about their website including:
- How much traffic it’s getting
- Where this traffic is coming from
- Which keywords are attracting visitors
- If your paid advertising is working
- Which pages are popular
- How long people spend on your website
- What’s driving conversions
These insights are incredibly valuable to any business because they enable them to improve their campaigns and correctly identify where they should be investing their time and money.
What to do instead:
If you’re still not convinced, have a read of this article which explains why website analytics is important for your business growth.
If you’re ready to get started, the good news is that it’s easier to implement than you may think. It does involve installing a code on your website but this is something you can copy and paste so even beginners can do it themselves. Google also provides a step-by-step guide to getting started with Analytics. This will provide you with all the information you need.
While it may seem like there’s a lot to get your head around, there’s so much information online explaining everything you need to know about SEO. What’s more, it will soon become second nature and you will naturally start doing things like adding keywords into your blogs.
Some great resources which will really help perfect your technique include:
After completing her degree in Journalism, Monique began her career at a digital marketing agency. It was here she discovered a passion for online marketing with a particular focus on content creation for the web. Six years ago Monique set up her own copywriting business, Copyworks Group, which specialises in creating content for websites, blogs, newsletters and social media pages.Read full profile