25 Common SEO Mistakes You Must Avoid

To the amateur, making common SEO mistakes is easy.

The key to achieving solid SEO results is a combination of art, science and experience.

There’s no single practical set of solutions to get you to the top of the organic search results.

In reality, there’s a combination of elements that all contribute greatly.

Getting those right is a fine balance of performing the right research, using common sense approaches and most importantly, tapping into experience of tried and tested methods.

Budding inexperienced SEO’s tend to dive in head first, and go straight for the jugular.

They implement aggressive tactics and their over exuberant enthusiasm tends to land them in hot water, rather than seeing a site that goes from nowhere to page one.

The fact is, good SEO requires a multitude of well-researched methods that need to be carried out.

If you want success and to see your site climb the ranks, you’d be wise to firstly learn about what you should not do, rather than what you should.

So without any further delay, here’s our list of the 25 most common SEO mistakes you need to avoid.

We’ve broken down each by category to make them easier to digest and understand.

On-Page Issues

Keyword Mind Map

1. Keyword Stuffing & Over-Optimisation

Keyword stuffing is probably the most common SEO mistake made by the untrained, inexperienced digital marketer.

Pages are rammed full of a multitude of keywords and keyword phrase variations, in the vain attempt that this will somehow fool the search engines into ranking them.

Big mistake!

Web crawlers such as Googlebot are a darn sight lot smarter than that.

Algorithms find keyword stuffing easy to spot and as a consequence, you’ll get flagged as spam and most likely demoted.

Think about it logically and quickly it becomes clear that keywords stuffing is just plain stupid.

If you want a software programme such as a bot to understand what a particular page is about, telling it dozens of different things is literally going to throw it into a spin.

Keyword stuffing does precisely this.

You’re far better off targeting one, maybe two keywords and then optimising your page for that alone.

That way, Googlebot and other crawlers have a far better chance of understanding and categorising your content.

2. Targeting the Wrong Keywords

Many website owners and SEO’s overlook the key stage of carrying out in-depth keyword research.

If they didn’t, they’d be far better informed of what keywords attract the best search volumes and how easy or difficult they are to rank for.

The fact is, many marketers make the critical mistake of trying to guess which keywords to target, or target keywords without firstly understanding search intent.

Guessing which keywords to target is just sloppy, and frankly quite lazy.

Discovering which keywords to target is pretty easy and in many cases, costs nothing by using free keyword research tools like UberSuggest or Wordstream.

So there’s really no excuse.

But it shouldn’t stop there either.

Search intent is hugely critical to good keyword research.

Without it, you’ll have no idea what sort of content Google ranks based on user habits and intent.

So always check the search results to see what types of pages Google ranks for certain keywords.

You might be in for a big surprise!

3. Poorly Optimised Page Titles

Your page title is what Google users first see when scanning through search results.

Imagine finding a website with a title of “Welcome to our Homepage” or similar.

It tells the user nothing about what the page is about or who you are.

Yet this is a common mistake seen across many websites.

Even worse, some site builders apply the exact same title across every page of a site.

So a site crammed full of pages using the same title to describe its content. Utter madness!

Page titles are there to explain to users what the page is about or what it is promoting.

Pages with well written, concise and correctly lengthened title tags will always outrank those that aren’t.

4. Poorly Optimised Page Descriptions

Tying into title tags, description tags are also vitally important, yet are often poorly optimised, keyword stuffed or sometimes completely missing.

The description gives a website owner the opportunity to detail what their page is about at greater length.

This information is usually displayed below the title in Google search results.

So it pays to write them well.

Don’t waste the opportunity of giving your audience a clearer indication of what your web page has to offer.

Well written, correct length description tags help web pages rank better a great deal.

5. Forgetting to Optimise Images

When sites are built, it’s very common for them to use stock photographs or images sourced from high resolution cameras or phones.

The raw images from these sources are seldom optimised for web use and tend to be far larger in dimensions that required.

Yet many web designers will embed the raw image into a web page without resizing down to a more suitable, useable size.

They’ll also forget about compressing the image to ensure its file size is reduced as much as possible.

This leads to web pages totalling several megabytes in size which can take an age to load on mobile devices over 3G or 4G connections.

No one wants to wait around forever for a webpage to load.

A slow website is going to offer a poor user experience and most likely lead to high exit rates.

Google logs user data such as page dwell time and bounce rates via its Analytics system.

So if your website is performing badly, you’ll start to slip down the search results pages.

Always optimise your images and compress them so they load fast and render quickly across multiple devices.

6. Lack of Anchor Text in Internal Links

How many times have you read a webpage to find a link labelled “Click here” or some other similar nondescript anchor text?

This tells the user nothing about what is behind the link but more importantly, it tells search indexers such as Google nothing either.

Anchors not only help users and search bots to understand what the link is pointing to, it also helps to improve on-page SEO.

Internal linking of content across your site has become vitally important to helping pages rank.

By using descriptive keyword optimised link anchors, you increase the relevancy of the target page to that keyword phrase.

This contributes towards telling Google how to rank that content and by keyword.

So stop using nondescript link anchors and link using keyword text that will boost the target page’s ranking.

Content Issues

Female Blogger

7. Neglecting to Write Amazing Content

The oldest cliché in marketing is ‘content is king’.

But the truth is, it’s not as clear cut as that.

The fact is, only great content rules when it comes to ranking and solid traffic levels.

And the only way to create great content is to thoroughly research blog subjects that users are actively seeking and to spend the time required to produce awesome content that people want to read and share.

Thin content seldom ever ranks or performs well.

So when website owners neglect to bother creating new content or produce content that is worthy of publication, is it any wonder their ranks don’t improve?

Google loves sites that produce new content at regular intervals.

It’s indexers know which sites do and which sites don’t publish content at regularly.

The ones that do tend to be those that get re-indexed the most often and unsurprisingly, see positive changes in rank and traffic volumes.

So if your site is full of blog and news updates of little significance or on subjects that are just filler, put a stop to it.

Start looking at ways to research topics within your niche that people are actively searching for.

That way, you’re producing marketing content that people need, rather than you dictating what you think they want.

It’s a simple form of supply and demand.

If the demand is there, produce the content.

8. Publishing Duplicate Content

Lazy content writers and publishers constantly fall into the trap of publishing content they have produced elsewhere or worse still, plagiarise content from external sources.

If this applies to you, then good luck. You’re gonna need it!

Google hates duplicate content and will treat it with caution.

In most cases, it will rank the original producer by checking which sites published the content first.

Everyone else at best will be ignored. At worse, demoted especially if you are a repeat offender.

Any content you produce should be unique to you alone and never published elsewhere.

It’s perfectly ok to cite and quote excerpts of content to help reinforce a statement, but anything more will be seen as plagiarism.

If in doubt, always link back to the original source but best case scenario is, always write your own original, high quality material.

9. Creating Zombie Content

Is your website getting filled up with page after page, blog after blog of content purely aimed at targeting numerous search phrases?

Are those pages actually producing good traffic volumes, from users who become transactional?

Or does your Google Analytics reveal a worrying trend of low volume page views, and high volume exit rates?

If this sounds familiar, great job – you’ve just created a ton of zombie content!

Creating zombie content is in effect an act of self harm and a complete waste of time and resources.

Zombie content offers web site visitors a poor user experience and will just lead to low interaction and high bounce rates which Google will see.

As a result, your site’s authority will decrease and with it your ranks.

The creation of zombie content tends to happen due to a lack of real in-depth keyword research and insightful search intent knowledge.

This scattergun approach to SEO, by building scores of pages to try to cover every possible permutation of keyword is just plain nuts.

It’s outdated, doesn’t work and just bloats your site with useless content.

So if you’re guilty of this practice, it’s time to start reevaluating your SEO strategies.

Design Issues

Webpage Source Code

10. Building a Poorly Designed Website

A poorly designed website isn’t just about its aesthetic value, it’s also about the source code and practices used to build it.

Nowadays we have web standards that all developers should adhere to when constructing templates and themes.

Whilst the majority of websites are built on well coded open-source CMS systems such as WordPress, Drupal or Joomla to name a few, there are some exceptions to the rule.

Some web developers still insist on building sites from the ground up and it’s in these situations where lots of mistakes are made.

Anything from misuse to incorrect use of tags, to critical elements being missing, these all contribute towards sites performing badly in search results.

The potential list is endless, but any sites missing one or a number of critical essential elements can be disastrous for anyone relying on solid Google ranks.

So if you’re in the process of building a brand new website, make sure it is completely standards compliant and built precisely as necessary to rank as best as possible.

11. Creating a Poor UX (User Experience)

There’s nothing worse than using a website that is frustrating, cumbersome and unresponsive.

Worse still, it fails to render correctly on smartphones and is generally a dog’s dinner to look at.

In most cases, users will simply leave after a few moments of losing patience.

Users that exit in their droves equate to a site producing zero net results and a high bounce rate.

Good user experience is key to not only having a successful online business, but strong Google ranking as well.

Google looks closely at user habits across millions of sites every day.

Sites that perform badly will invariably rank poorly and lose traffic.

The number one aim of Google is to provide reliable search results, so there’s no way they want people directed to a site that is a pig to use.

So if using your site is worse than pulling teeth, it’s time to smarten up and get it fixed.

12. Lack of Call to Actions

Getting people to visit your site is one thing, but getting them to take action is so much more important.

You might have a great looking site, but if you’re not enticing people to take action by having clear, visible and persuasive calls to action, you might be losing out on potential business opportunities.

Whilst this may not appear to be a directly influential ranking factor, user behaviour and conversion rates are.

So if your users are behaving in a way that represents high bounce rates, high exit rates or lack of transactions, this can reflect poorly on your Google Analytics reports.

In turn, this tells Google your site is not offering users a good experience or at best, too many road blocks.

So the net result could mean falling down the ranks or not ranking at all.

13. Lack of Conversion Forms

Much like the point above, if your site lacks conversion forms or ways in which your visitors can open dialogue with you to make a purchase or engage your services, are you creating dead ends that no one can pass?

Again, Google will see this if your site has user behaviour data that shows only a handful of pages visited and very little interaction.

Google collects a ton of data and uses that to make judgements on your site and algorithmically score it.

Score low and you will rank low.

Technical Issues


14. Overlooking Site Speed

A sites’ page load speed contributes hugely towards user experience.

Mobile devices running on 3G or 4G connections rely greatly on sites that are designed and optimised for use on phones and tablets on the go.

If your website is experiencing technical SEO issues such as multiple CSS files, bloated javascripts, and huge images making up megabytes worth of content, chances are it will take forever to load on a phone.

Guess what? People will lose patience and leave.

High exit rates and low interaction rates means trouble.

And that results in poor Google rankings.

15. Bloated Source Code & Scripts

Unknown to many site owners, source code bloating is a common problem.

Every time a plugin or third party extension is added to a site, so is additional code that needs to load whilst each web page renders.

Most popular content management systems (CMS) such as WordPress are great for building sites fast, but with convenience comes a price.

Third party themes and plugins are invariably coded to varying levels of competency.

Whilst some are super fast and use clean, slimmed down code, other are bloated and act like a ball and chain.

So it pays to check which plugins are recommended for speed as well as functionality.

The golden rule is – the more plugins you use, the more resources your webpages will load.

So when it comes to third party resources, less is more.

16. No Page Caching

A lack of page caching means that each time a page is loaded into a users browser, it has to load each element every time.

As you can imagine, that can take time and make using a site a slow and frustrating process.

Sites very often use the same elements such as images across multiple pages, so it makes sense to add caching to increase page load speed.

Mobile phone and tablet users will appreciate a site that is super fast and quick to use.

So add suitable caching to optimise your website pages load speed and prevent your dreaded bounce rate and exit rate percentages from creeping up.

17. Ignoring Mobile Users

With Google now using “Mobile First Indexing“, any website that ignores mobile users is asking for trouble.

When Googlebot indexes sites, it firstly looks to see how your site loads on mobile devices and runs several checks to see how if performs overall.

Any areas of concern, and Google Search Console will tell you.

Ignore those warnings at your peril.

Any site owner that refuses to fix mobile issues will find themselves slipping down the ranks, especially on Google searches performed using phones and tablets.

With more than half of web traffic now being dominated by mobile devices, not having a mobile friendly site is inexcuseable.

18. Forgetting About Analytics

Above we might have mentioned Google checking site analytics just a few times!

With big data playing a massive part in the current digital world, overlooking the power and influence of Google Analytics is missing a huge trick.

Google Analytics not only tells you how many visits your site has enjoyed, it also reveals how people found you, user behaviours and what parts of your site are succeeding or failing to produce the desired results.

All this data is mined by various algorithms that score your site.

Ignore them at your peril!

Use that data to your advantage and plug any gaps or functionality issues on your site to improve performance and increase Google rankings.

19. Overlooking Search Console

Google Search Console is a great tool for telling webmasters how their site is performing in the search engines.

It’ll tell you how many pages have been found and indexed by Googlebot, any pages that have issues that need addressing and a comprehensive list of keywords driving traffic to your site.

You can also use Google Search Console to submit your XML sitemap, ensuring that Google has a complete breakdown of your entire site structure that it needs to crawl and index.

It’s a complete suite of tools that every webmaster should use and above all else – it’s free!

20. Insecure Hosting

In this day and age of spyware, malware and hacking, it makes complete sense to surf the web securely.

Sites that run on an SSL (Secure Socket Layers) certificate under an HTTPS protocol offer web users peace of mind that any data transmitted is encrypted and secure from potential hackers snooping for sensitive data.

Google has been fully aware of this for some time now and favours sites that run securely.

So if your site still runs insecurely under HTTP only, it’s about time you made the switch.

Speak to your web hosts or web developers about going secure and get rewarded with better Google ranks.

Off-Site Issues

21. Poor Link Building

Link building is still regarded as the most influential ranking factor there is, but so many people get it wrong.

The fact is, any links built need to come from reliable, trusted and authoritative sources.

In years gone by, reckless and unscrupulous SEO’s used to build links on mass – in other words spam.

This used to work once upon a time, but not anymore!

Spammy link building will just lead to your website being locked up in Google’s jail, with a manual or algorithmic penalty.

And once the damage has been done, it’s one hell of a job to undo!

So if you’ve been made promises of Google page 1 ranking for next to no investment, run a mile.

No reputable SEO should ever promise top rankings because no one’s ever cracked the code.

All you can do is build ethical, whitehat backlinks from a variety of sources and wait for your ranks to reflect the positive changes.

Good link building is a slow and methodical process, but in the long run the rewards are worth it.

22. Ignoring Link Building

In many cases, some SEOs and digital marketing agencies have abandoned link building altogether.

There’s a number of reasons why but many have stopped because they fear the consequences of link building, believing any link building will lead to penalties.

This is just plain wrong.

If you build high quality, ethical whitehat links, the likelihood of a penalty is negligible.

The fact is, many SEOs and agencies simply don’t know how to do good link building, so would rather avoid it.

So instead, opt for content creation, social sharing and pay-per-click ads hoping this will fill the void. It won’t.

If you want great ranks, you need links.

So if you’re not building links from reputable sources, you’re in for a long wait seeing your target keywords go up the ranks.

23. Ignoring Local Search

In recent years, local search traffic has seen a massive increase.

With the emergence of voice search on mobile devices and smart speakers, people have increased the use of search queries including “…near me”, “…nearby” or “local…” terms with products or services they require.

With Google search results now including a local pack of businesses offering services in close proximity to the user, it makes complete sense to ensure your business is included in local ranks.

The local pack of results not only show businesses in close proximity, they also appear above the organic results, so it’s a win win.

All that is required is to have a completed and verified profile saved in Google My Business and you’re ready to go.

So in reality. getting ranked for local searches is quite simple and inexcusable if you haven’t already.

24. Not Registering on Local Directories

Local directories still have a huge part to play in influencing Google rank, most notably your Google local visibility.

By getting your business registered with consistent NAP (Name, Address and Phone Number) details on numerous high profile directories, you increase your chances of being ranked in Google’s local pack.

In most cases, directories are free to register, so there’s no excuse but to get going and register your business on all of them.

If you have no time or resources to do this, you could always use our local SEO service.

25. Forgetting About Social Media

And finally, social media is a great tool for getting huge exposure for your business, service or brand.

Links from social media sites in the main do not hugely influence search ranks directly, but what they can do is lead to avenues where links are naturally and organically acquired.

Imagine getting your site mentioned or linked from a hugely influential social media account with millions of followers.

That will lead to a huge influx of mentions, site visits and moist likely links built to help build your ranks.

So if you have content worth sharing, don’t overlook social.

Use it to your advantage and treat it as a complimentary tool to help you get to where you want to be.