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10 Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid

Woman typing on a laptop with a cup of tea and magazine articles next to her

If you manage or own a website, you probably spend some time on SEO — or search engine optimization — to make sure your site ranks high on Google. And if you don’t, you should. Good SEO means more Internet users are directed to your website, which often means more success for your site or your business. And, according to Forbes, it’s one marketing method that is here to stay, even as other traditional methods become obsolete. 

But all SEO efforts aren’t created equally. You may assume you’re doing something good that’s actually hurting your ranking and vice versa. A practice that was considered good a few years ago may not be so great today. Luckily, most of the time, it’s an easy fix. Start by taking a look at 10 of the most common SEO mistakes to ensure you aren’t making them. 

1. Using the Wrong Keywords 

Keywords are the heart of SEO. If you’re not using the right ones, you may as well not be trying at all. You must understand your niche, your customers and the words your customers use to talk about and search for your products and services. You must understand which keywords bring positive results. 

If you need some assistance in this area, there are plenty of tools that help you find the right keywords for your site. The most commonly used one is Google’s own Keyword Planner.  

While we’re on the topic of keywords, another major mistake you may be making is keyword stuffing. This involves adding too many keywords to a page in order to trick Google into ranking you higher. This is often unappealing to the customers who view your site. And, most of the time, search engines like Google figure it out. It backfires on you.

2. Avoiding Analytics 

Tracking your website’s analytics may seem like a waste of time, but not doing so is one of the most common SEO mistakes people make. Analytics allows you to see what’s working and what’s not. Which keywords are customers drawn to? Which content led to an actual purchase?

3. Duplicating Content 

Duplicate content is a big problem when it comes to SEO. That means duplicating content from someone else’s website or your own. Everything on your site should be fresh and unique. Otherwise, search engines may see that the content is already in their index and skip over yours, keeping you out of the rankings.

4. Not Focusing on Quality Content 

Some website owners and managers make the mistake of assuming more content is better. The reality is that a small amount of high-quality content is better than an abundance of poor-quality content. Make sure your content is relevant to your niche and will actually attract and interest consumers. Don’t just throw it together for SEO. It should always have an authentic purpose beyond Google rankings. 

5. Maintaining a Slow Loading Website that Isn’t Mobile Friendly

People are in a hurry these days. If your site speed is lacking, potential customers will exit out of your website and go to one of your competitors. According to Search Engine Journal, your site should load in three seconds or less.

Not only should your site load quickly on someone’s laptop, but it should be mobile-friendly as well. As of 2018, the mobile version of your site can affect your Google rankings. Thankfully, Google offers a test site that allows you to plug in a URL and see if your site is mobile-friendly. If you’re not comfortable with that, simply look at your site on your own phone. Does it load quickly? Is it easy to read? Can you see everything you need to see and click on everything you need to click on? What’s frustrating you when you try to view it from your phone?

6. Skipping Alt Text for Images 

Optimizing the images on your site can be just as important as the rest of your content. Unfortunately, many people forget to or just skip overdoing this. And it can cost you plenty of traffic that you may have gained from an image search. 

Fix this by adding alt text to your images. Alt text is essentially a written description of what’s in the picture. When creating alt text, remember to: 

  • Add context to the subject (instead of saying, “woman stands in front of a classroom,” say, “female teacher stands in front of a classroom”) 
  • Avoid keyword stuffing, but do use relevant keywords when appropriate 
  • Be detailed but avoid fluff 
  • Don’t include phrases like “this is a picture of…”   
  • Try to stay within 125 characters 

7. Ignoring Localized SEO 

If you have a physical business location, you must not ignore local SEO. Otherwise, you could lose hundreds, if not thousands of hits on your site. Try optimizing your site with local keywords and creating a listing at Google My Business. Adding your business to review sites, like Yelp and Foursquare, can help too. 

8. Skipping Headings When Using Keywords 

One important SEO strategy that many people don’t know is that you should add your keywords to your headings. Avoid going overboard, but if you can fit them naturally into your H1, H2 and H3 tags, you’ll attract more traffic and higher rankings. 

9. Not Focusing On Your Meta Content 

Not optimizing your meta content or not writing meta content at all can have a negative impact on your rankings and your website traffic. Essentially, you’re providing Google with a description of your page when you do include it. Try to stick to about 10 words or 150 to 300 characters. Incorporate your main keyword but do so authentically.  

10. Making Mistakes with Your Links 

Last but not least, link mismanagement could be your biggest SEO problem. It comes in several forms. 

External Links 

Many people assume that the more external links they have, the better. But you also need them for good ranking. The trick is finding that happy medium, and it all goes back to authenticity. Only use external links when it’s necessary for the integrity of your content, such as when you’re talking about a product or when you’re quoting an article. Don’t link to your competitors’ websites. And don’t place an external link on the anchor text of your main keywords.  

Internal Links 

Just like external links, you need to use internal links that lead to other pages on your website. But you need to use them correctly. If your company is called Alex’s Flower Shop, don’t post something like, “Want to see what types of roses you can buy from Alex’s Flower Shop? Click here” and make “click here” your anchor text. Instead, the text you link should be unique. Many experts recommend using the main keyword from the page you’re linking to as your anchor text. So, if the main keyword for the other page is “types of roses,” you can place your link there instead.