These SEO Mistakes Are Damaging Your Website

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No one likes to make mistakes. Especially when they could cost you business. And chances are if you’re concerned about fixing something that could potentially cost you business, you’re probably not the type of person to read a blog post intro. So let’s get into it.

Keyword stuffing

The biggest, fattest DO-NOT-DO-THIS on the list: keyword stuffing.

Keyword is exactly what it sounds like: stuffing a bunch of random keywords into places they don’t belong, bogging down your content so it’s barely readable for any actual human.

This mistake sits at the top of the list, because algorithms are much smarter than they used to be — and much smarter than keyword stuffers give them credit for. Search engines know when you’re trying to play them. Plus, you do know you’re supposed to care more about your site’s readers than your site’s position on Google… right? (Hint: here’s why you should care and here’s how to create content for your ideal client.)

Forgetting to change title tags and meta descriptions

Individual title tags and meta descriptions should be present on every single public page of your website. Title tags are a page’s message to the world, and meta descriptions are the explanation of exactly what a reader will find on that page.

If you use the auto-generated title tags and meta descriptions, you risk not accurately representing what is on your website, which will likely result in less views and clicks.

And we all know what less views and clicks mean for your business… less dollar bills in your pocket. To learn more about how to write the best title tags and meta descriptions, click here.

Quick tip: don’t forget to change the meta description on your Home page, too! I can’t speak to all platforms because I’ve only used 4 of them, but I know that if you have a Squarespace website, this is something you need to visit a different section of the platform to change.

Instead of being able to easily edit in the Settings of your individual page, you need to visit the Marketing tab, click SEO, and then scroll down to the meta description box & enter your own description. If you don’t, Google will generate a description for you based on the content of the page.

Not consistently updating your website

Miss Google values a fresh, clean, accurate website. Consistently updating your website is key to remaining relevant to search engines, and offers the added bonus of keeping all of your content current and correct.

There’s nothing more frustrating than visiting a website that is clearly out of date, or has information that is no longer relevant (like expired offers, untimely content, pop-ups for events that have long passed, broken links, etc).

The easiest way to do this is to set a calendar reminder every month or two to give yourself a little DIY website audit. Go over all of your site’s pages and determine whether your information is still accurate. If nothing needs to be changed, great!

…but Google still likes when you update your site frequently, because this shows that you care about your users and your space on the Internet. The best way to consistently update your website without changing any of the copy or content is blogging. That’s a whole other conversation we’ll definitely have another day, though.

(But if you’re willing to take my word for it & want to jump into learning about how to optimize your website’s blog for maximum conversion and SEO benefit, sign up for the waitlist for my course and I’ll teach you exactly how to do that!)

Not using Google to your advantage

When people talk about SEO, they often mention how we need to do everything in our power to show up in a Google search… but people rarely mention all the ways Miss Google can actually help us do exactly that.

Aside from explicitly outlining everything we need to know about her algorithm, Google has a number of practices inside the Google Marketing Platform place to help us optimize our sites for SEO.

Google Analytics — a free, all-encompassing service that lets you track basically all of your analytical data as it relates to your accounts, Google, and other sites across the Internet.

Understanding your analytics is extremely important in order to make sure your SEO and marketing efforts are aligned with your results.

Quick explanation: if you’re spending all your time trying to rank on Google for a keyword no one is even searching for, you may need to reevaluate where you put your efforts. Google Analytics can tell you how people are currently finding your site, what they care about, and where you may be underperforming (aka how you can improve).

Google Search Console — if you don’t have this one set up, stop reading this blog post right meow and head over to my friend Stepfanie’s post, which clearly outlines how to do it.

Setting up Google Search Console is key to maximizing the success of your SEO efforts. She goes into more detail in her post, so in an effort to save you the time of reading it twice, I’ll summarize: Google has little pet spiders that crawl all over the Internet, looking for information to show off in SERPs (search engine results pages).

If the spiders don’t crawl on your site, your site doesn’t show up. Google Search Console (and specifically its indexing) tells the spiders to go to your site & report back.

Google My Business — this is the little informational box on the righthand side of Google’s SERP when you type in a business’s name. You’ve probably looked at a Google My Business page thousands of times (likely when you’re praying your favorite restaurant is open because you’re craving their pasta only to find out they’re closed on Mondays).

A lot of people think that this feature is only for businesses who have a brick-and-mortar store, but that’s not true! Everyone should be using Google My Business, and it’s very easy to set up (and, duh, great for SEO).

Example: even though I don’t have a storefront, someone may still be searching for “Boston copywriter” and with my Google My Business account, I have the chance of showing up for them. This is called local SEO, and if you’re a service provider without a storefront but you rely a lot on local clients (hi, photographers, wedding planners, event professionals, rental hosts…) then you’re definitely going to need to implement this, like, yesterday.

Related: SEO 101 — The SEO Series For Beginners

Using images that are too large

High-definition images make our websites beautiful. But they also make them slow as molasses. Adding too many large files to your website will cause each page to load slower, and search engines hate nothing more than waiting. Slow sides are not considered user-friendly sites, and Miss Google will punish you for that.

Not naming your file images something readable

Just like using files that are too large, not re-naming your file images something more ‘readable’ will confuse Miss Google. Instead of saving your photos and attachments with the automatically-generated jumble of letters and numbers, give those files a name that Google’s image search spiders would be able to decipher.

For example, I saved the Pinterest pin at the beginning of this post as “SEO-mistakes-to-avoid.png” so I’d have a chance to come up in a Google image search for SEO mistakes to avoid, should anyone decide to type that into Google & click on Images.

Forgetting to include internal & external links

User experience is Google’s love language. There’s nothing a search engine loves more than a website that’s easy to use. And while there are lots of factors that go into making your site user-friendly, including internal and external links is an important to-do. By including hyperlinks that users can easily click on and navigate to other places online, you’re improving their overall Internet experience, and search engines owe you a kiss on the cheek for that. There are two types of links you can include on your site:

Internal links — links that lead back to your own site. I’ve included several internal links in this post to my Contact page, other helpful blog posts I’ve written about SEO, my Services page, and more.

External links — links that lead to another person’s site. I’ve included several links to other SEO blogs and tools that I recommend. These links are all external links.

And speaking of links…

Not having any backlinks

A backlink is a fancy way of saying that another website links back to yours. When other websites link back to you, Google picks up on that, and verifies that you’ve established what search engines refer to as a ‘credible connection.’ It’s basically like a referral, but website version.

When your friend recommends someone to you, you’re more likely to trust that person, right? That’s what backlinks do for your site. When Google sees a site they know and trust recommending your site, they view you as more worthy of promoting.

As other people begin to add external links on their site that lead yours, you’ll begin to build your backlinks. Learn more about how to build backlinks here.

Pro Tip: I’m teaching an entire module on how to get backlinks inside my upcoming course—click here to join the waitlist!

Not selecting one focus keyword

This one could be a whole blog post in and of itself. In fact, it is. To learn more, begin by reading 7 powerful secrets you need to know about your focus keyword, as told by Rob Powell (someone I’ve never heard of, but just found on the first page of Google. He must know what he’s doing.)

Having too many pages with a low word count

Each page on your site needs to have at least 300 words, and the pages that rank the highest on Google have more than 1,000. Without enough words on your page, Google has a hard time determining what your content is about. And if Miss Google doesn’t know what your content is about, well, she’s gonna have a hard time recommending that content to her users.

Adding more text gives Google (and the actual humans looking at your website—don’t forget about them!) more context, and allows you to further clarify what your content is all about.

Hint: a great way to increase word count is to sprinkle testimonials throughout each page. And, added bonus, they’re great for providing social proof (aka convincing your customers to buy from you)! However, make sure your testimonials are between 1-3 sentences: people zone out after that.

Want to learn how to increase your word count without saying bullshit? I’m teaching an entire module on that inside my upcoming course, too! Join the waitlist here.

Neglecting your H1 headlines

The hierarchy of your headline sizes are important. This is what tells search engines the focus of each of your website’s pages. To learn more about what an H1 headline is, why it matters, and how to write a good one, click here.

For now, though, all you need to know is that including keywords in your largest, most prominent headline on your page is a must.

Forgetting to change your URL slugs

Don’t forget to change your slug from the random jumble of numbers and letters to something actually decipherable. SEO is all about that user-friendly content, as I’m hoping you’ve gathered by now, and slugs make it easier for both search engines and humans alike to find what they’re looking for on your site.

Good, clean slug = www.betweenthelinescopy.com/about

Bad, ugly slug = www.yourwebsite.com/wjh3843=ergh9.?aeroerg

Side note: anyone else think they could have come up with a better name than “slug” for the identifying text that comes after the “.com/” in your URL? I definitely did, so I looked it up. ‘Slug’ comes from a media term derived from the days of hot-metal printing. Here’s the full explanation, just in case you were feeling like going down an Internet rabbit hole today.

Caring more about SEO tactics than your website’s viewers

The one thing search engines hate more than a slow, confusing website is a website that clearly doesn’t consider the user journey at all. Even if you’ve (seemingly) put tons of effort into optimizing your website for SEO, if users aren’t able to easily navigate your website, they won’t stay on it.

Your web design should be intuitive, and your copy should be compelling, and your overall website should be an inviting, aesthetically pleasing place for your ideal client to hang out. If you’ve created a site that doesn’t make people want to stay and read more, search engines will take note of their short visit time, and they won’t recommend your site to anyone else (because they’ll know that its past users haven’t liked it enough).

Side note: same goes for social media content. That’s why you need to stop caring more about an algorithm than your audience and create content for your ideal client.

Not putting enough love and expertise into your website

You may not realize how much the design of and copy on your website matters to SEO. I’ve said it many times throughout this post and I’ll say it again — SEO’s best friend is user experience.

Having your brother’s girlfriend’s son’s cat DIY your website in exchange for a couple bucks and a ride to the mall may seem like a good idea when you’re first starting out, but it could end up really harming your business in the long run if things aren’t set up and optimized correctly. Web designers and copywriters understand the importance of all elements of your website, from the layout of your header to the placement of a certain element of text, and HOW it relates to SEO, so you can make the most of your space online.

Now, don’t get me wrong: investing in a hiring a professional to design or write your website is a big deal. But it’s also an investment in the success of your business, and you’re a big deal. If you’re ready to take the leap, send me a message to learn more about my copywriting services!

And if you’re not quite there yet, or if you want to learn more about how to write (and optimize! and effectively market!) your website on your own, check out my upcoming course, Site Series. The waitlist is now open and I would love to see you inside! Feel free to send me a DM if you have any questions about the course, or need help determining if it’s right for you.

Are you making any of these SEO mistakes?

Hopefully not! But if you found yourself scrolling through this post and feeling a bit in over your head — I gotchu. I offer SEO audits during my VIP days for this exact reason. Drop me a line if you’re interested in learning more about my search engine optimization services! And don’t forget to SAVE this post on Pinterest if you found it helpful!

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Hi, I'm Sara—Website Copywriter & Marketing Mentor.

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