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Harmful SEO Mistakes: Silly Ones Even the Pros Make

  • Post category:SEO
  • Reading time:10 mins read

There are plenty of things that you can mess up when it comes to SEO. Here are eight harmful SEO mistakes that even the most seasoned digital marketers make every now and then.

Harmful SEO Mistakes

Do you ever kick yourself because you made a harmful SEO mistake? If so, you’re not alone.

SEO is a complex field and learning the basics can be a monumental task. Why? Well, the average effective SEO strategy covers a lot of concepts.

The task of managing a digital marketing strategy, specifically an SEO strategy, is ripe with opportunities to commit harmful SEO mistakes. There are keywords, keyphrases, and both on-page and off-page optimizations that you need to manage. Those are just a few of the basics. There are plenty of more advanced tips and tricks that you need to master to get the job done. In short, SEO can be overwhelming for most digital marketers. Furthermore, it’s important to realize and accept that we all make a harmful SEO mistake now and then.

Metrics – we can’t forget about our nearest and dearest friend! Sometimes these seemingly simple numbers can be our best friends. Other times, they can be our worst enemies because they call out the harmful SEO mistakes we make. Either way, they keep us honest because the numbers don’t lie!

Even if you’re the most detail-focused, diligent professional out there, there’s still plenty of things that can go wrong. This is true even if you’re at the top of your respective field.

Here are eight silly, yet harmful SEO mistakes that even the pros make.

Leaving a Noindex/Nofollow Command on the Site When You Go Live

Leaving a Noindex/Nofollow command in the header can prevent a page (or even a whole website) from ranking on Google. This may seem like a rookie mistake, but trust me, it does happen on occasion.

Google immediately drops the page from its SERPs whenever its bots encounter this tag. However, including a Noindex/Nofollow tag doesn’t always equate to a harmful SEO mistake.

These tags can come in handy if your site is still in development and not quite ready to launch. They’re also helpful when you don’t have root access to a server and want more control over specific pages.

However, if you forget to remove it before you launch your site…oops!

Another mistake includes adding a noindex metatag in your site’s header and then blocking the command with a robots.txt.

Remember, you can do either one or the other. Not both.

Harmful SEO Mistakes

Not Using Google Analytics and/or Google Search Console

In an ideal world, you really should use both tools. However, this isn’t always the case.

Google Analytics provides you with all the data you need to understand how your website is performing. It tells you things like your inbound traffic, demographics, and how long your readers hang out before they bounce.

Google Search Console gives you everything you need in order to improve your site. It feeds you information like who’s linking to your site, whether there are any technical errors present, and more.

Harmful SEO Mistakes - Google Analytics

In short, you’re seriously missing out on some clutch information regarding potentially harmful SEO mistakes if you’re not using them.

However, some professionals totally disregard these treasure troves of data.

Why? Well, it’s actually pretty simple.

There are a lot of tools out there. Many of them are proprietary and most of them are quite expensive.

Furthermore, once you find a tool that you like, you’re likely going to keep using it.

These other tools may offer similar capabilities to both Google Analytics and Search Console. However, they most certainly do not yield the best results.

Another mistake that some professionals make on a regular basis is not spending enough time on Google itself.

An effective SEO can gather everything they need directly from the search engine. The only thing the pricy SEO tools do is make the data easier to digest, more accessible, and more available.

Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords is Definitely a Harmful SEO Mistake

It’s a little-known fact, but most SEO pros have a blind spot when it comes to keywords.

It may come as a surprise since we conduct endless amounts of keyword research. However, doing this can lead to being too set in our ways. Sometimes we stick to our methods even when there could be a better way of doing it.

More specifically, we can develop poor habits and end up optimizing for the wrong keywords.

One common mistake is that SEOs optimize from the business perspective when we should optimize from our client’s perspective.

Let’s dig into this concept with an example.

Company A sells shoes specifically for people with bunions.

The content of the site reflects the shoe design, which is evidence-based and rooted in pure science.

The keywords chosen were “bunions shoe” and “evidence-based shoes to treat bunions.”

Nice, specific, low competition long-tail keywords. Seems perfect, right? Not quite.

A few weeks later,  doctors start asking about prescription requirements or how to acquire them for their patients.

Inbound traffic is great! However, we’re trying to sell to the general public.

To break this habit, it’s a good idea to spend some time researching user intent.

You basically want to identify what language they use when searching for your product or service. It won’t always be the official terminology. So it matters what language you speak to land in front of your target audience.

Not Using Internal Links is Without Question a Harmful SEO Mistake

Citing your sources with plenty of high-quality and authoritative links is a phenomenal idea.

This helps your readers take your posts seriously and it shows Google that you are a valid source for information. Don’t believe me? Well, you best check out Google’s Search Quality Evaluator Guidelines!

However, there are times when we get overly excited about external links and totally neglect internal links.

Internal links are helpful and are a great way to boost your SERP rankings because they:

  • Make it easier for Google bots to crawl your website.
  • Help signal topic clusters & important pages.
  • Drive traffic to other parts of your website.

Not Improving Your Content is a Massively Harmful SEO Mistake

This may come as a surprise, but Google has a “freshness algorithm.”

That being said, serving up stale content can be a seriously harmful SEO mistake. If you fall into this less than ideal practice, you’ll likely notice two things. First, you’ll see your page rankings drop. Second, your inbound traffic will drop alongside your SERP rankings.

Stale content is any content that has become:

  • Outdated due to new stats or market changes.
  • Incorrect due to the presence of new information.
  • Irrelevant due to changes in how Google understands keywords.
  • Devalued due to Google algorithm updates.

It’s essential that you understand that content isn’t a “set it & forget it” thing.

Furthermore, links break, files disappear, and keywords fall out of style.

That being said, you definitely need to keep an eye on all of your content. Doing so will help you do two things. First, you will identify old content that you need to review. Second, you will catch anything that requires minor tweaks – or major tweaks in certain situations.

If you stay vigilant, Google will appreciate your efforts and reward you with stronger positions on the SERPs.

Not Optimizing for Search Intent

Similar to employing the wrong keywords, failing to optimize for search intent is just as devastating to your finely-tuned SEO strategy.

Thankfully, optimizing for search intent has become far easier as Google refines its ability to deliver exactly what users search for.

Harmful SEO Mistakes - Optimize

Google typically divides user searches into three main buckets:

  • “Do” Searches – These are transactional in nature, such as “purchase lacrosse stick online.”
  • “Know” & “Know Simple” Searches – These are informational in nature, such as “best lacrosse sticks 2021.”
  • “Go” Searches – These are navigational in nature, such as “lacrosse stick store near me.”

Ideally, you want to optimize for each of these searches because they align with the steps in the buyer’s journey.

Doing so maximizes the odds of getting your content in front of the right users at the right time.

Thinking SEO is Only About Driving Traffic to Your Site

If you visit any SEO message board, you’ll likely see countless posts that echo the following questions:

See the overarching theme? Traffic, traffic & more traffic!

Yea, as SEO professionals, one of our primary objectives is to drive traffic to sites.

It should go without saying that any SEO strategy will accomplish this task.

Harmful SEO Mistakes - Traffic

However, what’s equally important as traffic?

Conversions

You can have all the inbound traffic you can dream up. However, all of those visitors mean nothing if they fail to follow through by clicking purchase or subscribe.

Remember, it’s essential that you value quality over quantity.

Harmful SEO Mistakes - Quality Over Quantity

Lots of site traffic with few conversions means that you’re attracting a lot of irrelevant visitors. That being said, a small number of highly-targeted customers always outweighs tons of window shoppers.

Pausing Your SEO is a Seriously Harmful SEO Mistake

Okay, so you’ve built your site and filled it to the brim with extremely helpful content.

You’ve also developed a seemingly well-crafted SEO strategy and let it out into the wild.

You’re rising on the SERPs…

People are finding their way to your site…

Then you let it all slide.

Harmful SEO Mistakes - Pause

What the heck happened?! Why would you stop doing what you’re doing when it’s clearly working!?

Well, it’s pretty simple. You became complacent.

Perhaps you shifted your focus to improving your product line and put your SEO strategy on the back burner.

If you haven’t caught on, SEO is not a light switch that you can turn on and off. Furthermore, letting your SEO strategy become stagnant is most definitely a harmful SEO mistake. Some may even say it’s a cardinal sin in the SEO world.

SEO is more along the lines of a windup toy. If you don’t keep winding it up, it’ll run out of steam and come to a standstill.

This will lead to lower SERP rankings and you’ll eventually fall off of the first page of Google.

Closing Thoughts on the Above Harmful SEO Mistakes

Developing, implementing, and maintaining a functioning and effective SEO strategy involves a lot of moving pieces.

In all honesty, it’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

It also means that there are a plethora of opportunities to make little mistakes. Sadly, these little mistakes can turn out to be devastating and seriously damage your position on the SERPs.

Phew!

I’ve just gone over eight things that are super simple – potentially even silly – mistakes that even the pros commit accidentally.

Best of luck steering clear of these mistakes and producing content that straight up dominates on the SERPs!

Andrew Roche

Andrew Roche is a Digital Consultant at Shift Digital. He is also pursuing an MBA in Marketing & Finance through the Mike Ilitch School of Business at Wayne State University

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