20 SEO Mistakes That Will Devastate Your Rankings

SEO isn’t easy, and even the pros still make mistakes.

Unfortunately, those mistakes could cost you–big time. Considering that 67% of clicks go to just the first five results on a SERP, you’ll want to take this practice seriously — no ifs, and’s, or fluff about it.

In this article, I’m covering some of the top SEO mistakes and how you can fix them.

20 Biggest SEO Mistakes Hurting Your Rankings

1. You’re Forgetting to Make Your Page Accessible

According to a study conducted by Search Engine Journal, accessibility and indexation account for 21% of SEO errors, making accessibility one of the top SEO mistakes out there.

In an effort to be inclusive, you’ll want to prioritize features like alt text and eliminate features like iframes.

How to fix it: Add alt text to your images so vision-impaired people can figure out the stories that your pictures are telling. Prioritize accuracy above keyword density. While you’re at it, get rid of any iframes in your site. They negatively impact your page speed and don’t positively contribute to your SEO efforts. Remove flash elements on your pages, too.

When writing alt text, take this advice from the Accessibility and Usability department at Penn State:

seo mistakes

2. You Didn’t Remove the ‘Noindex’ Tag

A ‘noindex’ tag on a robots.txt tells search engines not to index your page, which means that no matter how much SEO you do, you’re not going to wind up on the SERP of your dreams.

This particular issue is pretty common, accounting for 4.68% of SEO issues. Of course, you may want to keep some pages off of organic search, but not all.

How to fix it: Check the robots.txt for all your pages and see if there is a ‘noindex’ tag. If you want to remove it, do so to avoid another one of those SEO problems.

3. Your Content Is Too Short

These days, content is getting longer.

While you don’t need to make every SEO-oriented page super lengthy, studies show that bloggers who invest more time on content get better results (the sweet spot is 4–6 hours of work time, which tends to deliver 25% better results).

In general, experts suggest giving Google and other search engines at least 300 words to work with, though longer is typically recommended. In fact, a study by SERPIQ recently found that the first result in the SERP typically has 2,416 words, while the tenth has 2,032.

Of course, don’t tack on words simply to meet a word count. Make sure your piece is long enough to thoroughly cover a topic. If that can be done in 300, great. But if needs 2,500, make sure you’re giving it the time and attention needed to be a comprehensive resource.

How to fix it: Go back to old content and see if there’s anything you can spruce up to make it at least 300 words. Look for any content or gas and flesh them out, and check out what your competitor’s have written on the topic and aim to make your piece even better. In the future, prioritize longer content on a regular basis. Consider contracting the work out if you can’t fit it into a staff member’s day (after all, expertise, authority, and trustworthiness are some of Google’s go-to standards).

Ignite Visibility helps with seo mistakes

Ignite Visibility: Instagram Post

4. There’s Something Wrong with Your Accelerated Mobile Pages

Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) have been around since 2015.

Using this tool lets pages load faster on mobile devices. In turn, this boosts how user-friendly the page is. And studies show that using AMP can give your pages a serious boost in the SERPs.

But if you’re using AMP along with CSS stylesheets or JavaScript code, Google may index the page normally. In addition, old tags can lead to deprecated elements.

How to fix it: Don’t use CSS stylesheets or JavaScript code with AMP as they’re not compatible. If you’re not using AMP, consider implementing it for certain pages. Check for (and remove) any outdated tags in the AMP document.

5. Your Meta Content Is Not Properly Optimized

Meta content, or tags, are essentially text within the code of a webpage that describes the contents of that page to search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo. This helps the search engines better understand what your page is about and index it accordingly.

If you’re not utilizing meta content, or you’re implementing it incorrectly, you’re delving into major SEO mistakes territory.

How to fix it: Make sure your meta title does not exceed 11 words and your meta description is about 150–300 characters. Incorporate your target keywords into both. Don’t forget to optimize the slug with the keyword and chop off any unnecessary words from the URL.

6. Your HTTP Status Code Is Keeping Your Pages from Crawling

A server status code 4xx or 5xx (x’s in lieu of numerals) can prevent search engines from properly crawling your pages, resulting in an SEO strategy that doesn’t make the grade.

These errors occur when links are broken on either side of the server. It can negatively impact your ranking because Google has a set crawl budget and doesn’t want to waste it on a site that has a history of sending broken links.

How to fix it: If you have a plethora of broken links that lead to 4xx or 5xx HTTP status codes, consider enlisting the help of an SEO tool or agency to fix or remove them.

7. Your Headings Are Out of Whack

For search engines, headings serve as a sign that your content is relevant.

Failing to include them or optimize them to the proper degree can cost you SERP real estate. If people do find their way to your page, they probably won’t last long — headings are a way to guide users with short attention spans (AKA most people today!) through the content to improve time spent on the page.

How to fix it: Incorporate keywords into your heading tags, including H1’s, H2’s, and H3’s. Never exclude an H1 heading, and nest headers in proper order for clarity. Don’t include more than one H1 heading in your content (you shouldn’t have multiple titles).

8. Being Overzealous with External Links Leads to Errors in SEO

Incorporating too many external links into your SEO content can limit your own ranking capabilities.

At the same time, avoiding external links is another one of the top SEO mistakes.

You don’t want to link out to your competitors, and you definitely don’t want to use the keywords you’re trying to rank for as anchors for external links. The weight of external links is the reason why acquiring backlinks to your site is so important.

How to fix it: Limit yourself to externally linking as necessary. This includes reputable sites for studies, statistics, and resources.

9. Your Internal Links Aren’t Anchored Properly

On the other side of the spectrum, you need to focus on your internal links, too.

When linking to other pages within your website, you want to use relevant anchor text that’s non-generic. This means avoiding linking over text like “click here”.

How to fix it: When internally linking, use the other page’s keyword as anchor text on the new page. If you’re linking to a contact page, consider using the anchor text “contact us”.

10. There’s Duplicate Content Involved

Depending on how you duplicate it, copying content and publishing it elsewhere can hurt your ranking.

There’s no evidence to show that republishing a blog on a Medium account and linking back to the original post hurts SEO, but using duplicate meta descriptions, titles, and content on guest blogs can send search engines the wrong message.

How to fix it: Make sure you’re not duplicating your own content or your competitors’ content. You want the content to be both clickable and rankable, so uniqueness is crucial.

11. One of the Biggest SEO Mistakes Is Poor Site Performance

Site performance is an undeniable ranking factor. Factors like page speed, coding, and caching come into play here.

How to fix it: If you want to improve your page speed, consider using PageSpeed Insights from Google or another page speed tool. Meanwhile, make sure your coding isn’t overcomplicated.

You can compress your JavaScript and CSS, and eliminate extra content within the coding that junks up your page. You’ll also want to ensure you specify browser caching in the response header.

seo mistakes

Image Source: Google

12. You’re Choosing the Wrong Keywords (Or Not Researching Keywords at All)

Keywords, keywords, keywords.

We talk about them all the time, yet misusing them – or failing to use them at all – is one of the most common SEO mistakes there is. Errors include using global keywords for a local business, short-tail keywords that are over-generic, and keywords that are too long and niche.

How to fix it: Use a reputable keyword finder for all your content. Depending on your budget and how much content you expect to roll out, you can pay for a premium tool like SEMrush, or you can use Google Ads keyword finder or Google Trends.

13. You’re Stealing Your Own Keywords — A Common One In the SEO Mistakes World

Using the same keyword for more than one page means that you have two (or more) pages competing against one another. There’s already enough competition in the world, so don’t add to it by cannibalizing your own keywords!

How to fix it: Choose unique keywords for each page. Yes, it sounds tedious, but there’s really no shortage of keywords (especially honed-in long-tail keywords) in the world for you to choose from. Plus, why place content all over your site that’s addressing the same topic?

14. Neglecting Local Is One of the Top SEO Mistakes

If you’re a brick-and-mortar merchant or simply have a localized audience, local SEO is a must.

Failing to prioritize it can mean you don’t rank in your region, which ultimately means you’re not connecting with your audience.

How to fix it: Incorporate keywords that are specific to your region. Add your address and phone number to every page (in the header or footer, so it’s not in the way). While you’re at it, list your business on all the big sites. This includes Yelp, Google My Business, and even FourSquare.

15. You’re Failing to Analyze Conversions

Organic traffic is the name of the game, right?

Well, partly. Conversions also count. Otherwise, your business is lonely in a crowd.

How to fix it: Utilize conversion tracking tools to help you figure out which content is leading to conversions and what part of the sales funnel they’re helping with. Transforming keywords into traffic matters, but unless your website rakes in the big bucks with ads alone, then failing to convert organically means you’re losing out on revenue.

16. You Forgot About Language Attributes

Language attributes (or ‘hreflang’ attributes) are important for websites that use different languages across their site.

If this is you, you’ll want to incorporate them into your coding as necessary. Otherwise, search engines may have difficulty indexing your pages.

How to fix it: Add language attributes to your <html> and <head> tags. Don’t let it conflict with other coding, such as page source URLs. Make sure the language code is correct (i.e. “en” for English) with a correct accompanying country code; divide the two with a hyphen and put the country code first.

17. Top SEO Mistakes Include Over-Indexing Your Web Pages

Believe it or not, if you’re indexing every single page on your site, you may be indexing too much.

Pages such as confirmation pages, thank you pages, privacy policy pages and even the terms & conditions for your website are unnecessary to index and just clog up the system (to put it simply).

How to fix it: De-index pages with no or very few clicks to avoid lowering the rank of your overall site (you can check each page’s performance via Google Console). De-index pages that you don’t want to show up on search engines or bring in organic traffic — just don’t overdo it or you’ll be left with a bare bones site.

18. There’s a Pop-Up Lurking On Every Page

We get it, you want to notify your visitors about a very important event, newsletter or announcement.

But you really shouldn’t set the pop-up to, well, pop up more than once upon first website entry. Otherwise, it’s extremely annoying and people are bound to bounce. And they may never return.

High bounce rates negatively impact your SEO, which makes overdoing the pop-up trend one of the top SEO mistakes.

How to fix it: Keep the pop-up count to one, at most. Check the coding for the pop-up and set the triggers to the first website entry only. As for the timing of the pop-up, you’re better off setting it to arrive right away rather than when a user is in the middle of a could-be conversion.

19. Your URLs are Improperly Formatted

URLs with underscores, ‘nofollow’ attributes and HTTP (instead of HTTPS) formatting are going to fail you on the SEO front.

How to fix it: Eliminate any underscores in your URLs. If you need to, you can replace the underscores with hyphens. Remove all nofollow attributes on your robot.txt and change all HTTP formatting to HTTPS (for security, which Google rewards).

20. You’re Paying Too Much Attention to Optimization and Not Enough to Overall Quality

SEO is the process of optimizing content so users can find it, but the clicks aren’t all you need.

High bounce rates as a result of poor content can negatively impact your ranking, even if you’ve landed on page one before.

How to fix it: Prioritize the quality of your content, whether it be blog posts, resource pages, podcast landing pages, or any other page you may have. Whether you invest in in-house or external sources is up to your team’s capacity and your company’s budget, but always choose quality first.

SEO Mistakes are Common, But You Can Avoid Them

SEO is an ever-evolving industry, so anyone who practices it on their own site will need to continue learning.

As the algorithms on search engines change, so too will reputable SEO advice. In the meantime, these 20 errors in SEO are a great way to get started crossing things off your SEO to-do list.

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