What SEO mistakes do you need to avoid if you want to maximize your SEO performance in 2021?
Well, there are many moving parts in an SEO campaign and it’s easy to slip up.
That’s why I’m going to show you 47 of the biggest SEO mistakes you need to avoid.
Let’s jump right in.
47 Common SEO Mistakes (That Even Pros Make)
The first deadly SEO mistake is:
1. Not Tracking Your Performance
You have to track your SEO performance if you want to improve it. Now the question is… what should you track?
Well that brings me to deadly SEO mistake #2 which is…
2. Not Tracking the Right SEO KPIs
The truth is that most SEO newbies focus on individual keyword rankings. While rankings are a valuable key performance indicator, the best SEO KPI is organic search traffic growth.
The goal of SEO is to get more traffic. Don’t ever lose sight of that.
3. Not Considering ROI
Most people haphazardly start SEO campaigns and rely on guesswork. This can work sometimes because you can take action, iterate, and pivot.
However, in most cases, you should consider the ROI of your actions BEFORE you take them.
So, what do I mean?
There are few a different ROI calculations to consider in an SEO campaign, but the most important is:
What will be the ROI of targeting a keyword you’re interested in?
In this case, a little preliminary work can go a long way and help you avoid going after keywords that aren’t truly worth it.
4. Not Performing an SEO Audit…
…BEFORE you start trying to do SEO.
I truly believe the #1 one thing you need to do if you want better SEO results is to perform an SEO audit.
SEO audits are one of my favorite activities because it reveals all the issues holding your SEO performance back.
Plus, you’ll also get the intel you need to make better decisions.
By “better” decisions, I mean that you’ll be able to prioritize your actions based on what will have the highest impact.
5. Not Mapping Out Your Site Architecture
A well-designed site architecture can have a positive SEO impact for several reasons.
- First, a strong site architecture helps Google crawl your website more efficiently, which as a result, helps Google index your pages faster.
- Secondly, a strong site architecture will grow your site’s overall authority, which makes ranking much easier. In other words, you won’t need as many backlinks to rank.
- Lastly, an effective site architecture can help drive more conversions because you direct users to your most important pages.
Watch this video to learn about my favorite site architecture strategy:
Let’s move onto the sixth SEO mistake and that’s:
6. Not Prioritizing User Experience (UX)
One of the best ways to improve SEO performance is to optimize your site’s UX.
Abobe discovered that:
“38 percent of people will stop engaging with a website if the content and layout is unattractive.” – Adobe
This alone should make you value UX/UI optimization more.
But how do you actually optimize UX?
There are obvious UX optimization actions like:
- Increasing your website loading speed
- Making your site mobile friendly
- Not using aggressive interstitial pop-ups
- And not using disruptive ad placements
But there is one UX optimization that matters for SEO more than anything else…
Optimizing for user intent.
What does that mean?
It means that your page should satisfy the intent of the keyword that’s being searched.
More on this in a second.
7. Targeting the WRONG Keywords
Some people jump into and try to conquer every keyword in their niche.
This is a really bad idea , especially if you don’t have the website authority to target keywords with mid to high-level competition.
If your website is new, accept that fact and focus on keywords that low competition, so you can get some easy wins out of the gate.
Then, once your site has built some authority, you can target higher-volume and higher competition keywords.
8. Not Creating SEO Goals
Developing SEO goals can feel like a double-edged sword because you’re essentially trying to predict the future. On the other when you attack an SEO campaign without a goal, you’re operating without a vision.
You need to find the balance in this equation. Don’t try to create the perfect goal because campaigns rarely go according to plan.
I recommend creating a lag goal first such as:
“We’re going to increase our organic search traffic by 100% by December 31, 2021.”
Then create a lead goals to achieve your lag goal:
“We’re going to create 12 long-form keyword-target content assets and we’re going to acquire 100 quality links to these assets in the next 6 months.”
Don’t overthink it.
9. Not Deeply Analyzing the Competition
Your competition can give you clues about what’s working and what isn’t. You should always be looking for points of leverage when you’re going to target a keyword.
What are your competitors NOT doing right now, but they’re still ranking well?
10. Not Satisfying Search Intent
I won’t go too deep into this, but the best way to understand user intent is through categorization.
Memorize these four types of user intent:
If a user searches “how to build backlinks”, you serve them informational content because that’s the intent.
If a user searches “Moz vs Ahrefs”, they’re looking to compare and contrast these two products (so they can make an educating buying decision). A page explaining the pros and cons of these products would satisfy the intent.
If a user searches “buy Gotch SEO Academy”, they’re ready to transact.
If a user searches “Gotch SEO Academy login”, you know exactly what they’re looking for. Give them a freakin’ login page. Simple.
Satisfying user intent is simple.
Try to get into the searcher’s mind every time you decide to target a keyword.
What do they actually want when they enter that search query?
It’s time well spent trying to figure it out.
Getting it right will improve your page’s UX.
That means users:
- will stay on your page longer
- won’t pogo-stick as much
- may visit a second page on your site or…
- may complete a goal (like subscribe, submit a lead form, or buy a product).
I recommend using a combination of Google Analytics and heat map technology (Sumo, Hotjar, or Optimizely) to test and optimize UX.
11. Not Creating Unique Value
If you take anything away from this video, it has to be this.
Whenever you target a keyword, you should always think about how you can add unique value.
Don’t try to emulate what’s already ranking. Think about how you can create something radically different and better.
“Different” can be using unique data, make your content more story-driven, using better multimedia, using better design, or even just having way better readability.
There are unlimited possibilities for making your SEO content different.
Trust me… if you focus on how to be different than the top competitors instead of trying to be “better” you’ll see monumental results.
12. Creating Thin Content
When most people think of “thin” content, they think about pages with low word counts.
While this is a good indicator of thin content, I actually think there’s another form of thin content that’s often overlooked.
It’s along the same vein as SEO mistake #11, but the biggest type of thin content you need to avoid is not adding any unique value. Or in other words, just regurgitating what other people have already produced.
If you want to truly succeed with SEO, you have to focus on adding unique value.
The thirteenth SEO mistake is thin content’s best friend and that’s…
13. Creating Duplicate Content
Duplicate content issues are most common with e-commerce websites, but they can occur on any site if you aren’t careful.
When it comes to e-com SEO, duplicate content is prevalent because these websites have an enormous amount of category and product pages.
I have to cover a lot more SEO mistakes to avoid, but the best way to combat duplicate content is to make EVERYTHING unique on your site.
That means unique product descriptions, unique meta descriptions, and that means unique copy for every single page.
The fourteenth SEO mistake is:
14. Not Properly Optimizing Your Page
Some people think on-page SEO is just throwing some keywords on the page and you’re good to go. This is very far from the truth.
There are many points you have to cover to properly optimize a page for search. The good news is I created an 80-point on-page SEO checklist you can follow.
The fifteenth SEO mistake is:
15. Not Upgrading Old Content
Most people think about how they’re going to target new keywords and create new content.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but you can a huge return on your investment and time when you focus on improving existing content assets on your site.
For example, I completely scraped my content that was targeting the keyword “on-page SEO” and replaced it with updated information and new design.
Keep in mind, this page hasn’t ranked for “on-page SEO” EVER and it’s been up for years.
That said, I republished this post on November 7th 2018 and it reached the first page on March 10th 2019.
There are a lot of changes that I made to achieve this goal, but the biggest was simply upgrading the content and making it substantially better.
The sixteenth SEO mistake is:
16. Not Injecting Long-Tail Keywords
Although it’s important to target a primary keyword phrase, most of your traffic will come from long-tail keywords. That’s why you need to optimize your page accordingly.
For example, the “on-page SEO” blog post I published is obviously targeting the primary keyword phrase “on-page SEO”, but I’m also targeting many other long-tail variations.
Think about this way:
My primary phrase “on-page SEO” has only driven around 84 clicks.
Overall, that page has driven around 1,511 total clicks.
That means that 95% of the organic search traffic for this page comes from long-tail keywords.
Now this equation will flip once I’m ranking higher for the primary phrase, but it’s still a strong demonstration showing why you need to inject long-tail keywords on your pages.
The seventeenth SEO mistake is:
17. Not Optimizing for Organic CTR
Have you ever heard the statistic that only 20% of people read past a headline?
Whether this is still true, I don’t know, but you need to take it into account.
In other words, you need to create headlines that are going to drive clicks.
One of the fastest ways to get more organic search traffic is to improve the clickability of your page titles.
It’s simple… increase your CTR and get more traffic.
From a tactical perspective, analyze Google Ads for your target keywords.
What words are they using or not using to attract clicks?
Aside from that, study everything you can about creating great headlines because it’s fundamental to any content assets success.
The eighteenth SEO mistake is:
18. Not Internal Linking from Your Most Authoritative Pages
Whenever you publish a new SEO content asset, you should immediately for internal linking opportunities.
Not only will this help with indexability, but it will also drive link equity to your new page, which makes it easier to rank!
All you need to do is throw your domain into Ahrefs Site Explorer and click on Best by Links. Look for opportunities to play an internal link on your most linked pages.
The nineteenth SEO mistake is:
19. Not Building Relationships
Ever heard the quote: “Show me who your friends are, and I’ll tell you who you are” – well it’s incredibly true and it applies to pretty every facet of business.
If you have relationships with key influencers, writers, or people who are capable of linking to you in your industry, you’re going to get links a lot easier.
If you’re friends with other bloggers, it’s more likely that you’ll be in their head when they’re thinking about a resource to link to.
Building relationships in your industry should be a priority from both a business and SEO perspective. Don’t take it lightly.
The twentieth SEO mistake is:
20. Not Building Backlinks
Backlinks are the fuel of every successful SEO campaign.
Don’t get fooled by ideas like “backlinks don’t matter” because they aren’t grounded by facts or data.
According to Brian’s massive ranking study:
“The number of domains linking to a page correlated with rankings more than any other factor.” – Backlinko
SEMRush had similar conclusions.
They found that:
“The higher the domain’s position on the SERP, the more referring domains it has.”
Backlinks matter and will continue to be critical to Google’s algorithm now and into the future.
The 21st SEO mistake is:
21. Thinking All Links Are Created Equally
You should be picky about the links you acquire.
Only target opportunities that:
- Are relevant
- Are authoritative
- Have good link quality
- Have traffic
- Have editorial standards
Point #1 is critical to understand because SEO mistake #22 is:
22. Getting Irrelevant Links
It’s best to focus on link opportunities that are most relevant to your business. The best way to think about this is through what I call the Relevancy Pyramid.
In short, you should focus your efforts on the most relevant opportunities first and then work your way down the pyramid.
23. Using Risky Link Building Tactics
Some tactics like PBNs and web 2.0s may still work, but they carry substantial risk.
The risk vs. reward is practically non-existent at this point.
Meaning, that the risk far exceeds the benefits of using such grey hat tactics.
24. Haphazardly Buying Links
Most people just throwing money at link vendors and expect floods of traffic. This is foolish.
Believe it or not, there is an art and science to buying backlinks.
Now, of course, buying links is against Google Webmaster Guidelines, but I like to reframe it.
I don’t view investing in outreach as “buying links”. I view it as buying a process.
25. Not Using Enough Branded Anchor Text
Over-optimizing anchor text is the most common SEO mistakes I find.
That’s because it’s really easy to do and it “seems” like the right thing to do.
The bulk of your anchor text profile should be branded and should rarely use your primary keyword.
26. Not Isolating Your Best Anchor Text on Your Best Opportunities
Since you shouldn’t use keyword-rich anchor text often, you should only use it on your best opportunities.
Don’t waste your best anchors on bad opportunities like directories, blog comments, etc.
27. Having Inconsistent NAP-W Information
Your company’s Name, Address, Phone, and Website (NAP-W) information should be consistent across the Internet.
The good news is that many companies have tackled this issue such as Yext, Moz, and Bright Local.
You don’t need much skill to avoid this SEO mistake.
Just run your company’s NAP-W information through these tools and start cleaning it up.
28. Not Having a Review Generation Strategy
I believe getting more quality Google reviews is fundamental to ranking well in the local pack.
The first thing you need to do is establish a review benchmark by taking your top three competitors in the local pack and averaging out their total reviews.
You should aim to match and then exceed the number of reviews they have.
The only way that’s possible is through a review generation strategy.
29. Not Retargeting
Did you know that roughly 80% of visitors never come back to your website?
Or that 96% of website visitors aren’t even ready to buy?
Retargeting is the key to tackling both of these challenges.
With just Facebook and Google Ads alone, you’ll be able to retarget most of your website visitors.
30. Not Optimizing for Conversions
Getting more traffic is great, but it’s useless if it doesn’t convert.
How you convert organic search visitors will depend on the intent of the keywords you’re targeting.
For example, if you’re targeting informational keywords like “how to build backlinks”, it would make sense to offer a lead magnet in exchange for an email because the searcher likely isn’t ready to buy.
On the other hand, if someone is searching “buy Gotch SEO Academy“, I know they’re ready to invest. That means it makes sense to try transactional strategies like deadlines, free trials, etc.
31. Not Building Systems
Some people think you can’t build SEO systems because it changes too much.
Although SEO changes, there are many facets that stay the same.
For example, understanding how to create incredible SEO content won’t change.
That means you can systemize the process.
Also, the process of acquiring links won’t change either.
Sure, backlinks may become more ineffective over time, but the actual process is evergreen in nature.
32. Not Building a Team
No one has ever achieved anything substantial by themselves.
Sure, you can try to do every little SEO task yourself, but your business will suffer.
That means you either need to only focus on what has the biggest impact on your SEO performance to maximize your time or you need to hire help.
And the best part? You won’t be doing the work.
33. Not Iterating
There is no perfect SEO strategy and there is no perfect execution of a strategy.
All you can do is use a proven framework, take action, and iterate based on the results.
You never learn until you get feedback.
In the SEO world, your feedback is rankings and traffic. So, if you’re not ranking and you’re not getting organic search traffic, then you need to make a change.
34. Not Doing SEO!
No brainer here. SEO is hands-down the best marketing channel online.
Is it the easiest?
Definitely not, but that’s what makes it valuable.
If you actually learn it and understand how to achieve consistent results, you’ll destroy your lazy competitors.
35. Thinking SEO is Dead
I’m sure through trying to figure out how to get more traffic, you’ve probably encountered the idea that “SEO is dead”.
Here’s the truth:
SEO has changed.
It’s more alive than ever.
Here’s the proof that SEO is more alive than ever:
Go to Google Trends and compare “SEO” to ANY other channel online.
Here’s “SEO” vs. “Content Marketing”:
Here’s “SEO” vs. “Facebook Ads”:
Here’s “SEO” vs. “Social Media Marketing”:
You get the point.
No channel online is more popular than SEO.
What’s the best place for your potential customers to find you organically (online)?
A) Social Media
B) Search Engines
If you answered “B) Search Engines”, then nice work because there’s data to prove this.
Go to Similar Web and examine the top 5 most trafficked websites.
What do 4 of top 5 most trafficked websites have in common?
Google is by far the most popular website and search engine in the world.
On average, Google processes over 40,000 search queries every second.
That’s 3.5 billion searches per day and 1.2 trillion searches per year.
That’s not even the crazy part.
These numbers are based on actual searches conducted.
This isn’t how much traffic Google.com actually gets.
That number would be much larger.
Then you have Youtube, which is by far the most popular video search engine in the world.
After that, you have Amazon, which is by far the most popular e-commerce search engine in the world.
And lastly, you have Yahoo, which the second biggest traditional search engine.
You get the point.
Understanding how to get organic traffic from search is a good use of time and resources.
But that’s not all.
3. Industry Growth
According to Borrell Associates, over $65 billion was invested in the SEO industry in 2016.
This number is expected to rise to $79 billion by 2021.
More-and-more capital is flowing into the SEO industry because companies are discovering how powerful it is for growing revenue.
The time for you to use SEO to grow your business is right now.
36. Not Having a Branded Search Strategy
Google is making it harder to get organic search traffic because of an increase of SERP features, instant answers, and even aggressive ad placements. The way to combat this is through a branded search strategy.
Branded searches such as “Gotch SEO” or “Nathan Gotch” can keep your company afloat.
37. Caring Too Much About Low Impact Stuff
There are low-impact and high-impact actions in SEO.
Most people focus on stuff that has little or no impact at all.
Because it’s easier. It’s much harder to create an in-depth content asset than it is to change your page’s title.
Be less lazy than your competitors and you’ll get better results.
Focus on stuff that’s actually impactful (creating assets, building relationships, and acquiring links).
38. Not Being Agile
What worked today may not work tomorrow.
Don’t be rigid when it comes to SEO.
Think about it… you’re trying to get ORGANIC search traffic.
You need to be ORGANIC when it comes to your SEO strategy.
39. Thinking Google is the Only Search Engine
Did you know that YouTube is the second biggest search engine behind Google?
There’s a massive opportunity to build your brand and company on YouTube.
Plus, it’s easier to rank in YouTube because most people are too insecure to try to create videos.
Trust me, I was that person and that’s why I’m qualified to say it.
My stomach turned every time I thought about getting in front of a camera.
But want to know the secret to getting comfortable in front of a camera?
Hit the record button and publish your work (hundreds of times). I’ve recorded thousands of hours of audio and videos over the last two years.
There’s no shortcut.
40. Spreading Your Resources Too Thin
How many keywords are you trying to rank for?
Most companies try to dominate their entire industry before ranking for even one keyword.
Don’t do that.
Focus on one primary phrase and don’t even think about anything else until it’s ranking.
41. Not Being Patient
You’ve probably heard that “Patience is a virtue”. That couldn’t be any more true in SEO.
Some people do TOO much because they’re super impatient.
For example, they’ll nail a page with hundreds of backlinks because it’s not “ranking fast enough”.
There are two things that can happen when you operate this way.
- First, you could get penalized because you’re being too aggressive.
- Secondly, you could be wasting resources.
For example, you acquired hundreds of links fast, but you may have only needed ten links and some patience.
42. Not Learning Other Complimentary Marketing Skills
Don’t be an “SEO”, be a digital marketer.
Understanding the entire online marketing ecosystem will make you better at SEO.
43. Not Having Any Strategy
Would you start building a house without a blueprint?
Of course not.
That’s why you can’t expect to have long-term SEO success by throwing sh*t at the wall.
You need a strategy and then you need to use the right tactics.
44. Thinking You Know Everything
There is always more to learn and people who can teach you things you don’t know. Everyone has a unique experience and background.
Keep an open mind and realize that it’s impossible to know everything.
45. Not Being a Perpetual Learner
I hated the concept of “learning” in school, but I’ve been obsessed with self-learning since graduating from college.
Why is that?
It’s because there’s a visible ROI and return on time when I learn more about business.
The more I learn, the more I earn.
I believe true learning comes from being coached by someone who has more experience than you do and then taking action on what they teach you.
The last part is the most important for developing real skills.
46. Not Asking for Help
Make a list of things that are confusing you in your business.
Things that you feel that you don’t TRULY understand.
Then, either seek out training courses taught by real professionals or call an expert on Clarity.
You’ll quickly realize A) how little you know actually know and B) that you need other people to succeed.
47. Not Investing in Your Education
Now you might be thinking that you don’t need to invest in training because you can get everything online for free.
I used to think that way too.
When I was starting out, I invested in countless low-quality courses and I declared that I would never invest in courses ever again because I figured that I could learn on my own.
But after months of trial and error (and horrible results), I realized something incredibly important about myself:
The training I was investing in wasn’t the problem.
I was the problem.
I went into these training courses with a limited mindset and never gave myself the chance to actually learn from the person who had WAY more experience than I did.
But not only that:
I never took action on their advice.
From that point forward, I have never thought twice about investing in training because there is no faster way to get results.
It’s funny because recently I almost fell back into the same trap. I was trying to learn how to run Facebook ads.
And like my stubborn self always does, I was trying to learn on my own.
I digested almost all the free information I could about Facebook ads.
And guess what…?
I still felt clueless and I wasn’t getting the results I wanted.
Fortunately, I caught myself early and decided to enroll in a Facebook Ad training course.
Within a couple of weeks of joining that course, I launched multiple profitable ad campaigns on Facebook.
Now Facebook is one of my favorite sources for growing my company outside of SEO.
The course I invested in helped me bypass years of failing and it helped me save thousands of dollars on failed experiments.
Here’s the moral of this story:
Something magical happens when you commit to investing in yourself.
Think about it…
There’s unlimited free information for ANYONE to use at any time.
So, why aren’t more people successful?
Why isn’t everyone dominating Google and growing their companies?
It’s because there’s no incentive for you to take action on free information. Only the most motivated individuals (which is less than 1% of all people) ever take action on free information.
But when you make the decision to invest your hard-earned money into something, you’re going to commit to it.
In other words, you have skin in the game and when you have skin in the game, you care more.
And when you care more, you get better results.
Those are the 47 SEO mistakes you need to avoid if you want to achieve SEO success in 2021.
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