For as long as search engine optimization has been a common practice, webmasters have been making SEO mistakes. It doesn't help that search engines seem to change what they're looking for fairly regularly, meaning that best practices of a few years ago are hopelessly outdated now.
If you're not ranking as well as you hoped, here are some common SEO mistakes that might be holding you back. Even if you're doing well, you can always do better by fixing some of these things so you aren't penalized by the next Google update.
1: Basing keywords on broad match.
Sometimes when you're looking up Google keywords in the handy analytics tool, it can seem tempting to focus on keywords with lots of search traffic and little competition. Unusual and profitable keywords can turn up unexpectedly, and you start dreaming of floods of traffic to your site but there's a problem. You never get the traffic you anticipated, even if you get to the first spot in the search engine. This could well be because you based your keyword research on broad match results instead of exact match. Broad match isn't an accurate estimate of how many searches you will get for that keyword, and is often greatly overblown. For a reality check, make sure you always search for exact matches when doing keyword research.
2: Thinking too technically.
This SEO mistake is also about keywords, though in a different way. If you're an expert on a subject and you want to convince web readers of this, it's tempting to use lingo. You might even do it accidentally while referring to kitchen tools, backyard gadgets, or other products you are promoting. Yet your reader, the average layperson, simply might not recognize these words, and can be easily turned off by such inaccessible language.
Worse yet, you might never have people find your site as a result. If your keywords are based on these technical terms, you'll only attract a small percentage of the people you may otherwise have – the ones who already know the terminology.
Use Google keyword suggestions to find alternative terms that people actually search for. This can be surprising – for instance, a plural may be searched for more often than the singular term, or a misspelling or brand name might be extremely common.
3: Using a free blog.
This is both a SEO mistake and a generally bad business practice. The free Blogger and Wordpress installations are, quite simply, not well-liked by search engines. It's too easy for a spammer to create a network of free sites with no investment and put low-quality content on them, so the easiest way to prevent this happening is to rank free sites below sites on your own domain.
Paying for a domain name and hosting, then installing Wordpress, is a good idea for business reasons, too. It allows you to use plugins, place Google Adsense ads on your site, and have full control of all your own information. No chance your blog will be deleted from an erroneous or malicious spam complaint!
4: Creating pages with thin content.
This mistake is common when listing information on products such as colors, sizes, or styles. If most of the page is blank with only a few pieces of critical information, the search engine can't tell how important these things are – it just sees your page as thin.
There's an easy way to remedy this. Think about Amazon and how they have set up their product review pages. The pertinent information is still in standardized sections that are easy to navigate, but a writer takes the bullet points in the main features section and expands them into a text description that's usually anywhere from one paragraph to five or more paragraphs.
A similar approach can help you; list your information as usual, then have a talented writer turn the bare facts into some engaging product copy or articles.
5: Using “click here” for anchor text.
Anchor text for your links to internal pages is very easy and important to take advantage of. Since you have a choice (unlike backlinks from other people, who may just use the phrase “click here”), you may as well optimize this. It's a mistake to ignore it.
Don't keep your internal anchor text exactly the same for every link, though. Try varying it slightly instead. For instance, if you're linking to your page about garden ponds, you could use some of these phrases as anchor text: garden pool, backyard pond, and home pond.
6: Scattered internal links.
Taking advantage of internal linking is simple and effective, and you could be using the best anchor text possible, but you might just scatter the benefit of your link juice if you link to different pages with the same keyword. All you're doing in this case is competing against yourself, though some do argue that this boosts your site's rankings in general.
Figure out which page to link to for which keyword, then stick to it. This will help consolidate your links a little and make it clear to the search engines that you have useful content about a particular topic on a particular page, rather than looking spammy.
7: Focusing on meta tags.
Certain meta tags are actually useless in Google's eyes. While they use meta tags like the description field sometimes, they have stated outright that they don't use meta keywords and don't intend to do so again, due to the potential for keyword stuffing. You're also giving all your best keywords to your competitors this way.
Instead, the sensible way to use keywords is to include them naturally in your website. Focus on generating content that would include these phrases as naturally as possible, and don't worry about every single possible keyword. The most important thing is how natural the writing seems to be, not the keyword percentage, since the content is ultimately for a reader anyway.
8: Focusing on trends.
A very common SEO mistake is trying to generate traffic based on trends. By their very nature, trends will come and go, but evergreen content marketing strategies won't fade nearly as fast. Trends also tend to be penalized more quickly and harshly than techniques that have worked for years and rely on solid content.
If you don't already have a content marketing strategy, develop one for your site. Brainstorm different types of content you can provide, who your audience is, what problem this content fixes, and how you'll get the content in front of them without being a spammer.
9: Not featuring your best work.
You've probably already put in some hard work on your site, and the best or most popular posts deserve to be featured on your website. Especially if you have a blog-style website, posts or articles will be forgotten easily if they aren't shown in recent categories, so featuring them will keep your view count high.
Not only will you attract people who have already read or engaged with your content once and want to revisit it, but new visitors who haven't seen anything other than the page they have just landed on will have a very easy way to look at other things they're probably interested in without having to go searching for them.
10: Not nurturing your audience.
The goal of any website is to be independent of SEO trends and have a sustainable, long-term community that makes you income and supports itself. There's only so much “give” you can do without burning yourself out, exhausting the limits of your knowledge, or seeming self-centred if you don't allow people to give back. Open the comments section and moderate it carefully.
Don't approve spam comments just to boost your comment count, but when people leave great comments, respond to them and engage them in friendly conversation, visit their sites, and if they have relevant, high-quality stuff, link to them or feature them. Build a community around what you do and it will not let you down.
These are all common SEO mistakes that can hold you back not just from short-term search engine rankings potential, but from building a lasting asset that you can either maintain, grow, or even sell somewhere down the road. Don't let yourself be lost in the mass of faceless, identical websites; develop yours into something unique and you will reap the rewards.
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