Avoiding Common Pitfalls: An SEO Guide for Building New Websites
Building an optimized website that ranks highly in search engines can be tricky. With ever-changing algorithms and best practices, it’s easy to make mistakes that can tank your site’s search performance.
Avoid these 10 common SEO mistakes when building your website:
Not Doing Keyword Research
The foundation of good SEO is understanding what keywords and phrases your target audience is searching for. Failing to do proper keyword research means you’ll struggle to create content and optimize pages around terms people actually search for.
Start by making a list of relevant keywords. Use Google’s keyword planner and other tools to find high-traffic, low-competition keywords to focus on. Track which ones drive the most organic traffic over time. Optimizing for the right keywords keeps your content relevant and helps consistently attract searchers.
Your page titles, meta descriptions, headings, image alt text, and other metadata provide search engines with critical information about your pages. Weak, incomplete, or duplicated metadata makes it harder for search bots to understand your content.
Keep page titles under 60 characters, using your target keywords. Meta descriptions should be 150-160 characters and describe page content concisely. Use heading tags (H1, H2, etc.) properly to emphasize keywords and structure your content. Write detailed alt text for images. Unique, SEO-friendly metadata improves crawlability and rankings.
Thin content refers to pages with little substance or value, such as stub articles, category pages, or empty blog posts. Search engines want to see in-depth, useful content. Pages with thin content send signals to algorithms that your site lacks expertise.
Avoid overly broad topics and short, uninformative product pages. Expand shallow category pages into robust guides. Flesh out skimpy blog posts into 1,000+ word articles. Shoot for 5+ paragraphs of engaging copy on every page. Offer true value to users, not just filler content.
Slow Page Speed
Site speed significantly impacts user experience and SEO. With page load times becoming a ranking factor, slow speeds can drastically sink your rankings. Optimizing page speed shows search engines you care about creating a smooth, frustration-free user experience.
Minify code, enable compression, and optimize images to boost speeds. Cache static assets, implement browser caching, and leverage a content delivery network. Monitor page speed regularly using Google PageSpeed Insights and Lighthouse. Get your site loading in under 3 seconds on mobile and desktop.
Linking Properly linking internal pages together helps search bots crawl your site and understand page relevance. Avoid orphaned pages that aren’t connected to your main navigation. Build an internal link structure that connects related content and passes authority to important pages.
Link relevant keywords naturally within content, rather than shoehorning in excessive links. Don’t build networks solely to manipulate PageRank. Creating thoughtful internal links improves discoverability and navigation while showing semantic connections.
Ignoring Mobile Optimization
With mobile representing over half of web traffic, failing to optimize for mobile can destroy your rankings and revenue. If pages aren’t responsive, load slowly, or are difficult to use on mobile, search engines may label them as “not mobile-friendly” and sink their rankings.
Use a responsive layout and test across all devices. Check headings, text, CTAs, forms, etc. to ensure usability. Enable tap targets for touchscreens. Optimize code and assets for fast loading. Follow Google’s mobile-first indexing requirements. Support Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) as well.
Over-Optimization of Content
Jamming content full of keywords to rank higher can work against you. Search engines penalize pages that seem artificially optimized and don’t offer much value to readers. Stick keywords in naturally where relevant rather than overdoing placement.
Avoid keyword stuffing and going overboard on density. Break content into scannable sections and use keywords within headings. Include related phrases and synonyms. Most importantly, focus on creating high-quality, engaging content that realistically incorporates keywords and provides value.
Duplicate Content Issues
Scraping content from other sites or republishing your own content can dilute your rankings due to duplicate content penalties. When search engines index the same or very similar content in multiple locations, they may divide credit between pages or choose to ignore copies.
Avoid copying content from other sites as your own. When repurposing or syndicating content, use canonical tags to tell search engines which version to index. For similar content, like location or product pages, include unique details on each version. Publish truly original content to keep search engines rewarding your site.
Search engines have a difficult time crawling and indexing sites with critical technical flaws. Errors like broken links, missing image files, improper redirects, sitemap issues, and blocks by robots.txt can hinder discoverability.
Test all site functionality regularly. Use link checkers to find and fix broken internal and external links. Implement proper 301 redirects for moved or deleted pages. Allow search bots access with robots.txt. Fix errors immediately to maintain indexation and avoid manual actions by Google.
No XML Sitemap
XML sitemaps outline all the pages search engines should index from your site. Without one, search bots must rely solely on crawling links to discover new and updated content. This can mean pages get left out or aren’t refreshed as frequently as they should be.
Create and submit an XML sitemap file to ensure all pages on your site can be discovered. Use Google Search Console to test your sitemap and identify any errors. Update sitemaps frequently as you add fresh content. Leverage sitemaps to improve the scale and speed of indexation across your site.
Avoid Common SEO Pitfalls
Solid search visibility requires avoiding these and other common SEO mistakes. By sidestepping these pitfalls, you can optimize pages using proven best practices that search algorithms reward with higher rankings and more organic traffic. Conduct regular website audits to catch issues early and implement fixes to continually improve performance.