You decide that you are going to start focusing a lot of your time and effort on optimizing your website for SEO. You hope this strategy will help boost your rankings on Google, Yahoo and Bing and start sending you hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of visitors per day. So you start your research, probably investing in keyword research and finding ways to get backlinks. Maybe you rush into things, maybe you don’t know all of the pitfalls of SEO and how doing the wrong things can damage your website.
Either way, you probably expect to start to surge in the rankings soon. So you put in the time and wait…and wait some more. Perhaps you start slowly creeping up and your traffic starts to increase a bit and then…your website rankings drop like a rock.
What happened? The Google algorithm probably either hit your website, causing your page rank to drop or even worse, Google performed a manual penalty directed at your website, either devastating your current page rankings or even completely de-indexing your website for the search results.
Now there are some ways to correct something like this, usually they involve using the Google disavow tool to clean up spam links directing at your blog.
This usually takes some time and can be extremely stressful so why not go the extra mile to ensure it never happens to you? Here are some of the most common SEO mistakes that people – especially new bloggers, make.
1. Buying “SEO Packages”
This is a common one and also one of the best ways to ensure your blog is hit with a Google penalty. SEO packages advertised typically include many things that might impress new bloggers who don’t know the difference between spam (black hat SEO) and genuine, white hat SEO.
Black hat SEO usually includes comment links (useless and bad for your blog), links from spam websites (useless and bad for your blog), links from directories (near useless and can be hurtful if you have too many), and social bookmarking websites (some are useful, most are useless).
So you get hundreds, sometimes thousands, of spam backlinks pointing to your blog. You will either suffer an algorithm hit in Google, or even worse, Google will hit you with a manual penalty because of your backlink profile.
I am not saying that there aren’t any ‘good’ SEO services available. I’ve seen some, they look like they are white hat but they typically are very expensive as well.
If you are serious about buying SEO services (which I highly recommend you don’t do), then this is actually one of the best signals to alert you if what you’re looking at is legit or not: If a service is promising all of these wonderful things for $50 then it’s probably best to stay away.
When it comes to SEO, if it looks to be too good to be true then it probably is. Again, I highly recommend doing SEO the pure white hat way – creating great content, guest posting, asking for links to your great content, infographics, etc.
2. Keyword Stuffing
The days of overloading your articles with keywords you want to rank for are long gone. Keyword stuffing for your posts is a bad idea in 2016. Maybe this worked 10, 15 years ago, but it is not an option for white hat SEO anymore.
There are many reasons why, the most important is that you might suffer a Google hit if they see that you are keyword stuffing. Another reason is that you turn off potential loyal readers.
One of the SEO factors that Google considers when ranking websites is how long visitors stay on your website. If they see a jargon of an article, that mentions “SEO for new bloggers” a hundred times over, how long do you think they will stick around?
Doing this also won’t do anything good for your Google rankings. You may get Google’s attention, but not in the good way.
Recommended Reading: Keyword Research for SEO
3. Not Using Analytics Tools
You need to know what keywords on your blog are bringing the most traffic and what your most popular articles are.
In other words, you should be using some sort of traffic analytics plugin. These typically are free and can provide you with loads of information such as what keywords you are getting the most traffic from, what your most popular articles are, what blog posts are linked to from other websites and what your top posts/pages are.
4. No Internal Linking for Anchor Text
Having no anchor links or spammy anchor links (using the same keywords for every link) in your blog posts is bad for SEO. You should be linking to previous blog posts or pages a few times per article.
You also should not be using the same anchor text for every blog post, and shouldn’t be using generic anchor text either (“click here for more info”).
This helps you twofold for your SEO efforts. First, it will help your click through rate. More people will be visiting more posts/pages on your blog, which might make Google see your blog more favorably.
It will also help you bring attention to your most important pages. If you run some type of ecommerce website, then linking to your ecommerce pages will help your conversion.
5. Backlinks: Quantity is not Better Than Quality
A major truth among SEO is that one high quality link from a notable website (like PCMag) is far better than a dozen links from medium quality websites. Another truth, one quality link is better than any amount of low quality, spam links.
So you should be dedicating your backlink efforts to getting a few high quality links, over more low-medium quality links. In fact, a link from a notable website like PCMag will probably end up doing far more good for your blog than dozens of links from lower quality websites.
Are they much more difficult to get? You betcha. But that’s the trade off. Getting high quality backlinks is a task, but it pays off in the end.
While there are lots of easy ways to get a high volume of links, you should usually place a higher emphasis on quality.
Your focus should be on getting backlinks that:
- Are from high quality domains – you can use the Alexa tool to gauge how popular a website is.
- Are related to your own blog’s niche – links from related websites ‘count’ more than links from unrelated websites.
- Are not spam – you can normally tell if a website is a spam blog or not (high amounts of outbound links, low quality content, bad website design, etc), but you can also use the Alexa tool as well.
6. Copy and Paste Content
This really shouldn’t be surprising, but Google will penalize you if you decide to copy and paste content from another website. This should go without saying right? But I guarantee that if you performed an SEO audit for a big website like PCMag, you will find other websites ripping off their content. So…there are apparently new bloggers who think they can get away with this.
It’s not just pure copy and pasted content, but also “spun” content as well. This is especially dangerous for blogs who accept guest posting.
Take, for example, my past article about some of the dangers of guest blogging. Some time ago, a web owner or possibly someone doing a black hat SEO job for another web owner, decided to try to ‘sell’ me a spun article from another blog. Here is a screen grab of some of the conversation:
Mind you, I (and probably every other blogger) get stuff like this all the time from guest bloggers. They are either web owners themselves or are doing “SEO” for another blog. Either way, this type of SEO is pure black hate and no serious blogger should accept it.
For the record, you can use a variety of plagiarism checking tools to sniff this black hat SEO out. Whenever someone submits something to me, I usually use several tools to ensure it is not plagiarized.
7. Low Quality Content
Like with building backlinks, some new bloggers either worry too much about quantity of their content instead of quality, and/or they settle to hire writers for their blog.
Hiring writers isn’t always bad, occasionally you can find someone who writes high quality articles, but focusing on quantity over quality is always a mistake in the eyes of Google.
Focus on creating high quality posts (maybe only one or two a week) instead of low quality posts that you slap together in an afternoon. These typically won’t rank anywhere near Google’s top search results, thus are basically useless.
For example, did you know that the top ten search results on Google tend to be 2000 words or more? So those low word count posts very rarely rank anywhere in the top results.
Did you also know that the longer your posts are, the more social shares they attract. If you want to rank high and have your posts go viral, a long article is a must.
I try to practice what I preach too. If you read this article from beginning to end, you will have read over 3000 words.
8. Having a Crappy or Basic Looking Blog
This may not seem like an SEO mistake, but it is. Having a professional looking blog will help you in a few key ways. First, it will project authority, which may keep visitors on your website longer (thus helping your SEO) and may even convert them to subscribe to your blog.
Another reason having a professional looking blog is a must is because it will attract links. Some of the bigger, authority websites may (probably will) be hesitant to link to your blog if it looks basic. And this brings me to my final point.
Basic, in other words free, themes tend to be extremely limited in functionality and not built for SEO. That’s not saying that professional themes always are, but free themes tend to be bare bones, which isn’t good if you are serious about attracting a following and getting to the top of the Google results.
This blog for example, uses the FrontPage theme from My Theme Shop. I recommend investing in a professional, feature rich theme over some of the basic, free themes.
Recommended Reading: Top Marketplaces to buy/sell WordPress themes
9. Ignoring Keyword Optimization
There are several different forms of keyword optimization for blogs. These include:
- Useless keywords that tend to attract visitors who won’t convert when they reach your blog.
- Free keywords, which are keywords that tend to attract visitors who want free info and have no mind to convert in any way on your blog (convert either buy buying something, clicking on an affiliate link, etc).
- Hard to get keywords, which are generally broad words (SEO, How to get backlinks) that are nearly impossible to rank for.
- Specific keywords, or longtail keywords, that new blogs are able to rank for.
Obviously, specific keywords is what new (less than two years old) blogs should be trying to rank for.
Sure, you could focus on the big keywords that tend to bring loads of traffic, but only if you can successfully rank for them. How long do you think that will take? Depending on the competition, it could take years to rank for high competition keywords, or you may never be able to rank for them.
As I laid out in my keyword optimization guide, more specific keywords not only tend to be easier to rank for, they also tend to convert a lot better.
This is because they catch visitors in the later stage of the converting process. Someone who is search for “web hosting” or “cheap web hosting” is more than likely in the earlier stages of converting. But someone who is searching for highly specific keywords like: “cheapest web hosting for wordpress websites” is right around the stage where they convert. In this case, converting would be clicking on one of your affiliate links and making a purchase.
So, if you want a successful blog, it’s probably best to start with longtail keywords and eventually, once your blog starts gaining authority, go after the more general/competitive keywords.
10. Not Using an SEO Plugin
There are several great SEO plugins available for WordPress blogs. Some are far better than others, but one great thing about SEO plugins for new bloggers is that there are excellent plugins available that are completely free.
I recommend going with one of the more popular options. Try not using one of the newer or less popular plugins because the plugin developer may stop updating the plugin since it’s not all that popular.
I recommend either the Yoast SEO plugin or the All in One SEO Pack – which is what this blog uses.
11. Choosing a Keyword Stuffed Blog Name
Your blog name needs to be catchy, but it also needs to be relevant and not-too-long. Keyword stuffing a website does help. I admit it. For example, this basic website shown below only has a few posts. They aren’t even high quality posts, yet it still makes it in the top five on Google for the keywords “best video editing software”.
The blog’s name is ‘best video editing software’. This is known as exact match domain and is something Google is currently failing at when it comes to regulating through their algorithm changes.
Google does penalize you for these types of websites…but only if they find them. Regardless, I wouldn’t want to risk my blog from being penalized for engaging in such tactics. It may work, for a time, but you could get punished down the road.
The Google algorithm code name ‘Penguin’ is a great example. Black hat SEO may work for you for a while, but eventually you will probably be found out.
Also exact match domains are just that. You will only get traffic for the exact words you used. While the above website does top for ‘best video editing software’, I don’t see it on Google’s top results for virtually any other similar keywords. So while you may get some trickling of traffic from the above keywords, you will get virtually none from similar searches and you may even get penalized if Google finds out about your tactics.
12. Choosing Free Host Over Self-Host
Free is good…unless it costs you money and traffic, which is exactly what a free domain does for blogs. There are many reasons why free websites, or in this case WordPress domains, are not the way to go. I go over this in detail in a previous article on WordPress.com vs WordPress.org. Please read through it (or you can just view the infographic) if you are tempted to go with the free hosting option.
To summarize some of the reasons free WordPress websites fail, with WordPress.com (the free option) you have limited control. You are forced to host with WordPress.com which comes with the unprofessional looking WordPress.com domain extension.
So, say my blog was hosted with WordPress.com. My full domain would then be tomakeawebsite.wordpress.com. The free option also only comes with a limited number of plugins, compared with the thousands WordPress.org users enjoy, and you have limited freedom to monetize. It’s also a lot more difficult to get other bloggers to link over to your website when you have a wordpress.com domain.
And they don’t look nearly as pretty as WordPress.org self-hosted sites using a premium theme.
For these reasons and more, I highly recommend using a self-hosted WordPress blog.
13. Posting Pictures That Are Not Your Own
I suppose this isn’t so much an SEO mistake as it is a copyright ‘mistake’. Still, it happens a lot so I included it on this list. You should know that you can’t just download and post someone else’s own image on your blog. If you want to use someone else’s image, you should first ask to do so and then give a link back to the owners own blog.
If you want to use free pictures, there is a wealth of free image websites you can turn to.
14. Choosing The Wrong Web Host
I’ve seen enough rants about GoDaddy and HostPapa to know that many bloggers, even more experienced bloggers, choose the wrong web host starting off. This can hurt you since it can take considerable time to fix any major issues with a web host, or to switch web hosts all together.
Best to avoid this headache and only go with reputable web hosting companies. For my own blog, I use Greengeeks because they are pretty cheap, come with a free domain name for life and are reliable. Customer service is spot on too. There are plenty of other reputable hosting services to choose from though.
Visit the blog homepage to see, step by step, how to set up your own blog with a web host.
15. Ignoring Social Sharing Buttons
You need an easy way for people to share your content. Period! They won’t go out of their way to share it and if you write quality posts, then people will want to share your articles. And there is no excuse not to have social sharing buttons on your WordPress blog since they are so easy to add.
The more shares an article gets, the more traffic it gets, the more traffic your blog gets the higher the click through rate. If the people who wonder over from Twitter or Facebook take time reading some of your content, Google will notice and give you an uptick in your own blog’s search engine rankings.
Don’t procrastinate either. As soon as you have your WordPress blog up and running, install a social share plugin.
16. Expecting Big Results Almost Immediately
This is probably the number one reason why bloggers give up. They blog passionately for the first few months, maybe even up to a year, then they end it. The traffic just isn’t coming and they move on.
You should think of your blog as you would your own business. Do businesses typically take off after the first few months, even first year? Usually not. And the same thing goes for websites. They take a long time before steady traffic starts coming.
Sure, there are rare examples of new bloggers getting lucky. That’s not the case for the vast majority of us.
For blogs, you have to figure working at it for a good six months, maybe even a few years, before you start getting a good bit of traffic coming in.
17. Your Articles Are Way Too Broad
I go over this in my keyword SEO article. If your posts are too broad, then you will get little to no traffic from them. Think things like this:
- “How to make money online”
- “The complete guide to SEO”
- “Social Media guide”
- “Blogging tips”
Starting off, you should be focusing on long tail keywords. Topics like the above are far too broad. There are usually lots of things you will have to include/answer in such posts and there is going to be a huge amount of competition for those keywords.
If you are just starting out, you have virtually no way of ranking for such broad topics. Best to stick with more specific topics (longtail keywords) that will attract less people, but the people they do attract are the target audience. Targeted audiences are far more likely to convert than non-targeted audiences.
By correcting or avoiding these common SEO mistakes, you will be able to better perform when it comes to SEO. It still won’t be instant, but correcting/avoiding common pitfalls can only help you in your search engine optimizing efforts.