14 Common SEO Mistakes (And How To Correct Them)

Search engine optimization (SEO) is an entity in near-constant flux. Over the years, Google has changed its search algorithms multiple times—most recently in March 2019. Many businesses may be employing SEO tricks that are outdated or just clumsy and that ultimately end up being counterproductive.

While it’s important to keep up with the ever-changing nature of SEO, some of the mistakes companies make are common enough to recognize and correct now. To help, 14 members of Forbes Agency Council weigh in with the most common SEO errors they’ve encountered, along with how they can be corrected or avoided in the future.

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Members of Forbes Agency Council detail the SEO mistakes they most commonly see and how to correct them.


1. A Lack Of High-Level Understanding

Good SEO requires solid website architecture (technical SEO), quality content that is optimized (on-page SEO) and a website that is growing in authority over time through high-quality backlinks (link building). If you don’t focus on all three of these, it’s much harder to move the needle, and it might not happen at all. Educate yourself on the high-level concepts before putting a strategy together. – Joe Ardeeser, Jordan Crown LLC

2. Keyword Stuffing

One of the worst SEO mistakes is keyword stuffing. This happens when keywords are simply added to the page and are not really clearly followed in context. It is important for companies to remember that this was the strategy of the 1990s, and it is not something to be done now. The thing to do would be to research the correct keywords and use them at the right time. – Jon James, Ignited Results

3. Treating SEO As An Add-On

Using resources for one-off SEO “tricks” usually leads to foundational website problems that negatively impact overall performance. Instead, businesses should create a holistic SEO approach rooted in best practices for any website project. In the long run, it will save time, improve website performance and create a strong foundation to continually build on. -Donna Robinson, Nina Hale, Inc. – Digital Marketing Agency

4. Optimizing For Traffic Rather Than Conversions

SEO is a great way to drive free traffic to your website. But if that traffic is not converting to new leads or sales, your SEO efforts have limited value to your business’ success. As a result, it is important to have proper conversion tracking for your website’s keyword phrases so you can see what is performing well and what to change. – Jordan Edelson, Appetizer Mobile LLC

5. Forgetting The Back End

You’ve spent time and resources writing perfect and engaging content. However, without optimizing your page, Google might not pick up on the keywords you have worked so hard to implement. Always check your title, slug, meta description and alt-image text before you publish your content. Ask yourself: Is my title appealing? Is my slug too long? Do all of these elements have my focus keyword? – Jason Kulpa, UE.co

6. Improper Use Of Anchor Text

One of the most underutilized SEO devices is the use of anchor text, or the text within a link. Rather than linking to other pages on your website with generic phrases like “click here,” choose anchor text containing keywords you want your website to rank for. This is useful for SEO because it clues Google into the type of content on your website, which influences your ranking in a search query. – Adam Binder, Creative Click Media

7. Forgetting To Do Research Before Writing

People tend to optimize their content for the wrong keywords. Research is the foundation of SEO success, just as it is with all marketing activities. Talk to customers to discover key phrases they use to describe what they do, then research local and national search terms around them using tools like Google Keyword Planner and SEMrush’s keyword generator to achieve better results. – Mary Ann O’Brien, OBI Creative

8. Duplicate Or Spammy Content

We often have to clean up SEO messes. One of the biggest items we see lately is duplicate content or spammy content (thin content). Clients were told at some point to write content. So they did. Unfortunately, they wrote poorly and posted irrelevant content that was often duplicated from their own site (or others). Cleaning up and merging pages is a great way to restore rankings and rank higher. – Peter Boyd, PaperStreet Web Design

9. Improper Citations

The most common mistake in SEO that the majority of local businesses are penalized for is improper citations. Search engines use citation signals (occurrences of a business’ name, address and phone number on websites) to rank that business’ relevance in a market. If any of a business’ online pages are not exact matches of their name, address or phone number, then the business gets penalized. – Adam Guild, Placepull

10. A Lack Of Social Proof

SEO strategies often lack social proof components. Social proof is crucial for determining authority, and authority is key for great SEO results. Marketers: Engage social media influencers relevant to your brand and trusted by your target audience. Let them create high-quality content and distribute backlinks to your domain. Such social signals have a definitive impact on search rankings. – Dennis Doerfl, Fourstarzz Media LLC

11. Focusing On Quantity, Not Quality

SEO today is driven by quality content. A common mistake we see is when SEO is treated as quantity—the more keywords, the merrier—which is wrong. Quality content and consistency within the rules and analytics parameters will bring your brand to the forefront digitally. Produce content that the reader will see value in and choose a few leading words that you want to be found by. – Ally Spinu, USA Link System

12. Not Optimizing Google Presence

Most SEO pros still focus on optimizing sites for keywords and seeking backlinks in the hopes of driving traffic to their sites. What they are missing is that today, most searches don’t end up in a clickthrough to a website at all; they stay on Google properties. So optimizing your Google My Business panel, soliciting Google reviews and leveraging other on-Google strategies are all critical. – Scott Baradell, Idea Grove

13. Focusing On SEO Over Content

That is the biggest mistake people have been making from the beginning of SEO, and many still make it now. Here’s digital marketing wisdom for everyone to live by: Great content can live without SEO, but SEO is nothing without great content. – Solomon Thimothy, OneIMS

14. Working On SEO Prior To Website Migration

The biggest mistake I see companies and agencies alike making is to start working on SEO on a site that they are planning to migrate to a new domain/platform. They should not waste time optimizing the old, but rather focus on the steps it takes to survive a site migration. I’ve seen websites lose all of their rank/traffic and never get it back due to not thinking about SEO during their migration. – Brooke Weller, iProspect, San Diego