The 6 most common SEO mistakes and how to avoid them
Not sure why you’re not ranking #1 for your focus keywords in Google? You might be making one of the mistakes a lot of site owners make. We see it happen a lot. From small local businesses to big corporate ones, lots of websites are making similar mistakes. Here, we’ll give you an overview of the SEO issues we encounter most frequently. Of course, we’ll also explain how to avoid or solve them. Check this list and make sure you’re not making any of these common SEO mistakes!
First off, we’d like to mention our vision on SEO: holistic SEO. With holistic SEO, you don’t just focus on the content or technical aspects of your site, but also work on your User eXperience (UX). Therefore, we’ll include a somewhat wider range of issues and tips to solve them.
1. Forgetting that faster is better
The first common SEO mistake we’d like to touch on is site speed. The faster your site, the more Google will favor it. Especially now, with the page experience ranking factor slowly rolling out. It’s important to work on your site speed to keep your pages in the search results. There’s a very useful tool from Google itself to check your site speed: Google PageSpeed Insights. This tool gives you an overview of what aspects you can improve on to boost the speed of a particular page.
A quick win and a recommendation we frequently give is to optimize your images. A lot of websites have images that are relatively large, which take a lot of time to load. This makes your website slower than it needs to be. Resizing your images can speed up the loading time. If you have a WordPress site, you can do this easily by installing a plugin that does that for you.
In case of a WordPress install, we also recommend taking a good look at the plugins that are activated. Are you using all of them? Perhaps some of them can be replaced by another plugin that combines those functions? The best advice we can give you on this topic is that less is more. The fewer plugins that are activated, the faster your WordPress installment can be loaded.
2. Trying to rank for the wrong keywords
If you want to rank in Google you have to make sure that you’re using the right keywords for every page. One of the biggest mistakes we frequently encounter is that site owners optimize their pages for generic keywords. If you are a relatively small business that wants to rank for ‘rental car’, you’re aiming too high. Try to come up with something more specific. Otherwise, you’re competing with all the car rental companies all over the world, which is impossible to do! You could, for example, add the area in which your company is located to the keyword. But there’s more you can do to make your keywords more long tail, as we call it.
The longer and more specific the keywords are, the higher your chances of ranking for this keyword. Of course, this also means that the search volume for this keyword is lower. But you can compensate for this by optimizing a lot of pages on your site for different long tail keywords. Your site will eventually gain more traffic for all of these keywords combined, than it ever would if you optimized for one main keyword, for which your page will never rank on page 1 in Google.
3. Failing to invite people to visit your site
Metadata is what appears on search engine result pages (SERPs) when a website comes up for certain queries. It includes the title of your page and its meta description. The page title is still an important ranking factor for Google, so you have to make sure it’s optimized correctly for every page. We suggest adding your keyword to the title if that’s possible and making sure that your page title isn’t too long. If your page title is too long, it will get cut off. You don’t want potential visitors to see just half of your page title in the search results.
The meta description is not a ranking factor, but it does play an important part in your Click Through Rate (CTR). CTR gives some insight into how likely potential visitors are to click on your site in the SERPs. If you optimize your meta descriptions with a clear and attractive message on what people can find on your site, it becomes easier for them to see if the information they’re looking for is on that page. The more likely people are to think your site will provide an answer to their search query, the more traffic a page will gain.
4. Neglecting to write awesome content
We regularly write about writing awesome content on this blog, but we still see a lot of people struggling with content. This is another common SEO mistake that we want to tackle. Because it’s important that every page on your site has decent content, that’s at least 300 words long. Google needs enough copy to find out what your page is about and whether you can provide the answer people are looking for. You can’t expect Google to see you as an expert on a certain topic when you have only written two sentences about it. This indicates to Google that your page probably isn’t the best result to match the search query.
That being said, keep in mind that Google is not your audience. You need to write for your visitors and not just for Google. Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and provide the best answers possible. Therefore, writing quality content for your audience is the way to go. Even when it comes to SEO and ranking well in Google. Writing quality content means writing original content that shows your expertise. And not just stuff keywords into your text, those days are long gone. Your text has to be easy to read for your visitor.
5. Failing to keep people on your site
Once visitors land on your site, the next goal is to keep them on your site. You don’t want your visitors immediately bouncing back to Google once they have read something on your page. This is why you need to encourage visitors to click through your site. The best way to do this is to create a call-to-action (CTA), which usually is a button that offers an action to your visitor. This can be, for instance, a ‘buy’ button on a product page, or a ‘sign up’ button for the newsletters. Don’t go overboard and try to have one main CTA that stands out from the rest of your page.
Another way to keep people on your website is by adding relevant internal links to other pages on your website. This is actually also an important part of SEO and should be part of your marketing efforts. By adding internal links, your site visitors and Google will know what pages are related to each other and can be interesting when they’re looking for information on a certain topic. So make sure to spend time on your internal linking to create a great site structure that keeps people on your website!
6. Not thinking ahead: The future is mobile
The sixth and final SEO mistake that’s quite common is not considering mobile. In 2018, Google switched to mobile-first indexing. This means that Google now looks at the mobile version of your site to decide how high you should rank. So if the desktop version of your site is set up brilliantly, but your mobile site isn’t responsive at all, this will be reflected in your rankings. In a negative way. So if that’s the case, make sure to work on mobile SEO!
A great way to test if your site is mobile-friendly is to use Google’s mobile-friendly test. This gives you an indication of how easily visitors can use your page on mobile devices. But don’t stop after checking this. The best advice we can give is to visit your site on your own mobile phone. Browse your own site for a while and try to click on every button, link and image to see what happens. Is everything working as you would want it to? How easy is it to purchase something on your site while using your mobile phone? Are all pages displayed correctly? Mobile usage is on the rise and will continue to, so don’t miss out on all those mobile users and create a great user experience on mobile.
We know that SEO is a lot of work. And that it’s not easy to remember all the different parts that you need to work on. But it is important to do so, on a regular basis. You don’t want one of the mistakes we discussed to cost you your rankings. So make sure to: focus on site speed, write great content and optimize for the right keywords. If you make sure people visit your site and don’t leave right away, have great calls-to-action, link internally and prepare for mobile. Do all of this and you’re already on your way to a well-optimized website, the holistic way.
If you ever get off-track, check out this post from Marieke to help you pick up your SEO again after neglecting it for a while. And if you need some more help to figure out what to work on, check out our page on SEO fitness. On there, we discuss everything you can do to get your website into shape and healthy again! Plus, you can take a quiz to find out the state of your technical or content SEO.
Read more: How to learn SEO: A guide for all backgrounds »
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4 Responses to The 6 most common SEO mistakes and how to avoid them
I think the problem I’m constantly having is trying to rank for the wrong keywords. My blog is still pretty new and I just checked some SEO tools now and the keywords I keep going for have really high search difficulty. Now I know where the problem is coming from
It can be difficult to figure out which keywords to use! But starting off with keywords that have less competition is a great way to attract more visitors, so make sure to give that a try! Good luck :)
Excellent tips to avoid. Will be implementing all of them asap. Thanks.
You’re welcome, Steve, and good luck!