Costly Blunders: 15 Common SEO and SEM Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

seo and sem

Did you know that SEO can take months to show results? SEO and SEM are not “quick fixes” for your marketing. They’re long-term strategies you should invest in.

If you work with a professional team, you’ll likely see results sooner. You may still decide to handle SEO on your own.

If you do decide to handle these tasks yourself, you may make mistakes in your SEO and SEM strategies. Since it can take so long to see results, though, it may take you quite some time to realize it.

The best defense here is a good offense. Knowing the most common blunders can help you avoid them. Check out these 15 mistakes and learn to steer clear.

1. Your Site Isn’t Mobile-Friendly

One of the most important parts of search engine optimization today is a mobile site. As users shift more to mobile, you need to meet them where they are. That means providing a site that works just as well on mobile as on a desktop.

Google has been tracking this change too. It’s why the search engine has finally rolled out mobile-first indexing. With this change, sites that deliver a good mobile experience will rank higher.

If you haven’t given your website a makeover for mobile use, then it’s time to take a look at updating. Not only will this improve SEO and SEM but it will also help you as the shift toward mobile continues.

2. You Don’t Know Your Audience

There’s a reason you may not have thought mobile-friendliness was important. You may have thought your audience wasn’t using mobile devices.

Not knowing your audience is one of the more common SEO mistakes. Many business owners will say their audience is “everyone” or “anyone.”

The big problem here is that if you’re writing for everyone and anyone, you’re reaching no one. Your SEO efforts aren’t targeted enough to help you rank. In turn, your page is invisible to the people who are interested in your products or services.

This is an easy mistake to fix. Sit down and define your ideal audience member. What do they look like?

You can use information about your customers to imagine your ideal buyer. You may use buyer personas if you already have some developed. These profiles will help you target your audience and create the kind of content they want to see.

3. Error Codes Are SEO Errors

This is a more technical SEO mistake, but you need to pay attention to how your site is working. If users are always running into 404s, you have a problem.

The reason? Google’s web crawlers will also run into those 404s. As a result, the search engine ranks your site lower overall.

The reasoning is that your site isn’t delivering a great experience for visitors. Google wants to send users to the most relevant pages, but it can’t do that if your site is malfunctioning.

The solution is to check your site carefully. Make sure pages are redirecting properly. Try to address any missing content and other errors.

4. You’re Using the Wrong Keywords

Keywords are still important to your strategy for SEO and SEM. If you’re not ranking, though, it’s time to ask if you’re using the right keywords.

It’s important to do research on SEO keywords before you start creating content. If you’re guessing about what your audience is searching for, you’re likely to miss the mark. You may use keywords no one ever searches.

When someone searches something relevant, your page may show up in the results. It won’t be ranked as high as it could be.

Keep in mind that keywords change too. Today, long-tail keywords are important. They’ll be more important as voice search continues to grow.

5. You Put Quality on the Back Burner

Content is still king, but you need to focus on quality. As search engines have become more sophisticated, they’ve improved at evaluating content.

Google wants to send its users to the most relevant page. If you’re producing low-quality content, chances are Google will send people somewhere else.

Focus on quality over quantity. Posting frequency also matters for SEO. Still, it’s much better to produce one or two authoritative pieces than a bunch of low-quality blogs that don’t rank.

6. Your Website Moves at a Snail’s Pace

Today’s top SEO tips will almost always tell you to take a look at website speed. Why?

Most users are busy people. They don’t have time to wait around for your page to load. If it takes more than a few seconds, they’re already navigating away.

Search engines are aware of user expectations. They use that information to adjust their algorithms. If users want sites that load fast, so do search engines.

As a result, website speed is one SEO factor you need to pay attention to. Check in on the code behind your website. Light, mobile-friendly code will load faster, even over slow connections.

Also, take steps to optimize your images and videos. Compressing them will help them load faster for your users.

Finally, look at the back end. Your web hosting or your server may need to speed up.

7. You’re Not Leveraging On-Site SEO

Have you added a meta-description to your latest blog post? If not, you won’t get the benefit of Google’s Snippet feature. Instead, the search engine will arbitrarily pull text from your site into the results.

Meta descriptions are one aspect of on-site SEO you need to pay attention to. Unique titles and custom URLs can also be important.

Alt-text for images and other accessibility features may also help your SEO efforts.

8. Your Linking Strategy Affects SEO and SEM

Search engines want to know how authoritative you are in your industry. They want to send their users to the experts on any given subject. To that end, they take a peek at who is linking back to your site.

Backlinks from authoritative sites are important for this reason. If you get a link from the New York Times, Google will rate you as being more trustworthy.

This can also hurt a site, especially if you get unsolicited backlinks from spam sites. Google allows you to disavow backlinks from low-quality sites for that reason.

Improve your backlinking strategy by cultivating guest blogging opportunities and social media. Better backlinks improve SEO.

9. Your SEO is Wearing a Black Hat

It can be tempting to buy links or join a link exchange to improve your backlinking strategy. Buyer beware, though. This tactic is known as a “black hat” technique.

Black hat techniques are often effective, at least in the short term. They include buying links, keyword stuffing, and spam comments on your blog.

These techniques are tempting, but they’re known as “black hat” for a reason. Search engines frown on them. When you get caught, your site will be penalized for using them.

Resist the temptation to stuff keywords into your blog or buy links. There are much better ways to improve your SEO.

10. You’re Falling Behind on Changes

SEO and SEM are always changing. Google tweaks its algorithm several times every year.

As algorithms become more sophisticated, SEO tactics have to change. If you’re following a strategy that someone laid out in 2015, chances are you’re not going to get the results you want.

Instead, make sure you’re staying up to date on all the latest changes. Working with a team of expert SEO professionals can help. They’ll keep an eye on both changes and trends to help you get more out of your SEO.

11. You Aren’t Paying Attention to Social Media

Many people make the mistake of thinking SEM and SEO marketing are unaffected by their social media.

It’s easy to see why. Google doesn’t give much weight to social media factors. These factors don’t have a direct impact on your search engine results page rank.

When budget constraints come into play, some business owners feel they have to choose one or the other. Investing in SEO and SEM isn’t a good reason to ignore social media though.

Social media may not have a direct effect on your SERP rank, but it does affect your marketing overall. Social media can influence who sees your content and who links back to it. A consistent NAP across social media can lend more to your local search optimization.

If you’ve been neglecting Twitter and Facebook, it’s time to change that. Social media and SEO work hand in hand to boost your company’s marketing results.

12. You’re Ignoring Influencers

Another good reason to build your social media presence is to connect with influencers.

How can influencers help your SEO and SEM? Cultivating an influencer partnership can lead to guest posting opportunities and backlinks.

Next, an influencer can also help you reach a larger audience. They may then share your content and conduct searches for your brand. As brand awareness grows, so too will your social proof and trustworthiness.

That will then impact your SEO and help you climb the rankings.

13. Your Content Has Clones

Another very common mistake with SEO and SEM strategies is duplicate content. Google penalizes duplicate content quite harshly. You’ll want to be sure everything on your site is unique.

There are a few reasons duplicate content gets a black flag from Google. First, it may show that you’re engaged in keyword stuffing or keyword permutations on landing pages. This is a hallmark of spam sites, which try to rank and send people to unsafe sites.

It may also show you’ve taken your content from another site. Google may believe you’re spoofing a legitimate site or that you’ve stolen your content. This is true even if the duplicate content is your own.

Make sure you can keep everything organized in a content management system. Doing so will help you spot duplicated content. There are also tools you can use to find duplicates and remove them.

14. You Don’t Give Google a Map

Navigation is another crucial SEO factor. If users can’t find their way around your site, they’re not going to have a very good experience. They’ll probably leave your page quickly too.

How can Google tell your site is hard to navigate? Its own web crawlers may have trouble finding their way around. It takes time for a search engine to map a site, so making it easy to navigate helps them do their job.

A site map is also important for this reason. The map allows the crawlers to follow the links and index your site more thoroughly.

If you’re not giving Google a map, it will take longer for your entire site to be mapped. The easier it is for the web crawlers to find their way around, the better off you are.

15. You’re Not Analyzing Your Results

Finally, there’s the issue of analysis. Since SEO and SEM can take so long to start showing results, you may not think it’s important to track your progress.

You should still keep tabs on changes in your rankings. If you upgrade your SEO and see a slight bump, you know something is working.

If you see your site fall in the rankings, you know something’s gone wrong. An update could mean it’s time to tweak your strategy, or you may have a penalty on your hands. Either way, it’s important to take stock of your progress.

The key here is selecting the right metrics. Good SEO may not improve your rank immediately. It should help you lower your bounce rate. Good backlinks will increase traffic from other referring sites.

Measuring will help you tweak your strategy to move up the ranks.

Get a Helping Hand

SEO and SEM are complex, long-term strategies. Mistakes are common, but they can also be easy to avoid.

If you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, don’t worry. Get in touch with a team of experts and discover just how simple great SEO and SEM strategies can be.