We often talk about what you should do when looking at SEO. But what should you avoid when looking at your SEO strategy for 2020 and beyond?
As you might imagine, there are many pitfalls, some of which are small, and some of which are gigantic. All can be overcome though, and the first step is identifying that you’re doing something wrong in the first place.
On this article, we’re going to be taking a look at 36 deadly mistakes to avoid when implementing your SEO strategy, so keep reading to find out more.
Failing to Target the Right Keywords
If you’re targeting the wrong keywords, your SEO campaign is destined to fail from the very beginning.
Quite simply, many people target keywords that are too competitive. Instead, smaller sites should be targeting low to mid-level keywords.
This is often essentially a case of failing to manage expectations.
A new sportswear company, for example, is not going to rank for “Nike trainers” and they should instead focus on lower competition keywords.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that there will never be a time when high competition keywords can be targeted. It will take time for the site to build up enough authority before it can though.
Not Tracking Performance
There is pretty much no point in carrying out SEO if you’re not going to track its results.
Performance needs to be measured in some way, otherwise, you’ll never know if your SEO is helping or hindering your online presence.
There are various ways to track performance, from a simple Excel spreadsheet, through to a more elaborate tracking system. Even basic tracking is better than nothing.
What’s more, what can encourage you more in your SEO pursuits than seeing the fruits of your labour unfold? Everyone needs a little encouragement from stats from time to time.
Not Comprehensively Analysing Competitors
If you’re starting out in SEO for your site, your competitors can help.
Sure, this sounds ridiculous, but comprehensively analysing competitors’ websites will allow you to learn what keywords they’re targeting, where they’re getting their links from, and much more.
You can also learn what your competitors aren’t doing for SEO – something that you can capitalise on to build a more effective SEO strategy than anyone else in your niche.
- SEO Competitive Analysis: The Definitive Guide
- How to Do an SEO Competitor Analysis
- SEO Competitor Analysis: Discover Your Competitor’s Keywords
Ineffective Site Architecture
Just like a physical building, a website must have a good architecture in order to function properly.
A well-planned site architecture will allow visitors to move throughout your site seamlessly, and it will also allow Google to easily crawl and index pages you publish.
You’ll also find that strong site architecture allows you to grow your site’s authority – something that is always going to be beneficial to any SEO strategy.
- What Is Website Architecture? A 3-Minute Rundown
- Site structure: The Ultimate Guide
- An SEO’s Guide to Site Architecture
Not Setting Clear SEO Goals
If you don’t have a goal, you don’t have anything to work towards, so you’ll never experience the feeling of accomplishment.
It’s important to set realistic goals, such as earning 50 backlinks to one of your more important pages or publishing 10 blog posts on your own site.
Every time you meet a goal, you can see how much of an effect it has had on your website traffic – something that should spur you on in the future.
- How to Set & Achieve Realistic SEO Goals
- How Do You Set Smart SEO Goals for Your Team/Agency/Project?
- It’s Time to Start Doing S.M.A.R.T. SEO
Ineffectively Satisfying Search Intent
It’s really important to understand exactly what a searcher is looking for, as you can then tailor a page to meet these specific needs.
Is the user looking to purchase something? Or are they looking to learn about a particular product? Get this right and your SEO efforts will see an instant uptick.
By satisfying search intent, you’ll find people staying at your site longer, navigating further into your site and completing goals, such as buying a product or submitting their contact details.
So, try to get inside the minds of your users, giving them exactly what they want when they arrive at your website.
- What is Search Intent?
- Search Intent: The Overlooked ‘Ranking Factor’ You Should Be Optimizing for in 2019
- Search Intent & SEO: A Complete Guide
Poor On-Page Optimisation
It’s easy to write up your page and set it live, hoping that it might then attract some attention from searchers.
In reality, though, the pages that perform well have all received perfect on-page optimisation.
- Effective links to other internal site pages
- External links to authority sites
- Correct keyword placement
- Properly optimised images
- No keyword stuffing etc
On-page optimisation is something you should do for every new page and post on your site – it’ll be more than worth it when you see the results!
Not Considering ROI
Return on investment (ROI) is something that everyone should look at. Essentially, you should be asking whether the effort and expense put into something will have tangible results.
For example, is there any point spending days and months optimising for a really rare keyword? Couldn’t your time be better spent elsewhere?
By always analysing whether an SEO action is worth it, you’ll ensure you only ever spend time on things that really matter to your site’s development.
Failing to Improve Old Content
Some pages are evergreen ones, never needing any updates, however, these are rare. Most pages eventually get stale and provide incorrect information – so they absolutely need updating.
Updating a page will ensure that it always has correct information – something that users will appreciate. It will also signal to search engines that the page is relevant to the current audience – something that should lead to ranking improvements.
You don’t have to make wholesale changes when improving – sometimes it’s simply a case of changing some dates, add a couple of new paragraphs or a new video, update the images etc. Even small changes can lead to big increases to performance.
- How Updating Your Old Content Can Help With Your Rankings
- The Blogging Tactic No One Is Talking About: Optimizing the Past
- How To SEO Optimize Old Blog Posts To Boost Your Traffic
Not Offering Unique Value
When you target a keyword, you shouldn’t simply aim to offer what every other site is offering. Instead, try to bring something new to the table.
You can differentiate yourself from the crowd in a number of different ways, from providing new and interesting research, through to conveying your message in a different way, such as via an infographic or table.
By creating unique value, you’ll carve yourself a place in the niche, and this should lead to some exciting results.
- How to Provide Unique Value in Your Content
- Top 25 Benefits of Content Marketing & How Content Marketing Can Transform Your Business
Not Using Long-Tail/LSI Keywords
Those new to the world of SEO don’t realise something: while your keywords are important, most visits will actually come from those typing in longer phrases.
Because of this, you absolutely have to include long-tail keywords in every piece of content you create. This is especially true for those trying to get a new site off the ground.
There are plenty of ways to discover long-tail keywords, including using Google Autocomplete and Google Related Searches – both of which are completely free to use. So, there’s no excuse not to research long-tail keywords before writing your content!
- Long-Tail Keywords: The Definitive Guide
- 15 BEST Keyword Research Tools for SEO
- What are LSI Keywords? And Why They Matter For SEO
No Use of Structured Data
Structured data is massively important, as it allows search engines to actually understand your website.
Structured data is added to your site’s HTML markup. SEO professionals will be familiar with this, and you can start learning about it too, using Google’s Structured Data Markup Helper.
The biggest advantage to structured data is it helps Google and the rest of the major search engines produce rich snippets, which can then appear in search results.
- Google Structured Data Testing Tool
- The Beginner’s Guide to Structured Data for Organizing & Optimizing Your Website
No Organic CTR Optimisation
It’s not enough to simply get your page ranking highly with a search engine – you also have to ensure that what you’re offering to readers is attractive.
The brief piece of space the search engine gives you for information must be used properly. So, spend time creating compelling headlines, that promise the reader exactly what they’re looking for.
To see how to attract more clicks, just take a look at what your competitors have done. Even changing just a couple of words could lead to a much higher CTR.
- Organic CTR
- Google Organic CTR History
- 11 Battle-Tested Ways to Raise Your SEO Click-Through Rate
- The SEO Impact of Click-Through Rate (What You Need to Know)
Poor Internal Linking Approach
Internal links are vital in SEO, and they should be used on every single page on your site, from product pages through to blog posts, and everything in between.
When publishing a new post, many people just add links to this new piece of content. They forget to go through their website and also add internal links pointing to this new content.
Pointing links towards the new page will make it easier for the search engines to crawl and register the page, plus the new piece of content could receive significant link juice from your higher-performing pages.
- Internal Linking for SEO: The Complete Guide
- Internal Links for SEO: An Actionable Guide
- The Internal Link Building Strategy That Increases Search Traffic
Not Building Relationships
As with many aspects of life, it’s sometimes not what you know, but who you know. If you can build up relationships with influential figures within your industry, you’re already getting a leg-up above everyone else.
What’s more, they might think of you when looking to link out from one of their pages.
There are many ways to build new relationships, from LinkedIn through to industry conventions. Constantly use them, and never stop trying to expand your circle of friends and acquaintances.
- Relationship Building: How to Earn Trust & High-Quality Links
- Relationship-Based Link Building Guide
- Why Relationship Building is Key in Digital Marketing
Inconsistent NAP-W Information
NAP-W stands for Name, Address, Phone and Website. It is absolutely vital that these are consistent throughout the web.
So, wherever you enter information about your business, from Google through to Yell, make sure you’re using exactly the same information.
By having consistent NAP-W information, you’ll allow Google or other search engines to aggregate the popularity of your site and then hopefully feature you higher in local search results.
This is something you want to ensure is right from the beginning, as going back over information already input online can be a very long process!
- Local Citations | MOZ
- What Is a Local Citation? | BrightLocal
- Do Local Citations Matter Anymore? Five Local SEOs Sound Off | SEL
Not Creating Link-Worthy Content
Content is king in the online world, and the sites hosting the best content will always rise to the top eventually. Every single piece of content you produce should be as useful, entertaining and/or inspirational as possible.
By ensuring this, you’re giving yourself the best chance of getting backlinks – and every SEO professional knows that these are vitally important to any successful campaign.
There’s no trick to creating link-worthy content. Instead, you simply have to do your research and spend time crafting something that people will want to read. Also, include various elements to every page, like graphics, tables and images.
- Link Building Case Study: How I Increased My Search Traffic by 110% in 14 Days | Backlinko
- How to Execute the Skyscraper Technique (and Get Results) | Ahrefs
- The Skyscraper Technique: How to Build High-Quality Backlinks to Your Content | SingleGrain
Lack of Quality Backlinks
As we’ve just stated, backlinks are massively important to any SEO campaign, and pages without quality backlinks are usually destined to fail.
But what exactly is a quality backlink? Well, firstly, it should come from a relevant site, plus it should also come from a site with a decent amount of traffic.
Links from authority sites are also always useful, plus the site hosting the link shouldn’t hand out links like confetti.
The age of nabbing as many backlinks as possible is now over. One quality backlink will now serve you better than 50 backlinks from poor websites.
So, concentrate on quality over quantity.
Getting Irrelevant Backlinks
Quite simply, a huge proportion of backlinks end up being almost worthless – despite the fact that someone has spent hours, days or months trying to get them.
There really isn’t any point chasing every backlink opportunity that comes up – instead, focus on the opportunities that give you a chance to gain a backlink from a really relevant source.
Once you have exhausted all opportunities for relevant backlinks (for most, this will be never), you can then move onto getting backlinks from slightly less relevant sources.
It’s all about getting the best return on your time.
- How to Get High-Quality Backlinks in 2019 (7 New Strategies) | Backlinko
- How to Build Backlinks in 2019 | GotchSEO
- 8 Smarter Ways to Earn Quality Backlinks | Mention
Using Questionable Link Building Tactics
Remember when using PBNs was a perfectly acceptable way to get backlinks? Or when buying links left, right and centre seemed okay?
Well, they’re not anymore, and this is also the case for many other antiquated link building activities.
Building links in outdated ways isn’t quite as bad as black hat tactics, however, they can still impact negatively on your site.
So, if someone suggests to you that you should build links in the same way you did back in 2010, politely decline and focus on getting laser-focused, relevant links instead.
If you’re ever unsure whether a link will damage your SEO, pass on it, until you know for sure that it will, in fact, be useful. There’s no point taking risks in the SEO world.
Omitting External Links
It can be all too easy to forget about including external links on your web pages. After all, why would you direct visitors away from your site?
In reality, external links are very important for SEO though. By showing external links, you’re increasing the relevance of your own site, plus you’re also improving your reputation.
It should also be remembered that linking to another site could encourage them to link back to yours – something that will enhance your SEO results even further.
Of course, don’t link to direct competitors though – that would just be helping them out a little too much!
- External Links | MOZ
- Do Outbound Links Affect SEO? | WebFX
- How Outbound Link Improves Your Blog Authority & Ranking | ShoutMeLoud
Not Using Enough Branded Anchor Text
If you’re an owner of a business, your number one anchor should be your company’s name – not the keywords you’re trying to target.
Many people don’t realise that simply using a branded link can lead to massive leaps in SEO, plus it also helps when working on brand awareness – another massively important thing to consider when trying to grow your business.
So, get your business name out there and use it – along with variations of it – for most pieces of anchor text you create.
- SEO basics: What is Anchor Text? | Yoast
- The Definitive Anchor Text Guide for 2019 | GotchSEO
- Anchor Text: A Data‐Driven Guide (384,614 Web Pages Studied) | Ahrefs
Using Poor/Copied Content
Copied content has always been a no-no in the SEO world, stretching back as far as most people can remember.
Quite simply, search engines don’t see copied content as useful in any way, so they give the content what it deserves – nothing.
Poor/thin content is nearly as bad. Every piece of content must be thorough, plus it should also provide something unique, in order to differentiate itself from the competition.
When creating a new page, always spend some time and create the best page possible, as one great page can perform wonders for an entire website.
One duplicated or poor page, on the other hand, can only damage your site by not providing any value whatsoever.
Neglecting to Perform an SEO Audit
Never rush into SEO. Instead, ensure you perform an SEO audit before you start trying to make any changes.
It’s vital to go through your site and discover every area in which you’re succeeding, as well as where you’re missing the mark.
You’ll get loads of useful information, plus you’ll find it easier to create a long-term SEO action plan.
An SEO audit should have many facets, including:
- Keyword analysis
- Content analysis
- Competition analysis
- Link analysis
- UX analysis
If you are unsure about how to carry out an SEO audit, you’ll find that there are many professionals online able to carry one out for you.
Slow Page Load Speed
Slow page load speed is a massive consideration, just as it has been for a number of years now. You might not think your page load speed is slow, however, a quick test at Google PageSpeed Insights could show you otherwise.
There are many things you can do to improve your page speed, including image size reduction and switching your host.
An experienced SEO expert will be able to advise you on the more technical changes that you need to make. Don’t forget about page speed, as it really is something that massively affects your SEO efforts.
- Page Speed – Site Speed | 2019 SEO Best Practices | MOZ
- Pagespeed – The Tool and Optimization Guide | Varvy
- A Beginner’s Guide to Website Speed Optimization | Kinsta
Not Building a Team & Systems
In the SEO world, it’s incredibly difficult to get results on your own. Instead, you need a team of trusted, knowledgeable people around you, to help you through.
In fact, trying to do everything yourself could end up damaging your site. If you’re only focusing on a few factors, you’re missing out on other ways to improve rankings, and ignoring these other methods could even be adversely affecting you.
You also need systems in place. Sure, this might take a while, but it saves time in the long run.
Some suggested systems include how to create top content, how to market this content, and how to regularly go through the keyword identification process.
- How to Structure Your SEO Team (A Foolproof Formula) | IgniteVisibility
- The Only 4 Roles Your SEO Team Needs | Single Grain
- SEO: Agency, In-House or Freelance – Making an Educated Decision
No Review Generation Strategy
It’s impossible to miss the fact that Google now gives huge priority to companies with many positive reviews.
So, this is something you should be concentrating hard on, getting every happy customer to leave their thoughts once they’ve used your service.
There’s no real goal for how many good reviews you should have (although it should be more than any competitors), as you should always be trying to get positive reviews, even if you have 1,001 of them already.
After all, would you choose a company with many good reviews over a company without any reviews at all?
- 11 Strategies to Promote Positive Customer Reviews for Your Brand or Business | HubSpot
- 5 Easy Steps to Start Getting Better Online Reviews | Mention
- How to Get More Local Reviews | MOZ
Forgetting Other Search Engines
This might be news to some people, but Google isn’t the only search engine out there.
What about YouTube, Bing or Yahoo?
In fact, YouTube is a massive market to exploit, with millions of users every day. If you only target Google in your SEO, you’ll be missing out on a massive number of potential customers.
So, check out the other search engines your customers regularly use and definitely optimise for them as well.
- The Top 7 Search Engines, Ranked by Popularity | HubSpot
- 14 Great Search Engines You Can Use Instead of Google | SEJ
- 12 Google Alternatives: Best Search Engines To Use | FossBytes
Not Focusing on User Experience (UX)
User experience (UX) is something that you must focus on. In fact, it is one of the most important facets of any good website. Give a bad experience, and your site is almost destined to fail. How do you give a better UX?
Here are a few ideas:
- Improve your site’s load time
- Make your site layout intuitive
- Ensure your site works on all mobile devices
- Make sure your site correlates to the user’s intent
- Remove poorly placed adverts
If you make your website experience better, many other things should also fall into place naturally.
The customer is king, so give them the experience they want, and more!
- Understanding the Link Between UX Design and SEO | UX Collective
- The Intersection of SEO and UX Design | SpringBoard
Let’s face it: the majority of visitors to your website will visit once, then never come back again. This is why you need to constantly retarget those who have visited before.
There are a few ways to do this, but perhaps the most effective is Facebook marketing – an affordable marketing option even for small businesses.
A pricier alternative is Google Ads, however, you’ll need to have a reasonably healthy budget if you’re going to see any results from this.
- Retargeting 101: Why It’s Essential for Any Marketing Funnel | Single Grain
- 7 Super-Creative, Crazy-Effective Retargeting Ad Ideas | WordStream
- 35 Retargeting Campaigns You’ve Never Heard Of Before | KlientBoost
Failing to Optimise for Conversions
You could have thousands of visitors to your site every day, but they’ll be worth nothing if you don’t have a site built for conversions.
Your website should be aimed at taking those visitors and satisfying what they need, whether this is making a purchase, entering their email address, or any other target you might have. So, look at the search terms being used and then optimise for them.
For example, do you get many people searching “buy health supplements”? If so, you can implement something, such as a special offer, to prompt them to go ahead and make the purchase. You should be constantly looking at your conversion rates and tweaking them to make the most of the traffic you’re receiving.
- The Beginner’s Guide to Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) | HubSpot
- Conversion Rate Optimization | VWO
- Conversion Rate Optimization: The Definitive Guide | Backlinko
Targeting a General Audience
Quite simply, you can’t target everyone. What excites Person A will put off Person B, so you really have to decide on your demographic and then target it, without worrying too much about others.
Put yourself in your visitors’ shoes and decide what they want exactly. Do they want to buy? Do they want information? Do they want you to inspire them?
Whatever the answer, give them what they want. There will be some visitors to your site who still don’t get what they want, but they’ll be in the minority. Most will have their intent satisfied, and this will lead to more conversions for you.
- Search Intent: The Overlooked ‘Ranking Factor’ You Should Be Optimizing for in 2019 | Ahrefs
- Search Intent and SEO: A Complete Guide | Backlinko
Not Being Mobile Friendly
Nowadays, there are no ignoring mobile users.
In fact, a recent study showed that 58% of traffic comes from mobile users nowadays, so they’re actually your primary audience. This figure will only increase more in the future.
To cater to mobile users, ensure your site is responsive and displays well on all popular devices, including iPhones, iPads and all Android smartphones and tablets.
Using Google Analytics, you should be able to track mobile users and see if they’re converting. If not, you need to think about a major restructuring of your website.
- Mobile SEO: The Definitive Guide | Backlinko
- The DIY Mobile SEO Guide: How to Be Mobile-First in 2019 | OptinMonster
- Mobile Optimization | MOZ
Not Realising SEO is an Ongoing Task
For many people, SEO begins with some keyword research and then ends once they’ve written a few web pages and produced some blog posts.
Unfortunately, this simply won’t cut it.
Instead, you have to realise that SEO is something for the long term. Give it a couple of months, and you’ll see minimal results. Stick at it for a year, and the benefits should start becoming more apparent.
It’s all too easy to think that your SEO professional is scamming you, by promising results and then not delivering immediately. In reality, though, it’s the professionals who promise instant results who are the scam artists.
This is a statement even backed up by the people over at Google!
- How Long Does it Take to Rank in Google? (A Study by Ahrefs)
- How Long Does It Take to Rank in Google & How To Speed It Up | CognitiveSEO
Failing to Track the Correct SEO KPIs
Many people choose to concentrate on how their selected keywords are performing. This is the wrong way to go about things.
Instead, you should be tracking what really matters: how many conversion your website is getting, and how the number has improved over time.
We’re not saying that you shouldn’t be looking at how keywords are performing or how organic traffic is increasing. We’re just saying that site conversions is by far the most important metric to analyse and understand.
- The 9 Most Important SEO KPIs You Should Be Tracking | SEJ
- The 49 SEO KPIs That Marketers Are Tracking Most | DataBox
- 10 KPIs to Track your SEO Performance and Drive Better Results | SmartInsights
Not Being Patient
We’ve already touched on this once, but it’s important to reiterate: SEO is not instant, and instead takes time.
With so many different tasks to complete and stats to monitor, it would be almost impossible to implement and action a full SEO strategy in just a month, or sometimes even a year.
So, you really need to be patient when looking at results, taking the small wins, instead of expecting to see massive spikes in your traffic straightaway.
SEO is a long-haul marathon process, not a sprint!
- Why SEO is a Marathon, Not a Sprint | WayWardKind
- How Long Does it Take to Rank in Google? | Ahrefs
- How Long Does It Really Take to Rank at the Top of Google’s Search Results? | Neil Patel
Other Useful Links
- Google Search Quality Raters Guidelines
- Google Webmasters Guidelines
- What Webmasters Should Know About Google’s Core Updates
- Google Algorithm Update History
- E-A-T and SEO for Google: Everything You Need to Know
- Google Webmasters YouTube Channel
- Ahrefs YouTube Channel
- Matthew Woodward YouTube Channel
- Neil Patel YouTube Channel
- Marketing School (Podcasts) – Neil Patel & Eric Siu
The SEO’s job today is more than keywords and backlinks. It’s more than metadata optimisation. It’s more than even content. It’s the assurance of frictionless user experience while delivering the right information at the right time – and in a timely manner.
Dainius Runkevicius, Medium.com
I’m a UK based freelance SEO consultant and digital marketer and I provide results-driven online consulting and digital marketing services to SMEs. Are you ready to grow in 2020? Get in touch today!