Beginners to SEO make mistakes either because they are not aware of the basic SEO best practices or because they don’t understand them correctly.
SEO is a fast-changing industry and what worked a few years or months ago may not work today. It is thus important to stay educated and informed about the latest SEO developments.
In this post you will read about the 18 most common SEO mistakes to avoid and what to do instead.
Here is the list:
- You are not using a keyword research tool
- Your page titles and descriptions are not unique
- You are not active in social media
- You don’t actively promote your blog posts
- You are not using Google Search Console and Bing webmaster tools
- You are not following a consistent publishing schedule
- Your content is not of high quality
- You are not following internal linking best practices
- You have a slow loading web site
- You are building incoming links too fast
- You are building low quality links
- You are creating pages for SEO purposes only
- You are using press releases for building links
- You are targeting high traffic keywords only
- You have separated SEO from your overall digital marketing strategy
- You are not using the h1 tag correctly
- You are not formatting your content
- Your images are not SEO optimized
1. You are not using a keyword research tool
Some people believe that by using a keyword research tool before creating their content, they are somehow cheating. This is nowhere close to the truth, it is in fact a big SEO mistake.
A keyword research tool such as SEMRUSH or the Google keyword tool will give you an indication of what queries people type in the Google Search Box.
By including those keywords in your articles or pages, you make the content more relevant to your users and easier to understand for the search engines.
2. Your page titles and descriptions are not unique
This is probably the biggest SEO mistake and despite the emphasis given by both Google and Bing, still some webmasters do not provide unique titles for each page.
The title of a page is a very important SEO signal. This is what search engines and users read first when they try to understand what a page is about.
If you fail to provide them with a title that is meaningful to both (search crawlers and users) you will minimize your chances of ranking high on Google (and other search engines) and in addition you drive visitors away from your web page.
The most common mistakes are:
- Having all pages under the same title
- Including the website name in the page title (it’s ok to do that for the homepage but it’s not needed for the rest of the pages)
- Making the page titles more than 65 characters in length
- Titles should be max 60 characters.
- They have to be natural and describe what the page is about.
- They need to include keywords but not keyword stuffing.
- They have to be unique for each web page.
- Titles are shown in the SERPS (search engine results pages) so they also need to be attractive to the user in order to receive more clicks.
Not proving a meta description
Another SEO mistake is not to provide for a unique meta description for each and every page.
A good meta description can increase your click through rates (CTR) and if your content delivers what promised in the description, it is more likely to increase your conversion rate as well.
Descriptions should be unique (between 150-160 characters), non-keyword stuffed and attractive to the user.
Pro Tip: Read my seo tips for beginners article (point 1) on how to SEO your page titles and descriptions.
3. You are not active in social media
Social media is one of the best and most effective ways to promote your website or new content.
It is a huge mistake if you are not active in at least one social media platform.
Most SEO experts agree that social signals are gaining more ground as a ranking factor and besides the hidden SEO benefits, social media is also a good source of traffic.
You don’t have to be active in all networks, or to spend a lot of time socializing without a purpose.
You need to find which platform is best suited to your audience and try to build authority and trust by following the leaders in your niche and sharing informative and useful content.
4. You don’t actively promote your blog posts
Don’t expect that because you’ve written what you think is a good post, people will start sharing it on Facebook or tweeting about it.
This is not going to happen in the beginning or until you have managed to build a decent audience (which includes hundreds of email subscribers, thousands of Facebook followers and tens of twitter followers).
Promoting your own work in the beginning is not a mistake at all and it is not something you should be shy about.
It will take a lot of effort, good content and persistence for others to share your work, but once you get to this point everything else becomes easier.
How to promote your blog posts? There are a lot of ways but the most effective are:
- Publish it on your social media pages (both personal and business)
- Share it with your followers (both personal and business)
- Use Facebook Ads to promote your posts to a pre-defined targeted audience (based on the profile of your average visitor)
- Write a summary of the post and publish it on LinkedIn (use LinkedIn publishing platform for long-form posts)
- Send it to your email list
- Link to it from older posts (internal linking)
- Write a guest post and publish it in an authoritative website and link to your post.
5. You are not using Google Search Console and Bing webmaster tools
Not having your website registered with Google Search Console and Bing webmaster tools is like driving with your eyes closed.
Both Google and Bing created the webmaster tools as a way to help website owners find out more about their web properties.
There is absolutely no valid reason why you should not register your website.
There are many benefits to gain and the process is simple and even a beginner can do it.
Instead of guessing what might be wrong and you are not getting as much search engine traffic as you should, open your eyes and take advantage of the feedback given to you by search engines.
6. You are not following a consistent publishing schedule
It doesn’t matter if you publish new content daily, every other day or once a week; what is more important is having a consistent publishing schedule.
Decide in advance how many times you plan to publish new content (and when) and stick to that plan, no matter what.
What I do to make sure that I don’t miss out my plan is prepare a few blog posts in advance so that I have one week to 10 days to find some time and craft new content.
Consistency does have an SEO value and it does bring in more traffic.
Pro Tip: You can also read my previous post: How often should you publish new content to get an idea of how you can create your publishing plan.
7. Your content is not of high quality
Latest trends in SEO are about authority and trust.
Your goal is to build trust between your website and users and authority between your website and search engines.
One of the ways (it’s not the only way) to build authority is by constantly publishing high quality content.
It’s a huge SEO mistake to concentrate on anything else and forget about the importance of content.
Instead of trying to have as many pages published, try to build authority and trust through your content. The benefits are a lot and go beyond achieving high rankings.
What is authoritative content? Content that has the following characteristics:
- Informative and useful to the user
Pro tip: I urge you to read how to write SEO friendly blogs to get an idea on how to create high quality content and avoid this very basic SEO mistake.
8. You are not following internal linking best practices
Inter-linking your pages together is necessary for 3 reasons:
- You help search engines discover more pages from your website
- A link to an internal page is a signal to search engines that this page is important for your site
- You help users find out more about a subject they are interested in.
Most web site owners don’t even bother to make internal links either because they believe it’s a waste of time or because they are not aware that internal links are good for SEO.
What is internal linking?
Internal linking is when you link from a page to another page in the same website.
Internal links are great for SEO since they allow you to create your own small web by linking your pages together. This helps search engines discover or revisit pages from your website and also gives extra information to users about a particular topic.
The most common mistakes that many webmasters do with internal linking are:
- Not using internal linking at all
- Using too many internal links
- Not using descriptive anchor text when linking to another page
Best practices for internal links are:
Google has many times mentioned that webmasters should pay attention to internal links because it helps them navigate a website better.
The screenshot below is from the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide published by Google a few years ago.
- Make the links descriptive and avoid using anchor text like “click here” “these” or other words that does not help Google and users understand what the linking page is about.
- Don’t use tag clouds – this is a bad practice of internal links
- When possible add the internal links within the main text of the page (and not in the sidebar)
- Don’t always use keywords in the anchor text but use text that flows naturally in your content.
- Don’t always link new pages with older pages but go back and link old pages with new pages. I know this is hard but you have to add this task in your schedule.
- Make sure that the pages you want to rank higher in the SERPS have the most internal links. You can view the relevant report in Google Search Console.
- Aim to have 2-10 internal links per page (depending on the length and type of content).
Here is an example of a good internal link: “An SEO friendly website has a good internal linking structure”.
9. You have a slow loading web site
It is really a crime not taking advantage of speed as a ranking factor. If there is one factor that we know for sure that it affects your ranking position, this is page speed.
Google and Bing want to make the web faster and they are doing everything they can from their part to make this happen.
I know from my experience talking to clients that trying to improve the loading time of a website is not the easiest task to do but it is a mistake ignoring it.
A faster website will bring more traffic (due to higher rankings), will generate more sales and more page views.
If you are running ads on your web site (like AdSense) a faster web site will also generate more ad clicks and ad revenue.
How to improve the loading time of your web site?
You basically have 2 options. The first one is outsourcing this task to a professional team and let them find their way through the bits and bytes and the other way is doing it yourself.
For the first option you can hire a developer through upwork.com or peopleperhour.com.
For the DIY solution, you can start by analyzing your web site through the Google PageSpeed Insights service and follow their guidelines.
10. You are building incoming links too fast
I am not a big fan of the term ‘link building’. In fact, I don’t even like to hear it, I like to use the term promotion instead.
Nevertheless, the reality is the same. Whether you call it link building, off-page SEO or promotion, it is one of the most important SEO processes, if you want to achieve high rankings.
When build links avoid making these SEO mistakes:
- Don’t build too many links too fast. The whole process needs to be natural and it is not natural for a 3-month website to have tens of links pointing to it. Go slow and steady.
- Don’t use keyword anchor text links. In the near past keyword anchor text links were very important for rankings, but now if you have many of those you can get a penalty instead.
- Don’t direct all your links to your home page. Diversification is a better practice.
- Don’t buy or exchange links with other bloggers and don’t participate in any link scheme (either free or paid).
Pro Tip: If link building is a new concept for you, read my previous guide: What are backlinks
11. You are building low quality links
If you ask anyone who is outside the SEO industry ‘what is SEO’, they will most probably tell you that:
- You need to create a page
- Add the keywords you want to rank for
- Build incoming links to those pages.
While this used to be a common SEO tactic of the past, it’s not the way today to get a page in the top positions of Google today.
The problem with using such techniques is that Google no longer tolerates link building that has no other value than passing ‘link juice’ from one page to another.
Their updated quality guidelines state clearly that any type of links build for this purpose are against their guidelines and may lead to a penalty.
In particular they talk about:
- Guest posting with keyword-rich text links
- Guest posting on article directories
- Bookmark site links
- Forum commenting with optimized links (either in the post or signature)
- Paid advertorials or advertising
- Cross linking or link exchanges
Does this mean that link building is dead? Absolutely not. Google was the first search engine that came up with the idea that a link is a ‘vote’ of trust and that websites with the highest number of links should rank better than websites with lesser links; and this worked great for them for many years.
They actually did several tests for removing links from being an important ranking factor but they concluded that the quality of the results is better with the incoming links considered.
Besides Google, Yandex also started using links as part of their ranking algorithm and so does Bing and Yahoo.
So, how do you build links that matter without getting into trouble?
First you need to make sure that your website and content are of good quality and professional.
Trusted websites don’t link to any website so before even trying to look for link building opportunities make sure that you are proud of your website and content.
Second, build your personal social media brand. When applying to guest post on big websites one of the things they look is your social media profiles.
You have more chances of being accepted if you are active in social media with a good number of followers rather than having a poor social media presence.
Third, make connections with people that can help you get a guest posting position. It’s easier if you are recommended by someone who is already publishing content than applying alone.
Fourth, you need to be ready to show samples of your published work (besides your blog). If you want to publish your content on good websites you will have to show them examples of your work published on other sites.
12. You are creating pages for SEO purposes only
Web sites that have more pages in the index rank higher than websites with less pages, correct? Not necessarily.
Websites that have a lot of quality pages indexed will rank higher and not just any type of pages.
Pages with thin content, duplicate content or repeating content do not add value to a website, they actually harm a website’s SEO performance.
If you are aim is getting as many pages you can indexed in Google, you may have to stop and revise your SEO Strategy.
In a typical website, category, archive, tag and pages that do not have unique content should be set to ‘noindex’.
This will most probably reduce the number of indexed pages but it is a more optimized approach and will help your website in the long term.
Instead of trying to duplicate your pages, concentrate on creating pages with valuable content that have more chances of ranking on their own.
Use canonical URLS and page directives for pages that need to be present for navigation purposes or useful to users.
Pro Tip: Learn how to find and fix low quality pages and improve your website’s overall quality.
13. You are using press releases for building links
I did not mention press releases above, because I wanted to give it more attention.
Some people still believe that adding links to press releases and distributing them through various channels will help SEO.
Should you stop using press releases? Not at all, there are still benefits from using press releases as a promotion channel but you need to ensure that any links in the press release are ‘nofollow’.
14. You are targeting high traffic keywords only
The first thing that many SEO experts do when trying to optimize a website is a keyword research. So far so good.
The mistake they are doing is that they only consider high volume keywords because they believe that this way they will get more traffic.
High traffic keywords are highly competitive and if you are starting out now (or have a relatively new website) you will never rank for those keywords, at least not in this life.
I am exaggerating so as to give you an idea of how difficult is to go after high traffic keywords with a ‘normal’ website.
What you should do instead?
There is a lot of traffic that is easier to target on long-tail keywords.
Long tail keywords as their name implies are search queries with more than 2+ words. For example, here is a high traffic keyword “SEO tips” and a long-tail keyword “SEO tips for beginners”.
To use this technique, you need to know how to find long tail keywords, but for sure is a method that works and can generate traffic for all kinds of websites.
15. You have separated SEO from your overall digital marketing strategy
If your tactic is to concentrate only on SEO you will not go far.
It is necessary to go beyond SEO and create a digital marketing strategy rather an SEO strategy alone.
Use traditional SEO techniques to optimize your website and content but for promotion purposes think outside the box and don’t be afraid to try things.
Don’t always try to think of ways to get more links but on ways to get more traffic and the links will naturally follow.
16. You are not using the <H1> tag correctly
This is a bit technical but easy to understand. When the Google crawler is reading a web page, it uses several techniques in order to interpret what a page is about.
The title as I already mentioned is a great signal, but also is the H1 tag.
The mistake that many websites make is that in a given page, they use more than one H1 tags.
This may be due to the website theme that is not SEO optimized or to bad programming, but the bottom line is that this is confusing for the search engine bots.
The easiest way to check if your website has this problem, is to visit a page on your site and select VIEW SOURCE from the browser menu.
This will show you the HTML code of the page and then you can search for “H1” using the FIND menu.
If there are more than 2 occurrences of opening H1 tags (<H1>), then this means you have a problem.
In case you do have more than H1 tags and don’t know how to fix it, you can ask a programmer to make this change for you.
17. You are not formatting your content
It is very common to see pages that have only text content in the main area without proper headings, paragraphing or any work done on styling.
This is not only bad for the user experience but also something that search engines can understand and if this is a repeating phenomenon it leads to the devaluation of a website’s quality.
When you publish text on a webpage don’t just paste the text (even if it is unique and original) on the page but try to make the page look nice by using headings (H2, H3), bold and italics to help users read and interact with the page.
Many people think that this does not matter since Google cannot ‘see’ a page but it is important for them as well.
In an article titled “building high quality websites” published in 2011, they mention that styling, quality control and editing is an important factor when trying to differentiate between high and low quality websites.
18. Your images are not SEO optimized
Images make pages more interesting to read and shareable.
Common mistakes associated with the use of images are:
- Using images that are too big in file size – this makes the website slower to load especially on mobile devices (not to mention the bandwidth needed to download big images on mobile).
- Using too many images – Unless you are a fashion news website, you don’t have to overload a page with images.
- Not using ALT text – ALT tags help search engines understand what an image is about and not using alt text makes their job much more difficult.
Image SEO Best Practices
Optimize your image file size before publishing. If you have a large image (i.e 2400×1200) don’t publish it as it is.
Use any photo editing software to ‘cut’ the image to a reasonable size i.e. 800×600 and then ‘Export it for Web’ so that the file size is optimized.
Any modern photo editing software like photoshop or pixelmator has many options for minimizing an image file size without losing quality.
If you need to use a lot of images on a page, don’t add them to the full size but use thumbnails to show smaller versions of the images and if users when to see the biggest version they can click on the thumbnail.
Before adding an image to a page make sure that you use a descriptive ALT text.
The alt text does not need to be separated by ‘-’ but you can use plain text. To make your ALT text more SEO optimized, make sure that it includes some of your main keywords but without keyword stuffing.
More SEO Mistakes
These are the top SEO mistakes people make over and over again.
The bottom line is that most of them are very easy to avoid. All you have to do is go through the list and make the necessary fixes.
Which of the above SEO mistakes are the most popular? Are there any other common errors missing from the list?