When I launched my first blog (over 10 years ago!) I made a TON of SEO mistakes.

Fortunately, that experience was an important lesson. Since then, in my career in SEO coaching and content strategy, I’ve seen countless bloggers and small business owners consistently make the same mistakes.

Let’s look at 13 of the most common SEO mistakes you’re probably making (and how to avoid them).

13 Damaging SEO Mistakes That Cost You Traffic (And How to Fix Them)

#1. Not Having a Blog

I’ve seen many business owners who have a website, but don’t have a blog section set up. That’s a huge missed opportunity.

Without a blog, you miss out on most SEO benefits. A blog creates opportunities to regularly publish new content that’s optimized around keywords your target audience is searching for.

Each blog post you publish is another chance to rank for those terms. The more posts you have targeting searches, the more likely you’ll start claiming your spot on those critical first pages in Google.

It’s not just about rankings. A blog also keeps visitors coming back to your site to read fresh material. A high-quality blog engages your audience. Engagement signals relevancy to Google, leading to higher rankings. But the core value of blogging is an audience that keeps on growing.

So if you’ve got a business website, make sure you’ve activated the blog section and then start planning your first blog posts.

#2. Skipping Keyword Research

When I launched my first blog over 10 years ago, I simply wrote about things I personally found interesting. I didn’t make an effort to understand what topics and terms my audience was searching for (because I didn’t know about keyword research).

That was a major mistake. Despite regularly publishing new posts, my site struggled to show up in search results. After months of work, I still couldn’t rank for any related keywords. The only way I got any visibility for my blog posts was by constantly sharing them on social media (which soon became pretty exhausting).

Eventually, I realized keyword research was the major gap. Without targeting my content around actual search volume and user intent, search engines had little reason to rank my amateur ramblings. I clearly didn’t understand what questions and needs my audience had.

Keyword research is essential in your blogging strategy. It all starts by understanding the type of problems your audience has, then using keyword research tools to find appropriate keywords and target them in your blog posts.

#3. Getting Search Intent Wrong

Search intent is another vital factor in getting your blog to rank. Whenever you want to target a specific keyword, the first step is understanding exactly what the user wants to see when they type that keyword into the search bar.

In a nutshell, we can categorize search intent into four main types:

  1. Informational – the user wants to solve a problem or understand a topic in more depth
  2. Commercial – the user wants to compare products or services with a view to purchase
  3. Transactional – the user wants to purchase a product or service as quickly or as cheaply as possible
  4. Navigational – the user wants to locate a certain page on the Internet and get there quickly

If you get the search intent wrong, then your blog post won’t rank for that keyword. For example, let’s say you’re targeting the keyword “best coffee makers for travellers”.

The use of the word “best” suggests that this is a commercial intent keyword. The person searching for this phrase is looking to compare different coffee makers with a view to eventually buy one of them.

So if you targeted this keyword with an informational article about the best ways to make coffee while travelling, you would likely have no chance of ranking.

As a rule of thumb, you should always Google your target keyword and check the top 10 results. If they’re mostly commercial articles, then you should target a similar intent. If it’s mostly informational articles, then you need to do the same.

Matching search intent is what keeps people coming back to Google. So, as you can imagine, it wouldn’t make sense for Google to serve articles that got search intent wrong. Keep Google happy, and you’ll rank higher.

#4. Obsessing Over Vanity Metrics

Another common SEO mistake is getting too fixated on vanity metrics. Vanity metrics typically include domain rating (DR/DA) and organic traffic.

The domain rating of your website simply means the amount of external links pointing back to it. Having external links is important, but it’s also something that can be easily gamed. Hence, lots of websites have high DR scores but very little traffic and poor quality content.

Organic traffic can be another vanity metric. Hear me out on this one. Yes, it’s important to get a lot of traffic to your blog. But it needs to be the right traffic, i.e. the traffic that brings you relevant results for your business goals.

For example, if you want to sell a product or service from your blog, then you need traffic that comes from people who are interested in potentially buying those things. Simply getting traffic for unrelated informational queries won’t be of any significant value for your business.

#5. Writing For Yourself, Not Your Audience

This point is closely related to point number 2 about keyword research.

Many bloggers fall into the trap of writing for themselves rather than their audience. But if you take the time to do proper keyword research, this is far less likely to happen to you.

Nevertheless, when you’re in the process of writing a blog post for a certain keyword, you should always keep reminding yourself of your reader.

Only provide the information that will help them the most. That can often mean avoiding waffle and unnecessary text, in favour of getting straight to the point and solving the reader’s main problem.

#6. Neglecting Site Speed

The user experience of your website also plays a key role in SEO success. One major factor is your website’s loading speed.

Slow loading websites will test the user’s patience and will probably drive them away to try somewhere else. That’s a negative signal to Google and it can end up harming your rankings.

One way to keep your site speed optimized is by choosing a high quality and lightweight theme. Assuming you’re blogging on WordPress (as most people do), several themes offer the best experience in terms of site speed.

My top theme picks are:

  • Kadence (this blog runs on Kadence)
  • GeneratePress
  • Astra

Many bloggers choose themes that come with fully featured page builders, such as Elementor. But this is a bad idea because page builders add a lot of weight to your website, which can lead to slow site speeds.

The themes I’ve listed above use the Gutenberg blocks builder, which is a native WordPress builder and hence much lighter weight.

You can get excellent results with the above three themes, and they’re pretty easy to customize, without also sacrificing the speed of your website.

Another way to maintain good site speed is by using an optimization plugin such as WP Rocket.

#7. Using Link Farms (And Other Dodgy Tactics)

When you’re new to SEO, it’s easy to fall victim to the many dodgy “black hat” tactics lurking around every corner. One prime example of this is using “link farms” to get backlinks for your blog.

For example, you’ve just started a new blog. You’ve heard that you need to build backlinks. So a quick Google search leads you to Fiverr or Upwork, where you see lots of sellers advertising “1,000 High DR Backlinks for $20”.

Great, you think. This is easy. So you go ahead and buy 1,000 backlinks Then a couple of weeks later you go back and buy 1,000 more. They’re just so cheap!

The problem is, buying these bad quality links will eventually catch up with you. And when it does, Google will likely destroy your site, making it crash down to nothing in the rankings.

So why are these backlinks bad quality? Because the sellers offering these links are getting them from websites known as “link farms”, created merely for the purposes of selling links. Link farms typically have a high DR/DA score (which tricks newbies into thinking they’re high quality).

But in reality, not only are link farms likely irrelevant to the topic of your website, they’re also connected to lots of other websites – many of them extremely dodgy. All in all, this creates a highly toxic scenario ripe for attracting manual penalties from Google. You don’t want your blog involved in something like that. So avoid link farms at all costs.

The best way to build backlinks is by providing something of genuine value. Such as:

  • Writing a valuable guest post for another blog in your niche (and making it properly valuable, not just a way to get a link)
  • Answering journalist requests on platforms like HARO (which can get you high quality links from media websites)
  • Publishing “linkbait” blog posts – top quality content that target keywords people are likely to link back to. A prime example would be “[your niche] + statistics”. Creating tools and templates is another good way to drive links organically.

As you can see, getting backlinks this way requires some extra work. But it’s worth it in the long run to avoid manual penalties or other issues on your blog.

Link farms aren’t the only dodgy SEO tactic to avoid. You should also avoid shortcuts like keyword stuffing, over-optimization, and publishing massive quantities of “one-shot” unedited AI content on your blog.

#8. Failing to Update Old Content

Okay so you’ve published lots of new content on your blog. That’s great, but you can’t just sit around and leave it alone for months on end. Once your posts start ranking, you’ll find that lots of competitors will come out of the woodwork and start chasing the same keywords.

What’s more, the search intent of your target keywords can shift over time, making your own blog posts less relevant than before. That normally leads to a drop in rankings and traffic.

To avoid these scenarios, it’s important to plan regular updates to your old content. I recommend reviewing content performance every 3 to 6 months (Google Search Console is best for this), and updating each post accordingly.

Look for things like:

  • Shifts in keyword search intent
  • Outdated and/or inaccurate information and statistics
  • Competitors producing better quality content (you’ll need to improve your post so it’s better than theirs)

Keeping your content up-to-date is a good thing for your readers, and Google will reward it accordingly.

#9. Having Two Versions of Your Website

When I first started with SEO, I had a client that made a common mistake – they had two versions of their website. There was www.companyname[.]com and there was also the non-www version, companyname[.]com.

As a result, there were two duplicate websites in existence. One with the www, and one without it. This is a problem because, in Google’s eyes, it splits the value of each page across two different URLs. So any rankings potential and keyword power gets reduced for each one.

When you have two competing site versions it also signals technical errors and duplicate content issues to Google. So the first thing I had to fix was choose which version we wanted to rank – the www or non-www. It honestly doesn’t matter, as long as you choose just one and stick to it. I prefer the non-www version for my own sites.

We set up 301 redirects that point anyone going to the www site over to the non-www URLs. This brings all the value and SEO juice back under one domain, instead of diluting it across two. It cleared up duplication confusion. Plus, pages that struggled to rank before shot up into higher visibility spots after making the switch.

#10. Not Tracking Progress

Ignoring your progress is another common SEO mistake. Many bloggers just keep publishing content without stopping to analyze or evaluate its performance. But without tracking your progress, you won’t know which blog posts are succeeding and which are falling short.

I like to use several different ways to track my SEO progress. One of them is an SEO tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush. With these, you can keep an eye on your blog’s performance for all of its organic keywords, set up the most important keywords to track, and also monitor your competitors’ performance.

Google Search Console is another important place to track your progress. Here you can see how your blog is growing in impressions and clicks overtime. You can also focus in on specific queries, and compare search performance month over month and year over year.

Google Analytics is also useful, but keep in mind that it shows traffic from multiple different sources, not just from search. If you’re running other traffic strategies alongside SEO, such as social media or email marketing, then Google Analytics will play a key role in tracking your progress.

Just remember that SEO is a long game, so don’t track your progress every single day! I normally check my site metrics once a week maximum. If I’m working with a client, I normally give them a progress report on a monthly basis.

#11. Ignoring Your Competitors

Another common SEO mistake is to ignore your competitors. This often goes hand-in-hand with skipping keyword research. When you’re analyzing a specific keyword, it’s difficult to overlook the other sites competing for it.

Competitor analysis is an essential part of a good SEO strategy. You need to know which keywords your competitors are going after, how they’re tackling them, what their backlink strategy involves, and any other tips and tricks you can glean from studying them.

Keep in mind, you should never copy your competitors directly, but you can use their content as a jumping off point for ideas to inspire your own. The goal is always to add unique value and provide the best experience for your reader.

For more on SEO competitor analysis, check out my detailed guide.

#12. Publishing Sporadically

Another common mistake is publishing content whenever you feel like it. In 2024, it’s no longer enough to just publish a blog post every other month.

Instead, you need to build a strong foundation of content based on a consistent publishing schedule. For solo bloggers, I recommend publishing a new post at least once a week. If you can manage to publish 2 to 3 times a week, you will grow your blog that much faster. “Content velocity” plays a major role in success.

If you have the budget to hire freelance writers, then you can step up your content publishing schedule significantly. Remember to always focus on quality and serving the user above all else.

#13. Quitting Too Soon

On the flip side, giving up too soon is unfortunately a common SEO mistake that many bloggers make. SEO really does take time to kick in, so you’ll need to stick with it for the long-term.

If you start a new blog from scratch and publish consistently, you probably won’t see much in the way of results for at least 3 to 6 months. But everyone’s timeline is different, and it also depends on how effective your SEO and content is.

To keep me motivated in those delicate early stages, I like to monitor Google Search Console for growth in impressions (the purple line). If I can see signs of impressions growth for the keywords I’m targeting, it’s a great sign that my content is on the right track and will only keep growing.

Actionable Next Steps

Now that you’re aware of these 13 common SEO mistakes, it’s time to take action. Conduct an audit of your current strategy, prioritize the most critical issues, and create a step-by-step plan to tackle them.

As you work to improve your SEO, keep your audience at the forefront of every decision. Focus on creating valuable content that meets their needs and engages them. Treat your blog like a business and your readers as valued customers.

Stay committed to continuous improvement, learn from your successes and failures, and don’t be afraid to experiment with new strategies. With dedication and a strategic approach, you can build a thriving blog that drives traffic, engagement, and achieves your business goals. SEO isn’t dead, it’s just evolving!

Want to build a better blog? Check out my toolkit below!

My Profitable Blogging Toolkit

👉 Semrush – My top SEO tool for keyword research, competitor analysis, backlink auditing, site audits, and much more. Get my 14-day free trial here.

👉 RankIQ – The best content optimizer tool for easy content revamps, a vast handpicked keyword library (great for beginners!), and intelligent ranking auditing. Try it with a 50% discount here.

👉 WPX – Fast web hosting with the best customer support I’ve ever had. The team will do almost everything for you, saving you a ton of time and energy.

👉 Claude – The best AI writing tool I’ve tried (and I’ve tried loads). 100% better than ChatGPT. If you’re sick of the fluffy robo-text, give Claude a try.

👉 ShortPixel – Speed up your site with the best image compressing and optimizing plugin. Super easy to use. You can also buy credits to pay as you go.

👉 Kadence – My WordPress theme of choice. Fast, clean, and easy to set up. Their start templates let you build out a new site in minutes.

👉 Lasso – Managing lots of affiliate links? Then you need Lasso to keep track of everything. They also have stunning product boxes to spruce up your affiliate content.

👉 ConvertKit – Every profitable blogger needs an email list working for them behind the scenes. ConvertKit is the most user-friendly and comprehensive email list tool I’ve found.

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