Search engine optimization (SEO) is an important tool in a marketer’s digital toolbox. If done correctly, with best practices at the forefront of a good strategy, it can help boost the online visibility of your website and deliver an increased number of qualified prospects. If done incorrectly, however, SEO can lead to website penalties, obscurity, and frustration.

When we conduct SEO audits for prospects, we often see the same recurring mistakes. These mistakes are correctable, but also avoidable. Here’s what we see most often:

6 Avoidable SEO Mistakes that are Killing Your Website Performance

1. Failing to research effective keywords.

While SEO is much more than keywords, having a keyword strategy is paramount! Since over 80 percent of all product and solution decisions start with a keyword search at Google, it’s important that you’re optimizing using the best keywords you can. What keywords are people using to find a product or solution like yours? Start by using the Google keyword planner tool and then use those keywords yourself at Google to see what results are provided. It’s important to…

  • Not be too broad (or you’ll get irrelevant results)
  • Be local if your doing business in a particular area
  • Be specific (it’s okay to think long-tail as you’ll get better and more quality traffic)
  • Not load up on all ‘highly competitive’ keywords (or you’ll be spinning your wheels with little to show)
  • Not get hung up on how many searches there are monthly for your selected keywords
  • Not forget to look at your current analytics to see what’s driving traffic today
  • Not refer to any paid search metrics (if you’re doing Google Ads)

I’ll be addressing keyword list creation in a subsequent blog, but the bottom line here is to take some time to put together a decent, well-represented list. Oh, and don’t be afraid to update the list from time to time. It shouldn’t be set in stone.

2. Not using your keywords the right way.

Once you have developed your keyword list you now need to use them. You’d be surprised how many companies out there have a keyword list and then do nothing with it. That said, there are wrong ways to use keywords and since we’re focused on mistakes, I’ll touch on those. Do not over use them! Keyword stuffing is a thing of the past and it can get you penalized. Use them naturally when writing copy or content, but use them in the right places – H1s, H2s, etc. You should also use them in your Meta titles and descriptions and alt image tags as well.

Map your keywords to pages on your site to make sure that you have the content to support them. Be sure not to map too many to a single page. We recommend not trying to optimize more than two similar keywords per page, otherwise you will likely spread your copy too thin.

3. Ignoring (or duplicating) Meta titles and descriptions.

We often hear that while Meta titles are a Google ranking factor, Meta descriptions are not, so why bother? The answer is that they help people understand why they should click on a Google search result. It tells them what they can expect in terms of content; it’s essentially your sales pitch for visiting your website so it’s pretty important! Also, it can directly affect the bounce rate of the web page, which, in an indirect way, is a ranking factor. Google uses bounces to understand if your content is relevant to the search. If it isn’t, you won’t show up for that search any more. That may or may not be a good thing, but you should be sure your meta descriptions are well written to tell a user precisely what they’ll see on your page.

We also see many sites that have duplicate Meta titles and descriptions or that skip descriptions altogether. It’s really just a missed opportunity to tell the user in your own words what is on the page. If you don’t have a meta description on a page you will leave it up to Google to automatically generate them. Your rankings and organic click through rates could suffer.

Take the time to write them carefully, with keywords, and your click through rates and bounce rates can see improvements.

Here’s a recent post we did that helps explains what you need to know about Meta descriptions for SEO success.

4. Failing to design with mobile devices in mind.

This is becoming more and more important as mobile devices become the default access point to the web. Consider these stats from HubSpot:

  • Google drives 96% of mobile search traffic
  • More than 46% of Americans will check their smartphone before getting out of bed.
  • Over 51% of smartphone users have discovered a new company or product while conducting a search on their smartphone (this percentage is going to grow!)

Google has made it easy to check if your site is mobile-friendly. Just head over to their mobile-friendly test site and enter your URL.

Mobile-Friendly Test

You can also conduct a Google Search Console analysis. What you might find are that clickable elements are too close together, making it hard to click the appropriate link on smaller screen. A responsive design is a must and a site that is not mobile-friendly can affect your SEO. In fact, Google made an algorithm adjustment to favor mobile-friendly sites way back in 2015!

5. Lack of internal site linking.

Linking one page of your site to another is important, as it gets people to explore your site deeper, increasing the number of pages viewed and time on site. Make sure, however, that you link using anchor text that provides user (and Google) insight. If you notice in this blog, in fact, we’ve linked to several service sections of our site where it makes sense. If we talk about blog management, as example, we could link blog management directly to our site with a hyperlink (as we’ve done). Do this on your site to connect pages with anchor text (as opposed to linking ‘click here’ which doesn’t really help much). That said, do not link every instance or you’ll end up having the opposite effect – sort of like keyword stuffing!

6. Ignoring data.

Mining your existing data can help you tremendously when developing (or refining) your SEO strategy. What keywords are currently getting clicks? What pages are getting the most traffic? All of these answers can help you determine where to start when it comes to keywords and content.

If you’re running Google Ads, you’ll likely have a wealth of information on keyword data that can help you inform where you should start. What keywords are getting clicks and conversions? What landing pages are converting? All of the answers to these questions can help you better create a keyword list, write website copy, and Meta data.

I Could Go On…

There are tons of elements that make up an effective SEO strategy and they all play a role in your website’s performance. While mistakes can be made in many other areas (and I’ll likely cover more down the road) the six SEO mistakes above are what we see more often than not. SEO is as much an art as a science but taking the time to avoid these mistakes can go a long way in delivering SEO success.

For a complimentary SEO website audit, contact us today!