SEO | 8 min read

10 Common SEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

Optimising your blog or website is often a daunting task. You want to be sure any content you write for the web is optimised for search engines, but even experts often fall into these common SEO mistakes and pitfalls.

Here are 10 common SEO mistakes you could be making, as well as advice on how to avoid them.

1. You’re not doing enough keyword research

People often skip the keyword research phase because they think they already know the keywords they want to rank for in search engines. This is one of the most common SEO mistakes, and one that is sadly often made by experts and SEO providers.

keyword research common seo mistakes
Keyword research - common SEO mistakes

Not backing up keywords with evidence-based research can result in decisions being made on incorrect assumptions.

You could fall into the trap of using industry terminology for keywords - terms that are commonly used in your company or industry, but which are not the terms people are using in search engines.

Whilst SEO is technical in nature, it is a marketing discipline at heart. Therefore it is always beneficial to undertake significant customer research and fully flesh out your customer personas in order to confirm your SEO practices.

You could also be anchoring your text around a keyword which is over-used in search engines. If you choose keywords which are used by lots of other competitors or larger, well-established companies, it will be very difficult to rank well in search engines.

To help this process, you can use keyword research tools such as Long Tail Keyword Pro, Google Adwords Keyword Planner and Mozkeyword to research ideas for keywords and ensure your keyword use remains competitive.

To find out more about how to research keywords, take a look at our quick keyword research guide.

2. You’re only using traffic to decide on keywords

Many people use site traffic as the main metric for keywords. In the keyword research phase, people use tools such as Google Adwords Keyword Planner to find out the amount of traffic associated with each keyword.

seo mistakes - google keyword planner
SEO mistakes - Google keyword planner's average monthly search function

However, this doesn’t take into account differing conversion rates for types of keywords.

Consider the ‘keyword curve.’ The keyword curve shows that shorter keywords (head keywords) receive a higher volume of searches per month. However, more detailed, longer keywords (long-tail keywords) typically receive lower traffic but higher click-through and conversion rates.

Your SEO strategy should embrace both head keywords and long-tail keywords, and be centred around traffic, click-through and conversion.

3. You’re over-using keywords

Whilst keywords are an important part of SEO, many people do not realise that they can be penalised for over-using them. This is one of the most common SEO mistakes, and is often referred to as 'keyword stuffing.'

In 2012, the Penguin Algorithm was introduced by Google as a response to user-complaints that the top pages of search engines were filled with low-quality spam websites. As a result, websites are now penalised for keyword stuffing on the basis that this often makes website text appear as 'spammy' and low-quality.

It is therefore important to work out your keyword density and avoid any issues from the above algorithm.

What is an acceptable keyword density? If you write 100 words and use your chosen keyword 10 times, then your keyword density would be 10%. When writing any web copy, it is generally recommended to have a keyword density of 1-3%.

Google advice on how to produce quality content includes: ‘Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.’ In other words, write for readers and focus on content, not keywords.

4. You’re under-using keywords

Of course there is also the possibility that you could be under-using your keywords.

keywords common seo mistakes
Under-using keywords - common SEO mistakes

It is important to make sure to use your chosen keyword in your title tags, meta descriptions and post headings. Search engines use these to locate, categorise and rank your content. So, not including your keywords in these areas means that you are missing a big opportunity to rank well and are making one of the most common SEO mistakes.

Don't forget to also include keywords in your image alt tags and captions. Check out our blog post for more information on how to optimise images for SEO.

5. Your content isn't engaging readers

If your web page isn't ranking as well as you would like, it could be that the content itself isn't engaging enough.

If your content doesn’t engage readers, you could be getting hit with a high bounce rate. According to CXL, bounce rate measures the percentage of single-engagement visits to your site. Simply, the number of visitors that visit one page of your site and leave without viewing any other pages.

Bounce rate isn't the only indicator of low-quality content. A low visitor dwell-time (how long visitors spend on your site before clicking away) could also indicate that readers aren't engaged.

Google’s guidelines on how to produce engaging, high-quality content include the following information:

  • Make your site interesting and useful
  • Know what readers want (and give it to them)
  • Write easy to read text
  • Avoid writing sloppy text with many spelling and grammatical mistakes.
  • Avoid dumping large amounts of text on varying topics onto a page without paragraph, subheading, or layout separation.
  • Avoid duplicate content

Check out our blog post for more information on how to create high-quality content that engages readers.

6. Your site design is off

In a similar way to point number 4, your SEO can be impacted by the layout or design of your site.

If your site layout is off, if it isn't pleasant to look at, or if users find it difficult to use, they will be more likely to click away. Your bounce rate is likely to be higher, and your visitor dwell time is likely to be much lower.

This could also be impacted by the ads on your site.

Due to Google’s Page Layout Algorithm Update, Google penalises sites with heavy advertising above the fold of a website – in other words, the part of the site that users can see before they scroll down.

The design of the site directly impacts the time that visitors spend on your page and the number of pages they visit. Site design is therefore seen as an important indicator of quality by search engines.

7. You’re not taking advantage of social media

Whilst content sharing on social media does not necessarily increase search engine rankings, it does increase engagement – something which is measured by search engines.

According to Moz,

“to determine success, an algorithm looks at whether users engaged. If more people engage that’s a clear sign that their algorithm is showing this right content; if not, their systems will audition other content instead to find something that generates that interest.”

If more people share your content on social media, this shows search engines that your content is engaging to readers.

You should therefore ensure that your web content is easily shareable on all social media channels with easy-to-click, easy-to-locate buttons or widgets.

8. You’re not building high-quality external links

You could have well-written content that engages readers, uses the correct keyword density and is based on a solid keyword strategy. However, if you do not use high-quality links to other reputable web pages, you are missing an opportunity to rank well.

Building links is important because they tell search engines that your site is high-quality and worthy of citation. As a result of this, sites with more backlinks tend to be ranked higher in search engines.

Links also go both ways. The more reputable sites that link to you, the better your ranking will be.

However, not all links are created equally. Linking to, and being linked by reputable sites such as The Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal will have a greater impact on your search engine rankings than linking to smaller or newer websites. Therefore it is important to consider reputation and quality when it comes to link building.

And of course, you can fall into the danger of over-using links – similarly to keyword stuffing. It is important to use links only when natural and needed, whenever you need to make a citation, or you feel it is useful to signpost the reader elsewhere.

You can also use anchor text to your advantage (the text which the reader clicks to link to another source). Anchor text signifies to the reader and the search engine that the link you have provided is useful. Therefore by using ‘click here’ as anchor text, you are missing a valuable SEO opportunity.

9. You’re overlooking internal links

Many people recognise the importance of external links when it comes to SEO, however they often neglect their internal ones. Internal links signpost the reader to other parts of your website, as opposed to signposting elsewhere.

Internal links are an important part of SEO because they signal to Google and other search engines that your webpage is high-quality.

Organising your website categorically, with separate landing pages for each topic, product or service and then linking internally also means that you can write some really targeted, keyword-optimised text. Just make sure that all of your internal links are relevant, functional and that they don’t lead the reader on a dead-end journey.

According to the Search Engine Journal, no webpage on your site should be more than two clicks away from your homepage or a call to action landing page. So, just make sure you’re regularly linking readers back to these pages.

10. Not using analytics to improve

Lastly, not using analytics to improve is one of the most common SEO mistakes that people make. The best way to find out whether your SEO is effective is to regularly check in and track your progress. This can be done with analytics tools such as Google Analytics and Google Webmaster, or even SEMrush’s on-page SEO checker.

Using analytics tools helps you to work out which strategies are working and which aren't. It helps you understand where to target your efforts moving forward and avoids an SEO strategy based on ‘flying blind.’

How can we help with common SEO mistakes?

Struggling to wrap your head around SEO, or simply don’t have the time to make SEO a priority for your business?

Cambray Design are a specialist digital service and marketing company. Our SEO team has worked for Heineken, Domino’s, Virgin and Costa Coffee among many others.

Our SEO service includes:

  • Weekly Content Creation
  • Free Blog Website
  • High-Quality Backlinks
  • On-Page SEO
  • Advanced SEO Tools
  • Competitor Analysis
  • Monthly Reports

For more information on how to avoid common SEO mistakes or to book a free 30-minute consultation with one of our experts, contact us today.

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