Common SEO Mistakes

Search engine optimization is a tricky science—because bad SEO could give you one of two outcomes: kill your site in the Google search results for a hot topic, or complete domination of the web. Here are some common SEO mistakes to avoid—so that your website will remain relevant to readers in the end.

Over-optimizing: Most SEO professionals have hundreds or thousands of keywords that would turn Google searches on their heads. Here’s a quick solution: Stop using so many keywords—and stick to using a few key phrases. For instance, instead of “best sunscreen,” Google users will see “sunscreen for healthy skin, a patent pending.”

The difference between hot and cold: Let’s start with the obvious: A hot topic is a hot topic. Take as many keywords as you can think of, and start putting them into your site. Ask yourself whether the term should live or die on your site. For instance, if you claim you’re the BEST location for Asian food in Manhattan, now think about whether your site could work without it.

Blogging the death: Are you doing blog posts at a specific time of day? You’re not on the top of Google’s rankings when Google News is searching for the keywords of your blog posts. As a general rule, you should post only on the day of the week with the lowest keyword frequency. Try sharing topics that are hot or interesting, and be innovative about what you’ll add to your blog.

Never subtract: When you start pulling back your content on certain content, your site may never recover. In some instances, you may need to do that. Be sure your content can fit on your site the way it was before you added it, and be grateful when other content comes from your site. However, always check content rankings for your content. If it’s declining in Google rankings, revise your post.

Crowdsourcing: Even the best Google search terms are still just that—terms. In its purest form, Google is about matching keywords with other keywords. And linking to different websites within the same keyword has been a tried-and-true SEO technique. But crowdsourcing with strangers has become a popular SEO trick because it leads to anonymous influence. Many sites are popping up that claim to “celebrate” certain trending keywords, which is not a useful SEO strategy.

Buzz short circuiting: For some, jumping into hot topics will bring unprecedented traffic and attention. For other sites, some perceived threat—for instance, public transportation bloggers—can sometimes top Google’s rankings for various keywords. But the mere presence of your site on Google Search can still have huge and lasting damage. Use your site like a smart investor—look for hot topic opportunities and use them to fuel your traffic.

Make it hip: On the flip side, some search engine optimization techniques in recent years have made for interesting journalism. Reading Google’s analytics reports about publications suggests that websites can have a huge and lasting negative impact on their rankings. That’s true for satire sites, for instance, as well as for mainstream journalism. If you launch a writing contest in a hot topic field, good luck. You’re probably also going to have to give away lots of prizes.

An unpredictable beast: If Google could predict how people will use the internet, it would be a king. New trends can have big repercussions for website rankings. Google is a fickle beast. Google searches are more likely to stay in the search engine results for longer than updates to its algorithm—in the context of SEO, that’s good news. But think of SEO as the product you design—consider it like a car.

Good news, bad news: Just as a car can fall out of first place to become rear-ended, an SEO campaign can have long-lasting negative or positive effects on an SEO campaign. Is it smart to give up altogether and let other sites do all of the work? Probably not, but it’s a risky proposition. The right strategy is one that mixes tactics that are risk-free and strategies that increase the likelihood of hitting Google’s top rankings, even if those tactics aren’t always popular.

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