SEO Mistakes to Avoid: Common Pitfalls that Can Hurt Your Rankings

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Owen Whitcombe

Senior SEO Specialist

Not only does SEO help your website rank higher in search engine results pages, but it drives more organic traffic, meaning increased potential customers to your site. However, it’s not always easy to get SEO right, and many website owners make common mistakes that can harm their rankings.

To save you some troubleshooting, we’ll explore the most common SEO mistakes to avoid, and provide some tips on how to correct them while also showing how to refine your overall SEO strategy. Whether you’re new to SEO a seasoned pro or a marketing director looking how to spend their SEO budget, understanding these common pitfalls is essential for ensuring the success of your website. So, let’s dive in and learn how to avoid these common SEO mistakes and improve your website’s search engine rankings.

Not Using the Right Keywords

Importance of Accurate Keyword Research

Keywords are the building blocks with which you craft an optimised website that’s poised for ranking success. In short, they are what search engines use to understand the content and relevance of a web page. Keywords are the words and phrases that people use to search for information on search engines. Search engines then use these keywords to match user queries with relevant web pages.

By including relevant keywords in a web page’s body copy, title, headings, and meta descriptions, search engines can better understand what the page is about and therefore rank it higher in search results.

However, it is important to note that using too many keywords or “keyword stuffing” can hurt SEO rather than help it. Search engines have become increasingly sophisticated in recent years and can detect when content is unnaturally stuffed with keywords. This can result in a ranking penalty, making it harder for your website to be discovered.

As such, it’s important to distribute keywords strategically and in a natural way that adds value to content By doing so, the visibility of a website can be improved dramatically and subsequently attract more traffic from search engines.

Common Keyword Research Mistakes

  1. Targeting high-volume, competitive keywords only: While high-volume keywords may seem attractive, they are often the most competitive, which means it can be challenging to rank for them.
  2. Neglecting user intent: Keyword research should focus on understanding the user’s intent behind their search query. Simply targeting high-volume keywords without understanding the user’s search intent may lead to low-quality traffic that does not convert.
  3. Ignoring long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are more specific and less competitive than short-tail keywords. Neglecting long-tail keyword research can mean missing out on potential traffic from users who are searching for very specific information related to your business.
  4. Relying solely on keyword research tools: Keyword research tools can be helpful in identifying potential keywords, but they are not infallible. Relying solely on these tools can lead to missing out on valuable keywords that may not appear in the tools’ databases.

Tips for Successful Keyword Research

  1. Brainstorm a list of seed keywords: Start by brainstorming a list of seed keywords that are relevant to your business or niche. These keywords will serve as a starting point for your research and can be expanded into a list of long-tail keywords.
  2. Focus on user intent: Consider the user’s intent behind their search query when selecting keywords. Are they looking for information, products, or services? This will help you choose the keywords that align with the user’s intent and provide them with relevant content.
  3. Consider long-tail keywords: Long-tail keywords are more specific and have less competition than short-tail keywords. Including long-tail keywords in your strategy can help you target more niche topics and attract high-quality traffic.
  4. Analyse competitor websites: Analysing the websites of your competitors can provide insights into the keywords they are targeting and the content they are producing. Use this information to identify gaps in your keyword strategy and develop new content ideas.
  5. Monitor and refine your keyword strategy: Keyword research is an ongoing process. Regularly monitoring and refining your keyword strategy based on changes in search behaviour and competitor activity is crucial for maintaining the effectiveness of your SEO efforts.

Neglecting Your Tech

Importance of High Technical SEO Standards

Some of the most enjoyable websites to browse are ones that load quickly, are easy to navigate and provide a seamless experience across multiple devices. All of this can be achieved with extensive technical SEO work.

Hidden deep within your website’s code sits an infrastructure to be optimised. Whether it’s removing irrelevant Javascript to ensuring your Schema markup is implemented correctly, high technical SEO standards are important because they improve a website’s visibility, search engine ranking, and user experience.

Common Technical SEO Mistakes

  1. Improper website architecture: Website architecture refers to the way that a website is structured, including the hierarchy of pages, the organisation of content, and the URL composition. Poor website architecture can make it difficult for search engines to crawl and index the website, which can lead to lower rankings.
  2. Slow website speed: Website speed is a crucial ranking factor, and slow-loading websites can negatively impact search engine rankings thanks to reduced click-through-rates (CTRs).
  3. Not optimising for mobile: These days, Google uses a combination of both desktop and mobile bots to crawl most sites. Sites that perform well on desktop but not on mobile may impose a negative user experience, resulting in ranking decreases.
  4. Ignoring website security: Website security is crucial for protecting user data and preventing hacks. Search engines prioritise secure websites and may penalise websites that are not secure.

Tips for a Technically Solid Website

  1. Conduct a website audit: Start by conducting a comprehensive SEO audit that’s specifically focused on technical issues. Such audits should cover all core technical elements like website architecture, website speed, mobile optimisation, crawl errors, broken links, and duplicated content.
  2. Optimise website speed: Google’s Core Web Vitals dictate that faster websites are best. Websites can be sped up by compressing images, minimising code, reducing HTTP requests, using browser caching, and utilising a content delivery network (CDN).
  3. Use structured data: In addition to correctly optimised site content, structured data helps search engines better understand your website which inherently improves visibility in search engine results. Use structured data to mark up your website’s content, including products, events, and reviews.
  4. Optimise website architecture: A well-organised website architecture is essential for both user experience and search engine optimisation. Ensure that your website has a clear hierarchy of pages and content, with descriptive URLs and a logical navigation structure.
  5. Optimise for mobile devices: Mobile optimisation improves user experience by providing a seamless experience across all devices. Ensure that your website is optimised for all layouts, including using responsive design, optimised images, and mobile-friendly navigation.
  6. Use canonical tags: Duplicate content can negatively impact search engine rankings, ultimately leading to keyword cannibalisation. Thankfully, this can be fixed with canonical tags that will indicate which page is the primary version of the content. Best practise is to ensure each unique page also contains a self-referencing canonical tag.

Neglecting Your Internal Linking

Importance of Internal Linking

Internal linking helps to establish a map of content on your website by distributing link equity. What is link equity, you ask? Link equity refers to the ranking power that a page can pass to other pages through links. By linking from a high-authority page, that authority can be passed on, helping other pages to rank higher in search engine results pages.

Linking between pages also makes it easier for both search engines and users to navigate/understand your site’s structure. By using descriptive anchor text, you can signal to search engines the relevance and importance of the linked pages, including what the destination page is about.

Sometimes, websites may have thousands of pages, which can make it difficult to know when those pages should be linked to. This naturally leads to a few mistakes along the way.

Common Internal Linking Mistakes

  1. Overlinking: Overlinking occurs when you add too many internal links to a page, which can dilute the authority of your links and make your content appear spammy.
  2. Using generic anchor text: Generic anchor text, such as “click here” or “read more,” isn’t very descriptive, and doesn’t provide much context about the linked page.
  3. Linking to irrelevant pages: Linking to irrelevant pages can confuse both readers and search engines.
  4. Ignoring deep linking: Deep linking refers to linking to internal pages beyond the homepage. Ignoring deep linking can limit the authority of your internal pages and make it harder for search engines to discover and index all your content.
  5. Not updating internal links: As your website evolves, so should your internal linking strategy. As new pages are created, others sometimes get deleted. Failing to update these links could result in pointing to a page that no longer exists.
  6. Neglecting internal link structure: The structure of your internal links can impact the visibility and authority of your pages. Be sure to structure your internal links in a logical, hierarchical manner that reflects the importance of your content.

Tips for Effective Internal Linking

  1. Link to deep pages: Linking to deep pages, or pages beyond your homepage, can help distribute link authority throughout your website and improve the visibility of your internal pages.
  2. Use descriptive anchor text: Descriptive anchor text helps both search engines and users understand what the linked page is about. Use keywords in your anchor text that accurately describe the content of the linked page.
  1. Link to relevant pages: Only link to pages that are relevant and useful to your readers. Linking to irrelevant pages can confuse readers and harm your search engine rankings.
  2. Update internal links regularly: As your website evolves, so should your internal linking strategy. Be sure to regularly review and update your internal links to ensure that they are still relevant and useful to your readers.
  3. Don’t overdo it: Overlinking can dilute the authority of your links and make your content appear spammy. Be strategic with your internal links and only link to pages that are truly relevant and useful to your readers.

Not Building High Quality Backlinks

Importance of Quality Backlinks

Building high-quality backlinks can help to establish your website as an authoritative source of information. When other websites link to your content, it signals to search engines (and users) that your content is valuable and trustworthy – a core component of Google’s EEAT quality guidelines. The more quality links you have, the more likely search engines are to rank your site higher than the competition.

However, the benefits of backlinks don’t stop there. Backlinks can drive referral traffic to your website (when users click on a link to your website from another website). This type of traffic can be highly valuable as it is often more engaged and more likely to convert than other types of traffic.

Common Backlink Building Mistakes

  1. Buying or exchanging links: Buying or exchanging links violates Google’s webmaster guidelines and can result in penalties or even deindexing.
  2. Focusing on quantity over quality: Quantity isn’t everything when it comes to backlinks. Low-quality, spammy backlinks can hurt your website’s reputation and search engine rankings
  3. Ignoring relevancy: Backlinks from irrelevant websites can be less effective than those from relevant sources.
  4. Using irrelevant anchor text: Just like with internal links, the use of irrelevant or low-quality anchor text can detract from the value they bring.
  5. Ignoring diversity: Focusing on securing links from one industry or outlet can reduce the variety of your backlink profile. Varied profiles are generally preferred, as this shows your website is relevant in a number of areas.
  6. Not monitoring your backlink profile: It’s important to regularly monitor your backlink profile to ensure that you aren’t acquiring low-quality or spammy backlinks. Use tools like Google Search Console or a backlink analysis tool such as Ahrefs to monitor your backlinks and disavow any harmful ones.

Tips for Building High Quality Backlinks

  1. Create high-quality content: Creating high-quality, valuable content is one of the best ways to build backlinks naturally – when other websites find your content helpful, they are more likely to link to it.
  2. Build relationships: Building relationships with other website owners, bloggers, and influencers in your niche can help you earn backlinks much quicker. Connect with them on social media, participate in forums, and engage with their content.
  3. Use broken link building: Broken link building involves finding broken links on other websites and offering a replacement link to your own content. This approach can be an effective way to earn backlinks, without much back and forth between journalists.
  4. Participate in industry events: Participating in industry events such as conferences, webinars, and forums can help you build relationships with other industry experts. You can use these relationships to build a mutually-beneficial backlink profile.
  5. Use Outreach Tools: Tools such as HARO (Help a Reporter Out) help connect journalists with sources for their stories. By simply responding to relevant queries, you can often earn high-quality backlinks direct from reputable news websites.
  6. Focus on relevancy and authority: Backlinks from relevant and authoritative websites carry more weight than those from low-quality or unrelated websites, so focus on these to begin with.

Not Seeing Content as SEO

Importance of Quality Content

When users search for something, they are more likely to trust and engage with websites that provide high-quality content. Whether it’s a well-research blog article or a thoroughly detailed product page, on-page content helps establish your website as a credible and authoritative source of information.

Search engines like Google prioritise well-written, carefully curated content in their search results. By providing this level of content on your website, you can make Google’s job easier, making your chances of ranking much more favourable.

The benefits of content even stretch further than SEO. Writing content that is tailored to your audience can help you build trust with potential customers. This can help to drive conversions, as users are more likely to purchase a product or service from a website they can depend on.

Common Mistakes in Content Creation

  1. Lack of research: Failing to research your topic thoroughly can result in inaccurate or incomplete content.
  2. Poor writing: Poor writing can make your content difficult to read and understand. This applies to both website users and search engines, as both can digest and retain written material to learn more about webpages.
  3. Lack of focus: Lack of focus in your content can make it difficult for your audience to understand your message. If content is created without a purpose, you may end up losing your reader’s attention, causing them to click away.
  4. Lack of visuals: Visuals like imagery and video are known to increase site retention by making your content more interestng. Not including these is a quick way to cause readers to disengage, making them more likely to leave your site.
  5. Keyword stuffing: As we covered previously, keyword stuffing is the practice of overusing keywords in your content to improve rankings. This can result in content that is difficult to read and often results in ranking penalties.
  6. Lack of originality: Lack of originality in your content can make it difficult to stand out from the competition. Not only this, but search engines are clever enough to determine when content has been plagiarised, and may issue ranking penalties as a result.
  7. Failure to optimise: Failure to optimise your content for search engines makes it harder for them to understand what your content is about.

Tips for Creating High Quality Content

  1. Conduct thorough research: Research your topic thoroughly before creating content. This will help you fully understand the topic you’re writing about, allowing you to give readers a reason to read your content over someone else’s.
  2. Define your audience: Creating content that is tailored to your audiences needs allows you to better appeal to their demands. Some audiences need entertainment, others may require information and detail. Whichever your approach, knowing who you’re writing to can make your content resonate better with those reading it.
  3. Use a clear and concise writing style: Remember, the average reading age of UK citizens is around 9 years old. So, when writing content, you should write in a way that is easy to understand by most readers. This increases your chances of capturing the largest portion of your audience.
  4. Use visuals: Breaking up large portions of text with images or video can help create a natural pause in your writing. This is sometimes needed to make your content feel less tasking to consume.
  5. Provide value: What’s the point of writing content if we’re not adding value? Writing for the sake of writing is never a good idea, as web users are always searching for something unique and practical. Keep this in mind when writing your next blog article, and ask yourself “Why should someone read this over something else?”
  6. Use headlines and subheadings: Much like with images, it’s important to use headings and subheadings to break up your content and make it more digestible. Most internet users scan-read content, and headings can help them find what they’re looking for in a much quicker manner.
  7. Optimise your content for search engines: Just because your content is authentic doesn’t mean that it can’t be optimised. You should use keyword research to determine which kinds of phrases you would like your content to rank for. This improves its likelihood of ranking, and makes the content more relevant to searchers.


SEO isn’t some dark art but, as a digital marketing agency, we see mistakes sometimes. Some of these are easier to fix than others – content mistakes can easily be changed, tested, and reversed. However, technical aspects may require more inspection, so fixes may take some buy-in.

The best option is to work with a professional SEO agency who can guide you along your SEO journey. If your website is struggling in one or all of these regards, Liberty can help. Contact us to speak directly with our team and learn more about how our content, digital PR and technical SEO services can benefit you.

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Owen Whitcombe

Senior SEO Specialist

Owen has worked in primarily Ecommerce since leaving University. Many years spent in the online sports retail arena before gaining experience in the online catering business then becoming digital marketing manager for national toy company before finding his feet in SEO. As a results driven individual Owen loves nothing more than when we can give…

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