We all try to make things go in our favor one way or another and would all go to great lengths to get that extra buck. Practicing good SEO in the long term means that you’ll have plenty of organic traffic on your website that can easily be converted into customers.
We all seek to uncover those magic SEO tactics that get us one step closer to our goal. Exactly how search engines operate and what kind of parameters they use is one of the most highly valued and most well-kept secrets of the Internet.
For this reason, a lot of people have been working hard to make some serious exploits and to get their websites to rank on the top of Google’s search results. The techniques they use are called black hat SEO techniques.
It is called black hat because of the western movie stereotype. Cowboys wearing black hats were usually the bad guys, while good guys wore white hats. These techniques include hidden texts, keyword stuffing and other shady methods that try to trick search engines. A lot of these and other (kind of stupid) techniques worked really well in the past, when Google couldn’t make much of a distinction in content. Those days, search engines took keywords into account and ranked websites based on them. But today, it’s completely different.
When they do catch someone practicing some shady SEO (they usually do) they give out a serious penalty or even ban the website. There’s no warning, no saying sorry, no mercy in Google’s book. They just penalize websites without any notice. You could be doing everything right for all you know and end up making some serious mistakes in your SEO efforts. These could get your website a penalty as well, which will definitely hurt your ranking.
So, to help you prevent this from happening, we have composed this article. We highlight some of the most common SEO mistakes that you should avoid all the time. If you stumble across a mistake that you’ve actually done, correct it as quickly as possible, before Google takes notice of the misuse.
We could also call these the deadly sins of SEO that you should never commit.
Google has rolled out many updates that have devastated websites all over the Internet. In 2017 they continue to improve their search engine and they make all the modifications that they find necessary. The Panda update, Mobile Friendly Update and Hummingbird update have brought some serious changes that took everyone time to get used to. Google is known to hit without warning, so you should definitely comply with all the rules you know.
Optimizing your website is a process of trial and error and it’s hard to know what you are doing right and wrong, since there is very little feedback in the beginning. You can’t verify your SEO method in real time because what we know about search engine rules are only predictions.
So, without further ado, let’s get down to all the well-known mistakes you should be avoiding!
Using the Wrong Keywords
Even if you’re in a conversation with somebody, you always seek to stay in context as much as possible or create a new context when the topic changes. You won’t be screaming the word “slippers!” when you’re talking about psychology or something else.
Your keyword usage works in a similar way. The website optimization process is all about building your website and content around a certain set of keywords that you wish to rank for. Choosing the right ones is a time consuming process and demands a lot of research and attention. The more knowledge and focus you invest into it, the better it will be. Also, you’ll want to optimize for keywords and phrases that people are actually searching for.
The biggest mistake that some people make is that they neglect or just forget to use of long-tail keywords and optimize for generic ones instead. This throws them into a much bigger playing field, in which they get lost. Searchers will go for another website on the top of the search results and it will take your website a very long time to get a higher rank because of the huge competition.
For example, a generic keyword is “cars”. Naturally, there are plenty of websites that have been optimized for the keyword “cars” and the competition for higher ranks is huge. But there are definitely much fewer websites that use the long-tail keyword “cars for long tours”, “fastest sports cars” and so on. By using these long tail keywords, you put yourself in a smaller playing field with fewer players to compete with. Meaning, you raise your chance of success by tenfold.
In order to find the best keywords to rank for, use many keyword research tools like Trends, Moz Keyword Explorer, Google Trends, Google AdWords KeywordPlanner, and as much information as you can get your hands on. Mix that with plenty of brainstorming and you got yourself a nice receipt.
Optimizing for Only One Keyword
A few years ago people optimized for just one keyword and everything went fine. Since more and more people started doing that, keyword variety had to be expanded as well. This leads us back to the use of long-tail keywords.
Optimizing for just a single keyword would be a truly laughable thing in today’s online environment. Your content has to be able to fill as many holes as possible. So it is best to build upon a keyword topic that includes various relevant keywords that are used in search terms.
You want to make sure that people know what you’re about. You make that happen by telling them of course. But tell them too many times and you’ll annoy them real fast.
We have all met those kinds of people in our lives that just keep jumping around a single topic, repeating it over and over again. You probably read or wrote some badly composed essays in high school as well, in which you repeat the word or subject of matter too many times, without even noticing it.
It’s probably no surprise that doing this is just as bad in the online world. There is a balance to be kept when implementing keywords into your content. It is very important not to overdo it and use your keywords in every second sentence. If you use it too much, it will definitely get you more attention, just the bad kind. People will get pissed off and Google will also come to slap your website rank in the face.
The days when keywords were the main ranking factor for search engines are gone. Things are developing and website crawlers became much more intelligent.
I’m not going to say that you should have a keyword density of 1% or 5%, because it’s different for every type of content. While it is important to mention it a few times within a post, it is much more important for the content to be well written, be high quality and for it to feel natural.
Forgetting About Website Speed
User experience is the core of any website. Coders, designers and content creators all aim to provide people with something useful, unique and something that gives them a joyful experience.
One of the main driving forces of today’s technologies is speed and ease of access. About 70% of users expect a website to load in less than 1 or 2 seconds. Anything that goes above that will punish user engagement and sales, the two most important goals of any website.
You can optimize your website for speed, by making it light. Using a clean code and smaller image files will definitely give it a major boost but it is even more important to use a good hosting service. HostGator for example has a long history of providing high speed hosting services that will definitely work well for just about any website.
Having Broken Links
Seeing some attractive text and clicking on it with great anticipation, only to let it lead you to a webpage that doesn’t exist is incredibly frustrating. A broken link equals bad user experience, because why would you have it there if it doesn’t do anything in the first place.
Broken links are handled pretty well on today’s websites though. They are usually reported and replaced or fixed if the need arises, but they are still important to mention. A broken link is a huge nuisance to your website’s visitors and Google won’t be shy to punish you for having them either.
A bad link earns you bad reputation, they scream that your site is untrustworthy and isn’t attended to, from every corner of the screen. So be sure to keep your site nice and tidy all the time.
Creating Low Quality Content
I don’t think that I have to explain why the quality of your content and website’s design has a major impact on how much traffic you get and how well users interact with your site. The main goal of a search engine is to provide users with high quality content, according to their search. They are more and more effective in filtering content and aren’t shy to put other websites on top of you if their content is more superior.
The big mistake that some websites make (or even a lot of them) is that they purchase a lot of bad quality content, just for the sake of having content. They don’t mind putting out tons of content that is written with bad grammar, bad phrasing and is full of nonsense. It might not be noticed by Google’s robots, which is the reason why a lot of people do it. But users will see this within seconds and click away, since the content they’re reading is not meeting their Internet standards.
So do invest the necessary time, money and effort into putting up content on your website that educates, inspires and informs people. Provide value to your visitors first, and only ask for the return later.
Doing so will improve the amount of time users spend on your website, your click through rate and the amount of traffic you get also. All three of these are important ranking factors. You will also get more backlinks and have a boost in link building, which is one of the most important SEO methods.
Publishing Content and Topics that Aren’t About Your Keywords
If you create content that doesn’t relate too well to your niche and the keywords you’re ranking for, it will be hard to implement said keywords into your text. It will be also harder to focus your text on a targeted specific topic.
It’s also a big mistake to try and stuff many topics into a single article, just so you can rank for more keywords. You can’t work like an octopus while trying to create content that helps you rank.
Focus on the actual questions that your target audience has. Seek to answer them in the most straight forward way and with the most high-quality content you could possibly produce. Your content should correspond to the needs of your audience and to the search terms they use, in order for your SEO endeavors to be successful.
Making it Hard to Find Content
Achieving your goals on the Internet is a game of patience. Not just your patience, but the user’s patience as well. They seek to get their hands on the information they require as soon as possible. Users do like to look through your site if they find its content useful. They like to take the easiest route to do so.
Not paying attention to user experience and not providing any structure to your content and to the way people can find it is a big mistake. It ends up getting people frustrated and your content will be viewed and shared fewer times too.
So, it is very much worth investing into creating a good site navigation plan and designing your website so that it makes finding various content a seamless process. You should definitely implement an effective search bar that helps users do just that.
Not Paying Attention to User Experience
Before you get too caught up in optimizing your website for a robot, remember that people are going to use it. It’s Google’s number one priority to provide users with high quality content and the best possible user experience.
This has some powerful implications for the search algorithm as well. But first off, your website is built for people. It will perform well if people like it, have an easy time navigating through it and if the functions it offers makes their lives easier and more convenient.
Also, search engines always measure how much time a user spends on your website and a particular domain. Naturally, if users engage with your website in a positive way and share it with each other, it will have very positive ranking signals as well.
But to avoid confusion, here are four of the most important aspects of a good user experience:
- Mobile Friendliness – About half of the traffic on the Internet is from mobile devices. People browse the web on the go and do whatever they can comfortably from their hands. This is exactly why having a fully-responsive, mobile-friendly website is incredibly important and serves as a major ranking factor as well.
- Speed – We love speed and we get mad pretty easily if things don’t happen as fast as we want them to. This is particularly true on the web and how people interact with websites. Make sure that your pages don’t take more than 1.5 seconds to load.
- Security – If your website is considered unsafe, spammy or malicious, then it will punch its ranking in the guts. So be absolutely sure that you don’t have any malware and viruses on there to avoid any penalties. Also, the use of HTTPS (HyperText Transfer Protocol Secure) is a standard in today’s Internet environment.
- The Layout – Having a professional, planned out layout for your website will make it more engaging to use. Make sure that your website’s layout and design support its main purpose all the way.
Keep in mind that search engines don’t like Adobe Flash very much. They can’t always read through the text inside it or navigate the links. Replace it with new technologies.
Spammy Link Building
Building your website’s backlinks demands time and patience. There’s no shortcut around it. It is one of the most important ranking factors, one that establishes you as an authority. In the past, a huge number of people sought to make exploits in link building, by buying a lot of links from shady websites. It didn’t matter too much if the link you got was outside the topic of your website, you just had to have it. Link building schemes still exist though and it’s a deadly SEO sin to use them. These schemes include:
- Taking part in a blog network where bloggers get paid to place certain links into their websites.
- Joining directories that have spammy and low quality websites.
- Taking part in link exchanges where websites are linking to each other.
- Spamming your links in comments, forums and other online communities.
Search engines are getting smarter and smarter every year and they notice if you use black hat methods for link building. They even know if the link you’re using falls outside the context of your website, so be smart about the way you approach link building.
Instead, focus on creating high quality content that people will actually want to link to. Produce some educational material or fun and entertaining articles. This will drive more traffic to your website and will steadily build your authority as well.
Get your links from credible sources, maybe from websites that have good authority as well. The more authority they have the better it will be. But they’re also much harder nuts to crack, which is why link building can be a tricky game. Either way, seek to find websites that are related to your industry, to steadily build your links.
Not Using Formal Link Building Strategies
It’s easy to get carried away when you manage to produce some awesome content that gets you plenty of visitors. Sure, people find it useful and they probably share it as well, but you won’t get far if you don’t use that content in link building endeavors. You will always get more links by putting out some additional effort into link building. This is what keeps your content working for you instead of being stagnant.
To be good at link building and getting your content noticed, you’ll have to intentionally promote said content. Do guest blogging, post on social media and put it in front of people’s eyes wherever you can. Distribution is important for getting those extra eyes on your content and for driving engagement.
It will eventually get you more shares and backlinks as well.
Not Optimizing for Local Search Queries
It’s the World Wide Web. Everyone is up there and you can put your website in front of all the 7 billion people out there, but some people forget one of the simplest and most important things, their location.
Almost every consumer who is looking for a certain type of product will do a local search on their smartphone before walking into a physical store. Since they have the opportunity to sniff out the perspective store, why shouldn’t they?
Someone from the other side of the city, who never knew your store existed or never even walked by in front of it, will find you. People doing local search are mostly ready for an immediate purchase, they only have to find the product nearby.
Ignoring these people by not optimizing for local searches is an insane thing to do. It’s almost like forgetting your target audience altogether and building a business for yourself.
So be sure that your business has it’s NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) displayed correctly in local directories that are relevant to your industry. They should be also displayed in the biggest search engines, such as Google and Bing as well.
Doing so will get you some additional backlinks, but it will also share the most important information about your business; where people can come to buy stuff from you!
Not Using Relevant Internal and External Links
Internal links are very important for many reasons. Firstly, they keep the reader more engaged and more knowledge thirsty, which benefits your website and SEO in every way. They also signal that you’re an authority in the topic and that you can offer them much more than what they’re already interested in and reading about. So, ignoring this possibility is yet another deadly sin in SEO.
Since a topic is made up of many threads, it’s important to weave them together and create the awesome fabric that is your website. As you produce your content, be on the lookout for opportunities where you can link already published content to what you’re currently writing.
It will also provide your users with more relevant and useful content that they will want to see, so it is great thing from every perspective. External links can do the same and will help you in building links. If you link to quality signal sources, it will give users the signal that you’re trustworthy.
Also, do set these links up, so that they open up in a new window. It can be incredibly frustrating if you click an in-text link that takes you away from what you are reading. Allow users to venture to other content and keep them engaged with your awesome, high quality content. It’s a subtle balance that drives success!
Not Caring About Readability and How Users ‘Scan’ Content
Like I said before, the one thing that we’re all racing for is attention. Even the stuff people post on Facebook and Twitter seeks to grab other people’s attention. Also, people are very impatient, especially online. They seek to find the quickest route to get the information they want and will definitely not read through all the lines to find it. Users scan your webpage in an “F” pattern instead.
They’re looking for key points of interest that seem like they will give them what they want. So you should help them with that and make them happy.
Write text that doesn’t have too many fancy words or any unnecessary jabbering. If a phrase has a negative impact on how easily the text can be read by a high-school student, then you should definitely leave it out.
You should also separate your texts in small paragraphs of 3-5 lines. Use short sentences with easy to understand words, so that users can scan the content easily and just flow through the sentences as they read.
Also, keeping your attention has a major ‘human factor’ to it as well. To keep your reader’s attention, your content has to be not only high-quality and easy to read, but written in a powerful tone as well. This powerful tone drives sales and keeps people’s attention much easier.
An analogy will serve here: Imagine listening to a priest talking about your website and products, and then have Tony Robbins telling you the same thing. Whose voice will you be listening to?
So, don’t use any empty filler words and weak wimpy words. Instead, use action verbs and visceral verbs.
Forgetting About the Importance of Regular Content Updates
Life on the Internet would be much easier if we could just create our website, fill it with our initial load of content and be done with it. But for some reason, webpages that have a steady flow of powerful content seem to be much better at converting traffic.
But even if you don’t want to convert traffic into leads and sales, you’ll be doing a much better SEO by publishing fresh content on a regular basis. Google prefers websites that constantly have some new content on their plate and that keep things fresh. It gives a hint in every direction that a business is active and devoted to serving people’s needs whichever way they can. Refreshing and updating already published content is also a beneficial thing to do.
Once again, this also drives user engagement and makes people want to look deeper into what else your website has to offer.
Using Duplicate Content
Now this is a big no-no. Duplicate content will be noticed by any search engine pretty fast. If you use any content that appeared somewhere else on the Internet, you’re asking for trouble. Not only that it is just lame but it could end up making your content disappear from search engine results.
So be sure that all the content you produce is unique and original. A good way to go about it is by using a plagiarism checker. It will notice just about any kind of copied content and will notify you about it.
Also, another incredibly bad practice is article flipping. It is a black hat SEO technique in which words and phrases are replaced with synonyms or similar phrases. It can be done with software or manually as well, but it is a bad mojo anyway. So you should definitely ignore any of these too shady methods.
Information is free. You can always copy concepts, ideas or gather information from a multitude of websites and use it in your own content. People do it all the time, you’ve been copying words and sentences since you were born, so it’s definitely okay not to be completely original.
But do respect copyright laws and definitely do not go over to a website and just straight off copy the content. The content you produce shouldn’t even be similar to what you have seen elsewhere.
There you have it, my testament of some of the deadliest sins one can ever commit during the SEO endeavors. Google has a thousand reasons plus one to penalize your website out of the blue, so it’s very important that you keep all of this in mind. You should also consult with a SEO expert who helps you with your keyword research and shares the rulebook with you. It is definitely worth seeking professional help when you’re really trying to rank your website high.
Be sure to get as much advice as possible and consume more knowledge before you make some ambitious moves towards improving your SEO!
I hope that you enjoyed reading through this article and that we’ll see you again in the next one too!