Top SEO Mistakes You Need to Check and Fix

Top SEO Mistakes You Need to Check and Fix
SEO mistakes can be devastating to a website’s placement in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Whether you have a new website or you have had your site up for a long time, this article is for you.

We all want to get more traffic to our websites. Following the directions is vital to obtain optimal search engine rankings. There can’t be any shortcuts or additions that break the rules. Now is the time to make sure your site is following SEO best practices.

Following the Directions

I will never forget how gracious my father was when I was learning to bake. The first time I made oatmeal cookies, I added too much baking soda. You guess how bad those cookies tasted. Then, I attempted to make the perfect pie crust, but left out the salt. That pie crust ended up bland. You guessed it. My dad patiently tasted them both and didn’t criticize me.

Similar to following the directions while baking, there are key ingredients that must be included in search engine optimization. There are directions that need to be followed. My father was gracious with my baking blunders, but Google will not be so kind when it comes to SEO mistakes.

Common SEO Mistakes

Common SEO mistakes that can hurt your website’s SEO and rankings that should be avoided include:

Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid That Can Hurt Your RankingsClick To Tweet
  1. Not Making Your Website Crawlable
    Making sure that your website is crawlable by search engine spiders is critical to be included in Google’s search results – as well as other search engines.

    Example of a website blocked by its robots.txt

    Example of a website blocked by its robots.txt

    Action Plan:
    Check your site’s robots.txt. If your robots.txt is blocking your entire website, this could be result in your website not showing up in the search engines at all.

    Blocking JavaScript and/or CSS files from the search engines can also hurt your rankings. Google specifically states that blocking these files, “can result in suboptimal rankings.”

    Google provides a free robots.txt Tester tool to make sure you are not blocking content from the search engine crawlers. To check your robots.txt, log into your Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and go to:

  2. Not Having Unique Content
    I was recently asked to analyze the falling traffic on potential new client’s website. I discovered an article that went far beyond the scope of other blog articles on the site. I ran the URL of the article through the Copyscape, a service that identifies copied work.

    It turned out that the article was a near duplicate at 82% of another published by a high profile website. The sad part was that the website owner did not realize this.

    Duplicate content may be unintentional as it may be caused by a CMS (Content Management System). You won’t want to invite the wrath of Google Penguin that could cause your website to plummet in the search engine.

    Action Plan:
    Go through your website to make sure that your content is unique. Review old posts and revise where necessary. If you have two posts that could be perceived as duplicates, choose one and 301 redirect the other to it.

    If you use WordPress as a CMS, you may like to read: WordPress SEO by Yoast Tutorial: How to Avoid Duplicate Content

  3. Not Having Quality Content
    Low quality content and shallow content are another invitation for a Google’s wrath with the Google Panda algorithm filter.

    Low quality or shallow content is content that offers no value. Perhaps you have old blog posts that have outdated information or have very little content. It is time to take action as Google Panda will harm an entire website in search engine rankings.

    What is high quality content? Google’s Search Console Help outlines how to create valuable content that includes:

    • Include useful, unique and specific content.
    • Write more valuable and useful information than other sites.
    • Provide credibility “by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials.

    You may like to take a look at your content length. A study by serpIQ showed that the average top ten results in Google for over 20,000 keywords all contained over 2,000 words. The study’s conclusion is that 1500 words would be a good target to shoot for.

    Action Plan:
    Review and analyze your site’s content. If a post is outdated or has very little content, re-write it, 301 it to a relevant article on your site or delete it.

  4. Having Unnatural Links
    Having unnatural incoming links to your website can bring on Google Penguin’s wrath. Perhaps you paid a SEO company to build links to your website years ago. Then, you discover that those links violate Google’s Quality Guidelines including:

    • Buying links to pass PageRank to manipulate PageRank or
    • Participating in link schemes

    Action Plan:
    Analyze incoming links to your website by using Google’s Search Console. One of my favorite new tools for analyzing incoming links is Monitor Backlinks. There is a 30 day free trial for you to test how this service works.

  5. Not Including the Right Words on the Page
    Having the right words on a page is essential for your potential audience to find you online. One way to determine the “right words” is to think about what a user will type to search for a product or service that you are providing. Include those words on your page or post. For example:

    • Instead of a searching for “Color of roses meaning”, people will most likely search for, “What do the color of roses mean?”
    • If you are have a restaurant website, include a menu in plain text that is easily crawlable by the search engines.

    Action Plan:
    Evaluate your posts by re-reading them from a user’s perspective that is searching for a product or service you are offering.

  6. Not Thinking About Compelling Content and Marketing
    One of the most common SEO mistakes is not thinking about compelling content and marketing.

    Action Plan:

    • Make your content compelling by thinking about why someone would really want to use your website. Does it offer unique value?
    • Don’t just focus solely on link building. Instead, focus on creating compelling content that others will want to link to naturally instead of focusing solely on building backlinks to your website.
    • Think about what you can do to market your website to make it better known within your community. Ideas include talking to newspaper reporters, billboards, paying for advertising, guerilla marketing (an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results), and reaching out to people in the community.
  7. Not Thinking About the Title of Your Pages
    The title of a web page is critical. Take the time to craft compelling titles. The title tells your visitors and the search engines what your page is all about. According to Google:

    Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.

    CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, Eric Enge, provides 3 golden rules for title tags:

    • Rule 1: Have One Distinct Page for Each Major User Need You Address (A page for each for each product, service, or need.)
    • Rule 2: Don’t Overdo the Granularity (Don’t create a web page for every keyword variant.)
    • Rule 3: Don’t Reuse Title Tags (Don’t reuse the same title tag on more than one page.)

    Action Plan:
    Examine your titles to make sure that they are unique and compelling. Use Google’s Search Console to see if there are duplicates by going to:

    Dashboard > Search Appearance > HTML Improvements

    Correct any duplicate, long, short or missing title tags.

    Google Search Console HTML improvements

  8. Not Thinking About the Meta Description of Your Pages
    The description of a web page is also crucial. Make certain that each page has a unique and compelling description. The description may be used as snippets in search results along with your title. According to Google, the Meta description:

    “…is a good way to provide a concise, human-readable summary of each page’s content.”

    Action Plan:
    Scrutinize the Meta descriptions of your pages to make sure they are distinct and accurately describe each specific page. Again, you can use Google’s Search Console to see if there are duplicates, short, or missing descriptions by going to:

    Dashboard > Search Appearance > HTML Improvements

    Make corrections as needed. If you are a WordPress user and have Yoast SEO installed, you may like to read, WordPress SEO by Yoast Tutorial on Fine Tuning SEO, for specific tips.

  9. Not Optimizing Images
    Do your images have descriptive file names and alt tags? Image SEO begins with an accurate descriptive file name. For example, for an image of red roses:

    • Instead of: DSC04011.JPG, name the file, red-roses.jpg
    • The alt tag in this example would be, alt=”Red roses”

    Action Plan:
    Conduct a website audit on your website’s images to make sure that each image has a unique file name and alt tag that accurately describes it.

  10. Not Checking Your Website for Internal Broken Links
    Broken links on a website lead to a poor user experience. Google’s Quality Guidelines clearly state to check for broken links. The search engine giant also states that broken links that result in 404s are “a perfectly normal part of the web.”

    While there is still some debate over whether or not broken links affect SEO, the bottom line is that broken links are not good for your visitors. You may also have broken links that result in 404s that were caused by other reasons including a typo in a URL.

    Action Plan:
    Analyze your website for broken links that lead to 404 pages. Tools to check include:

    Google Search Console URL errors

  11. Not Having a Mobile Friendly Website
    Google expanded the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on April 21, 2015. This change affects mobile searches globally for all languages and significantly impacts search results.

    Action Plan:
    Make sure that your website is mobile friendly. To see if your website passes Google’s mobile friendly test tool, please see:

    For more information, please see: Google’s Mobile-Friendly Ranking – What you need to know.

  12. Not using Google’s Free Webmaster Resources
    The last common SEO mistake is not using Google’s free resources. Google provides a treasure chest of tools and resources to help fine tune your SEO marketing efforts.

    Action Plan:
    Take full advantage of Google’s free resources that include:

Take Away

Knowing and following the directions for your “SEO recipe” is the first step to SEO best practices. From making sure that your website is crawlable to using Google’s free resources, you will be on your way to ultimately reaching optimal placements in the search engine results.

If you need help, please contact us.

Over to You

Do you have a SEO best practice to add to this list or one you were not aware of? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Top SEO Mistakes You Need to Check and Fix was last modified: July 11th, 2016 by Robin Strohmaier

Fascinated with the growing potential and power of the Internet, Robin founded R & R Web Design LLC in the Chicago area in 2000. As creative director, she is passionate about helping others reach their Internet objectives through a strategic online presence with results driven custom web design, ethical SEO, and social media marketing.

This article was published on: August 26, 2015 and was last modified July 11, 2016
Posted in SEO
26 comments on “Top SEO Mistakes You Need to Check and Fix
  1. Tina says:

    Oh, my, oh, my!! You’ve done it again!! I wish I could clone you and/or move you here to sit by my side when I’m working on things that go on the Internet. There is just SO MUCH to understand (and so little time) and yes, they keep changing all the time! So, today or tomorrow I’ll work on a “What Do the Color of Roses Mean?”, which is something I hear all the time!! Maybe I’ll do the same for lilies one day, or talk about tulips! Gee, you are giving me all kinds of great ideas!! You never stop inspiring me and leading me in the right direction. I just wish I could figure out what Yoast is trying to tell me (in plain English). But I’m working on it!!! Hugs and Kudos to you!!

  2. Hi Robin,

    What great advice and one that I need to be taking! I cannot remember the last time I’ve ran a broken link checker. I know there is plenty on my site because many people have either changed or left their blogs. Yikes…

    However, I use Yoast and it pretty much helps me out when writing a post. I do tag my images, be mindful of a headline and sprinkle key words within the post.

    All my content is original so no worries there…but I do need to get my head out of the clouds and do some clean up on my blog.

    Thanks for the incentive…I really mean that!

    -Donna

    • Hi Donna,

      Thank you! I know what you mean about checking for broken links. It seems to always take the back burner on my “to do” list. I just ran it this morning and there are a few that I need to take care of.

      Yoast’s SEO is a fantastic tool, isn’t it? I can definitely tell that all you content is wonderfully original.

      I do appreciate you stopping by! I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.

      ~ Robin

  3. Fortunately the crawlable part of SEO was not a problem as my website developer took care of it but nobody had told me about On-Page SEO which I finally started to implement a year back – painful but worth the effort. Thank God for Google’s numerous tools that act as a guide for improving the website experience. You’ve nailed it, as usual Robin.

    • Hi Vatsala,

      Thank you! It is great to hear that you had a website developer take care of the crawlable part of SEO for your website. Having to go back to implement on-page SEO can be an overwhelming task, but as you said, it is well worth the effort. I agree about Google’s numerous tools and there is barely a day that goes by that I don’t use them.

      I appreciate you stopping by and hope you have a wonderful week!

      ~ Robin

  4. Great post for anyone who looks after their own SEO. The key is to have true and honest content on your website and don’t use blackhat tricks to try to boost your rankings.

  5. I always know I will get important info when I read your articles & I start out with the intention of applying your knowledge. Then I get glassy-eyed as the technical steps come up and my head throbs & I hope & pray all is well on my site. My webmaster keeps an eye out but not completely and wants us to take ownership. Don’t know how I’ll ever survive SEO.

    • Hi Roslyn,

      I’m so glad to hear that you find value in my articles! That is my main goal… There does seem to be a number of technical steps that we as website owners need to take. I do know your webmaster and she does a wonderful job. I know that you will survive the ever changing face of SEO.

      Thank you for stopping by, and I hope you have a wonderful week!

      ~ Robin

  6. Joe Butka says:

    All great points that need to be considered and looked at carefully. So many times we have run into the issue with clients feeling that content is not overly important. They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, people looking for my product know how it works and what it does just put up a photo gallery.

    Clients will call and say I had this website done but I don’t come up in Google but my competitors do, why is that. We then begin to explain you need relevant content to support your product or service.

    Thanks for sharing.

  7. Of all these things I would say that optimizing my pictures on my site is probably the one I would be wise to tackle first, Robin. I also did the broken link checker and a large percentage of them were in comments that people had left on my blog posts. I would love to hear how you would address those, although I don’t imagine I should spend a lot of time on those. It is most likely links to blog posts via commentluv. Another great and information packed post! Definitely a lot to keep on top of to maintain and optimize our online website presence!

    • Hi Beverley,

      Thank you. I’m so glad to hear that you found this helpful. I have also come across broken links in the comments that people left on posts. I go through and fix them by deleting the link, but understand your thoughts. Google’s Webmaster Central states, “If some URLs on your site 404, this fact alone does not hurt you or count against you in Google’s search results.” I think the key word here is “some.” They go on to suggest that to evaluate the cause why they are broken in case there is a problem.

      I appreciate you stopping by and hope you have a wonderful week!

      ~ Robin

  8. Sharad Gupta says:

    A Comprehensive guide that makes sure a blog or website will perform well in terms of search engine ranking.

  9. Deb Nelson says:

    Holy Brain Buster, Batman! What a truckload of great info, Robin. And an action plan to address each mistake. Looks like I might have a bit of work to do…

  10. Hi Robin,
    Thanks for these great tips on the top SEO mistakes and what you can do to fix 🙂 Valuable information!!

  11. Kaz says:

    Oh my goodness, great information! After I ready your blog, I realized that there are so many things to understand for my website…. I like to included action plans. Thank you very much Robin!

  12. Carol Amato says:

    ✿ Hi, Robin,

    I really like your recommendations; and think your advice is excellent! My VA uses a web-based broken link checker because I was wanting to reduce plugins where at all possible. This is done on the Daily Tasks job, so 5 days a week.

    Love Yoast, and really enjoy the functionality of this valuable tool. Alt text is something I’ve been harping about since the beginning of time; okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but you’re absolutely right! It’s very important.

    It’s a constant work in progress, isn’t it? Love what I do, and thanks so much for sharing this awesome information.

    Spreading the word…

    Carol Amato 😀

    • Hi Carol,
      I apologize for the delay in responding to your comment. I was in Chicago at Social Boom and I’m still catching up :). Yes, I agree. SEO is a constant work in process. I also opted for the online broken link checker to reduce the number of plugins. I had tried one on several websites, but it slowed down the sites’ load time.

      Yoast is one of the first plugins that I add to new WordPress websites. It is an invaluable tool.

      Thank you for taking the time to read, for your comment, and for spreading the word 🙂 I hope you are having a wonderful week!

      ~ Robin

  13. Albert says:

    Nice blog! It is really an essential thing to remember that we need to make our site crawlable. Sometimes developers forget to make the website crawlable. All other points are also significant . Thanks for sharing the amazing blog!

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