When I was a beginner in my SEO journey, I was completely unaware at the time of executing the SEO tactics. Beginners often make mistakes either they are not aware of the basic SEO practices or they don’t understand them correctly. I was one of them. I failed to learn SEO basics and randomly followed bad tactics which later hinder my SEO progress.

With an overwhelming amount of resources, no proper guidance I was kind of stuck.  I didn’t even realize the power of community. Later on, I joined an online community, talking with an industry expert which helps me to thrive in SEO. 

My concern to every beginner who is just starting out, please go through a basic first. Follow Google SEO guidelines and don’t ever try black hat SEO techniques. Just take a baby step & slowly it will lift you to a greater level. Learn SEO fundamentals along with search engine mechanism. Simply start as a small.

In this article, I tried to dig deeper into SEO mistakes beginners often make and how to avoid them. Let’s get started.

Neglecting the Power of Site Structure

Site structure refers to how you organize your website’s content. It primarily deals with how content is grouped, linked and presented to the visitor.

Most beginners often make mistakes at the time of building a proper site structure. Creating too many menus, pages, categories and tags are common among newbie. Your site structure should look like a pyramid rather than a flat-file system. 

Even more, ignoring breadcrumbs for easier navigation, creating too many page depth are some of the bad practices which negatively impact SEO. 

As Google stated in their official website” Our mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”  You should structure your site in such a way that Google finds it useful to understand the importance of each page.

What are its best practices?

SILO site architecture
Fig: How exactly structured sites should look like?
  • Identify your primary, category, sub-category pages and then construct your site structure accordingly. Maintaining minimal page depth not more than 3 clicks is highly recommended.
  • Organize your blog post simply creating categories. For instance, if you are writing SEO blogs categories could be On-page SEO, Local SEO, Technical SEO, Link Building and so on.
  • Improve your internal linking structure simply linking back to topically relevant pages.

Wrong Keyword Selection

One of the most common SEO mistakes beginners makes is selecting keywords and neglecting the preference of search engines. They often select a broad keyword after solely relying on a search volume. Keyword research and keyword selection are one of the most crucial phases either it will make or break your SEO campaign.

Thoroughly understand the theme of a website and mapping a keyword to pages wisely is what you need to do.

What are its best practices?

  • Defining your products and services is more important to understand what words your potential customers would use to refer to them. Prepare a keyword list, add them to google sheets and map them according to your business theme to pages.
  • For a new website, choosing a long tail keyword is highly recommended though a keyword has a low search volume. Get initial traffic first. Slowly your site will build authority then you can target medium to broad keywords. 
  • Take your enough time for keyword research. It’s best to do your background research carefully before you start the optimization. Using tools like Google Trends, SEMrush, Ahrefs and Moz Keyword Explorer can help to put in right keyword selection.

Neglecting Search Intent

Search intent is the why behind a search query. In other words, why did the person make this search? Do they want to learn something? Are they looking to make a purchase? Or, are they looking for a particular website?

For instance, if you are to write an article on “How to do keyword research” you should satisfy a searcher intent like creating a step by step process on performing keyword research rather than covering a topic on keyword research tools.

Luckily, even if you are able to rank on a topic that doesn’t satisfy keyword intent, the user will bounce back within a second. Neglecting a search intent can lower a click-through rate and negatively impact your ranking.

Furthermore, let me make you clear discussing on 4 different types of Search Intent along with its best practices:

Informational Intent

The searcher is clearing looking for information.

  • What is Keyword Research?
  • History of the Great Wall
  • When did Albert Einstein die?

Navigational Intent

The searcher is looking for a specific website. They already know where they want to go.

It’s probably just quicker and easier for them to Google it than to type the entire URL into the address bar. Branded keywords all fall under navigational intent keywords. 

  • Facebook
  • Google maps
  • Beginners Guide to SEO Moz
  • Amazon Login

Commercial Intent

The searcher is in the market for a specific product or service but has yet to make a final decision on which solution is right for them. They’re most likely looking for reviews and comparisons.

  • best smartphone
  • ahrefs vs moz
  • semrush review
  • top restaurant in Kathmandu

Transactional Intent

The searcher is looking to make a purchase. They’re in buying mode. Most likely, they already know what they want to buy. They’re looking for a place to buy it from.

  • buy MacBook pro
  • Lynda coupon
  • Samsung galaxy s10 cheap
  • LastPass premium price

What are its best practices?

tips on Optimizing for search intent
  • Search intent determines the type of site and content you create. Let me give you an example. One of the most popular sites wikihow which is all about how-to instructions. This site falls under informational kinds of sites. You probably will notice that the content they create is all of the informational intent.
  • Likewise, if you type “buy protinex” on google,  you will notice the search result with several e-commerce sites. If the keyword has informational intent, write a blog post. If it has transactional intent, create a product page. Cool, you get an idea. 

Last but not least, analyzing different intent keywords, it infers that informational sites should be more focused on informational intent keywords whereas sites offering products & services should be more focused on commercial or transactional intent keywords.

Not outlining a content

The main difference between SEO content and generic content is that the first is well written along with search intent in mind. And the second one is written haphazardly without realizing search intent and ignoring proper formatting. Sadly, the second one is what most of the beginners do and still wondering to rank higher on google. 

In short, an SEO content outline is a technique of grouping all topics and subtopics you need to cover for your posts/pages. Its main theme is to be better than everything that currently ranks for the selected keyword.

What are its best practices?

Before you start writing, it’s a good idea to think of WHAT you’re going to write. Content outlining can be performed after a solid keyword analysis. As a beginner, if you are writing content either for landing pages or blog posts make a solid content formatting first along with proper writing guidelines. 

Bonus: Here is a content outlining sample I have created on the topic “On-Page SEO” in google docs.  Please make a copy of the docs or simply download first to get more insight.

Keyword Stuffing

Keyword stuffing refers to the practice of overusing/loading an intended keyword on a web page in an attempt to manipulate a site’s ranking in Google search results. Often stuffed keywords look spammy or unnatural appear in a list or group, or out of context.

When I was a beginner in SEO, I was mistaken with the use of keywords. One thing was hitting in my mind, the more you use keywords the better it will rank higher in google. That was one of the worst mistakes ever I made as a newbie.

Dear beginners don’t ever commit such mistakes. If you are reading this article, you are one of those lucky people to get precautions before starting out. Keyword stuffing not only negatively impacts your SEO, even more, but sites can also be manually removed from search engines. 

What are its best practices? 

Due to the advancement of an algorithm, Google can easily detect keyword stuffing. In fact, Google employed a special semantic search called Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI). This program can recognize your content’s topic easily. If you are writing on the post “how to make a pizza”? This is how google processes your content and how your topics should be optimized around:

  • Pizza Ingredients you need to prepare
  • Special equipment you need
  • Step by step processes 

In a nutshell, if you are able to optimize keywords around those semantic keywords also called LSI keywords. You could improve search ranking. So loading a keyword pizza multiple times won’t rank at present. A few years ago, it was possible but today keyword stuffing is long gone. Focus on creating quality content that can add value to a searcher.

Warning: Using intended keywords over and over in a site could lead to a manual Google penalty.

Using copied content mindlessly

Copying other content mindlessly

Most of the beginner’s headache is dealing with writing content. So what they choose is a shortcut. Simply copy and paste from another site and hoping to rank higher in google. My buddies, this is never going to happen. Suppose, you were cheating from classmates during final exam and all of sudden your invigilator caught you a red hand. What might be the consequence? There is no way, you will be punished for sure. Similar to Google, their algorithm can detect copied content and original source as a reason to penalize a site. Advancement of algorithm like Panda which is developed to fight against duplicate and copied content, Google is smart enough to catch a culprit.

Even more, there is a practice still exists even among experts like copying content and slightly modifying original, replacing with synonyms and so on.  This type of copying makes it difficult to find the exact matching original source. Hence your site will be the real contender for manual penalty. 

There are millions of blog published on a daily basis. But sadly, most of the contents doesn’t rank well in the search engine. According to a Matt Cutts who previously worked as a part of the search quality team has himself stated that duplicate content happens all over the net all the time, from blog posts to web pages and social media?

Matt Cutts stated that “25-30% of the web is duplicate content”.

Difference between duplicate content and copied content

Duplicate content and copied content are used synonymously in the SEO world. But they are slightly different from each other. Duplicate content means similar types of pages, contents that exist within a site whereas copied content means illegally copying someone else contents from another domain.

What are its best practices?

  • Never ever copy content from other sites. In some cases, you can cite a source as a reference site. It avoids a copyright violation and even google to penalize you.
  •  Google heavily focus on E-A-T which stands for Expertise, Authoritativeness and Trustworthiness. A content which is published from a well-known expert tends to rank higher in google. Just stick on it. Make sure your content fulfils all necessary guidelines. For more insight, have a look at google search quality rater guidelines.
  • For duplication issues within a site, make sure you use a canonical tag pointing to original or a preferred version of a page.

Improper Internal Linking 

Internal linking is the practice of pointing a link from one page to another page within the same site. So using the right internal linking strategy can boost your SEO. 

As a beginner the most common mistakes that many webmasters do with internal linking are:

  • Not using internal linking at all
  • Using too many internal links
  • Linking to a topically irrelevant pages
  • Not using descriptive anchor text 
  • Stuffing keyword-rich anchor text over & over
  • Using more generic anchor text like find more, link here, here and so on

What are its best practices?

Using internal links helps to connect with pages and give Google an idea of the structure of your website. Ultimately it helps to improve your page ranking. Here are some best internal linking practices to implement:

  • Link to topically relevant pages
  • Use descriptive/keyword-rich anchor text
  • Variation in keyword-rich anchor text if you are using the same keywords over and over
  • Avoid using tag clouds
  • Aim to have 2-10 internal links per page (depending on the content)
  • Internally link more to top-performing articles and pages you want to rank

Not optimizing images

Interactive content like images helps to improve user experience.  It makes pages more interesting to read and shareable.

One of the most common mistakes beginners make is to simply download an image and upload it to its site without compromising source, size and quality.  In a nutshell, you are not optimizing images according to SEO guidelines.

Here are some common mistakes you should avoid doing: 

Using uncompressed images

Using images that are too big in file size which makes the website slower to load. Below 150KB is recommended if you are using blog posts. While on landing pages or even e-commerce stores, image size may vary

Best Practices: Optimize your image file size before publishing. Avoid using large image files. Use online photo editing tools like tinypng or offline tools like photoshop to optimize your images.

Using Copyright images

One of the most common mistakes they make is to simply download images from other sources and use it on a site. If you are to use other source images, make sure to mention a credit or citation. Copying images illegally to your site means you are violating copyright laws and regulations. 

Best Practices: There are numerous copyright-free stock images sites where you can download it and later use it in your site.

Bonus Tips: Use advanced Google search filters for unlimited copyright-free images.

Ignoring image ALT tags

A common mistake a beginner makes is to simply leave an alt text as it is.

Using ALT tags help search engines understand what an image is about. Even more, alt text acts as a primary purpose to describe the visitor who is blind. Adding alternative text for images is the first principle of web accessibility.

Best practices: Use descriptive alt text as much as possible along with your primary keywords. Make it natural and don’t keyword stuff.

Using too many images

Using images helps to improve user experience but it doesn’t mean you have to include too many images in a single blog post. 

Best Practices: As per the content length, content types use images as minimal as possible. For instance, a travel blog might require more images as compared to SEO blogs. 

Compromising Quantity Over Quality

Evolution of Google Algo updates like Panda and Hummingbird which can now easily determine the quality of content. Keyword stuffing which was used over the past years to manipulate search ranking is long gone. It means you have to create content for humans not for bots.

There has been a huge debate regarding content length in the SEO community. The length of content correlates with search ranking but it doesn’t mean writing a long-form of content always does better in SERP. Quality matters where the written piece of an article should satisfy expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.

What are its best practices? 

Focus on providing quality and highly relevant content. Focus on creating content that satisfies user intent. Focus on creating content that helps your readers. Google will ultimately reward you.

Let me give you an example. If you are writing blog posts on the topic “how to make a homemade Pizza”?. You created a step by step process on preparing pizza along with video content. There is a high probability you will be able to rank higher on google. In a nutshell, you are satisfying user intent. 

Not optimizing site speed

Most of the SEO beginners take site speed so lightly that they keep on publishing tons of content but forget to optimize site speed. It happened to me when I was an SEO beginner.  

If you are one of those who is ignoring optimizing for site speed, you are really missing out a massive opportunity. Google has stated that site speed is one of the ranking factors. 

Some of the common mistake WordPress user makes is they don’t mind installing a huge number of unnecessary plugins and make a site speed even worse.

What are its best practices?

Tips on optimizing for website speed
  • Boycott using an unnecessary plugin, if you are a WordPress user
  • Compress images first before uploading to a site. Less than 150KB is recommended
  • You can start by analyzing your website through the Google PageSpeed Insights, Pingdom, Gtmetrix and so on

Not actively promoting  a blog posts

One of the common problems exists among newbie bloggers. They hesitate to promote their own blog posts on social media and other platforms. Google stated that traffic from social media is not a ranking factor but sure they have an indirect impact on search ranking.

For instance, you shared a blog in the Facebook community, some of the bloggers liked an article you shared and they link back to your article. See, you got backlinks along with referral traffic which will directly impact on your search ranking. Promoting blog posts in similar communities is another way to build a genuine audience.

What are its best practices?

  • Share your content to social media and another online platform like Quora, Reddit, medium, LinkedIn and so on
  • Write a guest post and publish it in an authoritative website and link it to your post.
  • You can even use Facebook Ads to promote your posts to a predefined targeted audience

Not publishing content consistently

Publishing content consistently once a week is far better than publishing content haphazardly. This was my mistake when I was a beginner. I used to publish 2-3articles in a week, sometimes not even a single article in 15 days. What do I lack? My inconsistency during publishing articles. 

What are its best practices?

It doesn’t matter if you publish new content daily, every other day or once a week; what is more important is having a consistent publishing schedule.

Have a plan for how many times you are likely to publish new content and make a solid content calendar. After publishing share your content to your predefined audience.

Bonus: Find a free SEO content calendar template as per your choice. Check the link here.

Neglecting Google Search Console &  Google Analytics 

Most of the people who are in SEO, not just beginners, simply set up search console & analytics and forget it. In a simple sense, they publish content and hope and pray it rises to the top of search results easily. Sadly, this doesn’t happen in SEO now.

Unlike, keyword stuffing that worked over the past years is long gone. Learning from the past and analyzing results at present, taking strategic steps is what you need to improve your SEO.

What are its best practices?

Tips and strategy on performing web analytics

Collect as much data as you can about your content. Audit your content then prioritize your content by categorizing top performing pages, good and mediocre. Make a solid strategy for further improving your top-performing pages and so on.

For instance, internal linking from a new article to a top-performing article, creating more backlinks can help to improve ranking. You can use free tools from Google such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console to help collect and analyze data. 

Final Thought

SEO is evolving with great intensity that a technique that works in years ago will not work at present. Google updates its algorithm almost every day to give users the most relevant results. Adopting SEO best practices, minimizing SEO mistakes along with a frequent test is what you need to gain expertise in the SEO industry. 

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