10 Costly Search Engine Mistakes to be Avoided

Last Updated: April 23, 2023By

Gaining high ranks in serach engines is the best way to achieve success in internet marketing. High ranking guarantees more targeted traffic which result in sales and increased revenue. Good search engine ranking and traffic is like to a website, what the location of a physical store is to a retail business.

The closer you are to the top of the search engine result pages, the more traffic you generate which results in increased sales and revenue just like you generate more traffic to your store when you are closer to a central location.

But competing on the internet requires some skills and techniques to be implemented and many Search Engine Optimization (SEO) professionals are tempted to adopt some shortcut methods generally referred to as blackhat SEO methods in order to outsmart competitors. Black hat SEO methods are not acceptable to the search engines and certainly, the search engines have become very smart and will certainly get at you if you adopt the spammy techniques so it is advisable that you keep away from them

Here are some of the common SEO mistakes we advise you keep away from. Some of them are not black hat SEO methods, some are just mistakes of poor implementation which only requires that you correct because they will negatively affect user experience on your site and that will hurt your search engine ranking performance.

Further reading:

11 Most Important SEO Metrics For Google Ranking

10 Most Important Google SEO Ranking Factors

SEO Mistakes You Should Avoid

1. Under-Optimized Meta Tags and Wrong Use of Keywords

Search engines understand websites based on the content and keywords used in the pages. However, there are certain keyword practices that are not acceptable and you must avoid them in order not to get into the penalty boos of search engines.

Poorly Optimized Meta Tags

Metatags such as page titles and description help Google to properly understand the purpose of your website and with the help of the keywords you use on your websites, it can more appropriately match your website to search queries.

You need to use the keywords and keyword phrases naturally, not overdoing or under doing things.

Keep titles within 10 – 60 characters making sure you include the relevant keywords in your titles. Keep descriptions within 90 – 160 characters and make them as unique as possible.

Common metatag mistakes will include:

  1. Duplicate title tags and meta descriptions: Ensure that there are no duplicate titles on the page. The same should apply to the description elements.
  2. Missing H1 tags: H1 tags will tell search engines that you attach much importance to the keywords contained within the tag. Ensure you use the tags appropriately.
  3. Missing meta descriptions: If you fail to include description, Google will include it for you which may not appropriately give you the best description to encourage the desired click through.
  4. Missing ALT attributes: This is useful to search engines and visually impaired people. Missing them will affect ranking your images as well.

Keyword stuffing

This has sometimes been referred to as keyword stacking. If means an overuse of keywords in a way that is unnatural . When you repeatedly use a keyword in a page in order to make it more relevant for search engine ranking, you are actually attempting to manipulate the search engines and Google in particular frowns at it.


Use keywords naturally and sparingly. Do not try to overdo things. For example instead of writing a title in this form: “Search Engine Optimization – Search Engine Optimization Services in Lagos – Todhost” It is better you simply write: “Search Engine Optimization Services in Lagos – Todhost”

Exact match keywords

This involves using keywords in a manner that matches exact queries in the search engines. Exact match keywords tend to give more advantages in terms of how the search engines rank websites and Google seem to encourage competitive best practices, some kind of a level playing ground that does not allow more advantages to any website. So you need to do good keyword research especially for your titles and use them naturally and overtime, you will find your ranking going higher.


Do not try to gain strong advantage in your use of keywords. Use keywords sparingly and naturally.

Using Unrelated Keywords

Some web developers may be tempted to add unrelated keywords in their websites with the hope of gaining popularity with the keywords. Usually, they will want to use very popular keywords in such a scheme. The tactics could work for a while but it won’t take long for Google to uncover it and penalize the website.


Write for your users and not for the search engines. That means you have to write naturally using the related keywords. Do not write to get any advantage in projecting any keyword or trying to get traction from unrelated keywords.

2. Content Scraping

Content scraping is when you copy the content from another source or website without attribution or credit to the originating page or source. It is simply online plagiarism. Google hates it for several reasons. Firstly, it only increases the amount of duplicate content on the web. Secondly, it reduces the quality of content available.


Take time to write original content. You will want to conduct some research and be guided by what other people have done but do not copy their work verbatim and reproduce it with the hope of impressing the search engines.

Do not also use some automated plugins or online rewriting software to churn an existing content with the hope of avoiding duplicate content problems. There are lots of online tools that can twist an existing content, using synonyms to rewrite the content and promise you that it produces an authoritative and more original content. Google has become smarter and can detect those techniques.

If you have to reproduce someone else’s work, simply acknowledge the source, give credit to the owner of the work. That is fine and an acceptable practice so readers know that the content is taken from somewhere else. It is also advisable that where the entire content is to be used, you seek permission to do so to avoid legal issues.

3. Hidden Texts

One dubious black hat SEO practice used previously to game the search engines is to hide texts from website visitors while those texts remain visible to the search engines. Usually, the tactics involve loading keywords for which the website wants to rank for. All these have become a thing of the past and no longer works with the coming of RankBrain.

Google will catch you if you try these balck hat techniques anymore and it is sure to attract a penalty. In fact, your entire website could be delisted from its search engine.


Focus on quality to rank in the search engines. Quality content development pays and Google truly values quality content. Remember that content is like food to the search engines. So rolling out quality content is like providing good food. The more quality content you produce, the more Google will fall in love with our website and its bots will always come by to see if there is something new to add to its database.

So focus on quality and not quantity and you will be rewarded with better ranking.

4. Buying Links

Inbound links is a strong ranking factor that can be very rewarding. Every link you get can take you very far in terms of helping your ranking. Because getting quality links especially from high domain authority websites can be difficult, some SEOs now resort to buying links. Some websites also offer to help get links for websites.

Let’s make it short by saying these are all unacceptable practices and it will only take a while for Google to get you.

Final warning: Do not buy links and do not encourage it as well!

5. Avoid Free Web Hosting Offers

One of our recommendations for good speed and web hosting stability which are required  and are indicators of a reliable website is a strong hosting back bone. Google does not want its users to have bad experiences accessing websites that are constantly down and not available or extremely slow websites. Google wants your websites to be reliable and trusted in terms of availability.

Free hosting is a good sales strategy especially for winning the newbies and the smart sneaky freelancers in the industry bu free hosting services do not guarantee quality so if you are hosted on a free platform, you will certainly lose the trust and confidence one should have in your website as a name to rely on all the time especially in terms of speed and availability.


Keep in mind that there are no shortcuts to ranking high in the search engines. You must deliver better quality to be ahead. Carefully assess your choice of web hosting before you take a decision to commit to any offer.

Avoid free web hosting offers.

6. Avoid HTTP Status and Server Errors

This is one of the most devastating errors that affect websites. HTTP status and server errors can include 404 errors. So whether you are migrating to a new server, changing nameservers, implementing CDN, changing content directory, you need to be mindful of their effects on your ranking and consider appropriate redirects.

Common status code errors that can affect your website include:

1. 4xx errors
4xx codes means a page is broken and cannot be reached. They also occur when a page is blocked from being crawled.

2. Pages not crawled
This occurs when the response time of your website is over five seconds or your server is denied access to the page. 

3. Broken internal links
These are links to pages that are not functioning.

4. Broken external links
In this case, users are referred to dysfunctional pages on another website.

5. Broken internal images
This happens when a picture file no longer exists. It can also happen that the URL is misspelled. 

Other common HTTP status mistakes include:

Permanent and temporary redirects.

7. Crawlability and Indexability Issues

Here are the common problems encountered by website crawlers and unindexable websites:

Common Crawlability Issues

  1. Nofollow attributes in outgoing internal links
    Internal links that contain the nofollow attribute block potential link equity from flowing through your site.
  2. Incorrect pages found in sitemap.xml
    It is better to use automatically updated sitemaps.
  3. Sitemap.xml not found
    Always include a sitemap to your site. You also make sure your sitemap is added to your robots.txt file. Adding multiple sitemaps to the robots.txt file is acceptable.

Common Indexability Issues with Websites

  1. Short / long title tags
    Kee title tags between 10 to 60 characters. Make it descriptive and readable. Titles that are longer than 55 characters are most likely to be cut in the Search Engine Result Pages, SERPs. Titles that are as short as 10 characters through acceptable will likely be exact matches which can cause a Google penalty.
  2. Hreflang conflicts within page source code
    Multilingual websites can confuse search engines if the hreflang attribute is in conflict with the source code of any given page. 
  3. Issues with incorrect hreflang links
    Broken hreflang links can create indexing issues. This can happen if relative URLs are used instead of absolute URLs: For example, https://yourwebsite/blog/your-article instead of /blog/your-article.
  4. Low word counts
    It is recommended that your page should have a minimum of 250 words. A good site audit tool can help you with this. Having low word count can signal low quality and Google wouldn’t want to list low quality websites at the top of its search engines.
  5. Missing hreflang and lang attributes
    This issue is triggered when a page on a multilingual site is missing the necessary links or tags to tell search engines what to serve users in each region.
  6. 23. AMP HTML issues
    This conflict occurs with mobile users when the HTML code does not align with AMP standards.

8. Poor Website Performance

Website performance issues we are concerned about here centers around speed. There are a lot of factors that affect speed performance for any website. Basically, it should be noted that website speed have become a ranking factor in Google and so should be taken very seriously.

Here are the most common performance issues with websites and you should address them:

  1. Slow page (HTML) load speed
    This can be due to poor quality hosting, uncached files and running in an environment where GZip is disabled. Read more about how to speed up your website.
  2. Uncached JavaScript and CSS files
    Depending on our web building platform, in WordPress, Joomla and some other Content Management Systems, you can easily cache Javascripts from the template manager section.
  3. Unminified JavaScript and CSS files
    This is about making JavaScript and CSS smaller. There are plugins that can easily do this for you. You will need to check with your developer or CMS support for help in case you do not know how to implement it on your website..

9. Website Security Issues

Search engines will not rank a website that is not secure. In fact, Google now marks as insecure in its address bar, websites that do not have SSL enabled. Fortunately, Todhost and many other web hosts now offer free automatic SSL to customers.


Ensure that you have an active SSL running on your site. You can take advantage of the free SSL offer or buy an SSL Certificate from your web host.

Further reading:

A Basic Guide to Website Designing for Search Engines

An SEO Guide on the Top 3 Success Factors For Every Website

10. Keyword Cannibalization

This simply means you are competing with yourself for the same keywords.

Some SEOs call it stealing your own keywords. A situation where you are using the same keyword for more than one page. That requires that you must ensure that elements like page titles are distinctively unique and clear on their focus. Do not make pages compete against each other by making them target the same keywords.


Choose keywords carefully and make your pages to target unique keywords so that they do not compete against each other

Final Words

If you will succeed in ranking high in the search engines, you will have to comply with Google’s standards and expectations. One thing you must avoid after taking care of every other aspect of your website is to avoid any attempt to game the system to win the heart of Google. Do not try to be smart at Google because the search engine will get you and a penalty is certain

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