SE… Uh-Oh: 8 Common SEO Mistakes

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of strategically positioning content on and features of your website to achieve higher rankings in search engines and attract more organic traffic.

An effective optimization strategy includes everything from site health, design, page speed, link building, content, keyword research, and more.

However, in the past, effective SEO strategies looked much different than they do today. The ghosts of these old SEO strategies still haunt marketers to this day, creating confusion about what tactics are worth your time and confusion about what investment is right for your business.

If you’re interested in building your visibility in organic search, you should know which tactics are worth your time and which could result in penalties from Google. In this blog, we’ll review eight of the most common mistakes and what to do instead.

Mistake #1: Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords

It can be tempting to pour your efforts into getting your business to rank on page one for important sounding yet generic terms like “best business.” But these broad, non-specific terms don’t always help you capture the attention of people looking for services because those aren’t the terms they’re using to search.

Here is a real-life example: one of our legal clients ranked on page one of Google for the keyword “law offices in charlotte nc.” While this might seem like a valuable keyword that would drive traffic, it brought in five visitors per month to our client’s site. Five.

This same firm ranks number one for the keyword “how severe does a custody agreement violation have to be before a court will help me?” This very long and highly specific keyword attracts 71 people to their site monthly. The difference? The second example is what’s called a longtail keyword, which are specific phrases or questions that people are likely to use when they are ready to take action.

While they’re harder to rank for, longtail keywords have a higher conversion rate because they lead people to the exact item or service they need when they want it. So, rather than trying to fight your way onto the first page with broad, generic terms, consider prioritizing longtail keywords in your content marketing strategy.

Mistake #2: Forcing Keywords into Your Content (Keyword Stuffing)

Keyword stuffing is the outdated practice of jamming as many keywords as possible into your website’s content. Keyword stuffing was relatively effective in the past, but search engines quickly realized that too many people were using keyword stuffing to manipulate SEO campaign rankings by boosting unhelpful content. So, they updated their algorithms to prevent people from landing on unhelpful content that’d been indiscriminately packed with keywords.

A better approach is to write mindful, informative content that meets your target audience’s needs and to make sure your site is well-designed and functional. Content isn’t the only factor impacting SEO anymore; Google’s algorithms prioritize the quality, relevance, and user-friendliness of a site and its content. In fact, Google announced that its next round of algorithm updates will prioritize mobile-friendliness, page speed, and safe and secure web browsing to improve the user experience.

If your SEO strategy focuses only on keywords and not these other factors, you’re missing out on valuable traffic.

Mistake #3: Agonizing Over Keyword Density

Similar to keyword stuffing, keyword density refers to the number of times a keyword appears in a piece of content marketing. If you use a standard website platform like WordPress, you may have noticed that it includes keyword density metrics.

While some digital marketing professionals feel optimizing for keyword density remains essential, search engine algorithms are continually looking for quality and relevancy factors beyond how frequently a term appears in a blog post.

Instead, they take a much broader measure of your website that includes many different factors:

  • Backlinks
  • Related terms
  • Images
  • Anchor text
  • Meta tag snippets
  • Using alt text with your images
  • Site speed
  • How user-friendly your site is
  • And other contextual information

All of these factors and tactics should be part of a robust content marketing plan.

Keywords still matter, of course. You need to do your homework to identify the right terms and craft content related to your target audience at every step in the user journey. But, some of those critical keywords will come naturally. You don’t need to worry about shoehorning them into every paragraph at the expense of readability, variety, and flow.

Instead, focus on writing content that readers find helpful that uses relevant keywords in a natural, relevant way.

RELATED: Learn How to Do Marketing Keyword Research With This Brief Guide

Mistake #4: Using Link Directories to Boost Search Engine Rankings

Link directories are online catalogs of websites—the phone books of the internet. They claim to help search users find the websites they’re looking for, and they enjoyed some popularity in the early days of the internet. Companies that sold link directories promised fast and easy links that would boost search engine rankings.

As you can imagine, link directories aren’t beneficial. Do you want to plug in a search term and comb through listings to find the website you want? Of course not.

Search engines strive to make link directories obsolete except in certain niche fields. In fact, your site can even receive a penalty in search rankings if it accumulates too many paid directory links. It’s not going to be your best investment.

Link types that Google allows but frowns upon will eventually become obsolete. Not only will this impact your ability to rank well but it will cause more work in the future. If you need to develop a link building campaign with long-term benefits, it’s time to talk to a digital marketing agency that can help you do so ethically and effectively.

Mistake #5: Letting the Wrong Guest Blogger Post on Your Site

Regularly publishing new content requires plenty of time and dedication. That’s why some websites will accept contributions from guest bloggers in exchange for backlinks to the guest blogger’s website.

Unfortunately, scammy marketers know websites need new content, so it’s common practice to send hundreds of companies the same low-quality “guest posts” for their websites. When companies take the bait and post these scammy blogs, they create a wasteland of duplicate content—and punishment from Google’s algorithms as a result.

This doesn’t mean you should avoid guest blogging altogether; you just need to do it safely. Instead of accepting generic content from companies or writers you don’t know, connect with local writers, SEO experts online, or professionals with expertise in your field.

Collaborating with a real person will be a more positive experience, yield genuine benefits, and avoid getting penalized for uploading generic duplicate content.

Mistake #6: Building a Website Page for Every Keyword

Another outdated SEO tactic involves creating a separate webpage for every keyword variation you target. Let’s keep using a law firm example. Suppose you create a page for all the terms your ideal clients might use to search for you: “colorado divorce attorney,” “colorado divorce lawyer,” and “divorce lawyer co.”

While this may have been effective in the past, Google has since gotten smarter: their algorithms understand that “lawyer” and “attorney” are synonyms. Sites with dozens of pages for different keyword variations now appeal to neither users nor search bots. So, instead of driving traffic based on all the different search terms, this tactic is now considered a bad practice, and you risk being penalized in Google’s algorithms if you try it.

The good news is that you don’t need to have multiple pages targeting similar terms to be successful; one well-written page will do the trick. If your website already contains redundant pages, we recommend merging those pages into the smallest number possible and creating redirects for the old pages. If you don’t, your search engine performance may suffer.

RELATED: 5 Common Marketing Mistakes and How to Correct Them

Mistake #7: Matching Your URL To Keywords, Not Your Brand

An exact match domain, or EMD, is a domain name that matches the keywords you are targeting in your search engine pages rather than the name of your business. For example, you may own Joe Smith Injury Attorneys, but you chose for your website URL in the hopes of capturing people searching for the term “florida injury lawyer.”

In the early days of SEO, EMDs could deliver a substantial rankings boost. Today, EMDs provide no benefits for your SEO indexing, the process of adding web pages into searches. In fact, there’s a chance that it could harm your business since there the URL doesn’t match your name, not to mention the fact that it may make you look less than legitimate to searchers.

There is one exception to the rule when you may want to consider a keyword-based domain. If your business’s name isn’t available, and a close variation isn’t an option, you may need to get creative to craft a memorable URL. If that isn’t the case, though, then just stick with a domain that matches your brand.

Mistake #8: Thinking the Only Thing That Matters Is High-Quality Content

SEO is constantly evolving. While content may have been king in years past, today, your SEO strategy needs more than great content and blogs. This is important for two reasons:

1. Google’s Algorithms Consider Other Factors

Throughout this blog, we’ve mentioned this, but Google regularly updates its search algorithm to serve users the best results possible. These factors have expanded to include Google snippets, local results, and more in recent years.

Google’s new ranking factors, called Core Web Vitals, will take this even further by prioritizing mobile-friendliness, page speed, and safe and secure web browsing. Content still matters, but the site that content lives in needs to be as optimized and thoughtful as the blogs you write.

2. Your Target Audience Wants More Than Blogs

People want different types of content at different points in the buyer journey. A blog might not be what someone at the beginning of the funnel wants, but a video might do the trick. Or, someone who’s ready to take action might find what they need in a downloadable piece like an infographic or ebook.

Diversifying your content is good for search rankings and the people you’re trying to reach. Paired with a well-built site that prioritizes user experience, and you’re well on your way to a healthy content strategy.

Diversifying your content is good for search rankings and the people you’re trying to reach. Paired with a well-built site that prioritizes user experience, and you’re well on your way to a healthy content strategy.

RELATED: Free Ebook Download: Website Fundamentals: Improve Your SEO Today Using Meta Tags

Need SEO Help? Contact the Certified SEO Specialists at LaFleur Today

We understand that ever-changing SEO best practices may seem like a moving target. If you’re ready to take your content marketing and SEO strategies to the next level, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.

Our team of certified SEO specialists and marketing professionals is more than happy to explain SEO concepts and strategies and how they can help your business or law firm reach its goals.

Start the conversation today by calling 888-222-1512 or fill out this short form. We would love to chat about what your business needs and how we can help.


Jose, J. (2020, November 11). Timing for bringing page experience to Google Search. Google Search Central. Retrieved from

Chip Lafleur

Chip is an entrepreneur, organizational leader, and marketing expert who combines experience in web development, marketing tactics, strategy, and team leadership with a strong ability to harness talent and hone complex concepts into concrete deliverables.