Top SEO Mistakes You Must Avoid (Cheatsheet)

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I’ve been gathering information on some common SEO mistakes.  Here is a list of what I have so far.  Be sure to comment and add any that you have experienced.  Let’s all learn from these:

MistakeWhy It’s A MistakeSolution
Not doing proper keyword researchYou think you know how people think, you certainly know how you think and how you would search so you just go with the phrases that you think people will use.  Big mistake.  People search differently, especially because different people are in different phases of the researching and buying process and you want to use keywords that will catch them in all phases in the process.  Keyword research is the foundation of your campaign and not a step you should skip.Review web stats, brainstorm with colleagues, use keyword research tools, check out competitors.  Put the proper time and attention into keyword research.
Doing your own SEO…but then never making time to actually get it doneYou don’t have to outsource, you can handle it yourself – as long as you really do handle it yourself.  Often the tasks site on a to do list for a long time and you never get around to it, but you still hopefully check your web stats – expecting to somehow find the engines picked up your site and sent a ton of traffic.Be honest with yourself about whether you have the time or not.  If you do have the time, make it a priority and do the work, if you don’t then you need to outsource.
Ignoring social media because you “don’t get it” or “don’t like itLike it or not, get it or not, social media is part of SEO and its here to stay.  You are missing out if you aren’t doing SEO.Just Do It!!  At the minimum get a profile and get connecting on LinkedIn.  Get a Fan Page and get active on Twitter.
Lacking a strategy and planWe are all busy, we all need more hours in the day.  Without a strategy and action plan, most things won’t get done.  If you are handling your own SEO, Blogging, Social Media, you need an action plan and you need a focused strategy that has goals attached so you know what you are working towards.Reverse engineer your goals to come up with a daily action plan. Also be sure your tweets, Facebook posts and articles/Blog posts all work together to create momentum.
Obsessing about ranking reports and not paying attention to traffic statsSEO is a means to an end.  It’s a way to get traffic.  It’s not about looking at pretty reports and feeling good.  Look at your traffic stats, learn from it.  Often you are hitting yourself over the head to get a certain phrase ranked but you don’t realize that all these other phrases are bringing in some traffic and expanding those could be a great way to go.  Ranking reports can give a snapshot of where you are at on a set of words you chose to run the report on.  But the beauty of SEO is that if your site is well optimized, the engines will start picking your site up for other related phrases and you won’t even know that traffic is actually increasing because you are too busy lamenting a ranking report that doesn’t show great rankings on one impossible, coveted phrase.Glance at ranking reports if you must, but look at traffic stats and see what is really going on.  Use Webmaster Tools to also get an idea of what’s going on and find areas you need to focus on/improve.
Focusing too much on the engines and not enough on site visitorsGetting your site ranked isn’t going to do much good if your site isn’t prepared to convert site visitors when they get there. You need to make sure your site is user-friendly and well written.  It needs to be compelling.  It needs to work for you and not against you.  Never optimize your site at the expense of the users experience.Don’t do it!!  J  Make sure each step of the way you ask yourself 2 questions:  1. Is this good for the engines?  If the answer is no, try to tweak it so it is good for the engines but most importantly question 2 is: Is this good for site visitors?  Don’t compromise on this one.
Putting all your eggs in one basket.  It’s not “content” OR “links” it’s “content AND links” (have a strategy plan for both)SEO is made up of many factors, on-page, social, site structure, linking etc.  Ignoring one piece of the puzzle will limit results.Be sure you have a well thought out strategy and make sure you do the right things at the right time (get your site in top shape architecturally and get on-page in place and then get out there to build links and participate in social).
Not growing your site content.The engines like fresh content and so do site visitors.  It gives them a reason to return.  Not updating content makes your site dated and you lose opportunity to increase rankings and further engage site visitors.Get a Blog or create an Articles/Info section on your site and add helpful/informative content regularly.
Keyword stuffing, spamming, setting up or participating in link farms.The engines don’t like it, you risk getting penalized or banned.  It is not good for site visitors.Educate yourself on what best practices are for SEO and follow them.

I’m sure this list will continue to grow.  Would love to hear your take on this and any mistakes you want to add.

Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz

Jennifer Horowitz is the Director of Marketing for – a full service SEO, Web Design & Development and Social Media Firm. Since 1998 Jennifer’s expertise in marketing and Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has helped clients increase revenue. Jennifer has been published in many SEO and marketing publications. Jennifer Horowitz is the author of Twitter Quickstart Success Training System, Blogging For Dollars, Optimization Step By Step: 2010 and more. You can follow Jennifer on Twitter at @ecombuffet. For more information on SEO, Twitter training or killer Facebook Fan Pages, contact Jennifer at
Jennifer Horowitz

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  • Tim

    Good reminders.  Thanks for the write up.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    Another common SEO mistake is to have duplicate content on your site. Copying content just to have more pages isn’t worth it. It’s better to have fewer pages with solid information.

    • Jennifer Horowitz

      Good one – and wow, it’s amazing how often people do that. 

  • custom research papers

    oh… some of them i knew.. but some of them… i actually never thought it can be a mistake.. thanks for pointing out!

  • Kasy Allen

    Love the 2nd one.  Not that my clients take on their own SEO, but after giving recommendations, it’s never implemented.  Then at monthly report time, they want to know why they aren’t ranking better…. “um, remember all of those recommendations I sent over?”

    • Jennifer Horowitz

      I hear ya Kasy!  Just keep reminding them.  We’ll get through one day.  I have to believe that!!  LOL

      • SEO Cornwall

        Yep, Kasy is bang on – an SEO can only do so much, there needs to be cooperation  from the site owners.

  • Anonymous

    This is really striking a cord with some work I’m doing at the moment…

    My challenge is communicating some of these things to a client….

    Any tips ?

    • Jennifer Horowitz

      I wish I had something helpful in that area but it all depends on the client and how they best hear and learn things.  Sometimes showing them a third party article to back up/validate what you are saying helps.  Sometimes a long email.  Sometimes a  long phone chat.  In my experience, being very blunt helps – something like “you can help yourself or hurt yourself – the choice is yours” and then explain what you mean and how they are standing in their own way.  I wish I had more to offer, but its a tough area!  Good luck!

    • Katie Saxon

      I struggle with this one myself, but a piece of advice I was given that seems to help is if you aren’t getting the message across, try a different way of delivering the message. Sounds obvious, but if they ignore emails, pick up the phone, if you write business-like emails, try a friendlier approach.

      The other is to be very upfront with customers from the start, ie send them a letter detailing what you will do, what you need them to do and the consequences if they don’t do it. Will you stop work but still charge them?

      It may seem harsh, but it may hammer home the importance of their input. I haven’t tried this myself, but I’ve heard of companies that do this successfully.

    • Anonymous

      Thanks for the feedback – being blunt and upfront and of course honest is good, but can be hard to deliver when you’re trying to retain the client!

      As you say Jennifer, it does depend on the client, I need to try to work out the best way to deliver the info!

  • Anonymous

    This is really striking a cord with some work I’m doing at the moment…

    My challenge is communicating some of these things to a client….

    Any tips ?

  • Nikhil Raj. R

    Also there is an obsession over Google PageRank among SEO experts. Often they ignore website traffic and go after PageRank.

  • Dustin

    Great list of common mistakes. At the core of most of these is lack of effort/time in a certain area of research or implementation. Research because it takes time to find out what to pursue, and implementation in that it takes time to get your SEO strategy really going. Because SEO is so long-term, people want to cut corners and that’s where a lot of these mistakes come from. 

  • Esben Rasmussen

    Great cheat sheet.

    With regards to social media, I wouldn’t recommend to “just do it”, since not all people know how to communicate within the corporate values and some people even lack certain social skills. Of course you should do social media, but YOU might not be the best person to do it. If you do it wrong (remember social media is about what you say to your prospective cliens, business partners, investors etc.) it could be quite hurtful.

    My advice would be to find the person best suited for the job and then do it.

  • Andres Castellano

    Thanks for share this useful cheatsheet.

  • Kaushalam

    Doing all the activities in relation with SEO in a professional way will lead your business to the search engines and engage your website to get higher conversion once the visitors come to your site. Sometimes, people are forgetting to build their website by keeping in mind the human first than the search engine.

  • Helen

    Performing proper keyword research however it does not get implemented until 6 months down the road….

  • Marcus Interactive

    Excellent article, as usual, Jennifer. Clear, incisive, well written. A great re-posting article.

  • Sean Davidson

    Its good to hear these mistakes made by most often. Good solutions too..~

  • cannot delete file

    This list helps me a lot because i have done already a few of above defined , thanks for sharing a great collection of mistakes list.

  • IT Offshoring

    I just want to extend my gratitude to thank you for sharing your ideas with regards of SEO mistakes that needs to avoid. Your blog is simply useful and well explained to everyone. Those solutions stated above are really applicable when you did some of the mistakes. Again, thank you Jennifer and God Speed.

  • Mahendra Sharma

    What an article it is. Much Appreciated. Looks like I am standing in front of Mirror, and Mirror is telling me the truth which I am denying. Almost every senior person who wish to do SEO of his site must agree with the facts that lack of plan and determination can ruin the SEO of their own site. Its advisable to outsource than doing it self if the time is not manageable.

  • Michael Cipielewski

    Social could have its own article just for SEO. With Google announcing that social influences SERPs and even more recently influence from Google+ (and not having launched yet!), social sharing and social access should be a high priority for SEOs.

  • Akash Kumar

    Another common mistake that people do is that they think SEO can do wonders overnight. They expect too much than what they do. One must have patience with SEO because nothing happens overnight. The effect of SEO depends upon the competition and amount of work put in.

  • Việt Long Plaza

    hay qua

  • arsenal blog

    Thanks for the tips