Search engine optimization can be an unforgiving effort if you don’t cover the basics. Whether you’re new to online marketing or a seasoned SEO expert, it’s important to realize that everyone is vulnerable to some simple, preventable mistakes — sometimes through no fault of their own. Left unchecked, these mistakes can end up wasting countless hours you’ve spent honing your SEO strategy.

We’ll review seven basic SEO mistakes that even experts are known to make. This list doesn’t touch on everything you should be doing to boost your SEO, but checking for these errors can save you time and money.

1. Loading Your Content With too Many Keywords

“Keyword stuffing” — packing your site with relevant keyword terms — is a long-obsolete practice of gaining better search rankings. Years ago, keyword stuffing was actually quite effective, but nowadays it’s a one-way ticket to bad SEO.

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That said, too many marketers and SEO writers still (wrongly) believe that more is better. As a result, many websites are loaded with awkwardly placed keywords that do more harm than good. It’s essential to identify your most relevant keywords and make sure they’re represented on the appropriate webpages, but don’t make any extra efforts to include more keywords than necessary. Google’s algorithm is designed to reward natural, high-quality content.

2. Preventing Your Site From Being Indexed

Did someone else code your website? If so, you’ll want to double-check your HTML code and make sure your site can be indexed by search engines. Specifically, check your homepage HTML code for this line of code: <meta name=”robots” content=”noindex”>

If you find that code, then Google, Bing and all other search engines won’t index your site. And websites that aren’t indexed are virtually invisible unless you type the url into the search bar. Literally none of your SEO efforts will matter with a flawed .htaccess file.

3. Using Poorly Written Content

Most online marketers are aware of the guiding principle that content is king. However, not all marketers truly believe it. They’ll settle for second-rate content on their carefully tuned websites and then wonder why their SERP rankings aren’t as high as expected.

Now more than ever, Google’s search algorithm is programmed to deliver the most relevant, unique content for Web users’ needs. If your content isn’t unique and well-written, then Google will likely see your competitors’ sites as more valuable. There are many ways to add content to your site; you can start a blog, make infographics, add videos and much more. Whichever form your content takes, just make sure it’s high quality.

4. Stopping Search Engines From Crawling CMS-Based Sites

WordPress, Joomla and other content management systems are popular among marketers who don’t want to code websites from scratch. Unfortunately, these platforms have plug-ins and settings that might prevent websites from getting indexed. If your website is based on a CMS, make sure your “Discourage” setting is unchecked.

This is actually quite common during a website redesign. When redesigning a website you may create a brand new development website that you don’t want Google or any other search engines to crawl. So you’ll check the box to hide your development website from search engines. However, you must remember to uncheck this box after you migrate the development website to your live website! If not, you’ll be preventing your website from showing up in the search results.

5. Underestimating the Importance of Page Speed

Page speed is directly related to better SERP rankings. Web users are much more likely to return to Google’s search results after clicking URLs to slow-loading pages, resulting in higher bounce rates. Google penalizes websites that deliver poor user experiences, and high bounce rates indicate exactly that.

How fast do webpages need to load? There’s no solid answer to this question. Likewise, it’s difficult to quantify good and bad bounce rates, because bounce rates vary widely based on niche and other factors. Your website should be pretty snappy, though. Research by the marketing firm KISSmetrics found that 40 percent of visitors bounce from pages that take more than three seconds to load.

6. Not Localizing Your Content

Hyper-localized SEO is increasingly important. More people search Google from smartphones than desktops, and they’re often looking for restaurants, retailers and other businesses within a short drive or walking distance. People who search using smartphones are also likely to speak their search queries, resulting in conversational, long-tailed keywords.

To take advantage of these local searches, businesses can reference the neighborhoods, districts and cities in which they are located as well as information about community events and other local (and relevant) topics of interests.

7. Not Using Meta Descriptions

Many digital marketers shrug off meta descriptions because they no longer directly influence SERP rankings. However, meta descriptions certainly play an indirect role. Web users are more likely to click on search results with well-written meta descriptions, resulting in higher clickthrough rates (CTRs). And high CTRs most definitely lead to better search rankings. Low CTRs do the opposite.

Conclusion

Whether you’re new to SEO or you’ve been doing this for years, don’t get so complacent that you end up undermining your own efforts. Make it a habit to always check all the key areas of SEO on a regular basis. As your website grows and evolves, you’ll likely find that simple edits you made have been overwritten inadvertently. You’ll never know you have all your bases covered unless you regularly audit your website.

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