There isn’t a more natural way of advertising your business and driving traffic to your website than SEO. Paying for traffic is all well and good, but for anyone thinking long term, the solution will always be search engine optimisation.
However, it’s prudent to always keep in mind that SEO is not an exact science. Not only is it in a constant state of change and development but there are also too many self-proclaimed SEO experts spreading misleading or downright false information.
For that reason, keeping track of the latest best SEO practices is crucial to avoiding any potential blunders. Here are some of the common mistakes you should try to avoid as much as you can:
- Using black hat methods
- Ignoring user experience
- Not adapting to search engine changes
- Not doing proper keyword research
- Not fixing broken pages
- Publishing low-quality content.
You should keep in mind that it’s never too late to start working on SEO. Granted, it’s best if you apply proven SEO strategies from day one. But don’t get discouraged if you haven’t done so by now. Starting with SEO is better late than never!
Here are the common mistakes you should avoid.
Using Black Hat Methods
You might have heard of white hats, black hats, and even grey hats in SEO circles. It’s not easy to guess at the meaning of these terms. The white hat approach encompasses all methods that search engines encourage you to use. Those are valid tactics that ensure the longevity of your website and result in higher rankings.
On the contrary, black hat methods are shady activities with the simple goal of tricking the search engines and gaming the system. The goal is achieving a high ranking in a short amount of time using underhanded techniques and exploitation of the algorithm.
Grey hat practices are simply methods that haven’t been blacklisted yet. They might be acceptable for the time being, but rest assured that they won’t remain so for long.
Some of the most common black hat methods include:
- Backlink buying
- Structured data abuse
- Keyword stuffing.
Out of all these, buying links is easily the most common black hat technique. It’s also a very dangerous one, as Google considers this to be manipulation of the site’s ranking system. Buying links is strictly prohibited and will result in severe penalties. It’s one of the black hat methods you’d do well to avoid, despite its unwavering popularity.
You might have engaged in black hat methods both by accident and willingly in the past. That could have resulted in a manual penalty from Google. Now that you know what some of the black hat techniques are, you might want to make sure you haven’t been penalised already.
This is where Google Search Console enters the scene. Using the console, you can not only check your site for penalties but also see which sites link to your website, fix indexing problems, and more.
Ignoring User Experience
Google is very clear about this — user experience is the cornerstone of a successful website. The search engine will do its best to present you with pages that offer the best possible user experience. That is why ignoring this aspect is a huge, albeit all too common mistake.
You don’t have to do elaborate research in order to find out what it is that users want out of a website. After all, you yourself are a user every time you visit someone else’s website. We all want pretty much the same things out of the sites we visit — fast loading times, optimisation for mobile devices, security, and intuitive design.
Let’s start with speed — the faster your website loads, the better the user experience will be. Remove plugins and themes you don’t need, enable lazy loading, and reduce image sizes to improve speed. But the best thing you can do for your website’s speed is to find a reliable offshore web hosting provider, such as KoddoS, AbeloHost or Flaunt7. With a reliable and stable hosting company at your side, you’ll have access to cutting-edge technology and all the speed that comes with it.
About half of all internet traffic comes from mobile devices nowadays. In other words, if you don’t optimise your website for mobile, you’re deliberately ignoring half of your potential visitors. Make sure the theme that you use is responsive, and always check each new post from your mobile device. Images and text should be properly resized and look at least equally good as they do on PC. Your website should always use a simple and intuitive design that’s easy to navigate!
Finally, don’t neglect the security of your visitors. Protect their sensitive data, especially if you’re running an online store where you’ll be asking for payment information.
Not Adapting to Search Engine Changes
As we’ve already mentioned, SEO is an ongoing process, and as such, it changes constantly. There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution in the world of search engine optimisation.
What used to be a perfect optimisation method a year ago might be completely useless right now. The perfect example of this is the meta keywords tag. At one point, it used to be a major factor in getting higher rankings for your website. Today, it’s utterly useless as current algorithms pay it no heed whatsoever.
So, why do these changes to the algorithms happen? The answer is fairly straightforward — Google and other search engines are constantly striving to improve the quality of search results.
They also need to stay ahead of the curve. They know that SEO experts are on their tracks, trying to uncover all the secrets of the algorithm.
Keeping track of all the changes and updates to the search engine is no small feat. If you don’t have the time or energy to stay in touch with the latest goings-on in SEO, you should consider hiring a dedicated optimisation expert.
Remember how stuffing keywords and links used to be the peak of SEO back in the day? In 2012, Google clamped down on that practice, and keyword stuffing has been considered as over-optimising ever since.
However, if you think that you’re not over-optimising simply because you’re not stuffing keywords and links down the throats of your visitors, think again. Over-optimising encompasses a lot more than it used to — it is another proof that SEO is constantly evolving.
These constant changes are the reason why many people can’t seem to keep track of what constitutes over-optimisation. So let’s start with something simple like H1 tags. As you know, this tag represents the main title in the text, which is exactly why you should use it only once per page. Use it more than once, and you’ll find yourself over-optimising.
Using non-relevant keywords is also a bad idea. Google takes into consideration all keywords that you use across the board. Keywords unrelated to your niche will drag down the ranking of your website. Another mistake to avoid is creating near-duplicate pages just so you could improve SEO. Sometimes this happens by mistake when translating pages, so be careful.
Last but not least, linking is a two-way street. Just like it’s important to avoid negative backlinks, so is it relevant what you are linking to. Avoid creating links that lead to spammy and suspicious websites. Low domain authority sites might just bring down your site’s ranking as well.
Not Doing Proper Keyword Research
Unfortunately, not doing proper keyword research is still a common mistake, even in 2021. It is a step that you must take before you write even a single word of new content.
First of all, you should do keyword research to establish if there’s sufficient search volume for that keyword. In other words, it won’t do you much good to rank highest for a keyword that no one will actually search for.
The next step is to make sure you’re not trying to optimise for a single keyword. It’s always a good idea to have something of a main keyword or phrase. However, you can also add a secondary keyword or even a couple of synonyms and rank for those as well.
And, of course, you shouldn’t go for highly competitive keywords. Always research your competitors for any keyword — a simple Google search will reveal who you’re up against. If you’re competing against much bigger, well-established sites, you should probably look for a less competitive keyword.
Going for more than a single keyword, being realistic about what you can achieve with those keywords, and not shying away from keyword research is a fool proof way of avoiding this common mistake.
Not Fixing Broken Pages
Broken pages are those that return a ‘404 Not Found’ error when a user clicks on a link. Not fixing broken pages will not only land you in hot water with your users but with search engines as well.
404 pages are frustrating enough that your visitors are likely going to leave the website when they encounter one. Your bounce rate is going to suffer due to users not spending enough time on the site, and Google is going to take notice.
Pages are going to go down sooner or later, and there’s nothing you can do about it. It happens from time to time for one reason or another. While you do have some control over pages on your own website, there’s nothing you can do about external ones going down. What you can do, however, is to monitor your links and check them frequently.
Of course, it’s not a problem to check up on internal or external links when there’s still not too many of them. You can even do it manually and make sure they’re all leading to functioning websites.
The problems arise when you get too many links pointing to pages all over the internet. In that case, you’re better off using an SEO tool specifically designed for checking up on your links.
All in all, what matters is that you’re aware of the fact that links require maintenance. Don’t forget to revisit them at least a couple of times per month.
Publishing Low-Quality Content
One of the biggest mistakes you can make for your website’s SEO is publishing subpar content or content that is plagiarised.
You can invest all the time and money into building a super responsive, modern website with flawless off-page SEO, but if the content is lacking, it will all be for nothing.
Poor content quality will reflect poorly on the rankings of your website and might even lead to penalisation. It’s not just search engines that respond negatively to low-quality, plagiarised content. Users who visit your website and see the lack of comprehensive and engaging content are likely not going to stick for long.
Some of these common mistakes might be new to you, some you may have made yourself in the past. Whether it’s simply over-optimising content or deliberately dabbling in black hat SEO, these mistakes should be avoided.
Some of them, like not doing proper keyword research, will make your content less visible. Others will straight up get your website deindexed. It’s up to you to do SEO correctly and appropriately, and realise that it takes time and patience. If you think you’re in over your head, you can always hire an SEO company to do the work for you. There’s an SEO company for every niche, even adult companies for mature-only websites and SEO for online casinos.
More than anything, you must understand that SEO is an ongoing process that never ends. The sooner you come to terms with that, the faster you’ll come up with a long-term SEO strategy. Stay informed about changes to algorithms and apply new and proven methods to your website.
Finally, if something is dragging down your ratings, never wait for the problem to grow bigger. Be active, determine what the issues with the website are, and fix them immediately. The more you wait, the harder it will be for you to regain lost traffic and rankings.