You were so excited when you first started investing in SEO.
But, as you continued to pour time from your watch and money from your pockets, your excitement dwindled.
Day after day, you checked your rankings for any sign of momentum. And day after day, you found little or no results.
And the worst part is that all of that time and money you spent feels wasted.
It’s a bummer deal.
So what gives?
Why does SEO work for some people and not for you? Are you doing something wrong?
Well, you’re not the only one asking that question. In fact, interest in the term “Negative SEO” is on the rise.
Negative SEO is simply the dark side of SEO. It happens when all of your backlinking and keyword research efforts hurt you rather than benefit you.
And it’s the last thing you want to invest your time and money into — even unintentionally.
In fact, your SEO strategy might not be working because you’re accidentally sabotaging your efforts.
Here are 12 common mistakes you need to avoid.
Mistake #1: Choosing the wrong keywords
One of the worst things you can do with your SEO strategy is to choose the wrong keywords to target.
You might think that choosing the wrong keywords would be difficult.
After all, you simply need to understand your audience, determine what they’re typing into Google, and then target those keywords.
While there’s some truth to that, it’s also true that to attract the right people to your website, you need to understand the subtle nuances behind each keyword.
Searches for “shoes for sale” and “buy shoes now” could represent markedly different motivations on the part of the searcher.
It’s your job to interpret what that person actually wants.
In other words, do they want to browse shoes or buy shoes?
One tool you can use for your keyword research is Ahrefs.
When you’re determining which keywords to target, use this process:
Identify keywords, check keywords, check the competition, and re-check keywords.
All of that double- and triple checking will ensure that you’re not investing time and money into the wrong keywords.
Remember that your SEO strategy will only end up being as good as the keywords you choose.
Once you find the right keywords to target and the intention behind them, you can also sprinkle in LSI keywords throughout your content to help it rank even faster.
LSI keywords are the suggestions at the bottom of a Google results page.
If you target the right keywords and include LSI keywords, you’ll avoid the common mistake of targeting the wrong keywords — and thus the wrong people.
Mistake #2: Keyword stuffing your website
Keywords are one of the most valuable strategies for finding and catering to your ideal customer.
However, there’s a point where keywords start to go sour.
Specifically, that point is when you keyword stuff your website and content.
What does that mean?
Keyword stuffing is when you include as many of your target exact-match keywords as possible within your content at the cost of content quality.
Here’s an example of keyword stuffing.
And here’s an even more obvious example.
All of those annoying keywords don’t just hurt the quality of your content, though. They also hurt your rankings.
Google does everything it can to penalize people who try to rank their website through keyword stuffing.
That means that you want to avoid this tactic at all costs and include your keyword a moderate number of times instead.
Just don’t include your target keyword to the point that the quality of the content sags.
Mistake #3: Ignoring meta descriptions and title tags
It’s easy to think that you’re going to start ranking just because you included some well-placed keywords in your website content.
But the reality isn’t quite as generous.
Truthfully, SEO takes work, and an SEO strategy that’s actually effective takes even more work.
One of the factors that will have a large impact on your SEO is the meta description and title tag.
You’ll want to optimize these for each page on your website to help each one rank on Google for the right keywords.
But what are title tags and meta descriptions, and how do you optimize them for your rankings and page authority?
Here’s what the title tag looks like on Google.
And here’s what the meta description looks like.
Both of these are important for a few different reasons.
First, the title tag and meta description tell searchers what your content is about. They “sell the click,” so to speak.
That means what you say here will greatly influence how many people click on your website. It will influence your overall rankings.
Additionally, Google crawls your title tag and meta description for keywords that define what the rest of your content is going to discuss.
Then, Google puts your content in front of what it thinks is the appropriate audience.
In other words, if you’re not optimizing your title tag and meta description by sprinkling in your keywords and trying to sell the click, you’re missing out on a powerful search engine optimization strategy.
Mistake #4: Irrelevant internal linking
You’ve probably heard of the importance of link building on your website.
Building internal links, backlinks, and outbound links can be a great way to increase the authority of your page and the authority of your website overall.
But, that benefit only occurs if you do it correctly.
Let me tell you what isn’t helpful for your SEO or rankings:
Shoving unnecessary or outright irrelevant links into your content.
I know that you want to decrease your bounce rate and increase internal links, but you don’t want to create content that ends up looking like a Wikipedia page.
All of those links, especially if they are irrelevant to the content of the page they’re on, will hurt rather than help your rankings.
In particular, you’ll want to make sure that the anchor text you’re using for the links in your content corresponds to the actual topic of the page that you’re linking to.
Here are some examples of good anchor text.
So long as the first link goes to an article that actually discusses the importance of SEO, it’s a relevant link.
Otherwise, it’s just going to hurt the page’s authority.
In short, always include internal links in your content, but don’t use too many.
Make sure that the ones you choose to keep are relevant to the content itself and the place it’s linking to.
Mistake #5: Having a slow website
You might not know this, but a slow website actually hurts your domain authority.
That’s partly because people are more likely to bounce off your website if it takes a long time to load and partly because Google takes into account the speed of your website when pushing out results.
This test, for instance, displays the importance of milliseconds when it comes to ranking on Google.
But how do you check to see how fast your website is performing?
After all, it’s one thing to know that a slow website will kill your SEO, but it’s quite another to actually determine the speed of your website.
Luckily, doing the latter is quite simple.
Go to GTmetrix.
Type in your website’s URL.
And then you’ll see this page.
The faster your website, the better. In other words, your website can’t be too fast, but it can definitely be too slow.
Think about it. Do you get annoyed by slow load times?
Of course you do. And so does your customer.
That means that when all of those visitors are bouncing off your website, it’s knocking you down one ranking at a time.
Mistake #6: Ignoring analytics
When the data isn’t pretty to look at, it’s easy to ignore. When the data is positive, we can’t look away.
Unfortunately, that tendency is backward from how we should handle data.
When our SEO strategy is doing well, the last thing you need to do is look at the analytics. Instead, you should focus your time and money on keeping that momentum.
But when things are going awry, the analytics are your best friend.
They can tell you how your strategy is performing and help you diagnose any problems that might exist.
Google Analytics is one of the best tools for measuring behavioral data on your website.
But which metrics should you pay the most attention to?
Well, here’s a list of the most important goals for an SEO strategy to achieve according to marketers.
To break that down even further, you can ask yourself these questions when analyzing the data.
- How many people bounce?
- Where am I ranking for my target keywords?
- Which keywords are generating the most traffic, leads, and conversions?
Then ask the final, most important question. Knowing all of this, how can you improve your strategy?
But only by paying attention to the analytics will you be able to do that.
Mistake #7: Ignoring content quality
The content quantity vs. quality debate has been a long-standing one. Many people argue that content quantity is far more important than quality.
Other people claim that quality is all that matters.
As with most arguments, the truth falls somewhere in the middle.
But, here’s what I will say about the argument.
It’s far better to err on the side of quality than quantity.
Let me explain.
Publishing a limited amount of high-quality content will never hurt your rankings.
It might not improve them as quickly as if you were posting more often. But since all of the content is excellent, you don’t need to worry about sabotaging your SEO strategy.
Err too far on the side of quantity, though, and that can actually hurt your rankings.
If you link to spammy websites or create content that just isn’t that good, even if you start out ranking well, you can quickly diminish that status.
Ultimately, you want to strike a balance between the two.
Ask yourself this question: How many pieces of content can you produce while maintaining most of the same quality?
Then, start producing that much content.
Mistake #8: Not optimizing content subheadings
When you’re writing content on your website that you want to rank on Google, it’s important to optimize your subheadings as well as the content itself.
Your subheadings are among the places Google looks to determine what your content is actually about.
Ideally, any subheadings within your content will explain in more detail what you’re going to be discussing in regards to the title.
The common mistakes when it comes to subheadings is that people don’t include them at all or they aren’t specific enough to help your on-page SEO.
Remember: Google scans all of your content to determine where to place you in search results.
That includes your headings and subheadings.
Mistake #9: Using free or cheap website hosting
It’s tempting to go online, find a cheap or free website hosting service, and then link your domain name to it.
After all, where you host your website doesn’t matter very much, right? You just need someone to do it.
If only website hosting were that simple! Unfortunately, it’s not.
In fact, if you use cheap or free website hosting, then there’s a chance you’re hurting your domain authority.
It all comes down to the IP address where you host your website.
Here’s what two IP addresses look like.
But, you’ll notice that the first three sets of numbers are identical. When this is the case, it means that the websites are related.
That also means that Google is going to put the two websites in a relationship and allow the domain authority of one to influence the other.
That isn’t such a bad thing if you decide which websites you’re in a relationship with.
But when you use free or cheap hosting, the website host will often lump together your domain with hundreds or thousands of other domains that they host on the same IP address.
That means that tons of websites you’re unfamiliar with are influencing your SEO, for better or for worse.
For that reason, it’s probably best to spend a little more money on your website hosting or do it privately.
Mistake #10: Not using alt tags for images
One part of SEO that many marketers forget about is the “images” tab on Google.
When someone searches through the “images” tab, they can find the images on your site if you optimize them for SEO.
Otherwise, everyone else who is optimizing their images will beat you to the punch.
And leveraging image SEO is a simple process. All you need to do is add alt text and a file title to each image on your website.
These two things will tell Google what your image is about.
Simply include the keywords you want to target, and Google will be more capable of ranking you for the searches that are most beneficial to the audience.
Then, if someone wants to use your image in their content, they’ll be likely to link back to your website.
That means that you generate backlinks with just a little extra work.
Mistake #11: Not fixing or removing broken links
As you write more and more content for your website, the possibility of broken links increases. Other websites will change, and so will yours.
But when people delete a page without your knowledge, and you link to that page, you now have a broken link to your content.
And having too many of those buggers tells Google that you’re not keeping your website updated, which they don’t like.
The best thing you can do is regularly seek out broken links and either fix them or remove them altogether.
However you do it is fine. Just make sure you fix any broken links or they’ll sabotage your SEO strategy.
Mistake #12: Writing short content
Oftentimes, writing short content is easiest. It’s faster and takes less time.
Sadly, it also generally ranks worse than long content.
Here’s a graph showing the correlation between content length and ranking position.
As this graph shows, even content that is ranking in the 20th position is over 850 words. And the top-ranking content sits right around 1,150 words.
This means that you might want to spend a little more time writing longer content. Even though it seems like a bit more work, the above data is proof that it will likely pay off.
To determine the perfect word count for your content, ask yourself how long of an article you can write while still maintaining a high standard of quality.
Just make sure you don’t sacrifice quality for the sake of length, or you’ll hurt your SEO strategy in a different way.
Don’t you wish SEO was easier?
Don’t you wish you could just put up a website, throw in a few keywords, and watch all of that passive traffic roll in?
Of course you do. We all do.
But the reality is that SEO takes work, which means you must ensure that you’re not making some big mistakes that could sabotage your overall strategy.
Namely, make sure that you aren’t choosing the wrong keywords, keyword stuffing your content, ignoring meta descriptions and title tags, or using irrelevant internal links.
Never let your website run slowly, and don’t ignore analytics or content quality.
Don’t forget to optimize content subheadings, too and if you can, avoid cheap website hosting.
There are others, of course, but those are among the most common mistakes.
Luckily, fixing them is sure to increase your rankings.
What mistake do you see marketers make that sabotages their SEO strategy?