Friends Don’t Let Friends Practice Bad SEO: 3 Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid

SEO can be a complicated process. Especially if you have never gotten your hands dirty with it. Or you’ve read so much about it that you have paralysis by analysis.

A lot of SEO beginners – and even some professionals – continue to commit the same mistakes when they do try to SEO their site, making it harder for them to get the top results they strive so hard towards.

But all hope is not lost if you’re an SEO newbie. Being forewarned and cognizant about these 3 mistakes will put you ahead of the game to outrank and outperform those people who commit them, even if you are a beginner:

1. SEO Mistake #1: Wrong or irrelevant keywords

Choosing practical, strategic, REALISTIC keywords and keyphrases is the single most important element for SEO success. A lot of people try to use popular or common keywords in order to get people to their sites, regardless if the keywords that they use have any relevance to their site or not.

For example, my best friend’s husband owns a business where he provides group benefits to small and mid-sized businesses. I asked her what she thought an HR Manager (his target prospect) would google to find her husband’s company. She confidently told me, “health insurance.”

That, friends, can possibly be the worst keyword of all time for his business possible. Let me explain:

  1. The keyword “health insurance” is extremely competitive. To outrank sites on page 1 for that term –, Wikipedia, Aetna, Humana, NY Times – he’s have to have a huge budget for SEO. Like, thousands upon thousands a month.
  2. That term is way too broad and does not indicate a commercial intent. How do you know a college student isn’t just doing research on “health insurance” for a paper? Or a retired couple is looking into their options? Or a freelancer, such as myself, wants to know what health insurance changes are coming up that will affect me?
  3. He does not want people in the “research” phase. Nor does he want to educate people. He wants a very specific target prospect who understands what he does, knows the title of the service provider and is looking to shortlist group benefit providers.

What is a better keyword? How about “employee benefits consultant Atlanta.” Ahhhh, much better.

Avoid choosing irrelevant keywords, and instead try to focus on using genuine relevant keywords, so you can direct traffic of possible clients to your site, and not just useless web traffic.

2. SEO Mistake #2: Overuse of keywords

Another common mistake that I see all too often involves business owners who optimize the crap out of their website. Like, over-optimize their keywords to the point of ridiculousness by using them 20 times each in a 350-word page of website copy.

These well-meaning individuals believe that by overloading their site’s content with their chosen keywords, they will be able to trick search engines, and improve their site’s page ranking in the process.

Can you believe this approach to SEO copywriting and keywords used to work? Thank goodness, this tactic is out-of-date and no longer effective. But due to bad information still circulating out there people still do it. Overusing your keywords is the fastest way to raise a prospects “Spammer, spammer!” warning in their brain and entice them to click the back button off your site. And, the fastest way to Google slap a penalty on your site.

Search engines today are smart. They’ll be able to detect if you are committing the over-use of keywords, or “spamming.” And if so, your site will pay the ultimate price by getting itself banned from the search engine’s index.

3. SEO Mistake #3: Believing Content is King.

Content is Not King. Well-written, RELEVANT content is king.

People are driven to go to your site with the keywords that you have chosen, but it is your site’s content that they will be looking for. However, in this case quality is more important than quality. Don’t just slap up copy on your site that is poorly written, has no sales focus or persuasiveness nor a call to action. Even worse, rambles on and on without ever getting to the point. You have 2 seconds to get your reader to identify with what you have to say and like and trust you enough to stay on the site and click around.

Another tip: make sure that whatever keywords you have chosen to use on that page, those keywords are relevant and appropriate for the page you have directed them to.

Do take the time to write good and relevant content in order to ensure that your site would continue to do well against others offering the same thing. Remember that the only way that you can get your site to stand out against other sites would be your site’s content.

Keep in mind that if your website is heavy on graphics and light on copy, Google won’t be your friend. Search engines detect text when indexing, analyzing and checking sites, and are not programmed to look for graphics. So if you have a lot of images or videos be prepared to transcribe and get creative.

What SEO Atrocities Have You Seen (or Heard) That Make You Shudder?

Some of the SEO you see out there isn’t pretty. What are some SEO mistakes you’ve seen others do that are a big no-no?


Image source: Alex E. Proimos from Flickr

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Jenny Munn

Jenny is an independent Digital Marketer and SEO Consultant with more than 10 years of experience helping companies and content creators generate brand awareness, traffic, and conversions with SEO. She is a frequent speaker and is on the faculty for the AMA (American Marketing Association) and has taught SEO to thousands of marketers over the past 10 years.

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