25 most common SEO mistakes
Everybody wants their website or blog to be found and to attract a lot of organic visitors through the search engines. You want your new article or product to rank immediately in the top 10 and to be found with various keywords.
Unfortunately, this is only possible for a few and requires a lot of work. First of all, you have to prevent that you do not make one of the 25 most common SEO optimization mistakes listed below.
1. Wishing to be found on your (company) name
How nice is it that when you search on your own name, you come up first in the search results? Isn't it great? But it doesn't contribute anything to your ranking. If you follow the rules of the game, you will always rank high on your own name. Even if you don't use your name in the URL and don't mention it a thousand times with all your articles.
Ranking is about being found in search queries that do not contain your own name. Photographer John Johnson should want to be found on the words photography, photo, and the kind of photography he does. Why would he want to be found on these words? Because those words have a much higher search volume than his own name has.
2. Too much or too little information on the main page
Your main page is the introduction to your site. There you not only want to tell the visitor but also the search engines what the site is about and why it is relevant. Just telling them that you are a photographer is not enough. It is also not enough to tell them how great you are. Tell what information the visitor can find on your site or blog.
You can also use your main page to tell what awards you have won, what others think of you through reviews, and what kind of goldfish you have in your pond. But basically, this is all disinformation that confuses search engines.
Even customer reviews are usually not useful because they don't tell what the page is about. " John is a wonderful man I like to work with and who understands his job" is a nice promotion for you, but says nothing about the content of the site. Make a separate page for this kind of information or keep it very concise.
3. Unstructured navigation structure
Your menu or navigation structure is your site's manual. Unclear naming or an illogical setup is confusing for the user, but also for all search engines. Fun creatively conceived names for your menu can also detract from your SEO optimization.
"Come and have a look" is much more fun and creative than a button with "contact". Unfortunately, the search engines think differently, because they like simplicity and clarity. So make sure your menu structure is clear, logical, and well-organized.
4. Unstructured URL naming
In addition to your normal navigation structure, search engines use a second way to map the logic of your site or blog. This is your URL structure and naming. For example, you may come across the following on a bad SEO optimized site:
That should be something like this, for example:
The closer the content is to the original URL the better, and if not, the intermediate URL structure should provide relevant information. '2020', 'blog', '20-10-2020', and 'old' do not say what the article is about and thus reduce the chance of a high ranking.
5. Images without descriptive name and alt text
Unbelievable, but true. There are still people and even professional site developers who don't use descriptive file names and alt text for photos. Search engines can't smell what a photo is about. That's why you can put information about the photo in the file name and the alt text.
Photos are often searched for and even if someone downloads your photos from the search engine overview, this will contribute to your ranking. But a photo can only be found if you say what the photo is about.
Be honest and clear about this. If you use a photo of a surfboard, at least call the photo "surfboard" and not "beautiful woman".
6. Do not use Titles and Meta Descriptions
Every page and article needs a Title (sometimes referred to as Meta Title or Page Title) and Meta Description because this is how you tell Google how you would like your content to be presented. If you enter a search query, the results will be displayed using the Title and Meta Description.
This makes it your own mini ad for your page or article. If you don't enter anything, you leave this to Google, but they have to guess what it should say and are not very good at it.
7. Too little text per subpage
The algorithm of search engines is extremely complicated and almost intelligent. That's why they can often display exactly the right search results you're looking for. But what they have trouble understanding is the logic and content of a site if you don't tell them what it's about.
That's why you shouldn't leave a spot on your page unused to tell search engines what the page is about. So start by telling on every subpage what the visitor (and the search engines) will find on that page.
A sub-page with only the latest offers is not enough. Say - or write - that this sub-page is about the latest offers and the search engines will understand it and include it in their ranking.
8. Too little text per article
If you have nothing to say, say nothing. Search engines want to show relevant, new, substantiated information to their users. An opinion, idea, or proposal of fewer than 500 words can rarely be relevant to someone looking for information.
In addition, search engines need some amount of words to be sure what the article is about. On average, an article ranked within the top 10 search results consists of more than 1500 words.
On the other hand, it is not the intention to write just anything to use enough words. The information you provide should be useful and contribute to explaining or substantiating what you want to say.
9. Lots of promotion and little information
To the great disappointment of people who know little about SEO, according to the search engines, the Internet is not intended as a collection box of promotional flyers. If every search result would lead to a promotion, you would never be able to find up-to-date and relevant information.
Search engines hate promotions and self-glorification. Unless, of course, you pay for it, but that is not SEO. That is called SEA (Search Engine Advertising).
Search engines want to provide their users with relevant and up-to-date information. Of course, you can promote yourself in this, but that should certainly not prevail if you want to rank.
10. Unstructured articles
There is nothing more annoying than having to listen to someone telling an unstructured - and therefore incoherent - story. Search engines think the same way. Articles should have a logical structure with a title, (the so called H1), an introduction, and logical headings per paragraph.
If the reader only reads the title and the sub-headings, he should already be able to understand exactly what the article is about. Even if you write a blog about your experiences of the day, this rule applies.
11. Inconsistent content of articles or pages
No one can know everything. That's why it's extremely relevant for search engines to know what kind of topics your site is about. In the field of SEO, this is called your Domain, and each domain gets a certain Domain Authority (DA). The higher the DA, the sooner an article or page within your domain can rank high.
If you indicate that your site (domain) is about healthy food and occasionally publish an article about cars or architecture, search engines can get confused. Because are you the expert in the field of food or do you think you know something about every subject?
In the latter case, there is a good chance that search engines will no longer find you credible and will downgrade your (DA).
12. Too slow loading time of pages
Nobody likes to wait long and certainly search engines hate it. Incorrectly written code, too many or too large images and videos that start playing immediately are the most common causes of slow loading time of pages.
Both the mobile and the web version have to meet the requirements of search engines. Google has a special tool with which you can check whether your loading speed is good enough and what you can do about it.
13. Obsolete information
Search engines want up-to-date and relevant information and can reward you for this by ranking your information high. But information can also quickly become obsolete and therefore no longer relevant.
For this reason, avoid specific time and date indications in your style of writing if this will cause outdated information to appear on your site in the short term.
An article about an exhibition that takes place in a week's time is nice, but if it ends after 2 weeks, your content will no longer be relevant. In that case, it is best to update the article after the exhibition has ended.
14. Lack of information about your business address
Search engines (especially Google) find local information more relevant than generic information. Beauty specialist combined with a place name has a higher search volume than just the word 'beautician'.
By indicating where you are located, search engines can give priority to your site for people searching in your area.
In addition, search engines think you should be contactable. If you do not provide address and contact information, they will see you as an anonymous provider and will be less likely to rank your content high.
15. Bad or missing internal links
An often underestimated free way to SEO optimize your site is a clear and logical internal link structure. If you write an article on a particular subject, make sure you provide links to related topics. And link back from those topics to your new article.
In this way, a cluster of information is created and the visitor usually stays longer on your site. Both contribute to a higher ranking and it also ensures that your new content will be indexed faster.
An additional problem is that by changing URLs or removing content some internal links no longer work. This results in a so-called 404 page that says the page no longer exists.
This is the same for search engines if you show someone the way and send them into a dead-end street. Therefore, scan your site regularly for 404 reports using a tool such as semrush.
16. Duplicated content
Duplicated content usually originates in two types of ways. By copying content from another site and publishing it on your own site or by publishing content from your own site in two places.
In the first case, you usually get an SEO penalty from search engines because you are in fact committing theft. In the second case, search engines do not know which page to show first if the information is relevant to a particular search query. Usually, they don't show anything and you won't be able to rank.
A common problem sites have is having an url with, and without www in front (www.photgrapher.com and photographer.com). Make sure to only allow one to be indexed.
If you still want to use the same information in several pages on your site, developers can solve this by adding a canonical link element to the page that contains the duplicated content referring to the original content.
17. The lack of a sitemap
A sitemap is an XML file that serves as a kind of navigation map for search engines. In it you indicate which pages and articles your site contains and you can even indicate a priority per page.
By including pages and articles in your sitemap, you tell the search engines which content is relevant for indexing and which is not. It is then up to the search engines whether they listen to this advice. Unincluded content and pages can therefore still be indexed.
Without a sitemap, your site is not SEO-optimised because search engines have to find their own way on your site.
18. Not mobile optimized
Worldwide there are more searches with smartphones than with desktop browsers. That is why an SEO optimized site must also be mobile optimized.
Usually, this means that images and a layout have to be created especially for mobile use. Also, your menu will probably have to work differently on a mobile version of your site.
19. No links to external sites
Search engines hate know-it-alls. You can't know everything and you probably consulted other sites before publishing your own content. Search engines want you to give credit to those sources by linking to that source from your publication.
In addition, search engines know in this way which sites offer relevant content and will rank the information that is often linked to higher.
20. No links from external sites
Just as you should link to sources and therefore relevant information, you will also get a higher ranking when other sites link back to you. One of the most important SEO optimization factors is obtaining external links to your site.
Many parties offer to take care of many of these links for a fee. Don't fall for this! Links to your site must be relevant from within the content it contains. If a site is linked to irrelevant content you can both receive an SEO penalty. If you do this too often or too much, your site may even be blacklisted and you will never be able to rank again.
21. No social presence
Social presence can be a very important SEO ranking factor. Search engines keep track of how popular content on social media is and where this content comes from. Make sure that you first publish content on your site and only then share it with the link where the content is located.
If this post becomes popular because it is shared a lot or gets a lot of likes, this will contribute to your ranking.
22. No regular updates
SEO optimization is not a project with a beginning and an end. You do SEO and keep on doing it, or don't do it, otherwise, it's a waste of time.
SEO optimization also means that you regularly update your site with new content, new graphics, changes/improvements to old articles and pages, etc. If you don't stay active yourself, don't expect search engines to stay active in order to rank your content and pages.
23. Not using robot.txt
Unlike a sitemap, a robot.txt file indicates which pages may and may not be indexed. A robot.txt can be seen as a traffic light for search engines. By indicating which pages and content may or may not be indexed you can have your site indexed more efficiently.
In SEO optimization you can, for example, use robot.txt to not index pages such as "about us", the general terms and conditions, and partners you work with. Why should your page with your general terms and conditions be ranked high or high at all?
24. Spreading untruths
Search engines make a living out of providing the best information. The worst thing that can happen to them is to make lies rank high. Even the smallest lie can damage the trust of a search engine user. That is why the search engine algorithm of each search engine has different ways of identifying untruths.
If a search engine comes across any falsehoods on your site, you run a huge risk of an SEO penalty and you may even have your site being blocked.
25. Fake visitors and reviews
There are malicious companies that offer to generate a lot of visitors or reviews on your site. Sometimes they even tell you that this is done by real people instead of robots.
Search engines are not crazy and notice this immediately. Because of this your site can get an SEO penalty and possibly even be banned. Never do this!
Conclusion SEO optimization is a profession. You have to invest a lot of time and energy with the right knowledge. It can take months and sometimes even years before you can rank with a new site. Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or tricks to do this faster or better. Therefore, always hire an experienced SEO professional who can support you.
Author Bio: Ben Steenstra is Co-founder of TheONE and writes on various topics such as SEO, Strategy, Marketing, and Communication. Because of his Neuro-Semantics background, he also writes about Coaching and mental disorders.