13 Mistakes That Can Hurt Your SEO Efforts

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is unquestionably a fundamental way to grow traffic and revenue for every website owner. First, it is an economically guaranteed way to build your business. It grows your organic traffic incredibly especially when you achieve top ranking for a high traffic keyword. SEO is by far a cheaper means of promotion than paid advertising and it helps you stay at the top of search engine results and sustain your business profitability.

But search engine optimization has rules and when done wrongly can hurt your business in the most devastating ways. You can lose your ranking gains by some mistakes you make. Here we discuss the mistakes you need to avoid to sustain your SEO gains.


SEO Mistakes That Hurt Your Ranking

SEO is ever evolving. Because the search engines do not so explicitly spell out their exact ranking factors, SEO professionals have drawn conclusions by learning from the documentations of search engine companies such the Google Webmaster Guidelines and from their experience in optimization.

Here are 13 tips that can really help you succeed in SEO.

1. Avoid Being Smart

By being smart, I mean cutting corners which could involve using unethical practices to outrank your competitors. This could be keyword stuffing, exact match keyword optimization, exact match domains, attempting to rank with thin content articles and other sharp practices not acceptable to Google. Generally speaking, these practices are manipulative and try to take advantage of the search engines. Let's discuss just few of these smart practices you need to stay away from:

Keyword Stuffing

This is quite a very familiar phrase for anyone that has taken time to optimize a website for the search engines. This practice involves over-using the keywords one intends to rank for in such a way that could give some undue advantage. For example, let's assume you intend to rank for "Best fried chicken restaurant" and you use a title like: "Best fried chicken restaurant, fried chicken, fried chicken restaurant". Google hates such repetitions and will consider it an attempt to gain ranking unfairly.

Learn more: How Best to Use Keywords in Your Website Content

Exact Match Keyword Optimization and Exact Match Domains

This practice is sometimes referred to as over-optimization. Using exact match keywords or using exact match domains gives a lot of advantages. But it also has a disadvantage for the search engines because it could give a poor quality website the chance to rank at the top of the search engines thereby reducing the quality of search results. Google wants to ensure that its search quality is not depreciated with low quality content appearing at the top of its search results. In order to avoid this problem, it is advisable to avoid exact matches.

You will want to cite some exact match domains that rank at the top. Well, the answer is that it is better to avoid taking a risk that can destroy your ranking gains because of some few cases of people who took similar risks and succeeded because you may never be so lucky.

Learn more: Google Exact Match Keyword Penalty Explained

Thin Content

Related to our discussions on exact matches is the issue of thin content. This refers to posts and articles which offer little value and leaves a lot of questions answered about a topic. For example, you make a post on "how to optimize images for the web and then you simply list the key points like resize the images and save for the web without explaining why it is important to optimize images, tools for image optimization and how images affect website performance.

Google does not like thin content for the reason that it does not provide much value for readers and therefore impacts negatively on the quality of its search results.

Warning: Attempting to manipulate the search engines comes with a penalty. We advise that you do not engage in such schemes because sooner or later Google will get you and the consequences can be very costly for your ranking efforts.

Learn more: 10 Costly Search Engine Mistakes to Avoid

Duplicate Content

Google values fresh content but at the same time, it does not want to see the same thing all over. If Google see the same content that has already appeared on another website, it will consider your content as duplicate and unlikely to rank it for the relevant keywords. Duplicate content does not apply to content from other websites. If you duplicate a post on your own website, Google also considers it a duplicate and will not rank the page. The issue of duplicate content penalty has been debated severally but it is clear that there is no such thing as duplicate content penalty rather, Google will simply not rank the duplicate content and their algorithm has a way of identifying the content that was published first.



Wikipedia gives a clear description of cloaking as a search engine optimization (SEO) technique in which the content presented to the search engine spider is different from that presented to the user's browser. This is done by delivering content based on the IP addresses or the User-Agent HTTP header of the user requesting the page. Cloaking is obviously a manipulative strategy designed to simply gain ranking. One common cloaking practice is to hide a text from human users by giving it the same color as the background while allowing search engines to view them and consider them a part of a webpage content.


2. Build Links Rightly

This is a corollary to the sharp practices we have mentioned above; however, we will take it separately because of the importance of link building as a key ranking factor.

One of the fastest ways to rank at the top of search engines is to build links. However, Google requires your link gains to be natural and emanating from the quality of your content instead of coming from link purchases which only pile up spammy links.

Here are a few ways you could build links wrongly:

Link purchases - Buying links is one of the ways you can hurt your website ranking. Google hates link purchases as it is classified as a spammy link building strategy and an attempt to manipulate the search engine.

Link farms - These are a set of web pages created with the sole aim of linking to a target page, in an attempt to improve that page's search engine ranking. Obviously, link farms attempt to manipulate the search engines. It is also important to avoid pages with artificial links because ultimately, they will hurt your SEO and ranking efforts.

Reciprocal links - This occurs when there seems to be an agreement between two or more websites to link to each other. It is a link exchange agreement aimed at boosting SEO. How Google detects is not exactly known but the Google algorithm is so advanced now that gaming it is something you should not think about.

Adding links to comments on forums and blogs - Adding links in comments is an old practice. This has become of little or no value and should be avoided as Google sees those links added to comments as spam.

Paid link building campaigns: Sometimes, you are compelled to pay a website owner for a link to your website not because of the value it offers but because you are simply looking for links that can help increase your website PR or DA. Such links can hurt your SEO efforts and should be avoided.


We recommend building links with quality content. It is best to attract links from references instead of just buying links or desperately building links. After all, link building is not the only ranking factor. Doing well in other areas including good on-page SEO, fresh and high quality content as well as improving user experience can produce amazing results for your website.

Learn more: 4 Ways to Build Quality Backlinks to Your Website


3. Address Poor On-Page SEO

Not paying attention to on-page SEO can seriously hurt your ranking. For a detailed coverage of On-Page SEO, real this article detailing 27 On-Page SEO Checklist for Top Search Engine Performance.

It is particularly important that you pay attention to the following On-Page SEO elements:

Page title: Page title is such an important factor you should carefully draft to win in the competition for ranking. Besides that, your page title is such a prominent element of your site that its attractiveness can induce click-through rates.

We recommend that you keep page titles within 60 characters of length and use the keywords for which you intend to rank for in your title. You also need to avoid exact match keywords in page titles because that could earn you a Google penalty.

Do not write page titles to gain ranking advantages rather, write them to attract user response and to increase click-through rates. Keyword-rich page titles ain't working these days like they used to. User experience counts more than keyword stuffing. In fact, keyword stuffing is offensive and can lead to a penalty from Google.

Page description: Although Google has stated that page description is not a ranking factor, it is still important because it gives Google an idea of what your website is about and also can help with increasing click-through rates.

Page speed: Page speed is a ranking factor and affects user experience. We have found that poor page speed is a critical factor that affects website bounce rates - the rate at which people leave a website and do not visit any other page beyond their landing page.

To boost your website speed, you basically need to host your website on strong and reliably stable servers, implement caching on your framework, optimize CSS and JS fines, minimize your website files with GZIP or similar framework, optimize your image files, use fewer images if possible.

Keywords are still relevant: While the keyword metadata had long been discarded as part of Google's ranking factors, the use of keywords in content is still very much important for Google to understand your content and how best it should be ranked. So, use keywords naturally in your content and avoid keyword stuffing by all means.


4. Ensure Website Mobile Friendliness

Statistics show that more and more people are accessing the web with mobile devices than with desktop and laptops. Google places much importance on website mobile friendliness and will downgrade websites in its search engine for failing to address this issue. Of course, Google wants the best experience for its users and will want websites to display rightly on all devices.


5. Avoid Too Many Ads That Obstruct Ease of Navigation

Ease of navigation is a user experience component that every website owner should take seriously. That means every section of your website should be possible to access from your menu, both from the homepage and from the menu of internal pages. Avoid unnecessary ads and pop ups that block the ease of navigation and as much as possible, navigating your entire website should be made easy and not blocked by ads or other interferences. This is an important user experience component of Google's website ranking factors.


6. Avoid Low Quality Guest Posts

Accepting guest posts is one way to keep your content fresh but it should be original, relevant and useful for your audience. If these rules are not met, then it’s better not to publish at all. You should also not allow guest posting ust to get links. Focusing on guest posting for links will place your links on websites that do not have any relationship with your industry and that devalues such links. The more you do that, the more likely you will be heading towards being considered spammy.

Publishing new content on a regular basis is a good SEO practice but it is also important to maintain a balance between fresh content that is useful and content that is primarily offered to the website in exchange for a link in the author bio.


7. Avoid Too Many Outgoing Links

Just as too many in-coming links can be considered unnatural and signalis a deliberate link building campaign, too many outgoing links suggests that your website could be involved in link farming and that raises a red flag.


8, Avoid Blocking Search Engines With robots.txt

The robots.txt file can be used to block certain resources that you just don't want Google to crawl. But if you block important areas, for example where your JavaScript or your CSS is located, Google may not properly crawl the site.


9. Address Issues With Internal Linking Strategy

It is better you do not get involved with internal linking than having broken internal links and too many internal links with inappropriate anchor texts. The bottomline is that you should not try to beat Google at anything. Internal linking can be an effective way to improve your website ranking as Google has said internal links are a ranking factor. However, you need to avoid too many internal links to exact match keywords which gives a clear impression of what you target.

Learn more: Best Internal Linking Strategy to Boost Your SEO


10. Don't Redirecting for link juice

Unethical SEO practitioners sometimes buy an expired domain that is having high domain authority and a huge backlink profile then redirect it to their domain with the hope of pushing the link juice to the existing domain and reaping from its high backlink profile. This can be very common with getting an exact match keyword domain and after some time, it is redirected to a current website. Well, this no longer works and hurts ranking. Avoid it.


11. Avoid Generated Content

This is sometimes referred to as content spinning. It involves using a robot or computer program to “write” content for your site. Basically, what you do here is automate your content generation. Most of the time, such content will not make any sense and can be disjointed.

Google does not tolerate that.

This practice can get you penalized, it makes it ver clear to everyone that you are a spammer and should not be trusted which can significantly hurt your business. The bad side is that the cost can be enormous and you could end up regretting why you undertook that route.


12. Avoid Links from bad websites

We can better understand this from the perspective of being in the midst of some wrong guys and the police coming around to arrest everyone including the innocent because they found them together. Google does not only look at a link you get but also assesses other links coming from that source and when it finds that you are getting links from a spammy website, it considers you to be patronizing spam or encouraging it.

So if a reasonable amount of your links are coming from websites that are considered spammy, then that is a red flag and you could be at ris of a penalty.


13. Be Patient

Sometimes, we can be too desperate for results and often maing changes to our website content especially when we are not getting we expected within a certain time frame. That can slow down the performance of your SEO efforts.

SEO takes time and you simply need to allow sometime to see results or draw conclusions on how your efforts are performing before you consider making changes.


Key Takeaways

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is an art and ever changing. It is important to focus on people and not just the search engines. Keep in mind that the unethical short cuts may produce some temporary results but their consequences can be painful. Play by the rules and slowly see how your website grows in popularity, traffic and search engine ranking.

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