If people can’t find your website and content, you might as well not exist. Search engine optimization, or SEO, is so foundational that 90% of digital marketers say it's one of their top three tactics. So, if you’re worried about your SEO, it’s a worthwhile thing to sweat!
There’s a chance you’ve fallen into some common SEO mistakes. You’re not alone. SEO in digital marketing is multilayered (read: it’s a lot to keep on top of). Luckily, knowing where to start looking is critical.
That’s why Zoe Marketing & Communications has tapped into our 15+ years of digital marketing experience to highlight 10 top errors:
Mistakes happen. But with this handy list, you’ll pinpoint where you might be unwittingly sabotaging your company’s SEO. And you’ll find solutions to get you back on the right path.
SEO Mistake #1: Overlooking basic on-page SEO
Google constantly crawls the web for clues that you’re providing helpful information.
Without paying attention to core areas like metadata, keywords, headers and overall quality content, you risk lower visibility and potentially miss out on organic traffic.
Solutions for on-page SEO
Create and follow best practices for your on-site SEO. This goes for new pages and blogs and updating older content. In particular, focus on:
Keywords: Research and pinpoint targeted keywords. Use them strategically in your title tags, meta descriptions and headers (more on those in the following few bullets).
Title tags: These are the overall titles of your pages. Be concise (50-60 characters). They may differ from the headline.
Meta descriptions: These explain what’s on a page. Keep them compelling and punchy (150-160 characters max).
Headers: Include an H1 (headline) for each page, at least a few H2s (subheads) and even H3s and H4s if needed. This helps readers (and makes Google happy).
Overall quality: Ensure your pages have original content that answers readers’ questions. Aim for 750 or more words for blogs and at least 350 for landing pages.
SEO Mistake #2: Neglecting mobile optimization
More than 55% of web traffic is from mobile devices. So, if your website isn’t displaying correctly on all devices (desktop, tablet and mobile), you’re alienating half your visitors.
Besides losing viewers, you’re missing out on cutting-edge features that create a better experience — one that people expect.
Solutions for mobile optimization
Adopting a mobile-first approach is more important and, luckily, easier than ever. Most CMS (content management systems) platforms and web builders use a responsive design. This reformats your website so it looks and functions well on all devices.
Also, use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test tool. If your site isn’t responsive, explore new web hosting options. And, if it is, pay attention to trouble areas and take action to:
Compress images so they’re not too large/slowing load time (using tools like Optimizilla).
Avoid Adobe Flash (for animations) and popups, which don’t work well on mobile.
Check your font size and style (typically at least 16 pixels and a basic style in black).
Keep the design simple and uncluttered.
Be careful that your buttons aren’t too small, and don’t overdo the links.
SEO Mistake #3: Ignoring user experience (UX)
This piggybacks on mobile-friendliness. UX is the user experience visitors have on your website. Glitches, lags, too-small buttons, junky navigation, giant images: All of this doesn’t just frustrate your visitors; it actively drives them away.
Google rewards a valuable, seamless experience. If your site is bogged by slow load times and non-intuitive design, you risk higher bounce rates and lower search rankings.
Solutions for UX
Improving user experience is a deep dive. Generally, though, remember these tips:
Invest in intuitive website navigation, like a well-defined hierarchy and consistent menus.
Optimize your site for faster page load times (reduce code usage and image size, enable browser caching, limit redirects, etc.).
Adopt a responsive, user-friendly website design.
Gather user feedback regularly (surveys and usability testing platforms are two options).
Try it yourself! Take a little time to experience how your site is working for prospects.
While less common now, keyword stuffing or “content spamming” still flares up. This is a “black hat” practice of filling pages with specific words or numbers to "make" a page appear higher in search results.
Google has caught on and cracked down. Extreme offenders include lists of terms a page wants to rank for. Other times, it’s repeating phrases so often that sentences sound unnatural. It looks spammy, deters readers and can earn your site penalties from Google.
Solutions for keyword stuffing
The simplest advice: Just don’t do it. And, instead:
Create natural, organic content. Write from a place of experience and expertise.
Use tools like Google's Keyword Planner (free with Google Ads) to find relevant keywords. Integrate them smoothly, especially in metadata and headers.
Focus on context and relevance over volume.
SEO Mistake #5: Not using analytics tools
You miss opportunities to improve your website traffic when you don’t measure or understand your website traffic. Which content resonates most? Where’s your traffic coming from? What user behaviors lead to conversions?
If you’re not tapping into data-based analytics, it’s essentially guesswork.
Solutions for analytics
Start using and experimenting with analytics tools now. These three resources are all free:
Google Analytics: A must. The latest version, GA4, easily tracks your website data over 14 months, from basics like users, pageviews and sessions to deeper insights.
Google Search Console: This tool unveils broader search engine behavior. Find out what keywords you’re ranking for, and the impressions and clicks your pages get.
SEMRush: An even more nuanced tool, its free version lets you do limited keyword research, analyze competitors, track keyword rankings and more.
Review this data regularly (at least weekly) to evaluate how your site is performing. Use it to identify what's working, areas for improvement and new strategies.
SEO Mistake #6: Skipping site speed
A slow website is more than just frustrating for users; it's a red flag for search engines. Google's SEO ranking algorithm considers site speed. Any page on your website should load in 1-2 seconds.
After all, more than 50% of mobile users will bounce from your site if it doesn’t load fast. Google notices and “dings” this, which can hurt your rankings.
Solutions for speed
Review your site’s speed at least monthly and make adjustments if needed. Similar to mobile optimization, keep these tips in mind:
Optimize/resize images, use browser caching and minimize your use of code.
With every site update, make sure new additions don't bog down speed.
SEO Mistake #7: Missing internal linking and backlinks
This is a four-part pickle. Google may knock your SEO status for any of these issues:
No internal links: Your content doesn’t link to any related pages on your website. It’s a sign to Google that your site isn’t very interconnected and that your expertise may be limited.
Too many internal links: This is like keyword stuffing and can hurt the UX.
No backlinks: It’s an issue if other reputable websites aren’t linking back to you. This is a sign of authority, another thing Google prizes.
Junky backlinks: If sites with poor reputations are your primary source of backlinks, this is another bad sign to Google.
Solutions for links
Weave internal links and backlinks into your SEO strategy.
In your content, strategically link to related content on your site. As with keyword stuffing, don’t overdo it. A good guideline is 5-10 internal links for every 2,000 words.
Prioritize getting backlinks from high-authority sites in your niche. Reach out to other reputable sites to offer them relevant links that could boost their existing content. But never purchase links; you may get penalized.
SEO Mistake #8: Having duplicate content
Search engines get confused when you have the same words on multiple pages. They don't know which version to serve in the results. The content is competing with itself.
This can hurt the rankings for both pieces. Repeat offenses can earn penalties, too.
Solutions for duplicates
While you might not think your site has duplicates, it’s worth checking. Older sites with lots of “legacy” content can be one offender. Other times, accidents happen. To be safe:
Use Google Search Console to identify any problems. Look under “Performance,” and you’ll find URLs that may have duplicate content issues.
If the dupes are intentional, assign canonical tags to the two pieces. That tells Google which story is the “mothership” and solves the problem.
If the dupes are in error, use 301 redirects to steer the dupe to the real version.
Always aim for original and unique content on all pages.
SEO Mistake #9: Bypassing local SEO
If you’re a business serving a specific region and you’re not mindful of local SEO, you’re missing out. Even more so if you have a physical business address. In essence, Google doesn’t know you’re local, so it won’t deliver you to people searching locally.
Solutions for local
Put local references on your pages — and be mindful of it in sources linking to you.
Use local keywords related to your market on your site. This can include your state, county, city, ZIP code, region, nicknames and even iconic landmarks.
On your pages, focus your localization efforts on titles, meta descriptions, tag structure and in-content headers — in that order. Body copy is last on the list; don’t overdo it.
Place your company on “NAP” (name, address, phone) directories like Google Business Profile, local chambers of commerce and national or industry directories.
Encourage satisfied customers to leave positive reviews, too — especially for Google Business Profile (which funnels right into SEO).
SEO Mistake #10: Getting complacent
After working hard at your SEO, it can be easy to slip into “we’ve got this” mode. Earning a top ranking or traffic surge can especially lead to a false sense of security.
But remember, Google has about 200 ranking factors, and its algorithms are always changing. What worked yesterday might be different from today.
Solutions for complacency
Embracing a growth mindset is core, as is keeping on-task with good scheduling.
Keep up with Google SEO trends and best practices. Follow reputable sources like the Google Search Central blog for the latest.
Create a cadence of checks on your SEO; weekly for basics like traffic, for example, and monthly for site speed. Stick to it. Regularly audit your site and SEO strategies, too.
Celebrate your wins, but always be on the lookout for areas of improvement.
Next steps for fixing and avoiding common SEO mistakes
SEO anxiety is natural — and if you run any type of business, you’ve likely felt the stress of trying to appear higher in search results. Mistakes happen, and missteps can feel discouraging.
But now, you have actionable advice to start tackling 10 SEO pain points. Still feel overwhelmed? Talk to us here at Zoe Marketing & Communications. We’ll harness 15+ years of digital marketing experience to create strategies that sweat the SEO for you.
If you’re ready to dive into your SEO yourself, learn more about:
As Zoe Marketing & Communications’ content manager, Kim Kovelle brings nearly 20 years of writing and editing experience in metro Detroit. She has strong roots in community journalism and a knack for making complicated topics make more sense.