SEO Checklist for Content Marketers: 21 Common Mistakes to Avoid
With so much content being created, published and promoted online every second—as well as consumers becoming increasingly self-directed in their quest for answers—competition to capture your audience’s attention has never been more fierce.
As a result, quality and strategic SEO has probably never been more important for helping you be the best answer whenever and wherever your audience is searching.
But as seasoned marketers know, SEO has gone through a tremendous evolution since its early days of keyword-focused content. With more than 2 trillion searches happening on Google every year, today’s SEO is about finding the perfect balance between user-centric content and convincing search engine crawlers that your content is supreme.
Of course, on the journey to creating the perfect content for both humans and search, you may make some mistakes. But the good news is that may are easily avoidable.
Below we dive into some of the most common SEO mistakes, as well as tips for helping you avoid or remedy them.1
#1 – Optimizing content around one keyword.
In the “old days” of SEO, it was common practice to optimize web pages with a specific keyword that you wanted to rank for. Today, that practice not only provides a poor user experience for your audience, but it’s simply ineffective since search engines are becoming increasingly better at determining search intent.
Tip: Simply put: Do not optimize any pages for just one keyword. Instead, think bigger about the need your content can fill and hone in on keyword topics that include a variety of relevant and related search terms.
#2 – Neglecting dated content.
Let’s face it. You’ve probably created a ton of content in the last couple years that you haven’t touched since it first published. But you could be leaving opportunity on the table if you’re not regularly looking for ways to refresh it and keep it relevant for searchers.
Tip: Dig into your analytics to find your top and worst performing pages and blog posts, paying special attention to evergreen topics. Then conduct some keyword research to discover new opportunities for updating that existing content to continue or improve ranking momentum.
#3 – Forgetting mobile users.
Whether you’re a B2C or B2B brand, much of your audience is likely using a mobile device to find good content. If your content isn’t mobile friendly, the user experience will be negatively impacted.
Tip: Take steps to ensure that your website and its content is mobile friendly and responsive. Also, focus on creating content for users that would typically use a mobile device.
#4 – Not optimizing for site speed.
This one is pretty simple. Faster sites have a better crawl rate and provide a better user experience.
#5 – Failing to include relevant and helpful internal links.
If you’ve attracted people to your content, you have a captive audience that’s interested and probably looking for more. As a result, internal links are critical to keeping people engaged and signaling that you have more to offer.
Tip: Always be on the lookout for opportunities to link to other content on your website. In addition, use keyword variations for anchor text to expand visibility for the keyword topic that content represents.
#6 – Failing to include relevant and helpful external links.
Just like internal links, external links have the ability to provide your users with more helpful and relevant content. In addition, quality external sources can also signal credibility to search engines and users.
Tip: Make sure that all external links open in new windows to allow users to venture to other content, but also make it easy for them to go back and stay engaged with your content.
#7 – Serving up hard-to-read blocks of content.
Users are often looking to find and absorb content quickly, and move on if they are unable to easily see the value in the content they’ve clicked on. In addition, studies show that people read online content in an “F” pattern. As a result, large blocks of text can be a big turn-off for many, especially those using mobile devices.
Tip: Utilize headline tags to break up content. This will not only make it easy for users to scan content, but also send a positive signal to search engines.
8. Forgetting about image optimization.
The images on your website or blog add an important visual element that can positively impact user experience. But they can also help you tell your story to search engines.
Tip: Cover all your bases by making sure image filenames and alt text contain relevant keywords. Also, to ensure your page loads quickly, optimize the image size for each screen size and/or lazy load the images.
9. Not having unique content.
While it can be tempting to reuse some of that great content you’ve already created, be careful. Search engines will not be fooled, and you could be penalized if you duplicate content across pages.
Tip: Don’t publish duplicate or similar content to your site, including title tags and meta descriptions. When it comes to the technical stuff such as title tags and meta descriptions, just take the little bit of extra time it takes to create something unique. When it comes to full pages of content, if you have existing content that fits, take a repurposing approach to make it personalized and different.
10. Focusing on quantity over quality.
In today’s competitive world of content, it can be tempting to try to out-create your competition. But publishing more content than the next guy doesn’t guarantee results, especially if that content isn’t a quality piece that actually helps your audience.
Tip: Create a content strategy that includes audience and keyword topic research. In addition, study the other content that is already out there and look at what your competitors are doing. This will allow you to identify content gaps and help you create content that fills them. In addition, shoot for writing longer pieces (600 to 1,000+ words), that are optimized for scanability and include visual elements.
11. Not optimizing URLs or site structure.
Many marketers leave the title of the page or the post as the URL, which can lead to long URLs that do nothing to help your search rankings.
Tip: Keep URLs short, concise and optimized with keywords. In addition, make sure that your URL structure is consistent throughout your site to make it easier to crawl.
12. Neglecting broken or redirecting links.
During our technical crawls and site evaluations, TopRank Marketing often finds that many sites have broken links or links that redirect instead of linking directly to the target page.
Tip: Conduct a technical audit to identify all broken links and internal links that redirect to a different page. Then update with links that connect directly to a target page. This will help search engines crawl your site more efficiently.
13. Not auditing the redirect rules for a site.
For websites with multiple redirect rules, there’s an opportunity to remove redirect chains and errors that make it more difficult for search engines to crawl.
Tip: Audit the redirect rules to make sure you’re properly using 301 or 302 redirects and remove any redirect chains you might have.
14. Focusing on meta keywords.
Meta keywords are not used by Google and can be a sign of spam from Bing.
Tip: There typically isn’t a reason to add meta keywords to your site. If you choose to utilize the meta keywords field, make sure you limit the amount of keywords to less than five.
15. Forgetting analytics or misusing metrics.
Data is an incredible tool to not only measure the impact of our marketing efforts, but also help inform those efforts. So, neglecting our analytics reports outright or not using the right metrics can have a costly impact.
Tip: Use the right metrics to inform your content and SEO strategy, and decrease the importance you put on vanity metrics. In addition, leverage Google Search Console or Bing Webmaster Tools to get a better understanding of what people are actually searching for.
16. Not allowing your site to be crawled
This one is pretty obvious. If you’re site is blocking search engines, your content will not be found in search results.
Tip: It’s simple. Don’t block your site from search engines in your robots.txt file or a “noindex” meta tag.
17. Not taking advantage of Local SEO.
All businesses have an opportunity to take advantage of local SEO and visibility. At the very least, your business should claim and optimize your Google My Business listing.
Tip: At the very least, focus on getting local citations by using tools like Moz Local or Whitespark.
18. Incorporating too many PDFs.
While PDFs are a great way to provide users with information that can be easily downloaded, it’s not ideal for search. First of all, most websites don’t track PDF views in Google Analytics, making it difficult to see if that content is having an impact on users. In addition, PDFs don’t allow you to create a custom experience for users easily.
Tip: Change PDFs to HTML format to be able to create a consistent experience and get the most search benefit from each content asset on your site.
19. Not optimizing for other search engines.
While Google is pretty much the King of Search, other search engines—including those within social media channels—deserve your attention, too.
Tip: Take steps to optimize your content for other search engines such as Bing and Yahoo. In addition, optimize the content you’re putting out on social media sites such as LinkedIn and YouTube.
20. Not focusing on getting quality backlinks.
While link building and link earning gets a bad rap sometimes, the number of quality backlinks a website has is still an important ranking factor for search engines and links deliver interested users to your content.
Tip: Conduct outreach to relevant influencers and websites to earn quality links back to your quality content.
21. Having too many blog categories or tags.
When you create a blog category or tag, you’re essentially creating a new page on your website that can be indexed by crawl bots. However, if those categories or tags don’t have a decent amount of content associated with them, you could be signaling thin content to search engines and it could potentially hurt your crawl budget.
Tip: Remove categories or tags that contain orphaned content, and retag or recategorize that content within a relevant and more robust category.