SEO is constantly changing and if you don't stay sharp, you can easily find yourself left in the dust. Basically, this comes down to machine learning. Google's objective is to provide readers with the relevant, informative and high quality information they are looking for and it doesn't care whether that means sending your blog to the bottom of the pile. As such, Google's technicians are constantly improving their algorithms to make their search smarter at separating the good content from the bad and thus the 'formula' for success in SEO is always changing.
Combine this state of 'permaflux' with the fact that there's so much misinformation out there to begin with and you have a situation that makes it very difficult to know what you actually should do to achieve higher search rankings. And as a result, a lot of 'experts' are still making some very noob mistakes many years on.
Here we will look at some of the most common SEO mistakes that we see everyday. While they may appear as shortcuts, they are riddled with danger, potentially sandboxing your site, which is why we suggest avoiding these altogether.
1. Using Spun Content
While the influx of readily available article spinning tools can make it easy to generate content cheaply and quickly, it is one of the biggest SEO mistakes newbies make and is pretty much a travesty when it comes to smart SEO. Not only does spun content categorically not help you to rise through the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) but it also actually hurts your ranking. What's worse, it upsets your viewers and it may even land you in trouble with an intellectual property lawyer.
Spun content is content that has been taken from another website and run through a piece of software that swaps words for synonyms to make it 'unique'. This might sound like a good idea on the face of it but what you end up with is broken and alien sounding English. Google can tell and so can your readers – and you can expect a backlash on both fronts.
Worse, spun content is still often stolen content, which is still immoral and illegal. This is not a good foundation to build an online business on.
2. Going it Alone
This is a mistake that is somewhat less of a crime – and that might even seem like a noble thing to do – but which is likely going to limit your potential for success.
Basically, there are just far too many people out there trying to promote websites and businesses who think they can run their entire SEO and digital marketing campaigns on their own. This is actually very typical of the entrepreneurial/start-up mentality; as it's that same 'self-starter' ethic that makes it possible for individuals to create successful businesses.
The problem is: no individual is ever going to be as capable as an entire team of digital marketers. Furthermore, no individual who works in another industry will ever have the same know-how as a dedicated group of professional search optimizers. And anyway, you have better things to be doing like running your business.
Investing in SEO services has amazing ROI and is more than worthwhile for any site owner and small business. Don't try to be a 'hero' and go it alone or you will just end up overworked and with an inferior marketing campaign to show for all your work.
3. Using Fiverr for SEO Gigs
And for that matter, looking for any other cheap and cheerful SEO option from an individual working from their Mum's basement.
Once you've decided to bite the bullet and use an SEO company, it's important to make sure you go all the way and actually pay for a decent outfit. Again, there is high ROI here – the more you invest the more you will get out of it – so there is no reason to be stingy.
If you use a site like Fiverr (which sells products and services for $5) then you can expect to 'get what you pay for'. In this case, that means poor quality links, bad communication, a lack of understanding of the fundamentals of SEO and generally an all-round shoddy job. Seeing as it's so easy to get your site penalized by Google, it's actually unsafe to choose a cheap SEO company or worse, an individual freelancer, with no track record.
4. Using Automated Tools
Another method that some businesses, webmasters and marketers will try to save money on their SEO is by using automated tools. These include programs that send out bulk emails to sites they hope to get links from, as well as software that submits you to countless link directories on the web.
In theory, these tools are very attractive. They promise to let you click a single button and then to see your links spawn across the web. In reality though, they lack that 'human touch' that is necessary for all these jobs.
In terms of directory submissions, automated software will be indiscriminate regarding the quality of the directory (which ultimately hurts your reputation in the eyes of Google) and it won't understand the nuances of different form fields – meaning that your 'Brief Intro' might end up being your 'About' text and the 'About' field might be left empty.
As for link building, software that sends out automated messages based on WhoIS information is pretty much the bane of every webmaster and blogger's existence. These 'cookie cutter' messages are irritating, offensive and far more likely to get you blocked from that person's e-mail account than to get you a positive response. And that's when the messages aren't just being sent to dead addresses.
Even when automation goes well, any small error you make will be amplified endlessly across the net and can do a ton of damage to your business in a short space of time. Again: you get what you pay for and there are no shortcuts.
5. Not Tracking Search Engine Rankings
This is another common SEO mistake that's all too easy to make.
Fundamentally, the objective of SEO is to help you rise through the SERPs and thus to be seen by more people. In order to know if you're being successful at SEO then, it's crucial that you actually monitor your position on these pages to see if you are steadily moving upwards. If not, then the methods you are using aren't working and you need to try something else.
This sort of trial and error is the only way that you can be sure that you've hit onto a winning formula and that you aren't wasting your time and money on methods that aren't working.
So if you're not using some kind of tool to track your rankings, you're essentially 'flying blind'.
6. Writing Boring Content
You may be aware by now that content marketing and SEO go hand-in-hand. Content marketing effectively means using articles and blog posts to fill your website with attractive and interesting content and thereby to ensure there is more content for Google to index and that there is more content for visitors to read and enjoy.
The problem is that an awful lot of business owners, webmasters and bloggers seem to think it's sufficient to fill their sites with highly generic, boring and derivative content. How many fitness websites have you seen with articles on '5 Ways to Get Abs'? And how often are you actually interested in reading that?
In order for content marketing to be successful and to serve your SEO goals, it needs to be the kind of unique, interesting and engaging stuff that you would read yourself. And that means it needs to have a different angle from the thousands of other articles on the web. So ask yourself when you upload content: is this interesting?
7. Being Inconsistent
Inconsistency is a huge drawback for any SEO strategy. To be successful at climbing the ranks of Google you need to ensure you are uploading new content regularly, building new links regularly and generally not 'letting up' on your strategy.
Unfortunately, many people will quickly get disheartened when they find that they aren't at the top of Google by the end of week 1. Of course this isn't how SEO works though: in fact it takes months or years to get to the top spot and sometimes it simply isn't possible.
Other people will simply get 'bored' of performing SEO and will go through phases of giving it their all, punctuated by periods of low effort. This lack of consistency will be noticed by Google and by your visitors.
Keep plugging away though and you will see benefits of some kind as long as your strategy is a good one.
8. Being Overly Consistent
That said though, a complete lack of variety in an SEO campaign is also a big problem. The perfect example of this is anchor text.
Anchor text is the highlighted text in any link and this will often say something like 'Click Here'. Problem is, that once upon a time, SEOs were told to optimize their anchor text by using only keywords and key phrases when building links. Back then, this strategy helped Google to understand the subject of that site better and the result was a better ranking for that term.
These days, as we were saying at the start, Google is actually smarter than that. And furthermore, too many SEOs and bloggers had tried to take advantage of this old system and to use it to manipulate their rankings. Resultantly, Google now looks at a uniform set of anchor text as being suspicious (which it is) and penalizes those sites for trying to game the system.
Remember: Google doesn't want us to be able to tick a few boxes to get a site to the top. Google wants the most popular and useful content to naturally rise to the top because people are reading it and linking to it. So make sure that your backlinks profile looks organic and natural both in terms of where the links are located and the way they are presented. That means variety.
9. Not Investing in Social Media
SEO and social media marketing should be synergistic to the point of being almost inseparable from one another. These are two crucial aspects of your internet marketing campaign and each should help the other; your Twitter page for instance will actually have a high PR, while you should be using your blog posts to drive more traffic to your social media pages and to generate shares and likes.
The more you invest in social media and make it a part of your SEO strategy, the more the two will support each other and the more your site will gain momentum. Don't even think about doing one without the other, or about doing either half-heartedly.
10. Keyword Stuffing
From the perspective of your visitors, keyword stuffing is almost as bad as spun content. What this means is taking your keyword and trying to insert it into the text at every possible opportunity, even when it doesn't fit. The result is text like this:
"If you are looking for 'how to find a hotel California' then you've found the right place!"
It feels unnatural and awkward and most people will simply leave the site after the first couple of lines. Worse though, is that Google doesn't take kindly to this strategy anymore either and it's one of the surest ways to get yourself penalized. Correct keyword density is about 1-2% maximum but actually you shouldn't even really be thinking about it; Google can now look at synonyms and related terms that should occur naturally in your text and use that to rank you.
Overall, the emerging moral is to focus on quality, to outsource where possible and to avoid trying to 'trick' Google. Write great content, post regularly and use a quality SEO agency and you'll reap the rewards with higher search engine rankings.