A lot of people have a good understanding of the basics when it comes to SEO, but some still fall foul of best practice. In this article, we ask what are some common SEO mistakes in digital content production, and give you tips on how to avoid them so that your content is not penalised by Google.
Table of contents
- Why create SEO content?
- 7 common SEO mistakes in digital content production
i. Targeting too many keywords
ii. Stuffing keywords
iii. Using too many hyperlinks
iv. Poor page design
v. Not understanding how users read online
vi. Writing in passive voice
vii. Not optimising for Featured Snippets
viii. Lacking a site map
ix. Not monitoring pages for errors
x. Getting in the way of users
xi. Slow page load speeds
xii. Having broken links
xiii. Expecting readers to come to you
xiv. Not measuring content effectiveness
xv. Overlooking your wider online presence
Why create SEO content?
There are many benefits of having a blog or website that ranks well with search engines such as Google. In addition to being able to build an audience around your brand and/or subject area, you can use an SEO strategy to start ranking for specific keyword phrases.
If your content is insightful, targeted and competitive enough, Google and other search engines will reward you with higher rankings in the search results, which can lead to more organic traffic, better ad revenue and a boost to your brand credibility.
Some of the ways you can make your content rank higher are by providing the hallmarks of good content, which we discuss below.
What are some common SEO mistakes in digital content production?
There are many considerations when it comes to SEO best practice. These concern quality of content, layout and more technical details such as page load speeds. All of these should work together to improve the user experience (UX).
Let’s look at some of the most common SEO mistakes to avoid when creating content:
1. Targeting too many keywords at once
It’s easy to assume every piece of content that you’re writing should have every possible keyword you want to hit. But actually, this can be an indexing nightmare as you’ll likely end up competing with yourself and may even create content that is directionless.
Instead, have a long-tail focus keyword for each blog post that features in your URL, meta content, introduction, header(s) and alt tags. This will focus your writing and provide more in-depth articles.
2. Stuffing your keywords in
Be careful with the number of times you use your primary and secondary keywords. If you find yourself stuffing keywords unnaturally into lists, for instance, consider if it’s the best way to communicate your message and value.
This is something Google tells users it actively penalises:
“Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site’s ranking. Focus on creating useful, information-rich content that uses keywords appropriately and in context.”
3. Using too many hyperlinks
A link is a powerful tool to take readers deeper into an article, but beware of using them excessively in your content as this can distract from what you’re trying to say. It can also direct people off your page without achieving your desired outcome. You want people reading your content not scrolling through a long list of links!
Depending on the length and purpose of your article, 1-3 external links should suffice, and 1-3 internal. If your aim is to educate and inform, you may wish to use more links. But if you want readers to follow a linear customer journey, then one internal link is best, which takes them where you want them to go.
4. Poor page design
A cluttered design can confuse readers and deter them from reading your article, resulting in a lower ranking. By being more deliberate with your layout choices, you will improve readability which improves on-page optimisation for Google algorithms.
Consider how your content will appear on the page. Are you using lots of short paragraphs so that on a smaller screen users won’t have to scroll through a wall of text? Are you making use of formatting options like quotes and colours? Is your media high-quality and quick to load? All of these stylistic elements are crucial to SEO.
5. Not understanding how users read online
It’s traditionally thought that, in Western countries, we read in an ‘F’ pattern from left to right. Therefore, loading the more important elements at the top and middle enhances the readability of your content.
However, Neil Patel suggests our reading habits have changed with the rise of mobile. He cites a study that found that 58% of web readers scan content, 38% read just the headlines and only 5% read the content.
What does this tell you? It’s still good practice to load your most important info in the left, above the fold, but you should also make proper use of headings and lists to make content easier to scan.
6. Writing in passive voice
In the following sentence, the subject does not do anything: “The report was submitted.”
In a more active way of writing, you could phrase it: “I submitted the report.”
The second sentence is easier to read and positions the reader in the action to create a sense of buy-in and urgency.
There’s some debate on how much passive voice affects SEO, but using active voice improves readability which can impact your rankings. Less complicated sentences have a lower reading age which means your content will be more accessible to a wider audience.
Read our grammar checklist for writers here.
7. Not optimising for Featured Snippets
We’ve mentioned that headers help readers to quickly identify what information is on a page. These quick markers make it easier for people (and search engine spiders) to navigate through your content.
However, if you also set out your content well with a table of contents and lists which draw out your main points, you’ll stand a greater chance of scoring a Featured Snippet in the SERPs.
Read more about how to earn a Featured Snippet on Ahrefs.
8. Lacking a site map
A site map is a list of all indexable pages on your site and can help people and search engines to find information on your website. Google has started using the site map file (.xml) in some of its algorithms which is thought can boost your rankings.
Most CMS allow you to create a sitemap, and you can submit yours directly to Google via Google Search Console.
9. Not monitoring pages for errors
When creating any new piece of content or making changes to existing content, don’t forget to proofread before publishing. Errors can be anything from incorrect facts to typos and broken links. Get it wrong and you could diminish your search ranking.
Refreshing old content is a crucial element of any content strategy, so go back and read our post on updating your web content.
10. Getting in the way of users
The user should be able to access what they want without your design elements or content getting in their way. This is why the navigation design on your website needs to be straightforward and easy to follow.
Ensure your pages have a clear call to action to keep readers on your site and boost your dwell time, an indication to Google that you’re offering content that searchers find useful. Avoid obstructive pop-ups, banners or social media buttons.
Also, make sure you actually answer the questions your reader has and provide tips and advice to show Google you provide insightful content, rather than simply delaying or overpromising something that you can’t deliver.
11. Having pages that are slow to load
Slow page load speeds can negatively impact user experience and lead to a decrease in search ranking.
You should aim for an average of no more than two seconds to load pages, so perform a page load check and see whether heavy media files or server issues are causing a lag.
12. Having broken links
Broken links can cause major problems for your website and hurt the user experience.
If you’re using a CMS like WordPress, then it’s important to update your plugins frequently and check for broken links regularly. To test that everything is working as expected, run a site-wide scan with Google Analytics.
13. Expecting readers to come to you
Yes, content written for SEO should help you get found in the SERPs. But the reality is there’s lots of competition, and something that will help you improve your visibility is having more signposts to your content.
Being active on even just one social media channel will increase the exposure of your content, which is especially important if you’re a solopreneur or start-up and are trying to find your audience and your voice.
14. Not measuring your content’s effectiveness
The only way to know what content is engaging and converting readers and what isn’t is by measuring your pages’ effectiveness.
This can be done through the use of tools such as Google Analytics and Google Search Console. These will tell you how many people are visiting your website or social media channels, as well as how long they’re spending on them and – crucially – which pages convert.
15. Overlooking your wider online presence
In alignment with your SEO strategy should be a concrete brand and content marketing strategy. You are more likely to be successful in search results if search engines trust you. So think about building your brand and your domain authority beyond simply ranking for keywords.
Use trustworthy HTTPS/SSL certificates on your site if possible and other hallmarks of security such as cookie and data privacy policies. Also, try to earn positive reviews on your Google My Business page and other review sites.
If you’re just getting started, take a look at our post on writing SEO content, with plenty of tips and tricks.
✏️ Next week, join us for the last post in the SEO Basics series as we look at how to measure the effectiveness of your SEO content.
Also in the SEO Basics series…
Header image: NeONBRAND