A well-executed SEO campaign will rocket a website to the top of the SERPs — but a poorly planned one can fling it in the opposite direction. So today, we’re examining the top five SEO pitfalls every business should avoid at all costs.

First Things First: A Brief SEO FAQ

Before we dive into the top five SEO mistakes to avoid, let’s review the search engine optimization landscape with a quick FAQ. If you’re a beginner, this is a good place to start. If you already understand the basics of SEO, skip to the pitfalls section.

What Does SEO Stand For?

SEO stands for search engine optimization, the process of making your site more visible on the Web. Practitioners use a set of digital marketing tools to get the job done, including content creation and backlink cultivation. Website development and site structure also play a significant role.

What Does SERPs Stand For?

When you read about SEO, the term “SERPs” pops up a lot. So what does it mean? SERPs stands for search engine result pages, which are the link lists that search engines, like Google, return when a question or phrase is pumped into the query box.

The ultimate SEO goal is to land at the top of the SERPs, where the gains are enormous. Did you know that 25 percent of searchers always click on the top organic link? They’ll even scroll past paid ads to get to the first “natural” result. Moreover, 75 percent of people never navigate past the first page of links.

What Are Algorithms?

In the realm of search engine optimization, algorithms are the scripted procedures that determine which sites land where within the SERPs. Bots roam the Internet carrying out the work of algorithms.

Is SEO An Exact Science?

No, SEO isn’t an exact science. Since search engine companies guard their algorithms as trade secrets, we don’t have public blueprints of SERP ranking bots and their detailed parameters. However, Google and other search engines do provide webmaster guidance. Plus, SEO professionals have learned through experience.

What Are Keywords?

Keywords are an important part of SEO work, although their centrality to the process is decreasing.

Basically, keywords are the questions and phrases you type into search engine boxes. Your content should contain the keyword phrases most often searched to perform well in the SERPs. How can you determine what those are? There are several SEO analytics programs on the market, including SEMRush and Ahrefs. They cost several hundred dollars a month, and most digital marketing firms maintain accounts. You can also use the Google Adwords and Trends portals to glean insight into search queries.

In the early days of search, keywords were the lynchpin of all SEO work. They mattered above all else. Back then, the content didn’t need to be good. So long as you repeated keywords over and over again, your site would do well.

But algorithms have gotten much more intelligent over the years, and they’re better at interpreting user intent. As a result, keywords don’t dominate the search calculation as much as they once did. Please don’t read us wrong; keywords still matter — just not as much.

On Which Search Engines Should I Focus My SEO Campaign?

The answer is “all of them.” After all, you don’t want to ignore potential clients, customers, and patients. However, not all search engines are created equal. Here are the latest usage stats:

Google: 88 percent
Bing: 6 percent
Yahoo! 3 percent
DuckDuckGo: 2 percent
Baidu and Ecosia: Less than 1 percent combined

Clearly, optimizing for Google makes the most sense. The good news is that when you do, you’re also optimizing for the others because the differences between search engines are negligible.

How Long Does It Take for an SEO Campaign To Work?

SEO is a long-term commitment. In most cases, you won’t see results after just a few weeks. Heck, you may not even see results for a few months! Depending on your business, region, and the amount of competition, it could take between six months to a year for SEO efforts to reveal themselves.

My Computer Genius Nephew Told Me SEO Is Dead. Is He Right?

For about a decade, skeptics have been saying that “SEO is dead.” They’re wrong. SEO is far from dead, but it has evolved. These days, search engine optimization work looks a lot different than it did ten years ago. Back then, tricks still worked; bad content won the SERP race; link buying was standard practice. Since then, engineers have made search algorithms smarter, so businesses need to commission higher-quality SEO work.

With over 90 percent of adults using search engines to find goods and services, SEO isn’t going anywhere.

SEO-mistakesTop Five SEO Pitfalls To Avoid At All Costs

We’ve discussed what SEO is and why it’s important. Now let’s dive into five SEO pitfalls to avoid.

#5 SEO Pitfall: Ignoring Your Internal Link and Site Structure

Though often overlooked, internal linking is an important aspect of on-site SEO. Link architecture:

  • Distributes web authority to deep pages
  • Provides clear pathways to pillar content and conversion pages
  • Intuitively communicates your page hierarchy to search engine bots
  • Organizes content semantically, which helps on-page SEO initiatives

Another site architecture problem that trips up many businesses is duplicate content. To avoid this SEO pitfall, make sure all posts and articles on your platform are 100 percent unique. Additionally, study your page hierarchy to determine if several URLs point to the same content. If so, clean it up — because search engines will delete duplicate content from their indexes, which could hurt your ranking.

Failing to develop a page hierarchy can be a costly oversight because algorithms prefer and promote organized sites. Are you unsure if your platform has a good framework? Consult with a digital marketer who can do an SEO audit and craft a plan of attack.

The Takeaway: Maintain good site structure because search engines reward well-organized websites.

#4 SEO Pitfall: Cultivating Low-Quality Backlinks

Cultivating a web of desirable backlinks is an integral part of SEO work. It requires a delicate and knowledgeable hand — because the last things you need are bad backlinks, which can harm your ranking.

Why Are Backlinks Important?

Backlinks are a major part of the SEO formula. In the world of search, links are like votes. Ergo, the more links that point to a site, the better. So, the goal of the game is to secure backlinks from high-quality websites. Ones from .edu, .gov, and popular .com domains are best.

How Bad Backlinks Can Hurt a Website

Quality backlinks help a site climb the SERPs, but bad backlinks can knock you into search oblivion — an online desert where users rarely roam. As we mentioned above, backlinks are like votes. As such, if a bunch of spammy websites link to you, the search algorithm may issue your site demerits for “hanging out with the wrong crowd.”

What happens if bad sites link to you without permission? You can disavow them via the Google search console.

Extra Credit Reading on SEO Backlinking

Backlinking Strategies: Variety, Velocity, and Volume
What Is Anchor Text?
How Impactful Are Backlinks?

The Takeaway: Backlinks are very important. However, they must be quality links. Spammy backlinks can hurt a site’s ranking.

#3 SEO Pitfall: Neglecting Local Search

Failing to feed local search bots is a big mistake. According to the latest statistics, about 46 percent of all online searches include location keywords, and 97 percent of people using search engines are looking for local businesses, even if they don’t use regional phrases.

What Is Local Search?

Local search targets a specific region, and in recent years, it’s a growing segment of search traffic. Here’s an eye-popping stat: Users visit 1.5 billion local locations related to their Google queries each month. So if you want to capture some of that action, calibrate your website to satisfy statewide-, county-, and town-specific queries.

How Neglecting Local Search Can Hurt You

Today’s search engines are configured to return local results. In other words, a person living in Colorado will get a different set of links than a person in New York when they both search for “chiropractor near me” or “seafood restaurant near me.” And results are becoming more granular by the year, so folks living in Denver, Colorado and Aspen, Colorado also get different returns.

How to Lock Down Local Search

There are several things businesses can do to win the local search race, including:

  • Completely fill out your Google My Business profile and similar offerings on other search engines
  • Create content that incorporates local keywords
  • Make sure your website functions well on cell phones because local search bots reward good mobile sites

The Takeaway: Pay attention to local search! It’s an increasingly important search sector.

#2 SEO Pitfall: Failing to Set Goals

SEO Goal setting is essential, and too many people neglect to do it.

It’s important to take stock of your digital landscape before beginning an SEO campaign. Of course everyone wants to land in the #1 spot, but since search technology has changed, that’s not always possible. Moreover, the #1 slot can change from town to town — or even house to house — because results are dependent on region and even past browsing history.

Determine your end goals, then work backward from there. Consider metrics like organic leads, better quality traffic, or more sales. Additionally, be realistic. For example, if your website is brand new, and your competitor has had an SEO’d site for over a decade, it will take time to catch up.

The Takeaway: Do your due diligence by evaluating your online niche, then set SEO goals.

#1 SEO Pitfall: Low-Quality Content

Using low-quality content in today’s SEO landscape is a big mistake that could negatively impact your SERP ranking.

The Evolution of Search Algorithms

In the days of old, when the Internet was still a tech toddler, low-quality content was the norm. All it took to reach the top of the SERPs was repeating keywords over and over. Back then, a lot of content was unreadable shlock that made about as much sense as a preschooler’s scribblings.

But things changed in 2011 when Google made its first major algorithm update, Panda. When it hit, the change was seismic. Websites that once dominated the SERPs disappeared, and platforms with quality content climbed the rankings overnight.

Generally speaking, Panda was the beginning of the “smart” Web — when bots started detecting and demoting poor-quality writing. To be clear, the Panda algorithms don’t have PhDs in grammar. They’re not a digital A.I. army of Michiko Kakutani clones. Every article doesn’t need to be a Pulitzer Prize contender to please them. But today’s search algorithms can and do turn their noses up at keyword-stuffed, run-on sentences that lack structure and context.

High-Quality Content Is a Must

You’ll still find SEO companies that try to get away with using horrible, computer-generated content that ultimately hurts rankings or does absolutely nothing to improve them. When deciding whether to hire a digital marketing firm, ask to see samples of their content. If it’s terrible, move on.

And remember: It’s better to post one quality post a day than three mediocre ones.

Extra Credit SEO Content Reading

Blogging With a Purpose: SEO Content Writing
Five Things To Include in Every Blog Post
How Many Blog Posts Should I Publish Per Month?

The Takeaway: High-quality content is a must-have for any digital marketing campaign. Terrible writing no longer works for SEO.

Consult With SEO Experts

Are you ready to take your SEO game to the next level? Do you want the profit bump that comes with a well-executed digital marketing plan? If you’re considering it, let’s talk. Our team of digital promotional professionals, website developers, and content writers have the skills and knowledge you need to get the SERP ranking you want.

Get in touch today. Let’s start the conversation.