There are a few different sides to SEO; there’s a qualitative side to SEO—the quality of your content and the strength of your link profile factor in to how your domain ranks in search engines, but this is a somewhat subjective process.
On the other hand, there’s a quantitative side to SEO—a series of features, setups, and structures your site must exhibit to maximize your chances of getting ranked. There isn’t much room for subjective debate here, and one deviation from the guidelines can cost you, even if only slightly.
The fact is, even seasoned SEO professionals can make these mistakes, so watch out for them in your own campaign regardless of how experienced you are:
1. Sub-optimal title tags and descriptions.
Your title tags and meta descriptions are the short descriptors in your html code, tied to each and every page on your site. They help inform search engines about the overall theme of the content on your pages and are valuable optimization opportunities. However, many marketers get lazy after optimizing dozens of pages, and end up repeating the same titles and descriptions, which wastes valuable optimization potential. Some popular WordPress SEO plugins also offer a way to dynamically-generate meta title and description tags, which is convenient, but doesn’t result in truly optimized tags. Also, don’t forget that your title tags and descriptions also often form search users’ first impressions of your site since they’re the elements that display in Google’s search results—so keep them in tidy order!
2. Duplicate content.
Just as duplicate title and meta tags can harm your site’s visibility in search engines, duplicate content can too. The problem is, duplicate content usually isn’t a result of intentional plagiarism or copying, but rather an indexation error, such as Google indexing both http:// and https:// versions of your page as separate instances. These often go beneath your notice, but should be corrected as soon as possible. A tool like Copyscape or Siteliner can help identify duplicate content issues on your site.
3. ‘Over-optimizing’ keyword usage.
As tempting as it is to write content optimized for search engines, you have to remember that your users come first. After conducting your keyword research, you may want to inject your chosen keywords and phrases throughout your site as often as possible, but doing so will actively bring down the quality of your content (and your domain authority with it). You have to write for a person to reach a person—not to mention, Google’s semantic search capacity has made keywords much less relevant to SEO success than in the past.
4. Focusing on quantity over quality content.
If one blog post can bring you X amount of new visitors, two blog posts should bring you twice that much, right? This is the fallacy that plagues many content marketers. While it may be true if the content is of the same level of quality, many new SEO professionals lose sight of the fact that quality is far more important than quantity when it comes to content marketing. Scaling the volume and frequency of your content can be helpful, but the quality has to come first—otherwise, you’ll be spinning your wheels indefinitely.
5. Allowing your sitemap to become obsolete.
There’s some room for debate over the importance of XML sitemaps. Google will index the content on your site regardless of whether you upload the XML sitemap or not. However, uploading it can help Google index your pages faster, and cement your position as the originator of any content you’ve recently published, which helps protect you from being labeled as a duplicate content offender when scraper sites regularly scrape and re-post your content as their own. As most sites update regularly, it becomes difficult to remain consistent with uploading your XML sitemap any time there’s a change, but it’s important not to allow this schema to become obsolete.
6. Neglecting Google’s diagnostic tools.
Google wants your site to succeed—no, really, it does. Google gives you all the information you need to build a site that your users (and by extension, its ranking algorithms) will love. This is so important, in fact, that Google offers an extensive suite of free Webmaster Tools (now known as Search Console) that you can use to check on your site anytime you want. You’ll find some basic information here, such as whether your site is currently having any crawl errors, and if there are any important messages from Google (such as warnings or suggestions), but also a number of diagnostic tools for things like how many pages are currently indexed and whether there’s any duplicate content on your site. Don’t neglect these tools.
7. Failing to scale the strategy.
This is another mistake of neglect, and it’s one I see primarily affecting small- to mid-size businesses. These businesses are normally somewhat reluctant to get involved with SEO in the first place, and want to start small with the basics, due to budgetary concerns (though this problem affects a number of organizations besides these). This is what often happens; a business gets used to publishing a certain type of content at a certain frequency, and repeats the same link building process ad infinitum. They expect more and more results, but only invest the same amount of time and energy over time. If you want to see better results, you have to scale upward, in both quality and volume. It’s as simple as that.
Preventing and/or fixing these mistakes isn’t going to magically increase your rankings, and these aren’t the only mistakes you have to watch out for. SEO is an enormous, multifaceted strategy, but the more proactive and the more aware you are, the better chance you’ll have at building solid organic search visibility for the long term. As a general rule, you should always be operating under the assumption that you’re doing something wrong—double check your processes and audit your strategies regularly, as no matter how experienced or knowledgeable you are, there’s always room for improvement.
This article was written by Jayson DeMers from Forbes and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.