Three common SEO mistakes to avoid (and what to do instead)

Toby Armiger
4 minute read | Posted 10th May 2023
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The term ‘search engine optimisation’ (more commonly referred to as SEO) has been around for over 22 years now, having come to life at some point in 1997. Despite the longevity of this field – and the many ways that search engines such as Google have evolved over the years – there are still some common traps that those new to SEO can fall into. Even veterans of the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages) occasionally fall victim to these common SEO mistakes.

In this article, we review three of the most common SEO mistakes, how they’re harmful, and what to do instead.

Keyword stuffing

One of the pillars of SEO is using target keywords on your landing pages. These keywords will attract people who may be searching for those terms and will draw them to your page.

Target keywords are also how Google determines how relevant your page is to a certain query. Learning how to utilise them properly is a great way to boost your page’s position on the SERP.

However, many first-time site owners or SEO practitioners fall victim to the dreaded ‘keyword stuffing’. This is when you overuse a target keyword in your page in an attempt to boost your page’s ranking for that said keyword.

Why avoid it?

First, Google thinks of keyword stuffing as a form of black-hat SEO, because it’s a technique that attempts to manipulate one of the search engine’s rules in order to gain a better ranking. If you spam keywords on a webpage, you’re more likely to end up with a penalised page than a higher spot on the SERP.

Second, it harms user experience. If users come across repeated words or phrases, or pages that are stuffed with unhelpful, out of context information, then they are likely to look elsewhere for what they’re after.

What to do instead

Context is the name of the game here. Branching out from your target keywords are many long-tail versions of your keyword, as well as contextually related words (aka semantic keywords). Ensure that you write high-quality content that includes these variations. Google uses semantic analysis to generate a list of search results, so the gold standard of content is populated with relevant and semantic keywords.

Ignoring mobile optimisation

Many business owners or developers put most of their energy into making sure that the desktop versions of their websites are top-notch. After all, this is an important part of ensuring that the user experience is up to scratch.

That said, there’s a vital step that many people miss: optimising the website to be viewed on mobile devices. There are many aspects to this, including increasing the load speed of the mobile site, creating a layout that is easy to navigate on multiple devices, and inputting simple action points for mobile users.

Why avoid it?

On average, over 60% of Google searches are conducted on mobile. While desktop sites are far from irrelevant, it’s vital to optimise for mobile due to the high rate of users searching from their phones and tablets. There are two key aspects of poor mobile user experience that drive up bounce rates:

  • Load time: Google analysed 11 million global domains and found that, as page load time increased from one second to 10 seconds, the chance that a mobile site user would bounce increased by 123%.
  • Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): Poor load time or heavy site elements that take longer to load than others will result in CLS, which is when the layout of the site changes over time as different elements load. Not only is this frustrating for the user, but it also increases the chance that they will perform an involuntary action (button click) or exit the site.

What to do instead

Use Google’s developer tool PageSpeed Insights to analyse your website’s page speed on all devices. This will generate a performance report, including diagnostic issues and a list of ways for you to improve your site’s mobile performance.

Cannibalising keywords

For every target keyword, Google generates a list of search results based on the relevance of the webpages related to said keyword. Ending up in the top spot for your page’s target keyword is the ideal outcome, but keywork cannibalisation can get in the way.

Keyword cannibalisation occurs when you optimise your landing pages for similar search terms, meaning that they compete against each other to rank for the same term. By causing your pages to compete with one another, you are limiting your chances of ranking better.

Why avoid it?

While there are users who will enter precise, clean-cut search terms to find the services that they want, most searchers will use general or conversational terms to seek out their needs.

Having landing pages that serve a similar purpose on your website – and thus cannibalise each other – can hurt your chances of being found. Also, the backlinks and CTR that you’ve worked so hard to establish on these pages can become diluted, meaning that your competing pages will most likely rank lower overall than they usually would.

What to do instead

  • Know your keywords. Develop a meta map or site structure that targets specific keywords for relevant service pages and avoid making those keywords too similar to one another.
  • Regularly check on your ranking. Search ‘your domain’ plus the keywords you’ve targeted to see how your pages are doing in comparison to one another. Update and adjust your content and meta data as needed; this will help to ensure that your target page comes out on top.
  • Merge similar pages. If two pages are quite similar in content and seem to be competing with each other, consider merging them into a single page. This prevents the dilution of backlinks and your relevance score, giving you a better chance of ranking higher on the SERP.

A solid foundation is key to your website ranking well, and to do so, it is essential to understand and implement the fundamentals of SEO. Take the time and do your due diligence to avoid these common mistakes, and hitting the first page of Google will be a far easier battle!