Search engine optimisation is more complex than what most people think. The truth is that doing everything right is difficult. Even creating a basic SEO strategy takes time and can only be done right by someone that has the necessary experience.
The point is, it is close to impossible not to make some SEO mistakes.
This is not a problem because we all learn from the mistakes we make, including SEO professionals. However, some SEO mistakes are much more damaging than others.
When you make some common SEO mistakes, like not having a sturdy SEO strategy in place, you only delay getting results. When you make the big errors, you can end up with penalties.
Today, we wanted to talk about those optimisation mistakes that you should never make, those that have the biggest negative impact on your rankings.
These are the SEO mistakes to avoid to build a much more effective SEO strategy that works.
HTTP Status SEO Mistakes
It is important to mention HTTP Status errors first because they can have a huge impact on site rankings and user experience.
If the dialogue taking place between the server and the visitor is interrupted, an HTTP status error appears. Simply put, it is a huge SEO mistake to ignore all errors related to HTTP.
This includes the very common status codes, like Page Not Found (Error 404).
Why Are HTTP Status Errors A Problem?
When the visitor gets an error, trust is lost. Also, a much more damaging thing is that when Google tries to crawl the website and HTTP status errors appear, rankings are negatively affected.
It is completely normal for such errors to appear. However, when there are too many teething and obvious errors subsequently, rankings can drop.
Mistakes That Affect HTTP Status
- 4xx errors
When the browser returns a 4xx error as you try to access a page, it means that it is broken and that you cannot reach it. This also applies to all working pages if they are blocked from crawling.
- Pages not being crawled
There are two common reasons why pages cannot be reached. The first one is that website response time takes more than 5 seconds. The second one is that the server stopped you from accessing the web page.
- Broken external links
External links are links that lead the visitor to another website. If Google bot detects that the visitor is taken to a site that does not exist, it is seen as a negative aspect. The same goes for all the other search engines.
- Broken internal links
Just like the name implies, internal links take you to a page on the same website. If this does not happen and the user is taken to a page that does not function, user experience and SEO are damaged.
- Broken internal images
This problem appears when an image file does not exist or the URL is misspelled. Search engines cannot properly interpret these.
You might also have HTTP problems with permanent redirects and temporary redirects if they are not done properly.
What Should You Do To Solve HTTP Status Problems?
Unfortunately, this is not easy to do. You will need technical knowledge and the truth is most site owners do not have it. In serious cases, multiple HTTP status errors can even lead to a Google Penalty.
Fortunately, if you use a CMS system, it is easy to use a plugin to identify such errors and solve them. If you do not, the best thing you can do is to hire a specialist that knows what to do.
Under-Optimised SEO Meta Tags
Years ago, the most important SEO task was to optimize meta tags and to use numerous keywords inside the content you create. Nowadays, meta tags are not as important as they used to be. Unfortunately, because of this, many started to neglect them.
The meta tags are vital for search engine optimisation because they help the search engine to identify what a page is all about. At the same time, some have a direct impact on how much traffic you get from Google because they show up in search results.
By under-optimised SEO meta tags, we mean anything wrong with the use of the meta tags, according to the best practices in optimisation.
Why Are Under-Optimised SEO Meta Tags A Problem?
Meta tags are tools you can use to let search engines know what the page is about but at the same time, they show up in results when people look for the keywords you want to optimise for.
For instance, the description meta tag appears right under the title of your page. The information written there can convince people to click or not.
If the meta tags are not optimised properly, the search engine user will not click. If clicks are not generated, Google sees it as a sign that the page is not offering high quality to its visitors. As a result, rankings in search engines go down.
How Should You Solve The Problem?
For starters, you should always create unique SEO meta tags for every single page. When they are not present, Google automatically generates descriptions and titles based on user query keywords. This can often lead to search results that are not correct.
Your optimised meta descriptions and title tags have to include the main keywords you optimise your content for. Also, the content has to be of the correct length and you need to avoid content duplication.
In some industries, like fashion, where eCommerce websites are the biggest part of the business, it is impossible to create fully unique descriptions for absolutely all products. Because of this, unique value has to be offered on other parts of the copy present on the page.
Common Meta Tag SEO Errors That Hurt Rankings:
- Missing H1 Tags
H1 tags are important for search engines to determine the content topic. When they do not exist on the page, Google cannot understand your content.
- Duplicate Tags
This usually happens with meta descriptions and title tags. If there are at least 2 pages that have the same meta tags, search engines cannot properly assign relevancy and rankings.
- No Meta Descriptions
This is common with CMS systems that lack a good SEO plugin but it can happen with literally any website. Click-through rates go down if meta descriptions do not exist so you need to make sure they exist. If it is impossible, at least write down optimised descriptions for your most important pages.
- No ALT Attributes
We talked about ALT attributes when we discussed Image Search SEO. However, the most important thing is that these tags offer visually impaired visitors and search engines image descriptions. If they are not present, engagement suffers.
An extra thing to remember: Adding multiple H1 tags to your articles is also damaging, just like title elements that are too short or too long. Be aware of how much Google shows in terms of characters and stay within those limits.
Numerous myths are surrounding duplicate content in SEO and how search engines interpret it. Years ago, duplicate content led to Google penalties. Nowadays, the problem is not so vital. However, if there is a lot of duplicate content present, rankings can be damaged.
Generally speaking, the best thing you can do is to avoid absolutely all duplicate content. This includes content, descriptions, H1 tags, very similar URLs, identical www and non-www pages, and ALT tags.
Common Duplicate SEO Errors:
- Duplicate content
Use the Google Site Audit tool to flag duplicate content. If this is present, you can use 301 redirects and rel=”canonical” links to get rid of one of the duplicates.
- Duplicate title and H1 tags
These confuse the search engines and can easily lead to improper rankings.
- Duplicate meta descriptions
Google ends up thinking that different pages are the same when the descriptions are the same.
Just like the name implies, keyword stuffing appears when the content includes too many mentions of the same term. The problem is that few people properly understand how this happens and how it is damaging.
Years ago, the Google ranking algorithm was not as complex as it is now. Because of this, SEO specialists quickly figured out a way to cheat the system. They stuffed the content created with the keyword(s) they wanted to rank for and this practice worked.
The problem was that the result was having SERPs filled with low-quality results. Google worked hard to change this and nowadays, they can easily identify keyword stuffing. Other search engines are soon to be able to do the same thing.
Examples Of Keyword Stuffing:
- Repeating phrases or words in an unnecessary manner.
- Inserting blocks with the same keyword.
- Adding words without an associated context.
- Using irrelevant keywords according to the page topic.
Using Keywords In An Appropriate Way
The goal of content creation for SEO is to optimise keyword use. This is not easy to do and it does take time. However, some very simple things that you can do include:
- Use one primary keyword per page
You need to use just one main keyword on a page. This primary phrase needs to be relevant based on the topic of the site and needs to be tied to the added content. Ideally, the term has to be a low-competition, popular keyword that has a much higher chance of ranking.
Use an SEO tool to assess the considered term’s keyword difficulty. Try to target those that you can rank for.
- Make sure your content is over 300 words long
If you look at statistics, you quickly learn that the top search results for most keywords feature pages with thousands of words of content. This is why you should always aim for a minimum of 300 words in the main body copy.
Remember that search engines always want to offer relevant and helpful data. For most possible topics, it is impossible to offer that with under 300 words.
- Use an appropriate keyword density
In the SEO world, keyword density is controversial. Different specialists have different opinions about the appropriate keyword density to use. However, usually, it is best to keep this at a percentage of under 4.
- Use synonyms, secondary keywords, and long-tail variations
Instead of using keyword stuffing, use secondary keywords to tell the search engines how the page is relevant. Crawlers are using many other phrases and terms to get the context they need to rank websites.
Inside the copy you write, use long tail keywords, variations, synonyms, and relevant secondary keywords. This reinforces the content and actively helps the crawlers to properly rank the page. In addition, long-tail keyword variations will help Google to identify answers to questions.
- Use keywords in the right places
Whenever optimizing pages for keywords and rankings in search engines, you have to worry about much more than where search terms are positioned. You also have to use keywords inside other page elements. If you want to fully optimize web pages, use your primary keyword at least one time in the page title, the title tag, a minimum of one subheading, the first paragraph, close to the post’s conclusion, the meta description, and at least an image ALT tag.
Basically, instead of keyword stuffing, you need to use keyword optimisation tactics.
Lack Of External And Internal Link Optimisation
In modern SEO, you need to add external and internal links. The goal is always to increase the value of the page for the user and to let search engines understand more about the content.
When you neglect to add such links, you miss out on a wonderful opportunity to improve the user experience of the visitor. The same goes for when you use the wrong anchor text. Google will just not rank the websites that will deliver a very poor user experience.
Sometimes, the links are added with a good anchor text but a minor mistake leads to an unknown ranking issue. As an example, there might be quality links that are not spelled properly, even if the anchor text is correct. The Site Audit tool will help you to identify broken links.
Common Linking Errors That Impact Rankings:
- HTTP linking instead of HTTPS
Nowadays, you need to have HTTPS security added to your domains. Fortunately, countless websites made the change. Unfortunately, when you change from HTTP to HTTPS, there is a very good possibility that there are HTTP internal links that remain present.
When the visitor comes to your HTTPS page and clicks on an internal link that uses HTTP, the browser might create a warning telling him/her that the link is not safe. User experience is instantly damaged and the visitor leaves. At the same time, Google sees a higher bounce rate and takes it into account when deciding rankings.
- URLs with underscores
Google will misinterpret the underscores. As a result, the site index is incorrectly documented. It is better to use hyphens than underscores.
- Broken internal and external links
If you have many pages on your site and you cannot modify all broken links, start with the top pages. Unfortunately, the best way to do this is manually. However, you can use some SEO tools to help you identify broken links.
- Improperly using nofollow attributes
A very common linking mistake is using the nofollow attribute when it does not make sense. For instance, some SEO specialists add the attribute to all external links. This is a mistake.
Generally speaking, if the external link leads to a resource that adds value to the content and the anchor text makes sense, it should not be nofollow.
- Adding a single internal link
In an attempt to pass more “link juice”, many add a single internal link to the content they publish. This is not a good practice because you miss out on a wonderful opportunity to make your sitemap stronger.
Not Taking Customers And Visitors Into Account
You do not want to fail when it comes to reaching your customers with the content that you create. A strategy is necessary and the foundation of any strategy is the person you want to reach.
At the end of the day, when you do SEO work, you have a goal. In some cases, you just want more traffic to the website because you generate income with Google AdSense. In others, you need more leads for the business. Whenever you want leads, you have to invest resources into the appropriate promotional tactics.
This includes targeting the use of keyword-optimised hashtags, using paid social campaigns, link building, and promoting content with the use of influencers.
If you want to get really good SEO results, the content you create has to be promoted. This is why there is one SEO mistake that is often dismissed. We are talking about the fact that high-quality content is created but there is no budget left for promotion.
Using The Wrong Keywords For SEO
Time was invested when you created long-form content, which is what you should do. However, this does not mean that you will get traffic to your site or that you will reach your goal if you use inappropriate keywords.
If site visitors spend a limited amount of time on pages and you see that there are no conversions, there is a very good possibility that you use the wrong keywords when you optimise content.
It is easy to understand why long-tail keywords are vital in SEO, but you might end up making some mistakes without realizing it. This includes:
- Not segmenting competition and search volume based on geography.
- Not considering click-through rates.
- An over-reliance on high volume keywords.
- Using too many resources to try to rank for broad keywords.
- Ignoring the value shown by AdWords.
- Inserting exact match keywords in your content in an awkward way.
- Using target keywords for content that is irrelevant to them.
- Choosing keywords that are irrelevant to the audience you have.
Before you use keywords, you need to research what is appropriate and what is not. Discuss with customers to see exactly what keywords they use when they describe various industry elements. After that, it is easy to segment keyword lists to choose and use exactly what is relevant to the customers.
For SEO, indexability indicators are very important. Simply put, when a page on your website is not indexed, Google will not see it. You cannot get traffic from Google or other search engines because they do not know about your content.
The problem is that your website might be prevented from indexing, even if you do not know of any crawlability issue (more on that below).
As a very simple example, when the site has duplicate content and meta data, search engines cannot identify the pages that should be ranked for a specific keyword. Google has to decide what pages should be ranked and what pages should not be ranked. You cannot control the situation so the wrong page might be ranked.
Common Indexability Errors:
- Long Or Short Title Tags
The rule of thumb is that title tags over 60 characters are too long. This means that when too many characters are included, Google cuts titles short in SERPs.
- Hreflang problems inside the source code
This is a problem that appears when you run multilingual sites, which can confuse the search engines whenever the hreflang attribute shows a conflict inside the source code. At the same time, broken hreflang links will create serious indexing issues whenever the relative URLs are utilized instead of absolute URLs. For instance, https://domain.com/page is used instead of /page.
Also, if you run a multilingual website and the lang and hreflang attributes do not exist, engines do not know how to serve users that speak a different language. Learn more about hreflang here.
- Low Content Word Count
Pages that appear to not have content on them are flagged inside the Site Audit tool. Whenever you see such a warning, review the content. In some situations, this might be a sign of automatically generated pages that you know nothing about and that can seriously hurt rankings.
- Duplicate H1, content, title, or/and meta descriptions
- Multiple or missing H1 tags
For your website to be indexed or ranked, it has to be crawled. Along with indexation issues, crawlability issues stand out as a crucial negative website health indicator.
When it comes to technical SEO, one of the first things verified by a specialist is whether or not the content is crawled. Ignoring issues almost always leads to pages not being seen by Google or at least not being seen as they should be seen.
The good news is that when you fix crawling issues, Google can easily identify your content, links, and assign an appropriate ranking in search results.
One of the easiest things you could do is to use a sitemap in .xml format. This shows Google what content should be indexed and can even show how often content is updated. Remember that the search engine giant loves it when you update your site often, like with a blog, but cannot know about it if the site is low in rankings.
Common Crawlability Errors:
- Using nofollow attributes with internal links
Sometimes, nofollow attributes can be added to internal links. However, this should only be done when the link is to a page that has zero relevance, which is very rare. When you add nofollow to internal links, you actively block the potential link equity they can offer.
- Incorrect pages added to sitemap.xml
The sitemap that you create should never include broken links. Because of this, you have to look for non-canonical pages and redirect changes. All of them need to return the 200 status code.
At the same time, it is quite obvious that when sitemap.xml is not found, it is a problem since Google will find it difficult to crawl, index, and explore site pages. Also, the website’s robots txt file needs to include a link to the sitemap file. This makes it a lot easier for Google to find all your content.
Not Using AMPs (Accelerated Mobile Pages)
When it comes to on-page SEO, the website must be mobile-friendly. This is because mobile-friendliness is a default ranking criterion for desktop and mobile.
As a webmaster, you need to verify the HTML code you use on your site so that it respects the AMP guidelines issued by Google.
Use the Google Site Audit tool to see if there are invalid AMP pages present on your website. This allows you to see what has to be fixed. Usually, you need to make modifications to style, layout, and HTML, but some more important changes might be necessary.
Not Addressing Site Performance
In modern search engine optimisation, page loading time is more important than ever. When pages do not load fast, Google sees it as them not being able to engage users. This is simply because internet users do not wait for slow blog posts to load.
Fortunately, Google offers page speed suggestions. Just use PageSpeed Insights. Enter your site in the tool and you will see exactly how the search engine sees your site. Also, you are given recommendations on how to improve page loading speed.
Common Site Performance Errors:
- Slow loading speed
Every single page on your website should load as fast as possible. When it takes too long for the browser to render a page, users leave. Do all that you can to increase loading speed.
Not Creating High-Quality Content
If you want to climb high in search engine rankings, you need to constantly create content. However, when you create content just for the sake of content, you make a huge SEO mistake.
Eventually, your website will grow and it will be made out of hundreds of pages, or even more. It can be incredibly difficult to locate unique page keywords and stick to a cohesive strategy.
The big problem is that when you rush content creation, you just create useless and thin content. And Google hates thin content.
When you write website content, you need to complete strategic keyword research. All the content needs to be relevant, according to the primary keyword. If there is only one thing that you can invest in, do it in high-quality long-form content that is evergreen and actionable.
Keep in mind that even with optimised content, it could take months for you to reach top search engine result positions. Due to this, you want to make sure that what you create stays unique and relevant for a very long time.
Lack Of Frequent Website Auditing
Another huge optimisation mistake appears when website SEO work is not monitored. A website has to be constantly optimised and checked. This is what allows us to fix the mistakes that appear as time passes.
Do not think that you will not make some common SEO mistakes. At the same time, remember that site audits are particularly important after site migrations or after you implement some new plugins or tools.
Conduct a site audit at least one time per month. If the website is large, do it once per week. Make sure that your audit identifies duplicate content, page loading speed, unoptimised meta tags, and broken links. This should be the bare minimum that you check.
Also, whenever you make SEO changes, audit your website more often than usual. This helps you to see if what you did works or creates problems.
Neglecting Local SEO
Last but certainly not least, you should never neglect local SEO. This is one of the worst search engine optimisation mistakes you could make right now.
In the near future, Google will first take local rankings into account when rankings are decided. This is almost inevitable at this point in time.
It is very easy to understand why because of the statistics we now know about search results:
- 50% of mobile device searches lead to in-store visits in the exact same day.
- 80 to 90 per cent of people read online reviews before they buy something.
- 50% of mobile, local searches are done in regards to information about local businesses.
- 85% of online users trust reviews just as much as they trust personal recommendations.
The key takeaway here is to segment keyword research for national, international, and local intent. Whenever you offer local services, you have to create high quality content that properly reflects the local search intent. For instance, you can use city names close to the target keywords inside your content.
Nowadays, SEO evolved into content marketing and we need to think about countless things, like designing mobile friendly websites and using digital marketing campaigns that include more strategies, not just one.
There are many common SEO mistakes to avoid, many more than the big mistakes we highlighted above. This is why, whenever you have doubts about what to do on a website, the best thing you can do is to contact an experienced SEO and digital marketing agency.
Also, remember that search is not the only traffic source you have. It is important to use social media and do a lot to get to the first page of Google. Search results change every single week and the work that you do always has an impact on your rankings.
We are here to help. Ask for a free quotation and stay on top of your competition.