common seo mistakes

17 Common SEO Mistakes You Should Avoid (Complete Guide)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is critical for ensuring your website is visible to potential customers. However, it’s easy to make small mistakes that gradually stack against you, negatively impacting your rankings.

In this guide, we’ll outline the 17 most common SEO mistakes that, when corrected, boosted our client’s rankings and organic traffic.

1) Broken Images and Missing Alternative Texts

Images are essential to every web page; they provide visual context on the topic, helping readers relate to your content. Multimedia, like images, are also a small yet vital ranking factor for Google.

Alternative text, or image alt text, is a short description of what’s depicted in an image. Providing both readers and search engines an additional way to understand what you’re trying to show them. Alt text is another helpful ranking factor in Google’s search engine.

However, broken images and missing alt text can negatively affect a website’s SEO.

Broken images are images or graphics that are unavailable on the server or can not be displayed. Broken images generally appear as:

  • Blank spots in your content
  • Gray place holders
  • Error codes
  • Or file names
Source: upanup.com

Common reasons for an image or graphic to break include:

  • Improper filename
  • Incorrect file path
  • Incorrect extensions
  • Deleted media

Broken images directly impact user experience, which is critical for ranking highly in Google.

Image alt text, on the other hand, help search engines understand what an image is about and uses that information to rank relevant content in search results. Images missing alt text miss valuable opportunities to communicate relevance to search engines and users relying on screen readers or other assistive technologies; this negatively impacts your website’s ability to rank by actively making it harder for search engines to grasp the depth and relevance of you’re content.

2) Lack of Location-Specific Pages

Search engines prioritize local results above general search results when possible, giving local businesses an edge over national companies if you optimize for it. The problem is more local businesses need to optimize for local search results appropriately.

Creating location-specific pages improves a website’s visibility in local search results. By providing relevant information about a business and optimizing for long-tail keywords specific to the business’s area, companies can attract more customers from the surrounding communities.

Each page should have unique content relevant to the specific location it represents. For example, if you’re a restaurant with multiple locations, each page could include a menu specific to that location or highlight any specials or events happening there.

Businesses that don’t correctly cover local questions and concerns are seen as “less relevant” in Google’s eyes, making it exponentially more difficult for them to rank for local search terms with their general or national-focused content.

3) Outdated Information On The Site

Providing up-to-date and accurate information is an essential part of every website. Outdated information can harm your rankings by negatively impacting user experience. Some examples of this could be:

  • A restaurant may update its menu seasonally but must update its website accordingly.
  • A general store may be advertising a deal that expired months ago.
  • A limousine company might be advertising a prom special months after prom season has ended

Visitors are more likely to spend time on your site if they see new and relevant content that’s interesting and informative. However, if users see old content, like an expired holiday promo, they’re more likely to bounce off the site and go elsewhere.

You must plan to regularly check and update your website’s content to avoid these situations; additionally, monitor customer feedback and reviews frequently so you can address any concerns or issues directly on the pages where they appear rather than letting them linger indefinitely.

Regularly updating your website with fresh content improves your SEO and provides more value for visitors who come across your brand online.

4) Not submitting a sitemap

Not submitting a sitemap is a classic SEO mistake, and it’s one that can dramatically impact your website’s performance in search engine results – especially if you’ve made other mistakes that make your site hard to crawl, as google will have a difficult time discovering pages.

A sitemap, or XML sitemap, is a file that provides information on the different pages, videos, and files on your site, along with the relationships between them.

Although search engines may eventually discover all the pages on your site, submitting a sitemap will significantly speed up the process and ensure that all your pages are crawled and indexed correctly, easily saving you weeks, if not months, of waiting for Google to eventually find the content on your website; unfortunately, most websites fail to submit a sitemap because they don’t realize how important it is for their SEO.

If you’re not sure if you have submitted a sitemap, we highly recommend using Google Search Console to check. Google Search Console provides detailed information about your site’s indexing status, including whether or not Google has identified any issues with your submitted sitemap.

In addition to submitting an XML sitemap, ensure you include an HTML version of the map on your website so visitors can easily navigate your content.

Failing to submit a sitemap can significantly reduce the visibility and success of your website in search results. Don’t let this simple mistake prevent potential customers from finding what they need on your site.

5) Not Refreshing Or Updating Old Content

With content being a fundamental aspect of SEO, the last thing you want to do is let your old content and rankings rot away.

The saying “out with the old, in with the new” does not apply to your website’s content. Just because you have already published a great piece of content doesn’t mean it has to become lost in the archives. Failing to refresh or update your old content is one of the biggest SEO mistakes people often overlook.

Google loves fresh and relevant content.

Consider updating old content by adding new statistics, graphics, FAQs, or information that can show Google that your website is constantly evolving and staying up-to-date with new trends. It also gives that content an opportunity to rank for new keywords that you can find using a keyword tool or your own internal Google Search Console data. The best part about using Google Search Console is that you get data specific to your site (not the same data everyone shares with their SEO tools). And the bonus – it’s FREE.

Google rewards websites with updated information and deems them more valuable than those with outdated information. We’ve seen positive results from adding supporting content and updating publishing date.

6) Ignoring Technical SEO Factors

Technical SEO encompasses the elements of your website that impact search engines’ ability to crawl and index your site. Ignoring technical SEO factors will significantly impact your website’s overall search engine rankings.

Technical SEO includes numerous behind-the-scenes factors, such as:

  • Page speed
  • Image optimizations
  • Mobile-friendliness
  • Site structure
  • Schema markup
  • SSL certificates
  • Title tags

One of the essential technical aspects is page speed. Slow-loading pages can frustrate users and cause them to abandon your site, leading to a higher bounce rate. Poor page speed makes your website difficult for search engines to crawl, negatively impacting your ability to index and rank new content. More on that later.

Another important note on page speed is the “personal vs general test”. Just because a page is fast for you doesn’t mean it will be fast for others. Connection speed, connection strength, connection type, how up-to-date your computer’s hardware is, and browser caching can make your site faster for you while it’s still slow for others.

A fantastic way to test your website’s page speed, for both desktop and mobile, is Google’s Page Speed Insights tool. An industry-standard speed testing tool that many organizations uses as a benchmark for user experience.

Failing to properly check and optimize the technical ranking factors severely limits your ability to rank in Google’s search results; thankfully, most SEO tools, like SEMrush, are able to audit sites for technical and non-technical ranking factors. Giving you the ability to quickly see what’s working correctly and what’s not, along with providing guidance on how to fix it.

7) Failing To Keep People On Your Site

One common and costly SEO mistake is failing to keep people on your site, leading to high bounce rates and poor rankings.

Bounce rate refers to the percentage of visitors leaving your site after viewing only one page. There are several potential reasons a visitor may leave a website, such as:

  • Poor user experience
  • Irrelevant content
  • Slow load times
  • Confusing navigation
  • Broken links

The best way to resolve this is by focusing on your website’s user experience. Ensure your navigation bar is easy to find and intuitive to use, verify your categories and subcategories are straightforward and easy to identify, and ensure your website has a clear call-to-action (CTA) on every page so visitors know what action they should take next.

Another way of keeping visitors engaged on your site is by creating compelling content that encourages them to explore further. To do this successfully, you must understand what content resonates with your target audience and speak their language.

The content on your site should be highly relevant to your target audience’s questions, conserves, or interests and internally link to other highly relevant content on your site. We also recommend adding pictures, infographics, videos, charts, graphs, or bulleted lists, as they’re highly engaging and help break up dense walls of text.

8) Unfriendly Navigation & Orphaned Pages

Having unfriendly navigation and orphaned pages on your website can seriously affect user experience. In fact, we’ve found it’s typically the number one reason for poor rankings for medium-large websites. If the pages aren’t easily accessible for a Google spider – google believes you don’t value them – so it won’t either!

Unfriendly navigation refers to websites with difficult-to-use menus, making it hard for users to find what they want. A complicated menu structure can lead to users leaving your site in frustration, affecting bounce rates and ultimately hurting SEO.

Improving website navigation involves making menus clean and clear by grouping similar pages together under relevant categories. Adding drop-down menus or creating subcategories with organized labels will make it easier for users to find what they need quickly. Adding a search bar on your main menu reduces user frustration by allowing them to parse your site with a single click quickly. You can even track site searches in Google Analytics for user-generated content ideas.

Orphaned pages are pages with no internal links directing visitors toward them, leading to them being “orphaned” from the rest of the website’s content. This can be problematic from an SEO perspective because search engines use internal linking to determine a webpage’s importance and relevance. Search engines also leverage internal links to find new content that hasn’t been indexed yet.

To avoid creating orphaned pages, it’s crucial to maintain good internal linking practices by regularly updating links within your content and ensuring all new and old content is linked to relevant pages. Descriptive anchor text like “how to use internal links” gives readers, and search engines, an idea of the content they’re being directed to. Boosting that page’s relevance improves user experience and can potentially reduce your website’s bounce rate.

9) Not Taking Steps To Improve Slow Load Time

Your website could be suffering from slow load times from a variety of different factors, including:

  • Unoptimized images
  • Poorly developed themes
  • Large CSS and JavaScript files
  • Outdated code
  • Excessive HTTP requests
  • Several, or infinite, redirects
  • Too many WordPress plugins
  • Unoptimized server settings
  • Too much traffic on a spec’d server

Regardless of the reason, slow load time can significantly impact your site’s SEO performance. Google takes page speed into account in two different ways:

1) As a tiebreaker between two pages competing for the same ranking position. (Minor ranking factor)

2) An indicator of a website’s good or bad user experience. (Major ranking factor)

Improving your website’s loading time is crucial for a positive user experience and getting your content indexed by Google.

One way to improve page speed is by optimizing the images on your website. Large image files take up much space and delay the loading process. Compressing images before uploading them to your site can significantly reduce their size without compromising quality. If you’re on site is on WordPress, you can also use a plugin like Smush to automatically compress your images.

IMPORTANT: Please create a backup before installing and activating this plugin. The same procedure should be followed when making any changes to your site.

Another critical factor that affects page speed is unoptimized code. Unnecessary lines of code increase the file size and affect how quickly the webpage loads.

Ensuring all your site’s HTML elements are correctly coded and structured can help improve page speed. Large CSS and JavaScript files add extra weight to web pages and slow their loading times. One way to minimize this issue is by compressing these files through minification, which removes all unnecessary characters from these files.

Another overlooked page speed factor is the server and settings in use. Properly adjusting and optimizing your servers’ settings can help you squeeze better performance out of your existing setup.

Upgrading servers or hosting plans may fix the issue if you experience slow load times across web pages despite having optimized other elements, such as images or code snippets. Taking steps to improve slow loading times should be a top priority for any website owner looking to maximize their SEO performance and enhance user experience.

10) Duplicate Content

Duplicate content is another SEO mistake and is especially problematic for e-commerce sites. Duplicate content refers to identical or nearly identical content on different pages of your website or other websites.

Unique, high-quality, and original content is valuable for search engines, so finding the same content (or pieces) across the web is a red flag. Search engines may be unable to tell which version was the original and reduce your website’s overall visibility, negatively impacting your SEO efforts.

The best way to avoid duplicate content issues is by making sure each service page, article, or blog post is unique and original. Avoid using the same product descriptions across different products or using other websites’ images and descriptions on your site without proper attribution.

You can also use canonical tags to tell search engines which page is the original and prevent them from indexing duplicate pages. Regularly auditing your website with tools like Google Search Console or SEMrush can help you identify any duplicate content issues before they negatively impact your rankings.

Avoiding duplicate content is crucial for a successful SEO strategy. Businesses can improve online visibility by creating unique and valuable content while being mindful of how it’s published across various platforms while providing high-quality user experiences.

11) Using The Same Anchor Text For Every Link

Another aspect of internal and external link building is the frequency of specific anchor text used. When creating links, it’s important to use relevant keywords or phrases that describe the content of the page you’re linking to.

This helps set expectations for users and search engines on what they will see on your recommended page. However, using the same anchor text for every single link to a specific page on your website can have a negative impact on your SEO efforts.

This is because search engines may see this as a blatant attempt to manipulate rankings, and they may penalize your website accordingly. Additionally, it makes your site look unnatural and spammy.

Instead, try to vary your anchor text by using different variations of relevant keywords or phrases that accurately describe the content you’re linking to. For example, if you’re linking to a page about digital marketing tips, you could use variations such as “digital marketing strategies,” “online marketing advice,” or “SEO tips.”

It’s also critical to consider the relevance and value-added of the link you’re building. Don’t create links just to have them – instead, focus on providing useful information and resources to benefit your audience. By doing so, you’ll create a more engaging piece of content with a good user experience that also boosts your SEO efforts at the same time.

12) Creating The Wrong Type Of Content

High-quality, relevant, and focused content is the backbone of SEO. The right copy on a sale page, explanation on a service page, or helpful content in a blog post can quickly improve a website’s rankings and conversion rates. The problem is most website owners don’t cover the topics their audience is interested in.

Your content strategy should revolve around your target audience’s questions, concerns, and interests. A pet site that covers auto insurance isn’t aligned with its audience’s interests, whereas a lawn care company reviewing and recommending different lawnmowers is aligned with its audience.

That alignment isn’t specific to one type of article or blog post and isn’t a fundamental part of every piece of content your website publishes, like:

  • Product reviews
  • How-to guides
  • In-depth articles about industry trends
  • Infographics
  • Video tutorials

Another critical mistake made during the content creation process is creating irrelevant or low-quality content that doesn’t match the intent behind a specific search query or keyword phrase. Missing the intent behind a specific keyword or search phrase leads to high bounce rates and low engagement levels from visitors, negatively impacting your SEO efforts.

13) Using Poorly Written Content

The written content on your website plays a crucial role in determining your search engine ranking. Therefore, sharing and publishing poorly written content can significantly harm your website’s SEO.

Search engines want to provide users with high-quality, relevant answers to their queries that provide real value. If your website fails to do this, your search engine rankings will gradually decline.

Bad grammar, spelling mistakes, and poor sentence structure can make a website look unprofessional and untrustworthy in both the search engines and users’ eyes. Using content that is too thin, lacks substance, or is just plain boring can also have a negative impact on your user experience and your SEO efforts.

High-quality content should be seen as an investment instead of an expense. By investing in quality writing for your website, you are investing in its long-term success.

Your visitors will appreciate well-written articles that answer their questions or entertain them while keeping them engaged on your site longer – sending positive signals to other visitors and search engines about the quality of your content. This will improve your website’s ranking and keep visitors engaged for longer, leading to improved conversion rates.

14) Making Changes Too Frequently

SEO is a slow, steady, and consistent endeavor. Frequent changes are harder to track on both the upswing and downswing.

Search engines use algorithms to rank websites, and these algorithms are constantly being updated. Search engines, like Google, need time to re-index updated pages to update rankings. Frequent changes make it harder for Google to rank your site and even harder for you to track what is and isn’t working.

It is important to be strategic about your website updates and to test them thoroughly before pushing them live. You should also be prepared for a potential drop in rankings if you make significant changes to your website.

Updates to your site, both big and small, may require weeks, if not months, of testing for search engines to pinpoint your new position in the search results.

15) Bad Reviews On Google

Online reviews are a crucial aspect of businesses in today’s digital age. Responding to positive and negative reviews is important, but negative reviews can be particularly damaging.

Bad reviews can hurt your online reputation, negatively impacting your local map pack rankings. Google tends to favor businesses with high ratings and positive reviews, so having many bad reviews is a serious problem. Consumers also tend to look up businesses online before purchasing anything from them, so having a lot of negative feedback on Google can push them away.

It’s important for businesses to address any bad reviews they receive and try their best to resolve the issue at hand. Responding to these comments in a genuine and professional manner shows that you value customer satisfaction and are willing to listen to feedback; additionally, encouraging satisfied customers to leave positive feedback on Google can help boost your overall rating and counteract any negative comments you may have received.

16) Not Having An SEO Plan & Roadmap

SEO is a slow and steady process that takes consistent time, energy, and effort. Without a plan, you’re shooting in the dark and hoping for the best while waiting weeks, if not months, for feedback.

For the best results from your SEO, you need clear goals and objectives for what you hope to do with your website and how SEO fits into your overall marketing strategy.

An SEO roadmap should outline your short-term and long-term goals and the steps you plan to take to achieve those goals. One key element of an SEO roadmap is identifying your target audience.

  • Who are you trying to reach with your website?
  • What are they looking for?
  • What keywords are they using when searching for products or services like yours?

Another important element is conducting routine site audits to identify any technical issues holding your site back. This could include:

  • Broken links or images
  • Orphaned pages
  • Unsecure content
  • Missing alt tags
  • Slow load times

Once you have identified your target audience and conducted an audit of your site, you can start developing a keyword strategy. This involves identifying the most relevant keywords for your business and optimizing individual pages on your site around those keywords. In our first month, we always start by auditing a site, identifying competitors and completing a keyword gap to identify low-hanging fruit. Then we can draft an SEO roadmap for the next 6 months – 1 year.

It’s important to continually monitor and analyze the results of your efforts so that you can adjust your strategy as needed. This includes tracking rankings, traffic levels, conversion rates, and other key metrics.

If you want to maximize the ROI from your SEO efforts, it’s essential that you develop a comprehensive plan and roadmap. This will help ensure that every step you take is aligned with your overall business objectives while also increasing the likelihood of success in achieving those objectives through improved search engine visibility.

17) Thinking SEO Is Fast And Easy

Many people believe that SEO is a fast and easy way to get their website ranked on the first page of Google. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Effective SEO requires patience, dedication, and a willingness both learn and adapt. Those who think SEO is fast and easy often use black hat techniques or shortcuts that ultimately harm their website’s rankings.

While these tactics may sometimes provide temporary results, they also lead to penalties from search engines. A penalty is when a site is flagged for violating a search engine’s policies, typically by leveraging black hat SEO tactics.

It’s important to be realistic about the time it takes for SEO efforts to show results. The process can take months or even years to see significant progress, depending on factors such as competition levels and industry trends.

Thinking that SEO is simply a one-time task is another common mistake.

SEO requires continuous effort in order to maintain and improve rankings over time. This includes keeping up with changes in algorithms or search trends, updating site content regularly, maintaining proper backlinks, etc.

Those who think SEO is a quick and easy solution set themselves up for failure. Effective SEO requires careful planning, ongoing effort, and a willingness to adapt strategies over time to achieve lasting success in search engine rankings.

Conclusion: Have You Fixed These Common SEO Mistakes?

Recognizing these common SEO mistakes and taking the necessary steps to fix them is crucial for a successful SEO campaign. Doing so will improve your website’s visibility and relevance on search engines, driving more traffic and improving conversions.

Fixing these common SEO mistakes requires careful attention to detail but can make a huge difference in driving organic traffic toward your business. Always have an SEO plan & roadmap with attainable goals that are reviewed regularly so that you’re always improving yourself!


If you believe your website is being held back by one or multiple SEO mistakes, why not see what Diffuse Digital Marketing can do for you?