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Common SEO Mistakes – Content & Links (pt. 2 of 2)

To avoid common SEO mistakes, take an 80/20 approach (Pareto Principle). 80% of the issues come from 20% of the mistakes. Here are 5 to avoid with your content & links.

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by Eric Sharp

Ensuring that your website can be seen by both search engines and people is an ongoing challenge.

Read part 1 of 2: Common SEO Mistakes - Strategy & Structure

Google updates its algorithm 500-600 times a year and say they have around 200 different ranking factors. I even find myself wondering if I’m keeping up with the latest SEO trends, guidelines, and recommendations for maximum optimization.

Common SEO Mistakes Part 2

To ensure that you’re approaching SEO diligently and avoiding its common mistakes, I recommend taking an 80/20 approach (Pareto principle). 80% of the issues come from 20% of the mistakes. That’s good — no, GREAT — news, because if you can avoid a handful of mistakes, you’ll be avoiding 80 percent of the issues that come from them!

To uncover these common SEO mistakes, I’ve outlined five of them below that are related to a website’s content and links.

1. Keyword stuffing in content

Keyword stuffing is one of those SEO mistakes that can negatively impact rankings, traffic and the user experience.

Search engines no longer put a heavy emphasis on keyword density (this changed over a decade ago) and when websites stuff keywords in every sentence, it spits out an awful reading experience like this:

“We have the very best Chicago Bears T-shirts in our stores. Our Chicago Bears T-shirts are made with quality material. Get free shipping on every Chicago Bears T-shirt!”

Though there’s no magic number to how many times you use a keyword in your content, you should adopt a “write for people, optimize for robots” philosophy.

Google’s Matt Cutts confirms that keyword density is not a recipe you follow to rank #1 (e.g. use the keyword 7% of the time on a page).

2. Light content

Studies show that content length affects rankings. Pages with heavier, richer content will typically outrank pages with lighter content.

Can a page with light content (under 300 words) still rank well? Absolutely. With the right social signals, handful of quality backlinks (discussed in #5 below) and a hearty discussion via a comments section, it can be done.

However, the mistake is treating light content as the norm, rather than the exception. In practical terms, creating 10 rich blogs at 1,000 words each rather than 30 generic blogs at 300 words each will generate more traffic and natural links over the long haul.

3. Duplicate content

Duplicate content is when content appears in more than one location of your website. This error can be tricky because sometimes it's not so obvious to the eye.

Image credit SearchEngineWatch

Lets first look at the obvious...

If you have a page of content dedicated to FAQs, and that exact content resides under the ‘PRODUCTS’ section and ‘CUSTOMER SERVICE’ section — that’s duplicate content.

Now for the not so obvious...

If you have a page of content dedicated to FAQs, and that content can be accessed with multiple URLs (e.g. http://www.website.com/faq or http://website.com/faq) — that’s duplicate content because of a canonicalization issue (#1 on my list in part 1).

Duplicate content errors will confuse search engines, dilute rankings, and ultimately impact your traffic. Fixing them can provide a major boost to your SEO’s ROI.

4. No consistency with internal links

Linking to other pages of your website is one of the easiest ways to help search engines understand what your content is about. HOW you exactly link to those pages is just as important.

Which option below sets its link properly?

  • Option A: Click here to see all Chicago Bears T-shirts

  • Option B: See all Chicago Bears T-shirts

If you said ‘Option B’, you’re the big winner. Search engines use this “anchor text” (the clickable part, typically in a different color and underlined like this link to ProtoFuse’s homepage) to help determine the subject matter of the linked-to document.

Consistent use and variations of the right anchor text will establish website hierarchy and pass link juice (ranking power).

Learn more about internal links and the UX reasons for NOT naming links “click here”.

5. No quality external links

Just to ensure we’re talking the same language:

External links = other websites linking to your website

The value of external links to a website has certainly run its gamut. Before Google rolled out Penguin 1.0 in 2012 (the algorithm change that directly targeted unnatural backlinks), there was an unhealthy emphasis on external links to obtain rankings. Post-Penguin, I’ve been getting a sense that people fear external links for risk they may get penalized.

Quite the flip flop, right?

An external link can boost the ranking of a piece of content significantly. I’ve seen it with my blog posts (like this one: Why we Prototype vs Wireframe). This blog jumped to the top 3 for a keyword shortly after generating a natural link from a quality website. That’s the power of a quality external link.

The SEO mistake here is fearing — thus not creating — external links. If that advice is too ambiguous for your taste, then I recommend What is an Unnatural Link? An in-depth Look at the Google Quality Guidelines and Google’s quality guideline on avoiding a link scheme.

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Use the Pareto principle

As I mentioned in the beginning, using the 80/20 principle is a practical approach if your website finds itself buried in SEO issues. Though there are numerous ranking factors, just focus on the mistakes I’ve highlighted in this blog series, and you'll eliminate 80% of the issues.

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below on other critical SEO mistakes I didn’t cover.

In case you missed it, be sure to read part 1 of 2

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