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8 Silly But Harmful SEO Mistakes Even Professionals Make

There’s plenty of room for things to go wrong in SEO. Here are eight seemingly small yet damaging mistakes professionals should watch out for.

8 Silly But Harmful SEO Mistakes Even Professionals Make

Kicking yourself because of a recent SEO oversight?

You’re not alone.

SEO has become a complex field that simply getting down the basics can be a behemoth task.

And the average SEO strategy covers a lot!

There are keywords, meta tags, and off-page optimizations to take care of, aside from more advanced tips, tools, and tricks to learn and use to get the job done well.

It can be overwhelming.

Also, because of the metrics, we can’t hide from any mistakes or oversights because the numbers will show it.

You can be the most detail-oriented, diligent professional out there but the fact is: there’s plenty of room for things to go wrong, or for you to slip up even when you’re at the top of your field.

My hat’s off to you if you’ve never messed up at least one little thing!

Here are eight silly mistakes that even the SEO professionals sometimes make.

1. Leaving a Noindex / Nofollow Command on the Site Upon Launching

You can prevent a page on a website (or an entire website) from appearing in Google by using a noindex meta tag in your site’s header code.

When Googlebot sees that tag, it’ll immediately drop the page from the search results.

That’s useful if you’re still developing your site, or you don’t have root access to a server and want more control over access to specific pages or the whole site for any reason.

But if you forget to take it out before your big site launch?


Another mistake can be putting a noindex meta tag into the site’s header code and then blocking the command with a robots.txt.

Remember: you need to do one or the other.

Not both.

2. Not Using Google Analytics and/or Google Search Console

Ideally, you should be using both.

Google Analytics gives you all the data you need to understand the performance of your website. It tells you about things like traffic, demographics, and how long your readers hang around before they bounce.

Google Search Console gives you everything you need to improve your site. It’ll tell you about who’s linking to you, whether technical errors exist, and more.

You’re missing out if you aren’t using them.

Yet, some professionals forego them altogether.


That’s simple:

There are a lot of tools out there. Many of them are proprietary and few of them are cheap.

Plus, once we find a tool we like, we tend to keep on using it.

While other tools may offer similar capabilities to Google Analytics or Search Console, at the end of the day, however, they may not give the best results.

Another common mistake that some professionals make is not spending enough time on Google itself.

A good SEO can get everything he or she needs directly from the search engine.

The only thing fancy SEO tools do is make that information easier to read, more accessible, and available to you more quickly.

3. Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords

Did you know that SEO professionals have a blind spot when it comes to keywords?

It might sound surprising because we do so much keyword research.

But doing that can lead to being too set in doing things a certain way, even when there could be some better way to do it.

Specifically, we can develop bad habits and end up optimizing for the wrong keywords.

Sometimes we end up optimizing from the business perspective, when we should be doing it from the perspective of our clients’ customers.

Let me give you an example.

Company A sells shoes specifically for people with hallux valgus, better known as bunions.

The content of the site reflects the show design, which is evidence-based and rooted in the science of it.

The keywords chosen were “hallux valgus shoe” and “evidence-based shoes to treat bunions.”

Nice, specific, low competition long-tail keywords.

Seemed perfect, yes?

Not quite.

A few weeks later, we started getting emails and phone calls from doctors asking about prescription requirements or how to acquire them for their patients.

But we were trying to sell to the general public.

To break this habit, it’s a good idea to spend some time researching what people will search for when they’re looking for answers to their problems.

Try to find out what language they use.

It won’t always be the official terminology, so it matters what language you speak to land in front of your target audience.

4. Not Using Internal Links

Citing your sources with lots of super high-quality, authoritative links is a really good idea.

It helps your readers take you seriously and it signals to Google that you can be trusted to provide good information. (It’s even one of the things they specify in their search quality evaluator guidelines.)

However, sometimes we get really excited about external links and neglect the internal ones.

Remember that they’re also important.

Internal links are a great way to boost your position in the SERPs because they:

  • Make it easier for Googlebot to crawl your site.
  • Help signal topic clusters and important pages.
  • Drive traffic to other parts of your site.

5. Not Improving Content

Did you know that Google has a freshness algorithm? It does.

If you’re serving up stale content, you might notice your page rankings – and traffic – start to drop.

Stale content is content that has become:

  • Outdated due to new statistics or market changes.
  • Incorrect due to the emergence of new information.
  • Irrelevant due to changes in how Google understands a keyword.
  • Devalued due to algorithm updates.

Content isn’t a “set it and forget it” thing.

Plus, links break, files go missing, and keywords fall out of usage.

Therefore, you should make sure you’re keeping an eye on your pages.

Remove old content and adjust anything that looks like it’s sliding.

Google will appreciate it, and reward you with a better position in the SERPs.

6. Not Optimizing for Search Intent

Similar to using the wrong keywords, failing to optimize for user search intent can prove just as devastating to your SEO strategy.

Fortunately, optimizing for search intent has gotten a whole lot easier as Google fine tunes its ability to deliver exactly what people are looking for.

Generally, Google splits searches into three main categories:

  • “Do” searches. These are transactional in nature, such as “buy laptop online.”
  • “Know” and “know simple” searches. These are informative in nature, such as “best laptops 2020.”
  • “Go” searches. These are navigational in nature, such as “laptop seller near me” or “laptop return policy”

You want to optimize for each of these searches because they also correspond to steps in the customer’s journey.

That maximizes the chances of you getting the right content in front of the right customers at just the right point, when they need it.

7. Thinking SEO Is Only Concerned with Traffic

Pop into any SEO message board or subreddit and you’ll see post after post that looks like this:

“Why am I not getting more traffic?”

“How do I drive traffic to my new site?”

“Best SEO strategies to boost site traffic quickly?”

Traffic, traffic, traffic.

Sure, as SEO partners, it’s our job to drive traffic to sites.

A good SEO strategy will accomplish exactly this.

But what’s equally as important as traffic?


You can have all the traffic you want, but it won’t mean anything at the end of the day if your readers aren’t following through and hitting purchase or subscribe.

Remember, like with all things you should value quality over quantity.

Lots of site traffic but low conversions mean that you’re attracting a lot of irrelevant visitors.

A small number of highly-targeted customers is better than tons of lookie-loos.

8. Putting SEO ‘on Pause’

So, you’ve built your site.

You’ve loaded it chock-full of super helpful information.

You’ve crafted an SEO strategy and let it loose in the search engine.

You’re rising in the SERPs.

People are filtering into your site…

And then you let it all slide.

What the heck happened?

You were doing well, that’s what happened.

You discovered that your SEO engine was working, and you got complacent.

Maybe you put your focus on other things like improving your product line, thinking that your SEO would be good for a while.

SEO is not a light switch. It’s not a machine that will just keep chugging away, delivering results.

It’s more like a windup toy – if you don’t maintain it and constantly improve, it’ll run out of steam.

Your ranks will degrade.

You’ll fade again into the obscurity that is Page 2 (or beyond) of Google.

Here’s the Takeaway: Even When You Know What You’re Doing, Plenty Can Go Wrong

Planning, implementing, and maintaining a viable SEO strategy involves a lot of moving pieces.

It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

It also means there are plenty of opportunities to make little oversights and mistakes that can devastate your position in the SERPs.


I’ve just covered eight things that are super simple (even silly) in hindsight, but that professionals do by accident every single day.

Happy ranking.

More Resources:

Image Credits

All screenshots taken by author

Category Careers SEO
SEJ STAFF Loren Baker Founder at Foundation Digital

Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing ...

8 Silly But Harmful SEO Mistakes Even Professionals Make

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