13 Common SEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

SEO marketing is one of the most effective strategies to attract massive traffic and increase your reach. However, SEO is a complex system and there are myriads of steps to complete in order to rank well. It’s so easy to forget something.

Maybe this has happened to you. Maybe you started optimizing your website for search engines, chose your keywords, wrote content and tags, and yet – nothing happened. Your website ranked a bit higher, but still way too far from the first page on Google. Now you start to worry. But don’t.

Most SEO mistakes are relatively easy to fix, so even if you have made some, that’s no reason to cower in fear. Here are the most common ones and ways to solve them.

1. Repeating titles and descriptions

This is probably the most common beginner’s mistake. However, setting up your website so that all pages have the same title tag and meta description is one of the worst things you can do for your website.

Remember, each page ranks separately for SERFs, and so, each must have its own value, purpose, and a title.

Your title should be catchy and clickable, and you must always include the keywords in in. Don’t write generic titles as you won’t have any profit from them. Instead, come up with something that will make your potential visitors curious.

As for the meta description, it should also contain your keywords. Its main purpose is to summarize the page content to help search engines categorize and rank the page, so write it carefully.

2. Leaving permalinks default

Permalink is the part of the URL after your domain name that leads to a specific page on your website. If you have a WordPress website, the default permalink is Plain, which means that it contains the numbers which indicate where the content is located in the database. If this is the case, you should change the default permalink settings at once.

To do that, log into your dashboard and in the Settings menu on your right, select Permalinks. My advice to you is to skip all permalink types that contain numbers, as Google doesn’t find the user-friendly. As it is desirable to have keywords in your permalinks, the best option is to set the post name as the permalink.

Wordpress permalink settings

Of course, you will be able to change permalinks for each page separately. You should do this if your links are too lengthy. For example, I shortened the permalink for this page to “common-seo-mistakes” because the whole title would be too long and include lots of stop words.

3. Not having an XML sitemap

An XML sitemap is a list of all important pages on your website. It is essential that you have one as it enables Google to find and crawl your website properly, as well as understand its structure.

If you are a WordPress user, I recommend generating the sitemap with the Yoast SEO plugin. If not, you can use some go the online sitemap generators, such as XML-Sitemaps.

Make sure that all the pages that are important are included in the sitemap. However, if there is a page that you don’t want your visitors to land to, it shouldn’t be on the map.

4. Not having your website verified by webmaster tools

If you want your customers to find you, your website must be verified. It is crucial that you verify it in Google Search Console, as it is the most used search engine. Moreover, the Console can also help you measure your site’s Search traffic, performance and ranking.

However, I would recommend you to also get the verification codes for other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo. They may be less used, but they can still bring you lots of traffic and are not as competitive as Google.

5. Using themes that are not mobile-friendly

If your website is non-responsive, i.e. it displays perfectly on desktop computers, but not on other devices, your business will surely suffer. Lots of people prefer browsing the internet on mobile devices such as cell-phones and tablets to regular, desktop surfing. For this reason, your website must be functional and look good on all screens.

Most content management systems, such as WordPress and Wyx offer varieties of themes that are mobile-friendly, so make sure to pick one of them.

Responsive design

6. Using the wrong keywords

Keywords are the very essence of SEO and to have a fully-optimized website, you must choose them carefully. You can’t just pick a random keyword based on a feeling. For this reason, it is important to conduct a proper keyword research. There are several SEO mistakes people tend to make that are related to the keywords.

  • Lack of relevance: if the keyword that you are trying to rank for is not relevant to the page content, search engines will consider it a spam signal. Your content must revolve around the keyword.
  • High competition: Some keywords are incredibly competitive. If your site is relatively new and doesn’t represent an important online authority, you shouldn’t try to rank for those words. Instead, choose a longer, more specific keyword.
  • Low search volume: Before you select the keyword for your content, make sure that people are actually using it in their search queries. Being on the first page of Google search results won’t matter much if no one actually enters that page.
  • Overstuffing: when adding keywords to your content, you must be careful. If you overdo it, it will be counter-productive. Google will recognize if the words are unnecessarily repeated or are out of context and will decrease your ranking chances. The keyword density of 2% is just enough, don’t go for more than that.

If you are a beginner, it will be difficult for you to recognize these issues. So, I suggest using keyword tools, such as SemRush, Keywords Everywhere, and Keyword tool to identify the issues and fix them.

7. Lack of internal links

For Google to successfully crawl your website, your pages need to include internal links, lots of them. They will give Google an idea of the website structure and establish hierarchy. Plus, they will redirect your visitors to other places on your website.

However, when inserting internal links into your content, you should pay attention to several things.

First of all, your links must be relevant to the content.

Secondly, always create an anchor text that will serve as a link – it’s far more natural than just inserting the whole URL.

Finally, insert a reasonable number of links – if there are too many, Google will find it suspicious. To limit them, my suggestion is not to make links to any of the pages that are included in the navigation menu. Instead, insert links to pages that are more difficult to reach by simple browsing.

8. No quality backlinks

Your online authority is one of the metrics that Google takes into consideration when ranking. To gain authority, there must be a high number of links from other websites leading to your website.

In the past, people used to spam around with their links, placing them into comment sections, discussions, and all sorts of places where they don’t belong, just to increase their authority. However, Google saw right through it, and now, for backlinks to count, they must come from a quality, trustworthy source.

This part is really tricky when you are a beginner with almost zero authority. You can collaborate with other people so that you give backlinks to each other, or you can start guest posting. Niel Patel has a good strategy for building backlinks so check out his guide.

9. Neglecting image optimization

People tend to forget about the images when optimizing their websites, but they are very important for SEO. Here are some things to pay attention to:

  • Image title: Never upload images with random names such as “Screenshot 1” or “Untitled”. Instead, change their names into something relevant before the upload. Don’t forget to use keywords.
  • Alt description: This is the most important part of the image optimization. Alt description tells Google what’s in your image. Also, it is the text that appears when images can’t open for any reason. Try to use keywords and make your description as precise as possible.
  • Image size: Make your images as small as possible without ruining their quality. If the images are big, it will take longer to load your pages, which will have a direct influence on your ranking.

10. Too many tags and categories

Tags and categories are important for every blog. However, every time you create or add a tag, it must be relevant to the content. Otherwise, they will be useless or will decrease your chances for ranking. Never use more than 2 categories and 5 tags per post. Sometimes, even that is too much.

Not every post needs to be tagged.

11. Broken links

Of course, you already know that your content should contain lots of links, both internal and external. However, you must pay attention to them. It will happen from time to time that pages that you linked to your content are deleted, dysfunctional, or moved to another URL. If your content has broken links, this will reflect badly on your Google reputation.

To avoid this huge SEO mistake, use Online Broken Link Checker or some other tool to identify and fix broken links.

12. Ignoring the analytics

Google analytics is one of the most important marketing tools today. If you want your content to rank high, you must consult it regularly.

Check which pages get most views and compare the sources. Are those visitors coming from Google? If yes, what was it about that page that you did right? Could you optimize the other pages in the same manner?

Google Console offers as many options and reports. See which keywords both you and your competitors rank for. Try to find out which strategy worked, and which didn’t.

13. Letting content go stale

The world of digital marketing keeps developing more and more every day, and it is hard to stay up-to-date. Maybe there are not as many novelties in your industry, but I’m sure that things keep changing. For this reason, you must update your content regularly.

Imagine your customer looking for a solution to their problem. They come to your website after a short time of browsing and now they’re happy because they seem to have finally found the right article. Then imagine their disappointment when they realise that it is completely outdated, that that information was true a couple of years ago, but are not any more.

Wrap Up

These SEO mistakes are rather common, and many businesses suffer because of them. I hope this article will be of some help.

Do you have any other SEO issues? Let me know in the comment section, or check out my SEO copywriting guide.