You’ve probably seen countless articles touting the top SEO strategies you need to apply: optimize for search intent, build plenty of backlinks from authoritative sites, and the like.
But what about the SEO traps that are so easy to fall into? If you’re struggling to rank on page one, your business may have fallen into one without you realizing it.
How can you avoid – or counteract – these traps so they don’t cost you traffic or damage the growth of your site?
We hand-picked 10 experts to share the biggest SEO mistakes they see marketers make, as well as their solutions for avoiding these mistakes. Apply their advice and you’ll be closer to those SEO rankings you’re aiming for.
Mistake #1: Creating content without simultaneously building links
“The biggest mistake marketers make with SEO is they choose content over links. Marketers who make this mistake create a master list of a few hundred keywords they wish to rank their site for. And then they go crazy publishing article after article until the list is exhausted and they’re done.
“They now have a bank of content. But since they didn’t build any links whatsoever, they have a ton of content that’s not ranking at all. And only then it’s link-building time, but at the expense of writing content, which is not ideal.
“The problem here is that links take a lot of time to start working, and they get stronger with age.
So if a marketer has put in mammoth effort into publishing 300 articles, and only starts link building after that, it feels as if they’re starting from zero.”
How to avoid it: Build content and links together, from the start of your content creation efforts
“Build both content and links right from the start. And it doesn’t have to be 50:50. No, it’s totally doable to devote 70% of time and energy into content production, and 30% into link acquisition.
“The goal is to build links consistently so you establish a steady stream of backlinks to your site, while you’re building up that bank of content.
“As you publish more content, as links come trickling in, and as your site’s authority gradually rises, you’ll reach the point where a lot of your content is on the bottom of the first page and top of the second page in Google.
“At that point, stop publishing new content. Instead, dig into your Google Search Console performance report and see which articles show the most potential (which ones get the most impressions for multiple queries).
“Update those posts first, and then hit them with backlinks directly. That’s the fastest way to start ranking. It’s three times faster than first building content, then getting links, then returning to content.” –Nikola Roza of SEO For The Poor And Determined
Mistake #2: Getting caught up in SEO fads
“A lot of the SEO tips you will find online at the moment are coming from people who became successful way back in 2010. While what they say may make sense if you have an authoritative site that has been around for a couple of years, this advice is normally not good for beginners.”
How to avoid it: Focus on tried-and-true methods that work for everyone, including beginners
“Instead of pumping out content for hard keywords and trying to fit in all of the 30 keywords Ahrefs suggested, focus on things like:
- Building website authority (guest posting)
- Targeting keywords you can rank for (low competition, high volume), and
- Diversifying your sources of traffic (organic Google traffic, social media).” –Freya Kuka of Collecting Cents
Mistake #3: Thinking of SEO as actions separate from your marketing strategy
“The biggest SEO mistake marketers make is thinking of SEO as a ‘thing’ you do to your website. For example, that SEO is keyword optimisation, that it’s improving your page speeds, or that it’s building links.
“This is damaging because it leads to marketers seeing SEO as something you bolt on to your site, rather than something intrinsic to your overall marketing strategy.
“Sometimes, this leads marketers to view it as something that’s the responsibility of SEOs, rather than a core marketing function. This can prevent SEO being aligned with the overall marketing strategy.”
How to avoid it: View SEO as an objective
“The way to avoid this mistake is to view SEO as an objective. Perhaps it’s a problem of language. Optimization suggests a thing that you do, whereas good visibility in search engines is an objective.
“Think about search engine visibility rather than search engine optimization. SEO is many things that are integral to your broader marketing strategy. For example, it’s understanding what your customers are looking for, it’s good content creation, it’s meeting your customers needs on-site, it’s increasing your brand visibility and trust.
“Search engine results are often a potential customer’s first impression of your business. These results are their gateway to your site or brand, and therefore an integral part of your overall customer experience.
“Optimizing search engine visibility should be a core part of any marketing strategy. SEO is a range of tactics to help you achieve that, not an afterthought or something you ‘do’ to your website.” –Chris Hutty of Jellyfish
Mistake #4: Focusing too heavily on one facet of SEO
“Focusing too much on one method isn’t healthy. Specializing your SEO drives efficiency, but it isn’t driving stability. Every month or two, we see a big Google update. And like clockwork with each change, we see stories about people reporting large losses across numerous websites. You can’t avoid algorithm changes, but you can be prepared.”
How to avoid it: Diversify your tactics
“Avoid relying too much on one method. If your focus is on on-site methods, branch out into link building or vice versa. You will seldom read about a website with a solid and organic backlink profile and great content permanently losing its position. Balance is key.” –Peter Thaleikis of RankLetter
Mistake #5: Not making content objectives clear
“One of the biggest SEO mistakes marketers make is creating content that fails to quickly address a conflict and a solution. If a reader can’t identify the objective of the article or the intended solution within the first few sentences, they’ll bounce off the page to competing content. They’ll also miss key call-to-actions items, resulting in lower ROI.”
How to avoid it: Clearly identify the objective of each article in multiple places
“Always ensure the problem and solution of your article are clearly displayed in the title, meta description, introduction, headers, and subheaders. Break lengthy blocks of text down with charts, graphs, and bulleted lists.
“Within the initial moments of arriving on your page, readers will be able to identify the intent behind your content and be more inspired to take action. Create easily skimmable content to serve each type of reader behavior, whether they skim your content for the main takeaways or read the article in its entirety.” –Michelle Alese of UpCity
Mistake #6: Trying to take SEO shortcuts when creating content
“The most common SEO mistake is trying to create content as cheaply as possible. Google is getting more sophisticated in how it reads and ranks content, and always wants to give greatest visibility to the most user-friendly article.
“Therefore, no matter how much time and resources you put into keyword research and on-page optimizations, you are unlikely to succeed if the content as a whole is not of high quality.
“Furthermore, low-quality content massively hurts conversion rates. This means you could lose money in the long run if you put a load of resources into ranking at the top of Google for a given keyword, but your content is too weak to drive any conversions.”
How to avoid it: Create high-value content
“Do not view content as a commodity or something that needs to be produced in order to get the rankings. View content as an integral part of your SEO and one of the key drivers of the overall value of your website.” –Oliver Baise of Oli Baise Digital
Mistake #7: Writing for Google, but not the reader
“When writing an article for SEO purposes, it’s crucial that not only do you have Google in mind, but you have the person that’s going to be reading the article in mind.
“A common mistake some SEO professionals make is only writing for Google. This can mean your SEO article will sound like it’s been written by a robot, and have no real benefit to the reader whatsoever. The number one reason why a search user might click on your content is they find it useful. If it doesn’t actually answer any questions or solve problems, then it’s not useful and will seem like you’ve only written the article for Google!”
How to avoid it: Always write with your readers in mind
“A lot of people think that as long you’re producing content every day and it’s full of keywords, then you’re onto an SEO winner. Nope! This won’t improve your organic rankings.
“Instead, every time you publish an article, it should be of good quality, informative, and the target audience needs to find it of genuine use. Always ask yourself: ‘Is this solving my reader’s problem?’
There are three things you should keep in mind when writing a good SEO article:
- Include a sensible number of keywords your audience is actually searching for and understand the search intent
- Create evergreen content that will always be of use to your target audience, and you can just update as time goes on
- Have a reasonable amount of trusted backlinks inserted into the article
“Writing a good SEO article is all about telling a story. It’s not about writing content for the sake of writing content. So write like a human, not a robot.” –Mollie Earnshaw of Zeal
Mistake #8: Viewing SEO as a one-time fix
“The biggest mistake I see marketers make in on-page SEO is thinking it’s a one-time fix to their website, as opposed to an ongoing and persistent campaign. Gone are the days where you can change some title tags or text on your website and see phenomenal ranking returns as a result.
“Google’s algorithm and the competition in the industry have become far better, essentially nullifying low hanging fruit. Time is money, so this misunderstanding can be highly damaging as it results in marketers waiting around while nothing is happening to grow the business.”
How to avoid it: Constantly intertwine SEO with your other marketing tactics
“To succeed in SEO in today’s world, make it a priority in every aspect of your business. Every member of your team must be thinking about SEO and things that can benefit it at all times.
“When you create new partnerships, would they be willing to link to you? If you appear on a podcast, is it possible to have that transcribed as a blog post? Is every new article being shared and promoted across social media? The list goes on and on. But, the key thing is to always be thinking about creating content and promoting that content.” –Grant Aldrich of Online Degree
Mistake #9: Getting harmful backlinks
“The biggest SEO mistake I see a lot of marketers make is to get bad backlinks for their websites. Unfortunately, there are a lot of companies out there that claim they are white hat link-builders, when that’s not even close to the truth. Toxic backlinks will hurt your entire website and can be very difficult to recover from if you aren’t careful.”
How to avoid it: Vet your backlink sources
“You should always vet your backlinks if you can before they are completed and published. This way you can make sure they’re from a legitimate site with real traffic and have ethical back-linking practices. I wouldn’t do any link-building with an outside company without first speaking with some of their current clients and checking out their websites’ backlink profiles.” –Ben Walker of Transcription Outsourcing
Mistake #10: Giving up on SEO prematurely if you don’t see returns
“The biggest SEO mistake marketers commonly make is thinking SEO is a short-term strategy. Too often, marketers are giving up quickly because their SEO metrics don’t improve. It’s important to know that SEO is a long-term process and you will rarely see substantial organic traffic growth if you work on SEO for just a few weeks.”
How to avoid it: Stay committed in the long-term
“Don’t try to game the system and trick search engines with cheap tactics. In the long run, you will get penalized. What you want is to keep producing high-quality content on your website and distribute that content.
Don’t give up on SEO and content creation. If you don’t see any increase in your organic traffic during the first couple of months, that’s completely normal. What you want to do is be consistent with your content creation and promotionz SEO will follow, but don’t be impatient.” –Jonathan Aufray of Growth Hackers
Wrapping up: Avoiding the biggest SEO mistakes
Now, you’ve found out about 10 SEO mistakes and how to avoid them.
Remember to view SEO as a goal rather than a set of afterthought tactics applied to content, and as a marathon rather than a quick sprint. Diversify your tactics, and don’t try to take shortcuts. And focus on the strategies that work rather than getting caught up in SEO fads.