There are many attributes that an SEO must have in order to be
successful, but one of the most important ones is being willing to
improve all the time. Improvement doesn’t always come from making
things right. In fact, the only way you’ll really improve is by
failing, over and over again.
However, when it comes to SEO, a mistake might pass by
unnoticed. You might not have any idea that you’re doing
something wrong. Now, there are thousands of horrible mistakes that
you could be making, like not adding keywords in titles or engaging
in low quality link building.
But here are some more subtle, modern mistakes that SEO might
make these days.
In order to find out people’s most common modern SEO mistakes,
I decided to ask a number of renowned SEO experts the following
Can you think of one major SEO mistake that is holding
people’s websites back today?
Some of them were kind enough to take some of their time and
share the wisdom with us, so keep reading because there’s top
quality information lying ahead in this list of 8 SEO mistakes to
avoid in 2019 and later on!
- You Don’t
Fix Broken Pages with Backlinks
- You Publish
Too Many Poor Quality Pages
- You Have
Duplicate Content Issues
- You Target
out of Reach Keywords
- You Ignore
the Organic Search Traffic You Already Have
Using Unconfirmed SEO Theories
- You’re Not
Starting with SEO in Mind Early On
1. You Don’t Fix Broken Pages with Backlinks
Broken pages are really one major issue for websites, especially
if they have backlinks pointing to them through those web pages.
Ignoring broken pages can be a big mistake.
John Doherty, Founder & CEO at Credo, a portal for
connecting digital marketing experts with businesses, knows this
and marks it as one of the biggest mistakes people make, as well as
one of his team’s top priorities when optimizing websites:
|One major SEO mistake that I see holding back
websites these days is not fixing their site’s broken pages that
have backlinks pointing to them. I work with a lot of very large
(100,000+ page) websites, and the first thing I do when we begin
our engagement is look at their 404s/410s and which ones of those
have inbound external links. We then map out the 1:1 redirects and
redirect those. This always shows a good gain in organic search
traffic, and then we build on that momentum from there.
|CEO at Credo / @dohertyjf|
In the answer, John mentions a few things:
Broken pages: First, we have the broken pages.
Broken web pages are bad for the internet and, thus, bad for your
Why you ask?
Well, to understand why we first have to understand what a
broken page actually is. A broken page is simply a page that
doesn’t exist. You see, it’s not actually the broken page that
matters, but the link that’s pointing to it.
A page doesn’t really exist until another page links to
When Google crawls a website, it always starts from the root
domain. It crawls https://www.yoursite.com and then looks for
Let’s assume that the first link the crawler finds is under
the About Us anchor text and it links to
https://www.yoursite.com/about-us/ but the page returns
404 response code, because there’s no resource on
the server at that address.
When Google’s crawler finds 404 pages, it wastes time and
resources and it doesn’t like it.
In theory, there is an infinity of 404 pages, as you could type
anything after the root domain, but a 404 page doesn’t really
take form until some other page that exists links to it.
Now broken pages can occur due to two factors:
- You delete a page that has been linked to (broken link due to
- Someone misspells a URL (broken page due to broken link)
Both the linking website as well as the linked website
containing the 404 have to suffer. If you have too many broken
links on your site, Google will be upset because you’re
constantly wasting its resources.
Backlinks: The second point John makes is
regarding the backlinks pointing to the broken pages. As previously
mentioned, some may occur due to people misspelling a URL, which
isn’t your fault.
However, if you have 10 websites that link to one of your pages
and you delete that page because you think it’s no longer
relevant, then you’re losing the equity that those 10 backlinks
were providing. Bad for SEO!
The cognitiveSEO Site
Explorer is great for finding out backlinks that point
to broken pages on your website:
You can also have internal broken links, as well as external
broken links pointing from your website to 404 pages on other sites
and you should also fix those! Soon, on the 12 of December 2018,
cognitiveSEO will launch its OnPage module which you’ll be able
to use to determine if you have any broken internal links so make
sure you check it out!. Here’s for the first time a quick preview
Big websites: After that, we see that John
mentions something about big websites. Why? Pretty simple. It’s
easier to mess things up on a big website. On a small website, you
might have one or two 404s but they will be easy to spot and very
easy to fix.
They might have some backlinks each, but not much is lost.
However, when you have hundreds of thousands of pages, that link
equity scales up pretty quickly.
Redirects: Lastly, there are the redirects.
John tells us that to fix the issue, he always does the proper
redirects. By using a 301 redirect from the broken link/page to
another page that is relevant, we can pass the link equity from the
For maximum effect, don’t just redirect to the homepage or
some page you want to rank if it’s not relevant. Instead, link to
the most relevant page and then use internal links on relevant
anchor texts surrounded by relevant content sections to pass the
equity to more important pages.
This is the type of SEO fix that might bring invisible results
‘overnight’. Thanks, John, for this wonderful input!
2. You Publish Too Many Poor Quality Pages
Another issue that is generally related to bigger websites is
the ‘thin content’ issue.
|One very common mistake sites make is that they
publish way too many poor quality pages on their site. As a result,
Google sees the site has a lot of “thin content” and lowers the
site’s rankings across the board.
|CEO at Stone Temple
Although not always the case, when you have a small website,
it’s pretty easy to come up with some decent pages. However, when
you have a site with thousands of pages, the effort required to
have qualitative content on all of them is a lot bigger.
Thin content pages are pages that have no added value to
what’s already on the web. Google doesn’t really have a reason
to index the site so you’ll either end up in the
results or get this message in your Search
The message above is a manual action, which means that you’ll
have to submit a review request and someone hired by Google will
actually take a look at your website to determine if you’ve fixed
the issue. This might take a long time, so be careful! However,
it’s possible that the algorithm ‘penalizes’ your website
without any warnings, by simply not ranking it.
Matt Cutts, the former Head of Spam at Google puts it like
The thing is, thin content doesn’t always mean the site
requires text. Why am I saying this? Well, Matt Cutts mentions
doorway pages as an example but doesn’t really give an
alternative to them. What if you do have a website that offers the
same service in 1,000 cities? Should you write ‘unique’ content
for each page?
The truth is there’s no alternative to doorway pages.
They’re either thin content or they have unique qualitative
content. However, there’s much more than content when it comes to
ranking. So if you have a car rental service, it’s not necessary
to add filler content to every page, but you have to do other
things well. Structure it very well, make sure your design is
user-oriented and maybe consider having a blog to add relevant
content to your website.
I talk more about this in this
article about doorway pages alternatives.
However, although it does take a lot of time to add original
content to every page, it might be worth the shot if you really
want to stand out. Google has absolutely no reason to include you
in the search results if the info you’re providing is already
there, exactly in the same manner.
Again, the CognitiveSEO OnPage Tool which will be launched on
December 12, 2018 can help you identify pages with thin
Thin content is a very big issue these days, especially for
bigger eCommerce websites and should be treated as such. Thanks,
Eric for this great addition to our list of mistakes!
3. You Have Duplicate Content Issues
Very closely related to thin content pages are duplicate pages,
which are even worse. Andy Drinkwater (I know, that’s his real
name! Pretty cool, right?) from iQ SEO knows this very
|Probably the one that is the most prevalent through
the audits that I conduct, is the duplication of pages. This tends
to often be done because site owners might have read (or believe)
that multiple pages targeting the same or similar phrases, is a
good thing. Page duplication/keyword cannibalisation leads to
Google seeing a site that is trying too hard with its SEO and is
often heavily over-optimized (not something that they want site
|Founder at iQ SEO / @iqseo|
Duplicate pages can occur due to many factors. For example, one
client of mine had a badly implemented translation plugin, which
created duplicates of the main language for the pages that did not
have any translations. Bad for SEO.
I have to admit, however, that I’m kind of surprised that any
said people would do this voluntarily to themselves. Although… I
did have one client that asked me why his competitors ranks with
two pages for the same keyword. On his own, he might just have
duplicated his pages, who knows?
Either way, duplicate content is bad. Not only that you’re not
providing anything of value and you’ll get into Google’s
omitted results, but you’re wasting Google’s resources and that
might eventually affect your entire website.
I swear I did not cherry-pick these answers, but again, Andy’s
input fits perfectly with our soon to release OnPage module.
You’ll be able to use the tool to easily identify which pages are
100% exact copies of others and even which pages only have similar
Duplicate content is definitely an issue affecting many
websites. Thanks, Andy, for sharing this with us!
4. You Target out of Reach Keywords
It’s good to have big dreams, but sometimes, too big dreams
can overwhelm and demoralize you. If you want to be able to lift
those 250 pounds, you first have to be able to lift 50.
Andy Crestodina from Orbit Media tells us that people should set
|By far, the most common SEO mistake is to target
phrases that are beyond reach. Even now, in 2019, a lot of
marketers don’t understand competition. They target key phrases
even when they have no chance of ranking. There are a lot of
mistakes you can make in SEO and a million reason why a page
doesn’t rank. But this is the big one.
|Co-Founder at Orbit Media / @crestodina|
Often times, competition is hard to explain to clients because
authority and page rank are often times misunderstood or far too
complex subjects. Thus, Andy has come up with a little system to
better and more easily explain how people should target their
Because it’s difficult to explain links and authority, I’ve
started using a short-hand way to validate possible target
- If you have a newer, smaller or non-famous website, target
- If you’re relevant in your niche, but not a well-known brand,
target four-word phrases.
- If you’re a serious player with a popular site, go ahead and
target those three-word phrases.
Here’s a chart that helps make that recommendation…
I feel the need to point out that although there’s always been
a correlation between lower search volume and higher word count,
that’s not always the case. Many of you probably consider long
tail keywords to be keywords with more words in the phrase but the
term ‘long tail’ actually comes from the search graph:
So, theoretically, you can find high search volume, high word
count keywords and also low search volume, low word count keywords.
Some of these two or three keyword phrases might even have very low
More on the true meaning of long tail keywords can be read
However, as Andy stated above, it’s pretty difficult to
understand what ‘low competition’ really is in terms of SEO so,
since there’s a correlation between low search volume and high
word count, there’s a big chance you won’t go wrong with
When you’re first starting out, it’s always better to start
targeting lower competition keywords and build your way up. Thanks,
Andy, for the input and also for the very useful chart!
5. You Ignore the Organic Search Traffic
You Already Have
Since we’ve just talked about what keywords you want to rank
for, why not talk a little about keywords you’re already ranking
for? Cyrus Shepard, ex Mozzer and current founder of Zyppy knows
the value of ranking keywords data very well:
|I regularly see websites make the mistake of only
optimizing for the traffic they want, and ignoring the traffic they
have. Lots of sites perform an “SEO optimization” when they
create content: choosing keywords, writing titles, structuring
headlines, etc. Sadly, a lot of folks stop there. After you publish
and receive a few months of traffic, Google freely gives you a ton
of data on how your content fits into the larger search ecosystem.
This includes the exact queries people use to find you, which is
also an indication of what Google thinks you deserve to rank for.
By performing a “secondary optimization” around this real-world
data, you take guessing out of the equation and take advantage of
more targeted opportunities, hopefully leading to more
|Founder at Zyppy
You know… you probably have no idea what keywords you’re
actually ranking for. You’re probably thinking “I already rank
for them, why should I care?”
Well… the truth is that you might get some traffic from
keywords you already rank for, but not all of it. If you’re
getting 5 searches from a keyword that has 100 monthly searches,
you’re probably not on 1st position because the average CTR for
1st position is around 30%.
It’s either you’re number 5 or below or you have really bad
CTR and won’t last long in the top spots. If you’re on position
5+, then there’s still room for improvement.
You can monitor the keywords you’re already ranking for in
your website analytics or by using Google Tag Manager on your
website and adding Google Analytics to it. There’s a good amount
of info in the Search Console as well.
You can also use the CognitiveSEO Content
Optimization Tool to easily identify terms which you
should add to your content to make it more relevant for specific
Cyrus talks more about this
here. Make sure you give it a good read! Cyrus, thanks
so much for sharing your wisdom with us!
6. You’re Using Unconfirmed SEO Theories
If your SEO moves rely on unconfirmed theories, then it’s
pretty much likely that you won’t be ranking high very
Josh Bachynski, science freak and renowned Google stalker, is
very fond of this. He recommends that people should take a more
Source: FS – _Marketing
8 Major SEO Mistakes You Might Make in 2019 & How to Deal With Them – Backed by SEO Experts