Especially if you don’t understand much about SEO yourself, it might be tempting to hire the first company who claims to be able to get you more visibility in search results. But beware! Not all who call themselves SEO “experts” truly are experts. 

Search engine optimization is a multi-faceted discipline and, on top of that, it’s constantly changing. Without meaningful experience and a pulse on the latest in the industry, it’s easy to make one or more mistakes known for crushing dreams of ranking on the first page of search engine results pages (SERPs). 

Consider 5 of the numerous SEO pitfalls that everyone doing content marketing should be aware of. 

1. Practicing Keyword Stuffing 

Once upon a time, keyword density—a calculation of the number of times a keyword is used in a piece of content—used to hold some weight in the SEO world. 

This gave some the (false) idea that, as long as their keywords were included x number of times, their content was well-optimized. As a result, it wasn’t uncommon to see content absolutely stuffed with keywords, and some people still create content like this today. What’s the problem with keyword stuffing?

For one thing, search engines no longer rely as heavily on keyword density to determine what a page is about. There are more important considerations in 2020. 

Besides that, even when keyword density was worth keeping in mind, keyword stuffing was never a smart way to go about SEO. It takes away from the naturalness and the overall value of content, both of which make for poor user experience and can hurt a website’s rankings. 

2. Targeting the Wrong Keywords

Aside from getting carried away with the use of keywords, another common error is choosing the wrong phrases altogether. There are several ways to go wrong here. 

For example, an SEO amateur might think that the keywords with the most monthly searches are the best ones to target to drive traffic. Yet, depending on the overall keyword difficulty, the domain authority of the top pages ranking for that keyword, and so on, this may not be the case. 

Alternatively, keywords are often chosen without considering search intent AKA the info searchers expect to find when they type a query into their favorite search engine. What’s the problem with this?

If you rank for a keyword but your content is not what searchers expect, you won’t be any closer to your business objectives. Search engines may even deem your content low quality and rank it lower if site visitors don’t seem to be getting value from your page. 

3. Random Keyword Placement 

What if good keywords have been selected, though? At that point, is it just a matter of scattering them throughout the page? Some think so but, in reality, keyword placement must be strategic to work. 

Using key phrases in headings, anchor text, image alt text, etc. can all tip search engines off as to what your content is about so that it can be ranked appropriately. Plus, it can help users navigate too. 

4. Half-Baked Internal Link Structure

Speaking of navigation, linking to other pages on your site can help visitors and web crawlers alike find and assess related content. But to see the benefits of internal linking, the pages you point to must be relevant to the content you link from. They should also be intertwined with the most important pages on a site or lend authority to less visible webpages.

When there is no strategy involved in deciding which pages will link to what (or no internal links at all), a ceiling is placed on the SEO results you can achieve.  

5. Sticking to Exact-Match

Much like keyword density used to be a consideration in search engine optimization, using exact-match keywords used to be important too. In an attempt to rank, inexperienced SEO’s may feel the need to use misspelled keywords, abbreviated keywords, reordered phrases, and every other possible variation of their key phrases. 

Not only does this make for awkward and low-quality content, but it’s also unnecessary given the advances that search engines have made. These days, they can intuitively link the core keywords used to close variants and rank content based on those associations. 

Identifying True SEO Professionals 

When evaluating the capabilities of an individual or company to help you with SEO, keep these pitfalls in mind. They’ll help you to steer clear of not-so-expert SEO experts whether they claim to create optimized content, do technical optimization or both. 

Guest Blog by Nia Gyant.
Nia is a freelance writer and brand messaging strategist with a background in online marketing. She supports marketing agencies and small to mid-sized businesses in need of strategically-crafted, goal-oriented content and copy.