7 Common SEO Mistakes That Wreck Your Rankings

These days, every business needs Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). But not everyone knows how to get it. How do I know this? Because I see them, again and again – these common SEO mistakes that poison your position in Google’s search results.

Luckily, these mistakes are easy to avoid. It’s true that making your site appealing to search engines is a technical endeavour. And it’s true that the internet keeps changing.

But that’s even more a reason to at least understand the basics.

Think about it like car maintenance. You don’t have to be an expert. All you need is enough to know what to ask your mechanic… and to avoid the dodgy ones. This list of seven SEO errors will prevent you from repeating common mistakes that can ruin your rankings.

Mistake 1: Not Bothering to Optimise Your Site

Google’s business model is linking people with the content they want. So if you write great content, Google will reward you with high rankings.

Right…?

Not quite. Great content helps, of course. But Google isn’t magic. Its search algorithm is that – an algorithm – which means it analyses data and makes an assessment. It can’t automatically know what the greatest content on the web is. Like us, it does the best it can with what it has.

This means you need a strategy. Somehow, you need to make it obvious that your content is the best. Being the best is a good start. But if that’s where your SEO strategy ends, you’ll find yourself losing ground to other sites.

Mistake 2: Aiming for High Keyword Density

I see this all the time: clients asking for things like:

“I want the keyword to appear three times in the first five paragraphs.”

“I need a page with 5.5% keyword density.”

Here’s the thing – some SEO companies or freelancers will give the client what they ask for. And then the clients will wonder why their rankings plummet.

True service is educating the client so they get what they need, not what they think they need.

There’s a myth that if a page uses the keywords – what people type into the search box – more often than other pages, it will rank higher.

It won’t. In fact, it will probably rank lower.

For example, let’s say that keywords for your site are ‘health package’. So you try to increase your keyword density by writing:

“Our health package is the best health package in town. Compare our health package to other health packages and you will see that ours is the best!”

Yikes.

Remember what I said about Google looking for the best content on the web? What do you think – is that the best?

Of course not. It’s terrible.

‘Keyword stuffing’ is not a good SEO strategy. It makes your page sound spammy. Or like it was written by a robot. Search engine algorithms punish this sort of writing and reward natural, relevant content.

Don’t ask for high keyword density and run from anyone that offers it.

Mistake 3: Asking for (or Believing) Guarantees

No one can guarantee a number-one spot in the results. Or even appearing on the first page.

The internet is vast and chaotic. There are millions of companies all vying for those coveted high rankings. And the inner workings of Google are mysterious. What this means is that no one can guarantee anything.

Can SEO services improve your rankings? Absolutely. Can you aim for first-page rankings? I hope you do. But even the greatest experts in the world will never guarantee results.

Avoid anyone that promises anything in SEO. At best, they don’t understand how it works. At worst, they are lying to you.

Mistake 4: Using Jargon

If you offer expert services, chances are you know some jargon.

Doctors, for example, know exactly how certain body parts work that I’ve never heard of. Same with financial analysts, landscapers and… well, any industry, really. Every profession has its own language.

Using the language of your trade shows you are an expert. And, often, it’s so second nature that you forget other people speak differently.

What you need to ask yourself is: what are people searching for? If your medical clinic’s site is full of medical jargon, only other doctors will find it. If you want clients to find you, you need to speak their language. Use a little jargon if you must, but keep it readable to both your customers and search engines.

Mistake 5: Ignoring the Technical Side of SEO

There is more to optimising your content than adding the right keywords.

Here’s a simple trick:

Most small business’ websites – mine included – use WordPress. WordPress has some great SEO tools built-in. If you log in and navigate to the Page’s edit view, under the text box is an SEO section:

Screen shot of SEO tools in WordPress

Want your site to rank well? These fields could be the key to a strong search result.

The Meta Title and Meta Description is how your site might appear on the search results page. (Then again, each search engine can ignore this and display something else. Remember Mistake #3). The Meta Keywords are what you want your site to hit on.

If these fields are blank, fill them out. If they are populated, look over them. These fields can really change everything from ranking to click-through.

Another simple tip:

I added a screenshot above. It’s a good idea to add some relevant images to your pages. (Irrelevant images don’t help and probably hurt your ranking.) When you do, be sure to add alt-text descriptions and think about adding captions. It helps with both accessibility and your ranking.

Apply these two free SEO techniques and you’ll be miles ahead of those who don’t.

Mistake 6: Being Google-friendly but Human-hostile

Having said that, there’s one principle that overrides all others:

If you have to choose between your readers and Google, choose your readers.

Your site should be relevant, interesting, informative and engaging to your customers. Then, and only then, do you focus on being attractive to Google and Bing.

Think about Wikipedia. I doubt every article is immaculately and superbly optimised for search engines. Yet it consistently ranks well across all sorts of search topics. Why? Because Google knows that Wikipedia contains relevant and informative content. They are so trusted as a source of information that Google will rank them above many others.

Priority 1: make great content.

Priority 2: make Google happy.

Never satisfy search engines at the expense of your customers.

Mistake 7: Choosing Cheap SEO Solutions

SEO only exists thanks to the internet. And thanks to the internet, you can hire cheap SEO writers from anywhere in the world.

You get what you pay for, though.

For example, search engines punish bad spelling and poor grammar. This doesn’t stop my inbox being flooded with typo-ridden ads for SEO services.

But even with those with proper command of English, ask yourself:

  • Do they make any of these seven mistakes? (Heck, do they make all of them?)
  • Is their knowledge up-to-date? (Here’s a test: ask if they think keywords should be hyperlinked. The correct answer is an emphatic ‘no’. Anything else proves they are behind the times.)
  • Can they help you dominate your niche? Or will they throw your site against multinationals with huge SEO budgets?
  • Will they use geography and demographics to boost your rankings with potential customers? (For example, you may notice I write in Australian English – like “optimisation” instead of “optimization”. I use a few techniques like this because I choose to avoid competing internationally. Will I work with overseas companies? Yep! But my expertise is providing marketing services for Australian companies.)
  • Can they do market research, keyword research, site auditing, SEO strategy consultation, email marketing, website design… and anything else you need?
  • Crucially: can they do any of this well?

When thinking digital marketing, don’t think ‘cheap’. Think ‘excellent return on investment’. With the right investment you can find new customers, retain existing ones, explore new opportunities, reach more people and adapt to market changes.

It makes sense to hire someone who’s easy to work with and gets results. You have enough hassles without adding ‘freelance headaches’ to the mix. The remedy? Hire a skilled professional.

I am trained by AWAI. This means I have the best SEO copywriting training on the planet. Accepting anything less is a false savings.

To hire me for freelance SEO copywriting, click this link or send me an email. Then you can experience how a true service professional operates.

William Batten
Director of Marketing & Copywriting
Batten & King Creative Solutions

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