Whether you like it or not, SEO or search engine optimization is not going away any time soon. It has become more important than ever, and in today’s age, you can’t afford to not have SEO in your overall digital marketing strategy.
Optimizing your site is an essential element of a successful digital marketing campaign. After all, SEO is the part of the puzzle that brings in customers to your site. SEO is also essential in increasing brand recognition, improving traffic, and converting visitors to customers. In short, SEO acts as the bridge that connects your brand or business to your audience and to create effective content, you need to be aware and stay away from common SEO mistakes.
Recommended reading: What Is User Intent and How to Master it in Content Marketing & SEO
Importance of SEO in Digital Content Production
Let’s say you’re ready to sit down and write a killer blog post. You envision it to get a lot of shares and likes, it’s going to go viral, and your site will be very famous. You already have winning content in mind, and you’re itching to get it digitized.
The problem is, how do you make sure that your content achieves everything you have envisioned it to? Well, apart from having great, high-quality content, you also need to factor in SEO.
You see, having great content is half the battle won, but without SEO it could be useless. You cannot rely on bare content alone; you need to make sure that your content is well-equipped to perform in the competitive digital marketing landscape.
However, SEO is a complex concept. When search engines like Google update their algorithm, your SEO efforts are also affected. That’s why it’s essential to be up-to-date with the best SEO practices and adapt them in your strategy accordingly.
Apart from that, you also need to be wary about committing SEO mistakes, and there are a lot of them. These common SEO mistakes can cost you a lot, so it’s best that you know and understand them and that you avoid them at all costs.
Top 10 Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid
1. Targeting the Wrong Keywords
Keywords play a vital role in SEO. Keywords tell search engines what users are looking for and then produce a list of results that search engines deem to be most relevant to the search. Therefore, keywords bring the audience to your site, and targeting the wrong keywords can result in missing lots of potential for traffic and conversion.
According to Neil Patel, it’s essential not just to pick the right keywords, but also determine the nuances behind the keywords users use in their search. For instance, the keywords “shoes for sale” and “buy shoes now” may seem similar at first glance, but upon closer inspection of the intent, you’ll find that one keyword refers to the motive to browse, while the other is a direct intention to purchase.
Apart from that, you have to be careful about misusing keywords in your content, such as:
- Very competitive keywords – high-ranking keywords need a lot of effort to outrank in Google, that is if you’re able to do this at all. This means a lot of websites are already using these same keywords and trying to optimize using such keywords can be a struggle for you. It doesn’t imply that you should give up on high-ranking keywords, but it may be better to channel your efforts towards low and medium-volume keywords because you’ll have less competition to deal with.
- Non-competitive keywords – in relation to the first point, you also wouldn’t want to try to optimize for keywords nobody even cares to look for. That’s plain futile effort on your part. Simple tweaks, like adding a local location instead of a national or global level to your keyword, could yield better keywords.
- Generic keywords – generic keywords may look safe, but they can negate your efforts. Using too generic keywords doesn’t work because it attracts the broader audience, and you want to narrow it down to target people who will find your content valuable.
Which leads us to use long-tail keywords. Adding specific words to your generic keywords can help you achieve better rankings and stay focused on your target audience. For example, “home cleaning” is a generic keyword that may refer to products, services, and tips related to cleaning the home. But when you make it a long-tail keyword, such as “professional home cleaning services in New York” then it gives your audience a more precise idea that you’re offering professional cleaning services around or within New York.
Because keywords are very crucial, you cannot afford to get them wrong in your content. Before you start creating content, determine the best keywords to use by using tools like Ahrefs, SEMrush, Google Trends, and AdWords Keyword Planner.
2. Using Too Many Keywords
Many people believed in the importance of keyword density in content production for so long. But as Google rolls out new updates in its algorithm, keyword density isn’t as significant anymore. Peppering your content repeatedly with keywords could lead to a painful penalty.
It is essential to stay away from keyword stuffing as much as possible. Yes, you should still use keywords, but you wouldn’t want to put the same exact ones in every sentence or every paragraph of your content. Some people also think that keywords are necessary for every headline, every subheading, and all the possible anchor texts. This is not the case.
Keyword stuffing is considered by Google to be spammy. Google even uses Latent Semantic Indexing or LSI, which recognizes your content topic without having to stuff it with keywords.
Focus your content on providing useful, relevant information to your audience without resorting to keyword stuffing. People will come to your site for the quality of your content, but once they find out that it’s overly stuffed with keywords, they’d be quick to leave, and Google won’t hesitate to penalize your site.
Also, make sure to include variations and synonyms of your primary keywords and phrases to help diversify your keyword density and bring the reading level of your content up a notch.
3. Using Copied / Duplicate Content
When content appears in more than one place, Google considers it duplicate or copied, and Google isn’t too pleased about it. Duplicating content used to be a common practice in the past, but today, Google is more than smart enough to detect content that has been ripped off from other sources.
Technically speaking, duplicate or copied content isn’t exactly a penalty, but it can have a severe impact on your site’s rankings. You see, when Google sees “appreciably similar” content in more than one place or URLs’, they find it difficult to rank the right source according to its relevance to the search query. In most cases, they are able to determine which source had the content first. If that wasn’t you because you just copied it, they will not rank your version and the rest of your site could be negatively impacted as well.
Site owners who publish duplicate content suffer from reduced traffic and potential losses. Since search engines are unsure which source should be given relevance, all copied contents result in diluted visibility. Additionally, other sites are torn over which source to cite for an inbound link, further reducing your potential for traffic.
Having said that, it’s important to create original, high-quality content all the time so that you get the proper credit for the content you’ve worked so hard for! After all, you want to satisfy the needs of your users, not the search engines, so quality is very essential. You can repurpose content into a video script, slideshow or podcast, but never use or publish the same content more than once, and never copy content from another source.
4. Neglecting SEO Title Tags and Meta Descriptions
SEO title tags and meta descriptions are essential elements in SEO, and if you ignore them, it would be easy to lag behind your ranking and traffic.
The SEO title tag is what shows up in search engines and at the top of the browser tab for a page. As such, it is the first point of interaction between your site and the user. Don’t make the mistake of leaving your site with a default title or none at all. After all, you wouldn’t put up a business without a name. Apart from that, you want to make sure that:
- You don’t duplicate title tags – every page should have unique content, and a unique title. Every page should not sport the site or company name, although it should always be present on your homepage. If you need to have similar or related pages, you should add the topic and keywords for that page at the beginning of the title and the business name can be at the end.
- Too long or too short titles – the length of your title carries a significant impact on the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages), so make sure that it’s not too short or long and provides enough information about that specific page. Ideally, title length should sit around 50-60 characters.
- Don’t over-optimize and cannibalize the title tags. You want to use important and primary keywords on your title tags, but don’t overdo it. It should still be easily readable, tell the user what the page is about, and entice them to click.
The meta description is a brief summary of what the page is all about. Since meta descriptions don’t affect ranking directly, many marketers choose to neglect them. However, doing so can lead to a lower click-through rate or CTR. In creating meta descriptions, be wary of these mistakes:
- Duplicate meta descriptions – each page should have a unique description, and it’s not just for SEO purposes. You want to offer information or narrative in your site to also enhance the user experience. Without a meta description, Google will take out snippets of your page’s content and use them as descriptions, which may or may not accurately describe the page.
- Skipping the keywords – keywords are essential in the meta description as they are in the title tags and the content’s body. Keywords signal the relevance of the content to the search query, as well as tell customers that you have what they’re looking for. Keywords that exist in the description that are the same or similar to what the user searched for are also bolded, improving click-through rate.
- Mundane descriptions – some descriptions get too monotonous and don’t hold the user’s attention for long. Make sure to create a well-thought-out description to improve your CTR and overall ranking.
5. Neglecting Image ALT Tags
Apart from text, images and videos are also key areas that you can optimize. Sadly, some marketers leave out image alt tags, not realizing that these tags are helpful in your overall SEO efforts.
Image alt tags are relevant because they allow search engines to index your image content. Bots are unable to read your images without the appropriate image tags. Google is a machine, and it does not read images the way a person does. To help comprehend the information on the image, an alt tag is necessary. With the help of alt tags, your image content can be crawled and indexed, and would, therefore, show up on the search results.
So, the next time you’re using an image for your content, make sure it is optimized by assigning it an alt tag with a description of the image that is relevant to the content on the page.
6. Poor Linking Practices
External and internal links in your content are essential in SEO, but some people fail to fully utilize links when creating content. Links allow the Google bot to crawl your website, make sense of the site’s structure, and figure out which links in your site are relevant to the topic or query.
You need high-quality external links because they can improve your ranking. However, you can’t just link to any other site for the sake of it. You want to include links to high-ranking and authoritative sites because Google is more likely to consider your site relevant and informative if you are providing users with links to additional, high quality, related content. Linking to low quality or random sites can result in Google pushing you down the search results. Experts suggest you link to sites with a Domain Authority (DA) of 50 and up as they are considered as respected and authority sites. If you go lower, don’t link to sites with less than DA 20. You can use MOZ’s SEO Toolbar browser plugin to see the DA of a site.
Apart from external links, you also want to make sure your internal links are in order. Internal links refer to links within your site. Linking to related topics within your site allows Google and your readers to think that they are related. Skipping internal links can result in missed opportunities for on-site engagement and ranking. Additionally, you want to keep an optimal number of links within the content. Pepper it with too many links and Google might consider your content spammy and diminish your visitors’ user experience. Only link to relevant on-site content where it makes sense – don’t stuff links.
Finally, consider your anchor texts (the words that make up the link) carefully. Before, over-optimized anchor texts were a common practice. So, when you want to link to a shop about “wedding rings” within your content, try to include additional context to the link, like “our favorite wedding ring shop” or similar. If you do use the exact keyword you are trying to rank for, don’t do so often. Vary the anchor text as much as possible from link to link, for both internal and external links.
7. Taking Local SEO for Granted
If you’re running a business that serves a specific locality, whether it’s a state, city, or town, you must always take into account local SEO. Local SEO works differently than global/national SEO because your audience is concentrated in a specific location. They have a unique search query, and you need to satisfy this query in order to stand out against the competition.
When working with local SEO, you need to avoid making these local SEO mistakes:
- Inconsistent listing details – your NAP details, or Name, Address, and Phone number are some of the top things a potential customer would search for. If your business is listed across different platforms, you need to keep these details consistent and the same throughout. Adding words or abbreviations can hurt your business, so make sure to check even the smallest details of your business information on your business listings.
- Neglecting local keywords – local SEO is essential for businesses serving a specific area, so it’s vital that your web content is also optimized for local searches. Localize your keywords by adding your location, so it’s easier for the users to understand that your business is ran and operated in this area. Keep your local keywords in your copy, but don’t overdo it; otherwise, Google will penalize you for keyword stuffing.
- Not getting listed – listing your business in various sites like Yelp, FourSquare, and Google Places enhances your business’ potential for exposure and awareness. You’ll also get valuable backlinks from such listings.
8. Resorting to Black Hat Techniques
When you’re itching to get a higher ranking, you might get tempted to resort to some shady tricks to fool the bots. This strategy is often referred to in the industry as “black hat”. Now, you might black hat your way towards a higher ranking, and you may be successful for a time, but the consequences can be harrowing once search engines catch on – you could disappear from rankings overnight and receive a manual penalty.
Some of the common black hat techniques include keyword stuffing, buying backlinks, duplicating content, comment and link spamming, negative SEO, and posting fake content. These techniques may initially boost the SERP rankings, but it won’t last. Search engines update their algorithms frequently, and they’re always fixing loopholes. Once they’ve found out that your ranking is the product of exploitation, they will be quick to penalize you.
Additionally, black hat techniques don’t create a pleasing experience for the audience. Your audience is made of real humans, not bots or machines, and they’re looking to have their needs satisfied. Black hat techniques often produce misleading experiences that may lead them to lose trust in your brand.
Getting a higher page ranking can take time, and black hat techniques are never the way to do it. There are no shortcuts in SEO these days.
9. Overlooking the Analytics
So, you’ve done everything you can to boost your SEO, but if you’re not tracking your progress, you’re making one of the common SEO mistakes.
Analytics give you fundamental information about your campaign. It tells you the number of your visitors, where they are coming from, and which content they engaged with the most. Analytics also allows you to compare the performance of different initiatives so you can make decisions and track growth.
Apart from that, you can use analytics to track keywords that users used that led to your site, determining the popularity of your pages as well as in measuring traffic. Indeed, analytics is an indispensable part of your SEO strategy. Overlooking or neglecting analytics can detrimental to your business.
For general traffic analytics and goal/conversion/eCommerce tracking, we typically use Google Analytics. For more detailed search query, impression, and click data, along with the ability to submit sitemaps to tell Google what pages you want them to pay attention to, we use Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools).
10. Poor Content Promotion
Finally, the last SEO mistake in digital content production is poor content promotion. It’s not enough that you’ve come up with a great copy and assume that people will start seeing and sharing it. You still need to do your fair share of promotion so that your content reaches the broader audience.
To start with, you can share your content on your social media platforms. Since you already have connections in your Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts, you at least have an audience who will take a look at your content. But don’t stop there. You can explore other possible options, like promoting content using Facebook Ads and sending the latest blog posts, etc, to your email list. You may also consider guest posting on related websites and other forms of link building. Get your content out there!
SEO is an essential part of content marketing, and to be successful you should never dismiss optimizing for it. Always apply SEO best practices and avoid these 10 common SEO mistakes to achieve the desired results. Lastly, remember that success in SEO and content marketing doesn’t happen overnight, so you need to be patient, stay up-to-date with the latest SEO trends, and keep producing high-quality content. With both SEO and content marketing working hand-in-hand, your business is bound to have a successful and effective online marketing campaign.