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10 Terrible SEO Mistakes You Might Not Know You’re Making

Over the last few years, SEO has changed considerably, and many businesses have not updated their websites to keep up. If your website hasn’t had a complete overhaul in the past three years, it is long overdue…and you’re missing out on business. Here are 10 SEO mistakes that are easy to overlook.

SEO_Mistakes

#1. Duplicate copy

One of the most common and worst mistakes all businesses make is relying on duplicate copy without supporting HTML. For example, I recently came across a chain of medical facilities in different cities and states and each had the same copy, with only contact information changed. The chain wasn’t easy to find…the first facility was on page 38 of the Google search for that specialty.

Duplicate copy is on the top of my list of terrible mistakes most people think are ok. Do yourself an SEO favor and run every content item you’re going to post on your website through a duplicate content checker. Don’t forget documents – search engines can crawl any kind of format, including .PDF.

Some types of duplicate content, such as syndicated posts and news, is fine, as long as you have HTML tags in place to identify it. In the words of Google, “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.” Read the Google guidelines for duplicate content to understand how to handle necessary duplication.

#2. Keyword stuffing

Have you ever read copy with a ridiculous long-tail keyword repeated in every paragraph? Believe it or not, that used to be good SEO. Older WordPress themes still tell you to repeat your keywords a certain number of times in your text. It was called “keyword density” and there was a specific formula. While keywords are still relevant, the search engines are far more sophisticated. They search for meaning and context. If they suspect keyword stuffing, your site may earn an impressive penalty.

#3. Lack of security

Lots of website owners who don’t sell products online seem to feel security is not a priority. Unfortunately, Google does not feel the same way. Last year, they announced that HTTPS sites would be given priority – and that the penalty for unsecured sites would increase over time.

#4. Shady links

Another outdated SEO practice centers around linkbuilding tactics. Google still values organic inbound links, which are generated when related sites link to your site because it offers great content.

Shady link schemes include:

  • Exchanging links with other sites (some cross-linking within industry sites is natural)
  • Incoming links from low-quality or unrelated sites
  • Broken links on your sites (use a broken link checker to find and fix)

The key is to follow the incoming links and make sure they are natural and organic. If the focus of a post is “Finding your dream vacation rental” and you sell an app that locates vacation properties, it’s a natural link. If the article is “What to pack for your vacation,” not so much. A link to your site would seem strange.

#5. Optimized anchor text

Another (relatively) ancient tactic was choose a keyword you want to rank for and include a link to your homepage on every page. A local bakery might use “best Orlando wedding cakes,” for instance, and repeat that phrase on every page. It used to be a good idea, but today, you’re better off just using the company name, or linking to different pages with different anchor text.

#6. Relying on badly written content

Every word on your site reflects your business credibility. Google is focused on delivering the highest quality content to its users. As a site owner, you have several choices for content creation.
You can:

  • Do it yourself – authentic voice is fine…actually, more than fine if you’re a good writer and you take the time to find our what your customers want. It’s not as straightforward as it may seem, but owners are passionate about their businesses and that holds a certain charm. If you’re comfortable with writing, show your readers your passion. Your employees may also be willing to write for you – just be sure they have the skills. Quality is paramount.
  • Hire a ghost writer – if you have the passion, but not the skill, hire a ghost writer to go over your posts and ideas and organize your writing into quality posts. It’s a great way to get your voice heard in a professional manner. A good one will advise you when you should not tackle a topic.
  • Hire a professional writer or service – There are plenty of talented professionals available who will do a great job. Find someone with a writing style you like and email them. Depending on their skill, expertise, and reach, a decent writer may cost anywhere from $30 a post to hundreds. (Those that cost hundreds often supply their own graphics and come with an audience)

What not to do: hire cheap – I don’t advise hiring a cheap writer. Most writers who work cheap return low-quality writing…and a lot of them plagiarize. If their name is not on the writing and you pay them crap, they don’t care how it reads. They only care about how fast they can get words on paper to be paid.

#7. Meta keywords

Yet another old-school tactic that was once good SEO. Page HTML used to contain a tag full of keywords to alert search engines to the page content. The search engines have moved on – and so should you.

#8. Bad title tags

Title tags are valuable page real estate. Many websites still have their company name as the title tag for every page, and that is so wrong. Titles should be unique to each page, although including the company name is fine. An SEO optimized title should describe the page and include the company name.

One of the sources I researched to write this post was a great article about duplicate content on moz.com. The title tag for the page can serve as a template: “Duplicate Content – SEO Best Practices – Moz.” Subject – section or category – company name. Perfect.

#9. Missing meta descriptions (aka “snippets”)

The meta description on the same moz page is also a great example:

“Duplicate content can be a major source of SEO problems. Learn best SEO practices for preventing and dealing with duplicate content on your site.”

It’s 145 characters long, so when it shows up under the title in the search engine, it won’t be truncated. And it tells the user exactly what the page is about. Perfect.

#10. Hiring the wrong SEO company

Sadly, there are still SEO companies out there trying to game the system. Before you hire an SEO firm, ask the right questions. Find a reputable company who will follow the rules and not get you in trouble down the line. Google algorithms may have changed, but the end goal has always been the same: quality results.

All of these mistakes are easy to make and hard to avoid if you’re not an SEO expert…especially if you haven’t redone your site in a while, or if you did it yourself. There’s nothing wrong with doing your own SEO checkups. It’s a complicated subject, and the search engines keep changing the rules, but there are plenty of SEO tools to help you. The key is to stay on top of it and focus on quality content.

Images: Author’s Own

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Sherry Gray is a freelance writer from Key West FL, otherwise known as the coolest place on Earth to grow up. She writes about business, social media, science and medicine, college, and the business of food. And just about everything else.

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Comments
  • Ted Begnoche

    Very good tips here Sherry, thanks for posting! #8 hits upon one of my pet peeves, thanks for calling attention to the almighty title tag, it’s one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO. Great job!
    Ted

  • Thanks for sharing this list Sherry – I’m always happy to learn more about SEO and especially mistakes that can be easily made. I see a lot of keyword stuffing from writers sometimes and they have to be stripped out. Thanks again and I look forward to your next post for us

  • sherrygray

    Keyword stuffing is my pet peeve – and some clients still ask me to do it! And I was pretty surprised to learn that some of my writer friends don’t really understand things like meta descriptions. Writers AND business owners have to know SEO today.

  • Julie Sanders

    Love the posts written about rather complicated things in an easy-to-understand language! I’m new to blogging, so for me SEO and linklbuilding are like Higher Maths. But
    with these prompts, I know what I should do and learn next. So, what are the
    tools you would recommend for keyword search? Can I repeat them in my posts, or
    should I choose unique keywords for each article? And one more question – If I
    eventually repeat some of ideas in several posts, would it be considered as
    plagiarism? Or should I still avoid it by means of the plagiarism checker?

  • Stan Chris

    Clients till date still ask for that, because not up to 75% knows about that.

  • Jason

    That’s exactly what I struggle with right now – particularly badly written content and duplicates. I recently found a tool that helps me a lot with duplicates, it scans my website and reports me if it founds anything. But I guess people who rely on copywriters should also check these texts before posting them online. This is also one of the most frequent sins of website owners.

  • Dave Wilson

    Pretty good tips. You should consider adding mobile/responsive to the list, since Google has been putting more ranking on mobile devices for sites optimized for mobile.

  • stephenmoskowski

    One often overlooked area of SEO and it also leads to better user experience is ensuring you always are on top of broken links on your website. And, I just don’t mean 404 errors but those HTTP errors that can really have a negative impact on SEO e.g. 301 ans 302’s. One way to stay on top of this problem is using an automated tool to scan your site daily and fins these errors. One example of a tool would be http://www.linktiger.com

  • Great article Sherry ! Well-researched and there are so many useful takeaways for publishers & marketers. I would like to add one more point in your second point i.e. link building which focuses more on homepage rather than inner pages.And while linking, using the same anchor text again and again is also a very common mistake.I am working on 10seos.com/ and your blog helped me a lot in seo .Thanks Sherry.




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