Search engine optimization (SEO) is a crucial component of ensuring a brand’s high search visibility online. We‘re bombarded daily by articles and insights about everything you should be doing to improve your SEO. All of this information, best practices, and tips and tricks become very overwhelming, and sorting through it can be a time-consuming chore. So instead of writing another article featuring to-do lists for SEO success, here are the biggest SEO mistakes NOT to make this year:
Do Not Overuse Keywords
Often referred to as keyword stuffing, this was wildly popular before the search algorithms became more sophisticated—now it’s a big no-no! Digital content editors were encouraged to repeat the same keywords as much as possible on a single page in an attempt to boost the page’s relevancy so it would appear higher in search results. Not only could this prompt a Google search penalty that will negatively impact your search rankings, but also it leaves your site visitors with a very poor user experience due to the unnatural content experience. Sure, your content should include relevant terms in order to be found quickly, but searchers deserve a well-constructed piece of content that engages them and meets their ever-growing higher expectations on the web. Example Keyword: “Seven-string electric guitars”
Don’t do this…
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Do this instead!
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Do Not Create Duplicate Content
When two or more pages contain the same content, you could be in jeopardy of getting a search engine penalty, even if the content was used legally and with permission of the content owner. Duplicate content can exist on the same site or completely separate sites; they just have to have unique URLs. Additionally, duplicate content can take on many forms, like a 100% duplication (as with bad site architectures, or when content is plagiarized and reposted onto another site), or when partial repeats of text appear (like duplicative metadata or duplicate text on the page, but different images are displayed). Duplicate content is bad for SEO because if detected, the search engines will determine your site has low authority and could potentially stop scanning and indexing your site. This means that any new pages you add could be ignored completely by search engines.
Do Not Leave Metadata Incomplete
Metadata is the first impression a user has of your brand on the search results page. If you don’t put the exact title and description you want to appear in search results, then search engines will simply pull and display the page title and first words it finds on the page to use as the description. The following is another fictional example I created that demonstrates this:
Don’t do this…
Additionally, metadata provides search engines with the necessary information about your web page and the terms and phrases it should appear for in the search results. The weight that Google places on meta keywords has decreased (due to digital marketers abusing it in recent years), but as you can see from the example above, the meta title and meta description should still be a major focus when trying to optimize for search.
Do Not Ignore Mobile Traffic
Now that more and more users are using mobile devices to obtain product information and make purchases, mobile optimization is crucial for search engine visibility. If your site does not display a responsive design or contain some form of a mobile-optimized destination, it won’t be marked as mobile-friendly by search engines. This means that regardless of how relevant your content may be, your site won’t be listed high or at all in the mobile search results. Other areas that determine how your site appears in mobile search results include: download speed; if it has a mobile-friendly error page; if any of your site pages contain images that are too big/heavy; and the frequency with which you update and revise your site, which leads me to my next recommendation.
Do Not Stop the Process of Site Updates and Optimizations
Creating and posting content at random won’t meet the requirements of search engines. Instead, take the time to create high-quality content, make design enhancements and tweak terms for SEO. Doing so shows search engines that you’re constantly working to improve your site’s user experience. Such activities would be updating CTAs on a page, revising metadata to optimize pages for certain keywords or going back to old articles and adding links to newer, relevant ones. If they see you’re working hard for them, they’ll be more likely to serve your site a higher domain authority and develop trust in your brand. Search engines like Google positively reinforce active and frequently updated websites through higher page authority. Remember: The job of a search engine is not to be a bad guy, but simply to serve their customers with the most relevant content users are searching for. If constantly revising your site isn’t an option, consider integrating a social depth platform like Olapic. This tool aggregates user generated content (UGC) and displays it on your site to increase engagement and refresh content loading on your web pages.
Do Not Engage in Unnatural Paid Link Building
Just say “NO” when a company offers to sell you several cheap backlinks to your site. The links will almost always be placed in a duplicative manner on low-quality sites that have nothing to do with your brand. And if you don’t believe me, just look at the rules stated in Google’s Link Scheme Guidelines. They explain that SEO search engines look at the quality of the sites that link to your site, and you will likely get penalized for having poor-quality backlinks. “Buying or selling links that pass PageRank. This includes exchanging money for links, or posts that contain links; exchanging goods or services for links; or sending someone a ‘free’ product in exchange for them writing about it and including a link.” (Source) Once you get hit with a Google penalty, getting those irrelevant links removed from other sites will cost you more than the “great deal” the link-building company offered you in the first place. Plus, any traffic that lands on your site by way of these links won’t drive conversions or improve on-page metrics because they’re coming from unrelated sites.
Do Not Forget to Review Old Content for Errors
If you’re just looking ahead to the new content and extensions of your site or products online, you’re making a mistake. Instead, make time to review your site to locate and fix minor housekeeping issues, like a single broken link in an old blog post. If you aren’t keeping general site maintenance on your radar, those one or two links here and there will add and up and limit your SEO success. Along with identifying broken links, make sure to monitor decommissioned pages that render 404 errors (files not found). Search engines understand that content is published and then removed over time, but if you aren’t cleaning up your own internal links and users are getting a 404 error because of it, that’s a different story. Failing to do so leads to poor user experience, causing low on-page engagement. Identify errors using your Google Search Console or another free tool that helps you identify broken links and 404 errors.
Do Not Let a Cool New Web Design Hurt Your SEO
If your goal this year is to change your site design to one that is sleek and sophisticated, test designs before they go live to make sure they won’t negatively impact your metrics and KPIs. SEO isn’t just about the right keywords and driving traffic to your site; it’s also about keeping your audience engaged once they get to your site. Design considerations like weak navigation and too many pop-up windows, iframes or Flash all make a difference. Also, keep in mind that just because your uber-talented designer can craft beautiful, eye-catching images to tell your brand story, don’t opt for more images than text. This is because search engines can’t see what images look like; they need text to crawl over. Instead, lay text over the images with proper coding.
SEO is not an exact science, and becoming a master in all of the practices of search engine visibility isn’t a walk in the park. But there are steps you can take to get control of your site’s SEO, like constantly enhancing, testing and monitoring your site until you find what works best for you. If you follow the tips in this post, you can rest assured you won’t be making any SEO mistakes that could cause you to take huge steps backwards. If you have questions or comments, post them below!