Common SEO Mistakes: Top 5 Errors That Can Damage Your Business and How to Prevent Them

February 5, 2023

Uncover common SEO mistakes that can harm your search rankings and strategies to avoid them for better website performance.

If you’re a business owner, you probably spend a fair bit of your time thinking about how you can establish a better website presence free of common SEO mistakes. No? Just me? Well let me explain why you should be thinking about it.

Search engine optimization (when done correctly) is the single highest-ROI marketing activity that you can do for your business, due to how it can produce lasting and powerful results within your overall digital marketing strategy.

But, like all good things in life, it’s not as easy as just snapping your fingers a-la Thanos.

All too often, I’ve seen well-meaning business owners run their websites in a manner detrimental to their position on the search engine results.

What is it that they’re doing wrong? Is it as simple as just avoiding the common SEO mistakes and waiting for the traffic to come flowing in?

Today, I’m going to talk to you about the five most common SEO mistakes I see business owners making, how they can hurt your website and business, and what you can do to be a smart chap (or chapette) and avoid those in the future.

5 Most Common SEO Mistakes and Errors

Making an SEO blunder is nothing to be ashamed of. I’ve seen it happen to the best of us. But such blunders have the potential to bring pain to your search engine rankings, drag down your site’s traffic, and make you feel it in your pocketbook at the end of the month.

Let’s exercise some aggressive honesty with ourselves and audit your website by taking a look at the most common SEO mistakes, starting with the importance of keyword research.

1. Keyword Optimization (Lack Thereof)

Not optimizing your website with any type of keywords is the first SEO mistake I see all the time. If you are producing content for your website and not doing so with a keyword research strategy in mind, you might as well be telling people “I don’t know” when they ask you what your name is.

Google uses keywords in order to match up sites with searchers. Obviously it’s a lot more complicated between A and B there, but that’s the basic premise.

Anybody out there who’s on the lookout for goods or services similar to yours is undoubtedly going to use terms and phrases to find you — and that’s where keywords are going to come in clutch.

Keywords are the language search engines use to figure out what your website is all about, and they’ll rank it accordingly. Try to put yourself in the mindset of what a searcher REALLY is looking for when they seek a business like yours.

Coffee Shop Example

An example that I used to always use with clients is to imagine a coffee shop that calls their lattés “deluxe dairy espresso.” Sure, at the end of the day, a latté is espresso with steamed dairy milk… but is anybody going to come into their shop asking for that?

Obviously not.

If you have your own proprietary names for your products, that’s your own business. But if you are trying to draw in your target customers, you’re going to have to communicate about it on a level that they understand. That means calling it what they call it.

Thus, even if you’re the fanciest coffee shop in the world, you’ll want to optimize your latté content for the word “latté.” 

A Note on Keyword Stuffing

Taking this example a step further, you’ll want to abstain from littering your page on lattés with 10’s of instances of the word “latté.” Have you ever heard a person use the same word way too frequently in conversation?

Google is savvy to such a practice, and it is known as “keyword stuffing. Try to be natural in how you communicate. Optimize each page for its own specific focus keyword (like latté) but refrain from littering the page with usage of the word every 50 words. It’ll hurt you, not help you.

Focus your efforts on incorporating keywords in a way that seems natural and organic.

2. Not Leveraging Meta Tags and Meta Descriptions

Misusing meta tags in SEO is the second most common mistake I see clients making. Usually, they’re not making use of them at all — but other times, I see them just improperly optimized.

I feel like “meta tag” as a phrase is something that actually makes business owners grown, with the number of times they’ve heard it. It sort of carries the same energy as the word “mainframe” when talking about anything related to code; almost sounds like a fancy term for something that’s not even real.

Alas, meta tags are all too real, and they can significantly work to your advantage if you implement them even 50% correctly.

Here’s the primary three pieces of metadata on a page that I’m usually concerned with:

  • Title Tag of the Page (What displays in your browser tab)
  • Meta Description (What a user will see beneath the title tag in the search results page)
  • URL of the page itself (Not exactly a meta tag, but key to telling search engines what the page is about)

In the last point, I spoke of focus keywords. To circle back to that, your title tag of the page absolutely must contain your focus keyword. If you’re a tire replacement company in Sacramento with a page on tire replacement and the title tag for your page says “About,” you’re leaving money on the table.

Example of Well-Optimized Meta Tags

A decently-optimized set of meta tags for a page on tire replacement ought to look something like this:

Title Tag: Tire Replacement for Sedans, Trucks, SUV’s in Sacramento | Lester’s Tires

Meta Tag: Lester’s Tires in Sacramento provides premier tire replacement for vehicles of all shapes and sizes. Click here to see where we’re located and schedule a visit.


This is a super basic overview, as there are hundreds of other ways we could optimize these tags. But if I saw this, I’d at least know that good old Lester (who is 100% fictitious, I hope) was following some best practices.

Doing this makes it much simpler for search engines to comprehend what your website is about and where it should show in the search results by putting relevant keywords in these tags. So don’t forget to optimize these aspects of your page so search engines sort it correctly!

3. Dreaded Duplicate Content

Holy smokes, duplicate content on your site is like getting pulled over at the Canadian-US border with illegally smuggled maple syrup.

If search engine crawlers detect that you have widespread duplicate content on your website, first they’ll laugh, then they’ll get angry, and then they’ll penalize your page rankings into the dreaded 5th page of results.

Okay, I’m being a little dramatic. But let’s keep this one really simple – you want to make sure that every page of content on your website is unique in some way.

There are two primary types of duplicate content in the SEO world:

Internal Duplicate Content

So your SEO guru told you that it was a smart idea to have locally-specific content for each city you want to grow business in. That’s actually a great play!

However, to save time, said SEO guru took the content for the Sacramento Tire Repair page and rewrote it for Anaheim, Pasadena, LA, Fresno, and so-on. And just like that, your rankings seemed to wither like that plant you know you shouldn’t have watered so much.

What you’ve got on your hands is an internal duplicate content problem. The search engine algorithms have scanned your site and found repetitious copy/paste content on more than 1 page. In extreme cases, this may be the majority of content on your site! It’s a more common SEO mistake than you may expect.

The solution is two-fold:

  1. Dive into your site and re-write the content for each page to be unique to that page… you can “spin” the content to keep the same gist, but use different words. Try to vary it up on each locale slightly too, you don’t want it to seem stale or bland.
  2. Ensure that any future pages you create are not copy/pasted out of some other page.

External Duplicate Content

“You stole! Fizzy lifting drinks!- Willy Wonka”

Just as Willy Wonka roasted poor Charlie Bucket for stealing fizzy lifting drinks from his factory, the search engines will know that you stole content from another website or publication.

This is known as “external duplicate content” and it’s a fast-track to search engine jail. Nobody likes a thief — not Wonka, your competitors, and especially not Google.

Other Solutions for Duplicate Content

Sometimes, you might have a single page of material that is available through several other URL’s or have many pages that are very similar to each other.

In this case, it can be a good idea to use a canonical tag to show search engines which version of the page is the primary one, and leverage 301 redirects to direct visitors from the duplicate pages to the primary one.

Of course, all of these vary depending on what is on your website in the first place. If you’re just starting out and don’t have much content on your site to begin with, you’ll be in a better position than most to employ best practices.

4. Your Website Looks Bad and Loads Slow on Mobile Devices

Google (and its competitors) have been prioritizing mobile-friendly sites since about 2014 now… so if you’re just realizing this, you are about a decade late!

Sorry, I don’t mean to be too unforgiving here. But if your site isn’t optimized to display on mobile devices (and you’re not ranking well), you’re making a common SEO mistake that needs to be fixed to save your page rankings.

As an SEO mistake, mobile-friendly site design is actually a pretty straightforward problem to tackle. Most of the time, if you aren’t too picky about site redesign, we can just take your website and recode it to be responsive with the exact same design.

In the days of yore, sites used to have a mobile version AND a desktop version. This was obviously rather clunky, so modern solutions all gear development toward having a responsive site — which adapts to whatever viewport it’s being viewed from.

The thing is, nearly 75% of all search traffic comes from a mobile device. So if your site looks like trash on a desktop, it’s only affecting 25% of the audience. But if it looks like trash and loads slowly on mobile, it’s affecting 75% of your audience, and Google/Bing/Yahoo are going to rank it accordingly.

Beyond speed and presence of a mobile site, ensuring that your content is easy to navigate on a mobile device will help make life easier for your visitors, resulting in better engagement data.

Long story short, if you don’t have a responsive website, this is a big mistake. We can help fix that for you, should you need either a quick solution or a full-fledged website redesign.

5. Not Making Use of Analytics

I’d say that the last common SEO mistake I see businesses making is not taking a look at any of their analytics, including site speed.

Crazy thing is, most of your analytics are utterly free. Google Analytics & Google Search Console, for some of their usability issues, are incredibly insightful tools that will show you which pages your audiences are engaging with, for how long, who the audience is, and much more.

When choosing which pages to optimize for, you should absolutely consult your analytics trackers… and if you don’t have those set up, make it a priority to at least set up the basics.

If you don’t know what your users are doing on your site in the first place, how can you expect to OPTIMIZE it? And after all, that’s what the O in SEO stands for.

Here are some basics to pay attention to:

  • Bounce rate (rate of users that leave the site immediately)
  • Conversion rate (rate of users who submit their contact information to get in touch)
  • Overall traffic (how many users/visits per month, week, day?)

There’s a heck of a lot more we could drill into, but if you don’t even know these, I’d start with that. When you don’t have good tracking for your SEO efforts in place, it will be hard to really know whether or not your efforts are having a positive effect on your business!

What happens if my site is full of SEO Mistakes?

When you don’t solve these typical SEO problems, your search rankings are going to be lackluster, and Google (or others) may even penalize you, making it hard to keep ranking, driving traffic, and growing sales. Broken or irrelevant external links can also negatively impact your website's technical SEO.

The true end result is either lost revenue or opportunity left on the table for your business.

No, SEO is not an overnight trick that will cause a hoard of 1,000,000 users to descend on your site like locusts.

But it absolutely is a critical channel to put 1-2 hours of effort per week into at the bare minimum. If you don’t, you’ll only watch as your site slips into search engine irrelevance and your competitors rise up.

With a dedicated strategy and consistency, you can make solid progress forward. Of course, there are many dimensions to this, but these are some of the most important aspects to consider.

Best Practices for SEO Made Simple

Let’s recap everything that was mentioned above. Based on my own experience identifying common SEO mistakes, these are the best practices for SEO made simple:

  1. Optimize each page for a focus keyword (and secondary keywords)
  2. Make effective use of meta tags for each page
  3. Aim to have near-0% duplicate content on the site
  4. Ensure your site is mobile-optimized
  5. Aim to track your analytics at a bare minimum
  6. Use internal links to connect relevant content within your site

If you can succeed in these dimensions, then you’ll be able to ensure that your search engines will keep growing. This will help generate measurable outcomes for your business and make your website into your channel of choice when it comes to marketing online!

Avoiding Common SEO Mistakes with Equicity

Oh don’t act like you didn’t know it was coming — Equicity can help you optimize your website to not only check off the best practices for SEO, but also implement a forward-thinking internet marketing strategy that moves your business needle forward.

We’re a collection of knowledgeable internet marketing pros with decades of experience. We have the know-how to help diagnose and address any problems that can be affecting your website’s presence in search, including optimizing title tags.

But take heed; SEO is not a diet pill for your website. It’s like exercise; it not only takes a good plan, but commitment and effort.

However, the results are well worth it. If you’d like us to help you develop a winning plan, feel free to get in touch by clicking here. We’ll always be happy to share what we know.

Welcome toEquicity. We are a boutique, interpersonal marketing team for small businesses. Learn more

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