Salterra Digital Services

SEO Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

When it comes to SEO, it’s important to realize that in many ways ranking at the top of Google is much more “fluid” of a process than before. While many people want an engineer’s checklist of “Do these 180 things exactly and you’ll be #1” it doesn’t work that way anymore.

There are definitely factors that matter more than others, but while some are easy to measure like backlinks, whether or not a site has their SSL certificate or speed of the site’s hosting, many important measuring factors aren’t nearly that easy to measure.

What is Trust? What about Authority? How about Contextual Authority? What exactly constitutes “Social Proof?” Even above all of these Google stresses “Quality of Content.” Even if you’re an English major, explaining what exactly that is or how one piece of content has more “quality” than another is nebulous and challenging at best.

#1: Trying to Rank Poor Quality Content

Trying to explain what good quality content is can be difficult. This is a bit of a gray area, especially when trying to compare what qualifies as very good content versus excellent content which can be the difference between the #5 spot on page one and the #1 spot on page one.

However, Google does give plenty of clues as to what they consider good content and if you look at the opposite of that, you can learn what bad content is in the eyes of Google and other major search engines. There was a time you could rank poor or mediocre content through keyword density and spamming links – but those days are over and many times Google will rank a site with far fewer links and authority if their article is simply better written.

So what’s poor quality content? Poor grammar, phrasing, and sentence structure issues indicate the writer does not speak the language as their native tongue is a big one. Long paragraphs of “fluff” that doesn’t add any meaning, barely re-written product pages, overly complex sentences are all other common mistakes. Content for the sake of content won’t get it done. It must be useful, easy to understand, and relevant to the main topic.

Great content can often overcome poor SEO and get at least some results. Even the best SEO strategies can’t rank crap over any amount of significant time.

#2: Rating in the Bottom Quarter Loading Speed

Loading speeds matter a lot. There were rumblings in early 2019 that this would soon become more important and even some SEO’s swore that having extremely fast loading speeds for your site was a boosting factor even a couple of years before that. In 2019 and 2020 many studies have been done and there’s no argument: page loading speed is now one of the top-ranking factors.

There are many different ways to measure loading speed, both of the overall site as well as individual pages.

However, there are three general guidelines to keep in mind:

  • You never want your site in the bottom quarter of speed results
  • Ideally, you want to be in the top 10% of all results (and even among that group higher is better)
  • When in doubt trust the numbers from the Google Page Speed Insight tool (can be found via Google Search Console)

Having fast clean loading times matters a lot. Google has been very open about technical SEO becoming even more important in the future. There’s no question that hosting speed will continue to be a major part of that.

Get your site in the top quarter or better for site speed – avoid being in that penalized bottom quarter!

#3: Learn Basics of Schema

Schema made its way onto the SEO scene in 2018, and it isn’t going anywhere. A huge part of technical SEO, schema helps Google more closely match user intent with the results that they supply. While learning the super technical details is not important (or practical for most of us), making sure you have a technically sound theme is the absolute minimum you should do.

Unreadable schema is something Google will backhand a website into next week for. This is one of those rare SEO factors where Google will severely penalize a website for just this one factor and restore its rankings almost immediately after that one problem is fixed.

There are some very good premium themes out there that focus on creating schema templates for things like reviews, videos, recipes, and other unique formats. Google likes seeing this and is more likely to rank these pages in their results.

Look at premium themes, almost all of them are schema-friendly. There are even themes that go the next step to make them very versatile when it comes to taking advantage of schema settings for even more of a boost. That being said, for the overwhelming majority of websites, a good professional theme based on the Genesis framework and a good plug-in that adds an “updated on” tag to each post will be more than enough.

#4: Thinking Links Are All That Matter

When you pay attention to what a lot of new or relatively young internet marketers are doing, it’s obvious they are obsessed with links. They are looking for an engineering answer to a more complicated question. Yes, links are an important part of search engine optimization (SEO) but the idea they are a magic key that overcomes everything else – that’s just not true and hasn’t been for almost a decade.

The obsession with getting links of any type often leads to ignoring things like the quality of content on the website (which Google says is one of the two most ranking factors), the importance of experience, trustworthiness, and authority (EAT), as well as simple to fix design and content issues which would have a much larger effect.

Ignoring some of those factors can end up sinking a website, no matter how many good backlinks they get. Let’s not forget that the best links are going to look at a site first before linking out. If they don’t like what they see, they’re not going to hurt their reputation by linking out to your site.

Backlinks are still heavily sought after and talked about for a reason, but if that’s all you’re focusing on when it comes to SEO, you’re likely setting yourself up for failure. This isn’t 2009. Links are not the only thing that matters.

#5: Thinking Links Don’t Matter

While there are many marketers who go too far and think of links as the only thing that matters, going to the other end of the spectrum is an equally big SEO mistake. The idea that links don’t matter at all is one that several marketers tried to push forward a few years ago. Some unnamed search engines seemed happy to let that rumor circulate, as well.

Assuming these actions weren’t malicious (although that would be a good way to try to cut down on the competition if you could get a lot of people to believe this) and just misguided. Links still matter. They might not be a magic silver bullet, they might not be the factor that overrides all others like they used to be, but backlinks very much still matter.

Not doing your part to attract links would be an equally catastrophic SEO mistake.

There are two main ways to focus on this. The first is to attract more links. This is a long-term strategy and one that more webmasters really need to focus on. What helps to attract links? There is a shortlist of things that help – and recognize when doing each of these it’s a numbers game. The second is to actively work to gain white hat links.

Attracting More Links

The first is creating excellent content. That matters a lot now in Google’s eyes. If you do this consistently you will pick up some extra links here and there, especially for information or non-product review articles.

Next, look for question keywords. These tend to drive traffic and have a higher tendency in my experience to draw links whether on social media or from actual websites. You find thirty good questions and it’s only a matter of time until a few of those hit and start getting shared. Assuming you give a clear answer and great information, of course!

Finally, stats from original research and fantastic graphics tend to get shared. If you do original research, come up with some interesting numbers, and make an outstanding chart graphic, those tend to get shared. Many webmasters will link back, giving you a wide variety of great backlinks that, most importantly, occur naturally!

Add in the fact you can Google search for the stats, and the graphics, a few months down the line, and you can locate sites that used your information without giving you credit. Contact them with a polite email, tell them you appreciate that their readers have enjoyed the graph/information you spent so much work putting together and you’re glad they find it useful. Tell them it’s okay to use, but please reference the original article that’s the source.

Most webmasters will respond to this well, and you have even more links. Creating that type of content will help you attract links naturally over time.

Working for More Links

The second way to focus on links is to actively work to acquire them. This includes many of the active techniques like pitching a link of yours to replace a broken link, guest posting, contacting brands for links to your reviews, finding quality niche directories, and more.

This active link building can definitely be effective. The style that works best is going to depend on your niche, the quality of your site, and your ability to pitch. All of these are mentioned as major ways to build links because all of them have worked for website owners at one point or another. There are plenty of webmasters who have had success with one or more of these tactics. All of them can still be effective.

You can work for a lot of links, you can mostly write content that attracts links, or you can do a combination of both. But don’t completely ignore the importance of links or you’ll be just as frustrated as the marketers who ignore everything but links. Maybe even more so.

Better Results from Better SEO

Avoiding these extremely common mistakes that even many professional bloggers or self-declared SEO experts make will put you in a much better position for success. When it comes to online marketing, avoiding major mistakes with SEO is often just as important as doing a few things really well.

When you avoid these mistakes and create great content you are on your way to seeing the success you want online.

SEO Mistakes to Avoid

About Salterra Digital Services

Salterra was started in 2011 by Terry and Elisabeth Samuels; nothing fancy and nothing pretentious. Quality work at a fair price. Starting with a web design focus, they both quickly learned that while having an amazing website to highlight your business is a great start, marketing is intrinsically foundational for our clients. When several clients were not seeing results through the search efforts of other companies, Terry took it to the next level. While digging into SEO and marketing, he found something he was very passionate about. His inner geek pushed him to focus solely on the data and analytics side of the business while Elisabeth built on her creative and visual strength and expanded the design side. In the industry, it is not always common to have both designers and digital marketing so closely connected, but to them it made perfect sense. Salterra’s World Headquarters is in Tempe Arizona

Terry and Elisabeth are the Hosts of Roundtable SEO Mastermind Series and SEO Spring Training Conference.