65 Common SEO Mistakes (And How The Experts Fix Them)

Author's avatar Marketing Feb 27, 2018 72 minutes read

Table of contents

    Peter Caputa

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    SEO is an incredibly complicated subject.

    Rather than put in the time and energy to understand the entire discipline, many marketers choose to stick to one particular rule that they understand, and craft their strategy based on that.

    That can lead to gross neglect of other ranking factors, and months of frustration while your pages fail to climb Google’s ranking.

    And by the way, that one particular tactic may already be irrelevant since Google’s algorithm changes its ranking factors every couple of years!

    We asked SEO experts, both in-house and consultants, about the problems they see most commonly when analyzing organic traffic from other sites. As you can imagine, we learned about MANY different ways that SEO can go wrong, so we made sure to include an overview of a possible solution as well.

    Although plenty of the categories have overlapping themes, here are the most common types of SEO mistakes and how to fix them.

    Types of SEO Mistakes


    Content Quantity Rather Than Quality

    10 years ago, you could create 3 blog posts a day at 500 words apiece and expect at least some of those posts to rank well. Building a “content factory” actually made a lot of sense. But, Google realized that their SERPs were being flooded with hastily created content, so they changed their algorithm to increase the focus on quality. Unfortunately, many marketers still have not adjusted.

    Thorstein Nordby

    Most Common Mistake: We see “thin content” as one of the big issues that kills organic traffic for our clients. A lot of companies know they need to create content, but those who do usually just post a weak 400-word post or a page with barely and valuable information on them.

    Thin content results in a low-quality website and the Panda update from Google made this issue even bigger. Google explains why this is such a big problem for companies who want more organic traffic:

    “One of the most important steps in improving your site’s ranking in Google search results is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information that includes relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content.

    “However, some webmasters attempt to improve their pages’ ranking and attract visitors by creating pages with many words but little or no authentic content. Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other cookie-cutter pages that don’t add substantial value to users.”

    One of our clients was an accounting firm. They did have a news section where they posted short paragraphs describing updates on new laws or regulations. The quality was so low, and the engagement was close to zero. By just removing or consolidating these pages, we were able to get them to rank on some very valuable keywords within a few weeks.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: The first thing you need to do is to identify the weak content you have on your site. We go to google and put site:clientwebsite.com to see which pages can be found in the Google index. We then assess if there are any pages that should not be there at all.

    We then use Google Search console to identify if there are any 404-errors or redirects we need to fix, then download the sitemap which we can start working on.

    Based on our audit, we can then assess if a page needs to be either improved, removed or consolidated with other similar pages. We do this by creating a simple spreadsheet we call an SEO-silo. I recommend reading this post from Digital Marketer on the subject.

    Shafi Khan

    Most Common Mistake: In my 3 years of career as an SEO consultant, I have observed that whether it’s about publishing new content or link building, a common mistake is to focus on the numbers rather than the quality.

    People believe that publishing 2 pieces of content/day or creating 100s of backlinks to a page will increase the traffic which ideally isn’t the case.

    Google has grown to be much smarter than before, and publishing more number of content or creating low-quality links is no longer something it appreciates.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Instead, content marketers should publish highly-researched and longer articles that cover the topic in detail and solve more problems of the visitors.

    Take a look at Backlinko, Brian Dean (owner) manages to outrank authority sites like Moz and Ahrefs with a handful of articles – each of which is at least 2000 words long and talk about a specific issue.

    The same goes with backlinks, instead of building low-quality directory backlinks – which will only affect your site’s authority – focus on building good quality and niche-relevant backlinks.

    Even if you have 10 backlinks from trusted authority websites, Google will rank you higher since these links will work as a vote.

    Phil Rozek
    Local Visibility System, LLC

    Most Common Mistake: The most-common mistake I see is jumping on what I call the “content hamster wheel”. Business owners will put out 9 blog posts (or similar pieces of content) a month, and not even their mothers will read any of it. Those business owners or their SEOs heard the “just create great content” advice, took it literally, and found that it amounted to nothing.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Do at least one of three things:

    1. Get to know people who would benefit from your “great content” – WELL BEFORE you want them to read / share / link to it. People usually refer to this as “influencer outreach,” and the concept is mostly good, but you shouldn’t wait to get to know them only when you have something you want them to promote.

    2. Develop what I call a seed audience before you even start producing content on a semi-regular basis. The best example of a seed audience is the people on your email newsletter. Those people will be your early readers. Any customers, leads, colleagues, etc. will make up your newsletter at first. It’ll be tiny at first. That’s OK. Write your posts for those people and the seed will grow.

    3. Write on extremely “”niche”” topics. Don’t go for broad search terms. Write Q&A-style posts on obscure questions that only a few people look up.

    Michael Rand
    Market Veep

    Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake we see is that there is no dedicated content strategy in place.

    Ranking high in search results is difficult and it can take time (months and years, even). There are a few best practices that can boost organic traffic. But first, there needs to be a strategy.

    Most companies have a blog, but they sometimes blog just for the sake of blogging. They may not be consistent about posting. A blog might not be updated for months at a time.

    They may write about what’s happening at their company or about what’s going on in their industry. These are all good things to write about, but if their blog posts aren’t linking to relevant internal pages (like “pillar” or “cornerstone” pages) or making use of important keywords, they may go unnoticed in organic search results.

    What’s more, the posts may not have meta descriptions, image alt tags, or even any images at all.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: To fix this mistake, create a content strategy and document it using a content management system (CMS) or even just a spreadsheet.

    Identify the topics and keywords that are core to your business. Create long-form “pillar” pages dedicated to those core topics. Then, write blog posts about subtopics and link them to their relevant “pillar” pages.

    Designate someone or a group of people to write content. Put them on schedule, identifying topics in advance so they always know the next topic to write about. It’s a lot of work. But even if you can only write 2 blog posts every month and one “pillar” page every quarter, that’s a great start.

    Jayson DeMers

    Most Common Mistake: The biggest common mistake I see is when marketers prioritize quantity over quality. This usually applies to their content marketing campaign; they think that if one blog post is beneficial, then 100 blog posts must be 100 times more beneficial.

    The problem is that the content field is getting more and more crowded, and we’re seeing that quality content is far more important and beneficial than a high quantity of content when it comes to SEO.

    In fact, we’ve reached a point where low-quality content can actually have a negative effect on your SEO that may only be recoverable by deleting or removing the low-quality content from your site. In other words, it’s 100% useless.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Focus on creating and publishing the best possible content you can, rather than pumping out a bunch of sub-par quality content. One piece of high-quality content is worth more than 100 pieces of lame content.

    Jordan Kasteler
    Hennessey Consulting

    Most Common Mistake: I see companies worrying about word count when creating their content strategy. Comprehensive content is great, but it should be just that….comprehensive. Don’t just worry about fulfilling X amount of words and X amount of pages.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Make sure you’re meeting the users’ needs and intent. Answer their questions, give them options, use different forms of media, etc.

    Thoralf Lindström

    Most Common Mistake: They focus on content, but the wrong way. Many companies are very well aware of the fact that they have to publish content, but when they do it, they publish content that was copied and pasted from another site. Or, they publish content that offers no value to readers (duplicated content, content that is automated, or very short texts).

    One Popular Way To Fix This: The first step would be to find the pages where the visitors just turn away. Look for the pages with the clearly highest bounce rate. Then, adjust them according to the principles above, but the other way around 🙂 One great way to lower the bounce rate is using Call To Actions (CTA) as the closing part of a blog post, for example. This creates the possibility to generate traffic deeper into a site. In addition, this opens up for a conversion of the visitor.

    Ryan Howard
    HeadsUp Marketing

    Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake we see is prioritizing more content over better content.

    If you are writing for search engines before writing to humans, you won’t really connect with your audience. One of our clients was posting 3 to 4 blogs a week, but they were mostly using medical jargon and not writing for their prospects. Thus, the content they were publishing wasn’t connecting with their audience and wasn’t pulling in much organic search traffic.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: The best solution for this is to focus on humans first and foremost when producing content. Sometimes it helps to write or create for one prospect in mind, and then you can ask yourself, “Is this something they would enjoy or be interested in?”

    A search engine’s primary concern is to make sure its results are relevant, so make sure your content is relevant for your audience before anything else.

    Chris Dreyer

    Most Common Mistake: A common SEO mistake that we see a lot of businesses make is putting out tons of pieces of content on their own site in an effort to rank better in search engines. While it is true that content needs to be continually improved and updated, the tactic of making tons of blog posts is actually counter to what businesses should be doing to rank well in search. They should be putting more resources into making fewer blog posts as great as they can be in addition to aggressively promoting those posts online.

    Promotion includes getting other people to share the content as well as link to it on their own sites. Producing many blog posts isn’t necessarily bad for a site. It’s more a misallocation of resources. Well researched and in-depth content in addition to promotion is the magical combo. We’ve seen sites that spend months producing blog posts without promotion and they went nowhere in the rankings. Conversely, there are sites that have only a few pieces of content on their blog and they are ranking on the first page for some highly competitive keyword phrases.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: If you already have a ton of blog posts on your site, the best way move in a new direction is to combine all of the relevant posts together. It’s best to start with the categories you want to target in search. Any posts that don’t really fit in can be unpublished. Those that do can be combined into larger posts and old permalinks redirected to the new, monster post.

    After that project is finished, future ‘fixes’ only require a change in strategy. When you go to generate a blog post about something, go after a broader, higher volume keyword phrase and cover it better than any of the other competition out on the web.

    Chris Handy

    Most Common Mistake: Perhaps the biggest mistake I see people make is focusing too much on the quantity of writing, and creating crappy content in the process. Keyword stuffing, duplicate content, and generally low quality are still rampant in inbound marketing circles still trying to hit a quantity count.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Focus on your reader. Are you thoroughly explaining the reason the blog post is there, the questions you had when writing it, and then telling your story as if they were on the other end of an email? Google rewards content written for humans now. It has gotten too smart to game, and gaming always loses in the long run anyway.

    Failure To React To Changes In Google’s Algorithm

    Google has changed the factors that it emphasizes. Here is a brief history of how that happens.

    Google used to include keywords in the meta description as a ranking factor.

    Marketers would stuff keywords in the meta description, which ruined the original point.

    Now, meta descriptions just help clickthrough rates, not ranking.

    Neil Eneix

    Most Common Mistake: One of the most common mistakes I see when I review a company’s SEO efforts is a lack of focus on generating leads from the Google Local Business 3 pack.

    Regular SEO won’t get you rankings in the 3 pack and when optimized correctly, we’ve found that clients can generate as much as 30%-50% of their call volume directly from their listings alone – without even having the lead go on the website.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: The best way to solve this problem is to start using local SEO tactics specifically, optimizing the listing, citations supporting that listing, and increase the amount/quality of reviews to get a better call/click-through rate.

    Juliette Tholey
    Revenue River

    Most Common Mistake: A common mistake I have been seeing is the improper implementation of structured data markup. It is a great way to improve search results indexation and organic search visibility and improving your click-through rate.

    But if not used correctly, structured data (or schema mark up) can hurt your site. Techniques such as marketing up content that is invisible to users or marking irrelevant or misleading content are penalties.

    A company must stick with one encoding, and I recommend JSON-LD, preferred by Google, instead of Microdata. Many companies are mixing different encodings and will cause the markup to not display correctly.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: You can use a couple of tools to ensure that your schema markup fulfills Google’s requirements, such as the Structured Data Testing Tool, the Structured Data Report and the Data Highlighter, all provided by Google.

    And most importantly, stick to your webpage’s content and what is visible to your user.

    You should also after implementing your schema markup, insert the attribute to your XML sitemap to signal Google that the page needs to be reindexed.

    Kevin Williams

    Most Common Mistake: The most common SEO mistake that we see taking place on websites that have attempted to generate organic search traffic is over-optimizing exact match keywords in their anchor text backlink profiles. Even though the Penguin update from Google has been in effect since 2012, which addresses unnatural link building, we still see websites that are still concentrating on having anchor texts with exact keyword matches.

    When we perform a technical SEO audit on a website, we spend a great deal of time on not just on-site SEO factors but also on off-site SEO techniques that have been employed, and analyzing their backlinks is a very important element to see if they are employing link building best practices.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: If you have a website where in the past or you are currently having anchor text with exact match keywords, you need to stop! You are just going to hurt your website in the long run. Make sure you diversify your backlinks with a wide assortment and try to emulate as natural a backlink profile as possible.

    For anchor text, aim for around 50-60% that is branded, 10-15% that is YourWebSiteName.com, and the remaining percentages with a wide mixture of various anchor text types, such as Title Tags, naked urls, random keywords (like “click here” or “more info”, etc.). Oh, and don’t forget those exact keyword matches – but they should be used minimally and only be anywhere from 1-3%.

    Nate Dame

    Most Common Mistake: Effective, modern SEO leans heavily on strategic content, but too many brands still don’t approach their content marketing efforts with an SEO mindset. (Or they spend far too much time on technical details that don’t move the needle, and neglect content altogether).

    A lot of brands just put up a blog and start writing about what they know, what they want to write about, what they assume their audience wants to read, and/or what they’ve been told they ” should” write about from a best-practice standpoint. This might result in a few lucky wins, but this does not produce consistent SEO results.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Winning SEO content requires a new process.

    First, content creators need to understand User Intent—what their audience is really looking for in organic search. Then, they need to understand what RankBrain is prioritizing for the keyword family their content is targeting because RankBrain has destroyed any one-size-fits-all list of ranking factors.

    Finally, they need to look at content that is already performing well in organic search and create something better.

    Tommy Landry
    Return On Now

    Most Common Mistake: One huge mistake is using old-school SEO metrics and strategies:

    SEO today is a completely different animal from what it was a decade ago. Today, the only metrics that matter are overall growth in organic traffic and website conversions from that traffic. Yet we still have prospects coming to us asking if we can “rank my website #1 for [insert keyword] by next month.” That’s not at all how it works! Semantic SEO is the center of the universe, and there are no magic wands to immediately rank you for any competitive keyword. SEO can provide a lot of value if you listen to the experts and adjust.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Bring in a knowledgeable SEO expert or agency to help you catch up to the latest requirements for ranking. If you DIY, you run the risk of spending an enormous amount of time and energy (and probably money) for tactics that simply won’t provide business value. And be sure that hired resource understands marketing, not just how to “trick” the search engines into providing a ranking. The latter type of SEO proves to offer only fleeting results.

    Jennifer Schulman
    Fortune Web Marketing

    Most Common Mistake: Not placing your site behind an SSL so it becomes HTTPS. This is such an easy thing to do for most sites and is expected by not only the users but by Google. This is now a pretty solid ranking factor for Google and the Google Chrome browser pretty much demands it. Every client we have moved to HTTPS has seen an increase in their organic positioning.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Purchase an SSL from your hosting provider and place your website behind it. Some hosting companies, such as WP Engine, which hosts only WordPress sites, include an SSL for the sites they host.

    Ignoring User Experience

    You might think that you just need to write extensive copy and mash keywords into headers and titles. Unfortunately, Google also looks at bounce rate- the number of people that leave your domain after the initial page that they visited.

    So, all those formatting decisions and images really do help you improve your ranking- by encouraging visitors to explore further into your site.

    Jennifer Lux
    SmartBug Media

    Most Common Mistake: Companies fail to look at UX as relevant to SEO.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Signals to search engines about a good user experience include:

    • a low bounce rate and
    • an average session duration longer than industry benchmarks.

    These metrics tell search engines about a user’s satisfaction while including the users’ experiences alongside navigation, content, calls to action, and accessibility. Search engines also take into account the number of additional websites a user might visit in the same search session to understand whether their question was answered to full satisfaction on your webpage.

    These usability and engagement metrics are a signal to Google of a positive user experience, which is awarded in search result rankings. How can you support a positive user experience? By creating the kind of content sought by your personas, in an engaging format, with a logical next step. Use clear navigation to reflect on the customer journey on your website so that your site’s user experience contributes positively to search results.

    Ian Evenstar

    Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake is when clients have incomplete on-page SEO optimization.

    Many things need to go right to get a blog or website to rank high on the Search Engine Results Page (SERP). Some things are out of our control like earning backlinks from authoritative websites. Yet, a majority of the optimization is within your control.

    Once you have your primary keyword and supporting topics, its time to write your articles. The key here is to write for engagement and comprehension. Don’t use big words when common words work. Avoid walls of text by using white space and images that are relevant. Avoid repeating the same keyword. Instead, integrate latent semantic keywords (LSI). Two LSI keywords for “digital marketing tools” are “digital marketing software” and “digital marketing programs” These keywords help Google index your content and improve your reader’s experience.

    Once you’ve written your article, it’s time to publish. Before you hit publish, link your article to your “digital marketing” pillar page and relevant blogs. You should also have 1-3 external links that open in a new tab. External links to trustworthy sources improve the authority of your post.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: There are a few tools that will analyze your blog for SEO optimization. The Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress alerts you if you’re missing keywords in your URL or title. HubSpot’s Content Management System (CMS) has a native optimization tool. Make sure you reach 100% before publishing your post.

    Another tool we like to use is the Hemingway App. The Hemingway App helps improve the reading comprehension of your article. The app identifies difficult to read sentences. It also suggests alternative phrases to boost reading comprehension. In fact, I used the Hemingway App to write complete this survey!

    If you’re looking for a one-stop website for SEO, check out our friends at Backlinko.

    Jon-Mikel Bailey
    Wood Street, Inc.

    Most Common Mistake: The biggest mistake I see companies make with their SEO is focusing too much on keywords.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Time and time again, Google has stated that user experience (UX) is the most consequential ranking factor. Now, I’m not saying that you don’t need to worry at all about keywords. They still matter.

    But, what are they and why do they matter? And how are you using them? If you are guessing in any way, you’re wasting your time. You need to invest in the tools (like SEMRush) that tell you what words and phrases people are using to find you and your competition. Then, take those words and work them into your UX strategy.

    How can you use those words to not only be ranked and found, but also to signal to your target audience that you have what they’re looking for? And they’re not looking for keywords. They are looking for solutions to their problems. How can you use those keywords in content that solves a problem or at least sends the user down the right path? That’s where keywords make a difference!

    Aaron Wall
    SEO Book

    Most Common Mistake: Search engines can analyze end user data to authenticate if users like a particular website and view it as a good search result for a particular query. Some keywords are virtually impossible to rank for with a particular website.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Rather than chasing trophy keywords, it can make more sense to use either Google Search Console or a competitive research tool to see what terms you are ranking for and try to improve the rankings you already have.

    Misuse of URL, Title, H1 and Meta Description

    Three major ranking factors are still the title, URL and headers. And meta description helps convince web browsers to click your link on the SERP, which then encourages Google to give you a higher ranking.

    Ed Marsh

    Most Common Mistake: Companies work so diligently on improving ranking…and then go straight to traffic to measure success. They ignore organic clickthrough rates. And therefore all the work (content, research, optimization) that goes into improving rankings may not translate to visitors, much less leads.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Google Search Console has the data to improve outcomes. It allows marketers to see which terms actually convert – and then to adjust those key elements that impact organic search listing CTRs.

    These include meta description (worth revisiting since the 160 character limit was roughly doubled) and title. Of course changes to those could also negatively impact the ranking achievement, so they should be made cautiously, and we’ll also leave URLs unchanged but look for insights that might help in the future.

    Many used to skip this step because it was extra work and not particularly user-friendly. Databox offers an integration that eliminates the need to manually export this information.

    Track all your Search Console data with real-time dashboard

    Karen Gould

    Most Common Mistake: Commonly marketers completely overlook the power of a well constructed url. Too often we do not even think about the structure and content in our url. It amazing to me when I unearth a great article from a keyword query and the url does not contain any of the keywords or content I was looking for.

    Obviously the url structure and content was not that important, right? Wrong. I find those articles buried under other search engine results that do have the keywords in the url but turn out to be less on-topic or informative.

    You won’t find Moz making a mistake like that. Query “”url structure best practices,”” and the number one search result is moz.com/blog/15-seo-best-practices-for-structuring-urls.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: This is an easy mistake to fix but requires the two things we often have the least capacity to maintain: time and discipline.

    When creating content always craft the url specific to the category-keyword/sub-category-keyword/primary-keywords. After all we have up to 2,083 characters available for our urls. Assign a specific people to be responsible for building urls associated to all the content you publish or have it understood that everyone who creates content is responsible for building a SEO strong url for publishing that content on the web.

    Nicole Lawrence
    Revenue River

    Most Common Mistake: The most common SEO mistakes that I see, almost all of the time, have to do with Meta Titles. In particular, I always see businesses stuffing their keywords, if they even have a strategy in place, into their Meta Titles. Most of them believe that if you stuff keyword after keyword into your title, you will just rank for all of them, but that is definitely not the case. Keyword stuffing could actually decrease your rankings or make it harder for you to improve, mostly because in most cases you are duplicating many words and people are not clicking through as much.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: A good way to fix this issue is to take all of your target keywords for a specific page and try and make the title look more natural, almost as if it were a phrase or a sentence. This ensures you are not duplicating specific words (i.e. keyword stuffing). It also makes the Title more enticing within the search results, which in turn gets users to click through to your website. If you execute this correctly, the hope is that you will rise in rank and grow traffic.

    Craig Gilhooly

    Most Common Mistake: One of the most common mistakes I see is a really basic one. Keyword targeting – and correct usage in the URL, Title and H1. So many times, I see site owners who say they’re trying to rank for ‘x keyword’ on ‘y page’. But very quickly you can see that ‘x keyword’ doesn’t feature in their URL, they don’t reference it in their title tag, and it’s not in their H1 either.

    People are becoming so brainwashed by ‘influencers’ pushing semantics, or Google’s machine learning algo – that they ignore the basic fundamentals of on-page SEO.

    That stuff still works. I’ve seen it so often, and I love it. Because with a very minor change to a page I can make a huge difference to it’s visibility.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Simple – don’t ignore basic on-page SEO.

    Understand your primary keyword and optimise your page for it. URL, title tag, H1, mention it in the first paragraph/sentence of your copy.

    Tell Google exactly what it is you’re wanting to rank for.

    Jason Acidre

    Most Common Mistake: I see a lot of page/keyword prioritization issues these days whenever I review websites for a technical on-site audit. Many sites tend to skip on optimizing deeper pages (that could still impact the site’s overall ability to attract more traffic/potential customers through search) – wherein they often lack in optimization methods such as:

    1. Missing meta description tags
    2. Generic title tags (mainly targeting the keywords they are assigned to rank for, and not optimizing them for better SERP CTR).
    3. Lack of (contextual) internal links.
    4. Not optimizing these pages for better engagement (readability, matching content with queries they are ranking for, loading speed, etc…).

    One Popular Way To Fix This: The best way to avoid this is to have a master list of your site’s most important pages, and check each page’s performance on a weekly/monthly basis. This will help you decide on which ones to prioritize in terms of putting more time/effort on optimizing.

    Craig Wilson
    Sticky Digital

    Most Common Mistake: Many marketers undervalue or underestimate the need for a well-written meta description. Many years ago, Google removed the meta description from their algorithm to stop SEOs keyword stuffing and having unhelpful descriptions. Since it was no longer a ranking factor, many marketers stopped paying much attention to their meta descriptions and merely had generic, boring copy there.

    This is a major mistake. The meta description is, in most cases, the “snippet” Google displays in your search listings. It is valuable real estate for well written copy. It is an amazing advertising opportunity for your business.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: I encourage clients to spend more time on writing great copy for their meta descriptions. It should be helpful and extremely relevant to the page and likely search that is delivering the visitor. It should focus on the benefits of your product and service. And now, with Google expanding the length of meta descriptions from around 165 to around 320 characters, it should include the relevant keywords and a gentle call-to-action.

    A well written meta description can actually lead to higher search rankings. How? Google looks for signals that they are listing the best results. A good meta description can lead to higher click through rates, telling Google that this is a good result, leading to a lift in the ranking for that search. At worst, a well written meta description will simply lead to more traffic and sales for your business….and that’s not a bad result.

    No Overall Strategy

    It can be tempting to narrow your strategy to just one tactic. For example, you might set your sights on ranking number one for a high-volume keyword.

    Instead, think of your SEO strategy as a financial portfolio. You wouldn’t want to place all your bets on just one stock!

    Kristin Kimmons

    Most Common Mistake: What I see so often is that people rely too heavily on building pages around a specific set of keywords. This speaks back to the old mentality of “if you build it, they will come.” This doesn’t work anymore.

    For example, we had a client that installed home security. They had a ton of pages on their site that spoke about home security with lots of keywords intermixed. The problem is that none of those pages served an actual purpose.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Each page of your website should answer a question for your ideal customers. Focus on their pain points. What questions do they have? Each page on your site should focus on a topic. Be clear, concise, and make sure that your page is providing value. This will keep your prospects coming back for more.

    Stefan Kollenberg
    Backpack Content Marketing

    Most Common Mistake: The biggest SEO mistake I see from new clients is that they haven’t done sufficient keyword research. Many times they will have generic keywords or no keywords at all, making their efforts inconsistent across website construction, marketing content, and social media platforms. It’s particularly important for my clients to avoid this mistake because they are very early stage startups with small budgets, making it challenging to compete for common search terms.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: To fix this problem I recommend finding niche keywords that relate closely to their differentiating factors and optimize for those. By doing this, it’s easier for them to decrease the cost per click/acquisition, as it avoids competing with large businesses for the common terms. Additionally, they are more likely to find users looking for the thing that differentiates them, rather than people who don’t fit their ICP and just stumbled across the ad because of a generic search term.

    Linda Kyzar
    Stream Creative

    Most Common Mistake: A common mistake we see often is how companies perceive the SEO process. Conventional logic says an entire site is one big colossal single SEO project. Not the case! This mindset leaves corporate marketers feeling defeated before they even get started.

    What clients need to learn is that optimization requires implementation on the page level. Tackling SEO by section and breaking each section down to individual pages makes it possible to cover SEO, CRO, and UX upgrades in sync. Optimizing on a micro (page) level maximizes these benefits:

    1. Results are measured sooner
    2. Clients obtain an increase in conversions sooner
    3. The process is repeatable page-by-page
    4. The client is educated and becomes a viable member of the optimization team

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Every SEO project is unique, but there are several repeatable steps no matter what the industry, topic, product, or service. We’ve developed a method that has worked wonders not only for getting our clients excellent results but also keeping the process moving along efficiently.

    1. Determine the most critical site goals
    2 Select the most important pages or sections based on those goals
    3. Develop a repeatable process (this is our SOP that includes a complete SEO procedure including keyword research, competitive analysis, market analysis, content creation and more)
    4. Optimize, publish, measure, repeat

    Anna Woodlock
    Primitive Social

    Most Common Mistake: The client tends to not do their research – both industry-related research and general SEO research. If the client is looking to be true partners with their agency, there needs to be a baseline of general SEO knowledge in order to expand upon ways to generate organic search traffic. I can’t mention how many times we’ve had clients that come in and all they know about SEO is that they want to rank on the first page of Google. In 2018, that’s an incredibly hard feat to do!

    When this happens, we tend to spend so much time in the beginning of our engagement explaining general SEO practices and debunking what truly matters and what doesn’t. There are incredible resources out there like Moz and SEMRush that are great resources.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Find a partner, consultant or agency who is 1) willing and able to explain how SEO works and the common best practices and 2) understands how to implement these strategies in way where scalability and efficiency is taken into consideration.

    David Bailey-Lauring
    Blu Mint Digital

    Most Common Mistake: Several SEO experts praise guest blogging as a brilliant tactic to increase organic traffic, piggybacking off more higher traffic domains like Forbes or Entrepreneur.com.Tis is misguided as although you may get a little spike in traffic, it never lasts. These sites have tons of content being published each day, throughout the day; and your article, although maybe awesome, will not remain popular for long.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: I would recommend they forget about guest posting and focus on publishing excellent content on their own blog instead and reach out to influencers who share content about the topic itself.

    Sean Farias
    Campaign Creators

    Most Common Mistake: Frequently we will give a free analysis for anyone interested in engaging with us for SEO activities. In these analyses, one of the biggest opportunities is getting set up on Google Search Console!

    Essentially, the most common mistake we see is companies trying to improve SEO without the proper analysis or SEO dashboard software in place. Doing proper keyword research, optimizing your meta data, creating content, and gathering backlinks is a good start, but measuring and analyzing how these activities are impacting your organic website traffic is even more important.

    There is a bit of SEO tool frenzy these days. All-inclusive tools like MOZ and SEMrush have an awesome suite of features that allow you to monitor, measure, and analyze the results of your SEO efforts. The biggest challenge with these tools is many times they can be cost prohibitive for small business.

    It is no secret that Google does not share their ranking algorithm with the outside world. Many of the larger players in the space have put considerable effort into trying to understand, and to an extent, replicate that algorithm. While they have gotten really effective at this, there is still no substitute for information delivered directly from Google itself.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Google Search Console is a completely free tool that takes a few seconds to set up. Some of the analytical highlights include:

    * Website impressions, clicks, CTR, and position by page and keyword
    * Robot crawl stats & errors
    * Sitemap/robots.txt configuration
    * Structured data tools
    * HTML improvement recommendations (e.g. title tags and meta descriptions)
    * Site link structure analysis
    * Website security monitoring

    Justin Herring
    YEAH! Local

    Most Common Mistake: A lack of good high authority backlinks. Most of the time the company has hired an SEO company who did a decent job optimizing the titles, descriptions, and H1’s for pages and posts. But in a competitive niche, everyone has on-site optimization done well.

    Either the company does not understand they need high authority backlinks to the post/page or does not know how to get them. It is hard work and a time-consuming task for any business. Once they are able to get the backlinks to their pages/posts the move upward in rankings is usually within that month.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: You have two options to fix this lack of backlinks:

    1) Hire an SEO company to reach out and get backlinks for you.


    2) Do it in-house and pull together the necessary tools and expertise to continually obtain high authority backlinks. This is definitely doable, but you will need a full-time member of the team to do email outreach and a content writer who is skilled at writing the best content in your niche.

    The business will need to decide the costs associated and figure out which option makes the most sense for their business.

    Adam Fout
    Blue Steele Solutions

    Most Common Mistake: Probably the biggest mistake I see, and I see it constantly, is the complete lack of focus on content.

    It’s usually not just one content problem or one content issue — it’s an across-the-board lack of respect for the powerful role content plays in generating organic search traffic. Clients simply don’t value content, don’t really understand value it brings not just to THEIR clients.

    Because of this, they’re unwilling to invest in content on the front end, they are dismayed when the little they invest doesn’t result in immediate leads/sales, and they give up before the miracle happens.

    For instance, I recently saw a website stop publishing content completely, saying that there was no value in it. But when I looked at what they were publishing, talked to their former writer, and got the whole story, I was unsurprised that they had failed.

    This particular company would publish MAYBE 1 blog post a month. They had no plans for each blog post — the writer was lucky if they could pin them down for 20 minutes every 2 months for an interview to ensure they were writing the content the company wanted them to write.

    To put it simply, this company invested just enough to ensure that the efforts failed so they could justify not writing — their website suffers for it.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: The fix to this is simple — create more content. But to do that, this company (and you) have to understand the value of content. Understand the value of writing much and writing often, understand the value of spending time creating rich pieces of content that burst with value for your customers.

    We’re not just talking blog posts here, though that’s the classic example. The company above could have invested in videos, in podcasts, in ebooks, in infographics — the options are limitless.

    But instead, they decided to invest in nothing, so they’ll get nothing in return.

    If you want organic search to work for you, you have to put in the work on the front end. You have to publish big and publish often, and you have to find a way to feed the content monster. Once you gain traction, tactics necessarily change, but getting off the ground is the toughest part…

    Kevin Indig

    Most Common Mistake: So many things come to mind but in the end, the most hurtful mistakes are related to prioritization.

    Many companies prioritize the wrong tactics. It’s very tempting to do what has the biggest immediate effect (doesn’t only apply to SEO), while long-term investments are boring. The pressure to do that is even higher in public companies or fast-growing startups. However, it’s often investment in the long-term that pay off right when you need them or you wish to have done when it’s too late. In SEO, the unattractive things could be site structure, hygiene (redirects, 404s, etc.), or “handling” old and underperforming content. Take care of them.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: This can be fixed by the leadership of the company by giving some slack to SEO. Allowing for results to come in a bit later, providing the necessary resources, and pushing to focus on the right numbers makes a huge difference.

    In fact, that’s the difference I see between successful and unsuccessful companies every time.

    Kathryn Aragon
    Kathryn Aragon Media

    Most Common Mistake: The biggest mistake I see is treating SEO as an afterthought. Instead of strategically choosing keywords in advance, then creating unique content to rank for it, random keywords are “”assigned”” to content after it’s created. With this approach, you may create stellar content that’s worth reading, but no one’s going to find it so they can enjoy it too.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Start your content strategy with keyword research. Find 20 to 50 keywords you’d like to rank for, then create one high-quality piece of content for each. Update these posts at least once every 12 to 18 months, adding new information, updating anything that’s out of date, and improving the quality. You can still create lots of related content if you want, but it may not be necessary. Forty incredibly valuable posts are worth more than hundreds of mediocre ones.

    Use this SEO dashboard to monitor the performance of your content before and after updating.


    Most Common Mistake: One common mistake is creating multiple pages for exactly the same keyword instead of similar keywords. Google does not appreciate similar keyword links on the same site, and creating rephrased versions of the keyword may be the answer.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Install a Yoast plug-in (available for WordPress) so that you can get a warning when you’re duplicating a keyword (phrase). Also, you can track carefully your website map. Moreover, you should use Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner (or something similar) to find out how to rephrase your keyword (phrase).

    Joe Jerome
    Brand Builder Solutions

    Most Common Mistake: By far the most common mistake we see is a lack of a documented SEO strategy. SEO is commonly deferred to a specialist and there is no centralized place for a marketing organization to reference so they can unify their efforts. Having a unified strategy allows the content writers, website designers, and paid search strategists to all march to the same sheet of music.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: There is no cut and paste magic solution for creating an SEO strategy, however one power tip is to use a tool like SEMRush and run keyword analysis reports for your client and your clients competitors. You may find some nice SEO nuggets. Many times you’ll see a nice term from a competitor driving over 5% of their traffic from a term that has a low level of keyword difficulty. The keyword difficulty metric is a general indicator of how hard it would be to improve your ranking for that term.

    Mike Emerton
    BridgeView Marketing

    Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake is trying to be found for everything (all keywords) on a single page. Most people don’t understand how Google indexes and ranks the relevancy of a page on a website.

    There is an enormous amount of considerations that go into the ranking of a particular page. However, targeting smaller groups of keywords throughout the website, not only will lead to better search indexing, but also initiate a better chance of landing visitors on the exact page that refers to their search desires.

    Key takeaway: SEO isn’t a “let’s get found” only proposition. Think of it as your best “free” marketing option. If you treat your entire website like an unlimited resource of landing pages, and sales opportunities, you will find that visitors are more apt to convert vs. bounce to another site.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: If you don’t know exactly what you are doing, hire a web development firm that also has in-depth experience with SEO–Google can be very unforgiving. If you build your website with SEO in mind from the start, it will help to properly shape the outcome.

    It’s difficult for most organizations to change their websites once it has been launched because it becomes a political battle with many passionate stakeholders. It’s the kiss of death for an internal marketing department to find their brand new website isn’t cutting it and more budget must be allocated to properly address issues.

    A professional SEO person, that also knows how to develop a site, is critical for a successful build from the start. Whether or not he/she is actually developing the site is irrelevant. The SEO expert helps the development team get in front any issues and suggests better ways to develop the platform into a lasting and more dynamic experience for visitors.

    Not Investigating At A Domain Level

    Google also tracks your “domain authority”- the reputation of your entire domain for a given topic. So, if every piece of content targets one specific keyword, you will not be able to grow your domain authority.

    Paul Schmidt
    SmartBug Media

    Most Common Mistake: Only thinking of SEO as 10 blue Google links.

    Google search results page look drastically different than they did even a year ago. With the growth of featured snippets, knowledge panels and related questions, there is no doubt Google is trying to keep users on their own site vs. pushing to yours. Search in 2018 needs to be reframed of NOT just “how can I get people to click on my website link in the SERPs” but, “how can I influence the entire search engine results page to drive traffic to all of brand’s digital properties.”

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Here are 2 ways to drive more organic traffic to your site

    1. See what kind of SERP features appear for non-branded searches about your industry. Based on the 100-300 keywords or topics you are targeting is Google showing how many of those keyword result in a featured snippet, image result, knowledge panel, related question, news story, in-depth article, etc. By understanding the types of SERP you can show up for in Google, you can better align your editorial, schema markup and promotional strategies around that. Moz’s Keyword Explorer is a fantastic tool to quickly understand this data.

    2. Search saturation: Not a new concept in SEO, but what does a prospect go through when they do a branded search of your company? Do negative review listings or websites that you have no influence appear?

    Your priority from an SEO perspective is to “own” every listing on the search results page. Other than your website, those listings could be your YouTube channel, LinkedIn company profile, Facebook page, Twitter page, Slideshare page, Pinterest page and Glassdoor page (assuming your employees don’t hate you). Then by being active on these channels, these pages can start to show up within search results, further helping you saturate the search results. By having influence over every listing on the first page of Google for your brand name, you will have a better chance of indirectly driving more organic traffic to your site.

    Nate Shivar

    Most Common Mistake: Focusing on a single keyword ranking rather than a broad set of keywords / topics.

    There are 4 problems with this approach.

    First, literally everybody else is doing it. The strategy is too obvious. In business school jargon, you’re fighting in the blood red sea of competition rather than sailing for the blue open ocean.

    Second, your customer’s aren’t actually buying on that keyword. It’s a starting point for them – not an end point.

    Third, there is no truly good outcome. You’ll likely fail, which has an obvious downside. But if you succeed, you will be dangerously un-diversified (ie, you’ll have all your eggs in one basket). I’ve seen companies that bring in tons of organic traffic with a single page. That is dangerous and not sustainable – even if it is technically “”successful.””

    Fourth, you will have paid an enormous opportunity cost because you will have missed out on a broader opportunity.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Think about the broad problems that your customer has. Think about the myriad “questions behind the keyword” that they might have. Map all these to specific topics that you can write about in a smart, detailed, descriptive, and engaging way.

    Don’t try to be a content mill, but do try to create a larger “keyword footprint” where no single ranking can hurt your business.

    Pat Ahern

    Most Common Mistake: Failure to redirect broken backlinks. 

    Sites often run into 404 errors as they scale. Blog URLs will be tweaked, content will be removed, or site redesigns will result in large-scale URL structure changes without proper redirects.

    Links from other sites that point to these old URLs will be left pointing to a broken page, leaving the value of these links virtually worthless, and even more likely to be removed over time.

    Our first step in a new SEO project is to fix these broken backlinks.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: We use Ahrefs to find broken backlinks for a new client’s site.

    Ahrefs allows us to see which sites are currently linking to a broken section of a client’s site. From there, we export the list of broken links, delete any low-quality backlinks from our list, and identify any valuable broken pages to redirect.

    After identifying the list of pages to redirect, we then crawl the site to identify the most closely correlated page to the broken URL. We then set up a 301 redirect to these new URLs.

    Adding redirects varies from one CMS to another. Many CMS platforms have a built-in redirect feature or a series of downloadable plugins that simplify the process of adding redirects. If your CMS lacks this feature, you can also set up redirects within the client’s .htaccess file

    Brittany Laeger

    Most Common Mistake: One of the most common mistakes that we see when we are connecting with a new company to audit and review their site, is that they create content that has little to no SEO strategy.

    Usually, that falls into one of two camps:
    1. Every single one of their posts focuses on the exact same keyword.
    2. The posts focus on no SEO or keyword strategy at all and even worse, they only focus on talking about themselves.

    What Your Business Needs to Know
    Developing a Team Mentality
    Market Insights for February 2018

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Understanding the role of keyword research in content marketing is essential. While the best practices are changing drastically as of late, it’s still an important tactic for business to leverage as they create new content and try to form a strategy for how all the pieces will fit together to help drive new prospects and customers.

    Craig Campbell
    Craig Campbell SEO

    Most Common Mistake: In my personal experience, I see a lot of technical issues often go u-noticed when I review a companies efforts. The very first thing I do when looking at a website is to do a simple technical SEO audit to see how the site is set up and if there are any basic mistakes.

    Things like 404 errors because people have pulled down blogs and pages and not done a simple redirect is very common. But there are many others such as mixed content because the SSL certificate isn’t installed properly, duplicate content is another that I see on a regular basis. The technical side of SEO is very often ignored for one reason or another and a simple site audit should be one of the first things any SEO consultant should be doing.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Use Screaming Frog, Deepcrawl, or SEMRush. Any of these tools have great auditing features and I would advise anyone to make sure they do a website audit on a regular basis to keep on top of anything that might not be 100% right.

    Adam Rowles
    Inbound Marketing Agency

    Most Common Mistake: To simplify SEO we use this formula [High Rankings = Reputation X Relevance].

    Building relevance is quite simple (onsite = technical, keywords, etc.).

    However, we often notice reputation [offsite = link building, mentions, reviews, social, etc.] gaps in their marketing.Building reputation is the difficult part because in many cases you can put in the effort without the reward. But building reputation with quality backlinks will give you a competitive advantage.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: There is no easy fix here. You must start building quality content on your website that will build your “reputation”.

    Here are a few backlink strategies we find quite successful:

    – Create a resource page which will attract backlinks
    – Ask people you know for a link
    – Research competitor link profiles
    – Create how-to and tutorials
    – Write a research paper on a specific issue in your industry
    – Run a contest that will be shared
    – Create a complete guide/resource
    – Reach out to industry related website that wants your expertise
    – Sponsor industry events and ask for a link

    Anna Slyter
    NordicClick Interactive

    Most Common Mistake: Ignoring technical SEO issues. No matter how perfectly you optimize your on-page content, if Google can’t crawl your pages or understand what is important on your site, you won’t get good results.

    Marketers sometimes use the wrong status code: One client had a page that focused on their main keyword theme, and they had been trying to get it to rank for more than 6 months, creating wonderful SEO-optimized copy, great images, and even building links to it, but to no avail.

    Google just didn’t seem to find the page valuable. When I checked to see if the page was even in Google’s index (site:www.examplepage.com), it wasn’t. Big red flag. On further inspection, the page appeared to be live, but was returning a 404 (Not Found) status. As soon as the dev team fixed it to return a 200 (OK) status, the page zipped up to the top of Google’s results.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Usually, SEO falls on the Marketing department. However, technical SEO rides the line between marketing and web development. SEO’s need to know enough about both to be good at it. Then ideally, you’d have a team that consists of web developers and SEO’s who can work together effectively to identify and make technical improvements.

    This can be challenging when you outsource SEO, web development, or both. When you are interviewing outsourced services, be sure to ask SEO’s what their technical SEO plan is and ask your web developers what their knowledge is of SEO. They should at least have enough knowledge to speak to the other intelligently.

    Once you have your SEO resource in place, have them do a technical SEO audit to identify areas that need improvement and then bring those recommendations to your web developers for review and implementation.

    JR Griggs
    Red Wall Marketing

    Most Common Mistake: I think there are a lot of areas where companies go wrong with SEO. One would be thinking you can trick Google. Google has built an algorithm that is very good at figuring things out.

    Another mistake is not realizing that good SEO takes a very wide approach. It’s not just getting a bunch of backlinks. It’s site structure, site speed, content, having the proper markups, etc. It’s also not a quick fix. SEO takes time. You have to be in it for the long haul.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Make sure you are covering all the bases that contribute to a good SEO plan. Build out your site properly, get the proper backlinks that are relevant to your site. Create something good that someone searching for you would get value from. Be OK with it taking time. Just keep doing the right things. Quality will go much further than quantity.

    Joshua Ho
    Referral Rock

    Most Common Mistake: Failure to use actual results to drive your keyword targeting efforts. Content marketers are often using tools to tell them how to align with keywords, AdWord keyword planners, traffic estimators, and a variety of other tools. While these tools provide a great guide to where to start, they may not tell the whole story. We’ve found a number keywords that had well over 3x the actual search traffic vs what tools and estimators told us. Talk about hidden treasures! Also we’ve had a number of keywords with less than 25% of the traffic the planners counted.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Trust your own numbers, web master tools and analytics. Even early assessments of traffic volume on page 2-3 can give you an idea of what the really traffic on page 1 is. Go back and make SEO related tweaks to articles after publishing, or use your new found keyword insights to create new better content for those hidden gems.

    Tyler Drisdelle
    bluehat marketing

    Most Common Mistake: One common mistake I come across when reviewing a company’s efforts to generate organic traffic is creating subdomains as oppose to subfolders to target the companies various locations.

    Many companies that have several locations will create a subdomain for each location. This strategy is not recommended, as a subdomain will be seen as a separate site, which means the client will have to build domain authority for all subdomain properties , which can become expensive.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: A better strategy would be to build subfolders for each location. This strategy would allow you to retain domain authority, while also targeting the separate locations in your subfolders. The site will also be larger, which adds to the domain authority.

    Just be sure to create unique content for each subfolder, to avoid duplicate content issues.

    Page Load Speeds Are Too Slow

    Google wants to give searchers the best experience possible. So, if your pages take 5-10 seconds to load, your visitors will be forced to wait for your content, which is not a great experience considering how many other pages will load more quickly.

    Rich McIver

    Most Common Mistake: When on-boarding new SEO clients, we go through a fairly extensive checklist of on-page and off-page items, some of which get fairly technical. But a quick and easy fix, that, surprisingly, almost all of our clients need, is… to upgrade the RAM in their website hosting plan.

    Clients that have previously managed their own digital presence prior to hiring our company, typically don’t understand the differences between website hosting options. Even things as basic as the differences between shared and dedicated hosting are generally overlooked, for example. As a consequence, many of our new clients have previously opted for the lowest priced package they could find.

    Typically, that’s led to slow (or at best unpredictable) website load times. Which, of course, have caused website conversion rates, and ultimately their SEO rankings to remain poor.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Generally speaking, there’s an easy way to fix this issue. Simply upgrading their hosting, which for our smaller customer’s websites just means picking a package with their existing host that has 8 GB of dedicated RAM, fixes the issue. In fact, this simple change often has a more profound impact on website load times, conversion rates, and SEO rankings, than the combined benefit of a dozen or so more technical tweaks.

    Ramona Sukhraj

    Most Common Mistake: I think the most common thing people neglect in their organic traffic efforts is site speed. Keywords can absolutely help you get on the page, but ranking today is so much more experience-focused than just content — and site speed is a huge part of this. Since last quarter, as IMPACT has been trying to kick up its organic traffic after a bit of a plateau, site speed (along with SERP listings) became our top focus.

    In the past few months, we’ve seen ~40k jump in our all-time highest monthly traffic and our site speed increase by ~60%.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: We use tools like SEMRush, webpagetest.org, and pingdom to evaluate our site speed. From there, huge improvements can be made simply by compressing images so using screenshots instead of direct embeds from social media.

    Spammy Backlinks

    This is another example of simplifying SEO to one rule, and then trying to over-optimize. Although Google gives a great deal of weight to backlinks, it also takes into consideration the reputation of the linking domain. So, if the domain that links to your site actually has a bad reputation, you can actually harm your rankings.

    Michael Scheimer

    Michael James Schiemer
    Bootstrap Business

    Most Common Mistake: One of the biggest mistakes a company can make in their SEO efforts is to purchase links, especially from less than reputable sources.

    They might get hundreds or thousands of backlinks to their website in an effort to build domain authority, but they end up being from garbage websites, blog comments, irrelevent pages, foreign sites, or web pages that have been inactive for years. You can’t just pay someone $5 on Fiverr for 1,000 backlinks and hope for the best. Google will most likely penalize you so your organic search traffic and rank will sink like a stone.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: First of all, if a company purchased low quality and spammy links, they could end up being more of a liability than an asset. Make sure to use Google Search Console to compile and disavow spammy backlinks. If Google already nailed you with a spam flag, then make sure that issue and any others are fixed before submitting an appeal.

    Instead, what you should be doing is creating high quality content on your website and for others in your niche. Writing guest blog posts on relevant websites with high domain authority will help to build up beneficial backlinks to your website. Just make sure overall to make your content so unique and helpful that other trustworthy writers and companies will naturally link to your posts.

    Ericka Lewis
    Adhere Creative

    Most Common Mistake: If I had a dollar for every time I saw clients using spammy backlink strategies! One of the first things we do when onboarding new clients is to examine the overall health of their website and SEO. From there, we’ll develop a strategy to clean things up and help them reach their marketing goals.

    During that process though we often spot some pretty interesting SEO strategies that they’ve either implemented internally or had other agencies perform. The most common of these “interesting” strategies is a spammy backlink strategy.

    In the not so distant past, a popular SEO strategy was to create as many backlinks as possible. It didn’t matter what type of third party site generated the backlink so long as there was a volume of backlinks. At the time, this strategy often produced good results. However, times have changed and Google has smartened up.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Generating quality backlinks to your site can work wonders for your search rankings and site traffic but the key is quality. A successful backlink strategy in 2018 could involve things like guest articles or interviews shared by popular industry outlets.

    Patrick Coombe
    Elite Strategies LLC

    Most Common Mistake: I see this all the time – buying lots of really shoddy links really fast. They pay no attention to “velocity” meaning, Google can see when you buy links no matter how natural they look.

    Links definitely matter when hoping to get ranked for popular keywords, particularly in competitive industries, but you need to play the game by 2018’s rules, not 2010’s rules. A lot of folks learned SEO 5 or 10 years ago and failed to maintain a level of knowledge consistent with today’s standards. Even on-page has changed dramatically.

    Overall, I think the biggest problem with a new company doing SEO is over-eagerness. If a company has relatively realistic expectations they will be good to go but if they want to go 0 to 60 in 60 days there are going to be problems.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Focus on building links organically. I’m not one of these people that tell you to to follow all guidelines to a T, but this is an industry that can leave you king of the mountain one day, and a pauper the next if you rely on Google for all of your traffic. Again it is all about expectations.

    One good example would be this: if a company really wants immediate traffic, and has the budget: have them do some Adwords or PPC. Do this for 3-6 months and give the SEO team a chance to work on building a quality brand, content, and gaining some reputable links.

    Targeting Wrong Keywords

    Volume is not a good measurement of a keyword’s potential to help your business. If you rank highly for a vague keyword, you will likely attract an unqualified audience.

    Jason Hartman
    New Breed Marketing

    Most Common Mistake: Sometimes, a company will focus so heavily on owning a specific high volume, high competition keyword that it will cloud their judgement in regards to looking at the bigger picture. They want to compete directly with an competitor in an attempt to beat them out for that term right away.

    While this is indeed beneficial to a company’s overall organic growth, it has its costs, both in actual time spent going after that one keyword and and the opportunity cost due to lack of hours that could have been divested towards more attainable keywords.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Instead of trying to beat out the competition for its most high volume keyword, try to find areas of opportunity where a competing website’s content is weak, and exploit it. Try to find gaps in their content, and use that to find an opportunity to differentiate.

    SEMRush’s Keyword Gap tool is great for this. It allows you to stack up your domain versus four of your competitors, and highlights what keywords they are outranking you for, and what terms they appear to be lacking.

    Additionally, as your site gets more popular, it puts you in a better position to re-focus on the high-difficulty keyword you originally set out to target. As you create more high quality content and gain visitors and backlinks, you may notice your domain authority rise – giving you a better shot at taking down your competitors.


    Most Common Mistake: Companies seem to omit low search volume keywords (ones with 0-10 monthly searches) in keyword research or simply miss these keywords in the process.

    Many targeted niche industries, for instance, various services of the IT Industry, have plenty of keywords with less than 10 monthly searches. However these keywords can deliver highly relevant and targeted traffic that is more likely to convert.

    Many companies base their keyword research on monthly search volume: the keywords with the highest search volume are included in the keyword research. However the words that have 0-10 searches per month are either undiscovered or ignored. This is especially true for certain ‘high price/lower demand’ services and industries, like Tech and IT.

    With a high-intent keyword and high average sales price, low search volume keywords can deliver great opportunities.

    One of our clients recently closed a lead that landed on a page that we created as part of a keyword expansion project, targeting low search volume keywords. The sale included a $70,000 one-off payment and ongoing $7000 monthly payments. So was it worth it for the company to have the page targeting keywords with next to 0 monthly search volume? Absolutely.

    Popular Way To Fix This: When doing keyword research, one should carefully consider the niche and the business. For a lot of businesses, highly targeted ‘service’ keywords with low search volume can deliver great ROI even from just one conversion. When doing the keyword research, it is best to use 2 or 3 different tools/resources to ensure that the company does not miss out on any highly targeted low search volume keywords.

    Brian Schofield
    Trailblaze Marketing

    Most Common Mistake: One common mistake I see all the time is keyword cannibalism. This occurs when two pages are targeting the same keyword. I see this most commonly with the homepage (often targeting the primary keyword) and the core product/service page (also targeting the primary keyword).

    This is detrimental to your SEO efforts for multiple reasons. The first is that you’re forcing Google (and visitors) to decide which page is more important. You don’t want this. Secondly, you’re essentially competing with yourself. Again, you don’t want this. This is an easy SEO win if you can spot and fix this.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: One way to avoid this issue is to simply ensure all pages have a unique page title. You can do this in multiple ways. Plug your site into a tool like Screaming Frog, Ahrefs or Moz and you’ll get a list of duplicate meta titles. Google Search Console is also an option to easily spot duplicate meta data.

    Lastly, another method for spotting keyword cannibalism is searching for your website on Google with the corresponding keyword using the following search operators: site:www.fagandoor.com intitle:careers

    This will show you all indexed pages on that website with your keyword in the page title.

    Jared McKiernan
    Get Links

    Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake I see is caring about search terms that have no volume.

    I consistently see big-name SEOs bragging about ranking #1 for “keywords” which derive 20 searches a month (which are not high-dollar, or even particularly commercial, terms).

    To get cred on real SERPs, you need to target terms which are valuable – and this means other people will likely be going after those terms as well. If there’s no competition, there’s probably a reason why.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Know your vertical, know your business, and go for the terms which will fundamentally change your business and make you money via generating organic search traffic.

    Don’t waste your time on “vanity rankings”.

    Harris Schachter

    Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake I still see is keyword overlap. From the standpoint of a business owner with a lot on their mind, this is an understandable mistake to make even with a cursory knowledge of SEO. You think, “I need to make my website as relevant as possible for [keyword]” so you make every page, link and each piece of content targeting that same phrase.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: The best way to fix this issue is to map out your keyword strategy as an overlay to your information architecture. Get in there and map it out like a blueprint so you ensure each page is targeting one phrase at a time and all long tail themes have a place to live.

    Loic Barbaux

    Most Common Mistake: Choosing the wrong keywords. One of the most common mistakes in selecting keywords is neglecting the preference of search engines and users for long-tail keywords. While you might define your products and services in a certain way, it’s more important to understand what words your potential customers would use to refer to them. Sometimes the terms you consider correct might mean something completely different for other people, or could be too generic.

    Another common one is using keyword stuffing. You might think using your target keywords in every sentence of your content would boost your ratings. That strategy couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, going overboard with using keywords is registered as spammy by search engines, which means it actually hurts your SEO performance.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Hire an SEO expert. SEO is a full time job and requires advanced knowledge of the current trends, strategies and algorithm changes. Many marketing professionals know the basics and believe they can do their own SEO. The truth is they can’t, and they learn it the hard way. True SEO professionals stay on top of all the latest trends and know from experience what works and what doesn’t.

    Eric Enge
    Stone Temple Consulting

    Most Common Mistake: Sites create too many pages. Some site owners do this as a result of learning the power of title tags and having pages dedicated to a specific phrase. Understanding this often leads to them creating way too many pages, all of them for very minor variants in phrases such as these:

    1. “Bally Loafers medium width size 11 brown”
    2. “Bally Loafers medium width size 10.5 brown”
    3. “Bally Loafers medium width size 10 brown”
    4. “Bally Loafers medium width size 9.5 brown”
    5. And so forth for all combinations of color, size, width, shoe style, and brand

    You very quickly end up with a huge number of pages, and a problem that we call “thin slicing”, meaning that you’re creating pages dedicated to earning traffic on terms that may never even get search on at all.

    Google doesn’t like this type of page bloat, and sites that do too much of this can suffer in rankings.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: It’s not that you shouldn’t offer the user the chances to make these selections, you absolutely should. But you’ve got to keep to make some adjustments to how you do it so that the search engines are happy too.

    There are a few ways to do this, all of which can work. They are:

    1. Take minor variants of your pages and implement a rel=canonical from them to their parent page. For example, let’s say you decided to keep a “brown Bally loafers” page on the site. You would take the other variants, such as the “Bally Loafers medium width size 11 brown” page and implement a rel=canonical to the “brown Bally loafers” page.

    2. Take minor variants of them and implement a NoIndex tag on them. For example, each of the size and width variants would have NoIndex tags on them, and that would tell Google to keep them out of the index.

    3. The final major version of a fix is to use AJAX to implement the page variants based on size and width. This implementation is definitely more complex, but the practical impact is that the user can still pick size and width and get to look at those variants of pages, but they aren’t actually seen as new pages by Google at all.

    Michael Pozdnev

    Most Common Mistake: Every time I see the same mistake that both marketers and bloggers make—
    Evaluation of competition for selected keywords.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: – Can you even get organic search traffic?
    – Can you rank on the first page of Google?
    – Will you need links or enough to write quality content?

    If you cannot answer these questions, you are doing SEO in blind and hoping for luck.

    Jeremy Durant
    Bop Design

    Most Common Mistake: The biggest mistake we see is companies or brands going after terms that are too general and don’t have buyer intent behind them. While a company may want to rank #1 for a term that is general to their industry, such as “accounting services” or “engineering firm,” these end up being far too general. Yes, they might see a lift in traffic to the website, but their conversion rate will likely drop as they are funneling a bunch of unqualified traffic to the website.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: We have found better quality traffic (and therefore leads) from focusing on terms that have buyer intent behind them. The one side effect is often a reduction in traffic initially as we see poor quality traffic drop off. Rather than focusing on “accounting services,” we suggest more specific buying terms like “M&A accounting services” or “aerospace engineering firm,” any qualifier that is more specific to the particular products or services that the company offers.

    Sandra Clayton
    Conversion Minded

    Most Common Mistake: The biggest SEO mistake companies make is targeting the wrong keyword. They’ll spend an enormous amount of time acquiring backlinks for posts that are buried on page 8, and completely ignore quick-win keywords that are already ranking on page 2 or 3.

    Finding those quick wins can be harder than it sounds. A lot of times the problem lies with the keyword research tool. For instance, you find a perfect keyword in Google Keyword Planner – one with high monthly searches and low competition – only to find later that the competition is quite fierce.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Add a tool like KWFinder to your SEO toolkit and monitor your domain regularly to find keywords you’re already ranking for.

    KWFinder’s keyword difficulty score will show exactly what you’re up against, with scores of 35 or lower being quick wins. For those keywords, you can often see results with on-page SEO alone.

    The other thing to do is to write comprehensive posts that include more than one keyword. Generally speaking, longer posts give you a chance to get creative and think of other keywords and phrases to use.

    Those other keywords may be quick wins and help your post rank, even if the target keyword is highly competitive.

    For instance, if you write a comprehensive post targeting the keyword “increase blog traffic,” you will likely include, and rank for, keywords such as: increase your blog readers, get your blog noticed, and drive traffic to your website.

    Jonathan Morey
    Explore Inbound

    Most Common Mistake: The most common mistake we see is that businesses often choose the wrong targeted keywords. Businesses should always ask first,

    “What value does this page have?”, and second,

    “What would their target demographic or specific buyer personas be searching for if they wanted to read their content?”

    It is not always about trying to be first on Google for a keyword and if that is their goal, they are moving forward with the wrong mindset. It is all about creating value and providing a solution to the consumers problem. The keywords that they want to rank for should be about the solution to a problem, not just the problem itself.

    In conclusion, businesses need to do more background research and think in terms of solutions with specific long-tail-keywords before they start optimization.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: 1. Think about what the buyer persona would search for in finding a solution.
    2. Brainstorm
    3. Look at current and past analytics
    4. Keyword research based off keyword intent
    5. Research competitors SEO and look for strengths and weaknesses

    Rahna Barthelmess
    Beacon Marketing

    Most Common Mistake: Only Chasing Big Broad Highly-Searched Keyword Phrases

    If your company or product can “do it all” in your particular category, it’s easy to identify ‘big umbrella’ keywords that describe what you do or your category. In addition, when you look at the monthly volume for such terms, it can be very tempting to only focus on those terms that have high volume. While this can seem like a time-efficient strategy, sometimes it is counterproductive.

    One Popular Way To Fix This: Niche To Get Rich

    One of our clients, Shelter Works, makes custom-engineered fiberglass shelters to protect a broad range of field equipment in several different categories. While the initial focus was to get them to rank for broad terms like “fiberglass shelters,” we have also had a great deal of success focusing in on individual niche areas in which they operate. We built a page for one very specific application in one tiny area of one of the industries they serve, and since then, that page has consistently ranked for over 6 months for more than ten highly relevant (and high volume) search terms that drive traffic that converts to Requests for Quote every month.


    How To Fix Common SEO Mistakes

    Many of the experts recommended a tool with a monthly cost to analyze SEO on an ongoing basis. Although Google Search Console is a necessary first step, here are a few tools that might be worth investigating based on expert recommendations above:

    • SEMrush
    • Moz
    • Pingdom
    • Screaming Frog
    • Ahrefs

    If you want to learn more about how these experts use those tools in their day-day jobs, check out our guide to favorite features from popular SEO tools.

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    Tamara Omerovic

    Tamara is Content Editorial Manager at Databox. She is an SEO aficionado, a coffee addict, and a huge museum lover! When she's not working or writing, she enjoys visiting an art gallery, drinking her 5th coffee with her friends, or playing video games.

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