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The 11 Deadly Sins Of Search Engine Optimization

What are the 11 deadly sins of SEO, and how can you avoid them? Is your website guilty of any of the offenses described below? If so, you could prevent yourself from getting in front of potential customers!
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Our Outline Of The 11 Deadly Sins Of SEO

The biggest mistakes you can make in SEO are pretty obvious: make content that isn't spammy and unique and helpful to the user. While it's a bit more complicated, some essential and powerful on-page SEO taboos you'll want to avoid are listed below.

  1. Not optimizing your URL for search
  2. Your title tag isn't optimized for search
  3. Your H1 tag isn't optimized
  4. Your website isn't mobile-friendly
  5. Your images are too large
  6. No alt tags on your images
  7. Your meta-descriptions aren't optimized for search
  8. Thin content
  9. Scraped content
  10. Not doing proper research before creating your content
  11. Not promoting your content
  12. Bonus - Not Using Semantic HTML

We'll go into more detail about each of the SEO mistakes listed above in the rest of the article.

The 11 Deadly Sins Of SEO And How To Avoid them

The 11 Deadly Sins Of Search Engine Optimization

What are some of the biggest mistakes you can make when trying to get your website on the first page of Google. Our first three on this list will cover the three main pieces of text on your website - your URL, Title tag, and H1 tag. 

We'll tell you what to avoid and what should be done instead. Today we'll show you how you can improve the odds that your website - and your business - get positioned in front of as many potential customers as possible. Despite what some people may have told you -- SEO is simple. And today you're going to learn 11 things you should avoid when you are working on your own website.

1. Failing To Optimize Your URL For Search

SEO Agency

So we are going to skip the theory and jump straight into the proven facts about what is guaranteed to get you ranking. As mentioned above, there are three main pieces of text on any website, and failing to optimize any of these will prevent you from ranking. The first and arguably most important of these three main pieces of text is the URL. The number one way to ensure you don't rank, and no one can find your website, is failing to put your main keyword in your URL. How do you fix this, and what do you need to do?
Well, for example, our main keyword in this article is "the 11 deadly sins of search engine optimization", so if you look at our URL, you'll see that our URL reflects this. All you need to do to optimize your URL is to ensure it contains your keyword. If that seems easy, that's because it is! 

Just building a website isn't enough to get you ranking highly in organic search. You've got to ensure that you have proper site architecture to guarantee Google has no issues understanding what your website is about. Once Google understands the content and purpose of your page, it then understands where it should place you in the search results. Your website architecture will vary based on many things, such as the types of pages, services, plans for the website, etc. This is why it is essential that you either have a top notch agency build your website or do the necessary research to do it yourself. 

2. Your Title Tag Isn't Optimized For Search

Search Engine Marketing

Just like your URL, you need to have your keyword in your title tag. However, your title tag is a little bit different. Here, you aren't just focusing on getting your keyword in the title. You also want to make sure that it sounds appealing to your target demographic. Think of your title tag as your chance stand out from the competition in the search results, because that is precisely what it is. Studies show that well-written title tags can increase click-through rates dramatically.

Suppose you write a great title tag that brings many visitors to the website. In that case, you also want to ensure your website is not only relevant to your title but just as quality as the title tag. Otherwise, many people will leave, and search engines will punish you.

3. Your H1 Tag Isn't Optimized For Search

SEO Company

Like your URL and title tag, an H1 is no different. The best H1 tag is simple. In this case, take note of this very blog post. You know our keyword is the 11 deadly sins of search engine optimization, so what is our H1? That keyword, exactly. Nothing more, nothing less. That's it. That's all you need to do. You can get more creative than that, and it won't necessarily hurt your rankings, but you run the risk of potentially hurting your rankings. For example, Google could misinterpret the additional text and cause you to rank for a different keyword variation. However, if you make your H1 your exact keyword, you will - at least for now - only stand to benefit from it. It cuts out any chance that search engines can misinterpret what your intended keyword is.

You may also think that it sometimes may look spammy to visitors, but various studies show that whether you add some frill to the H1, versus just making it the exact keyword, it makes little to no difference. Users aren't any more likely to bounce and return to the search results if you have an exact match H1, versus one you've dressed up. Because of this, you're mainly using this tactic so it's more clear to Google what you're trying to rank for. Search engines are incredibly smart, but they cannot read, and so having your H1 here conveys a lot.

Google is changing its algorithm all the time, so it may happen that one day it requires more than this. But, for years - today included - making your H1 tag your keyword is all you need to do.

4. Your Website Isn't Mobile-Friendly

SEO Services

Google's algorithm is designed to bring the best, most relevant, and most quality websites to its users. However your website is built, you need to make sure it looks great on all devices. So if your website cannot work correctly on mobile devices, Google will penalize you by making it harder or impossible to get in front of your target demographic. 

Ensuring your website is mobile-responsive does more good than just keeping Google happy. It also increases vital on-page metrics. If - on your phone - you land on a website that breaks and looks awful, you're probably not going to spend much time on it before you begin looking elsewhere in search results. Your users will respond the same way, which will hurt metrics Google uses to weigh the quality of your website.

5. Images Are Too Large

Website Optimization

Text isn't the only thing that needs to be optimized if you hope to climb up those SERPs (search engine results pages). Images also need to be taken into consideration. The largest your images should really be is 200KB. They should ideally be between 10KB - 50KB, and even smaller if possible, but this is not always possible. If you've ever landed on a website and wondered why in today's day and age, they have such blurry photos, this is why. They have sacrificed their image quality not only to rank higher but also so you could enjoy faster loading times.

What happens if you have images larger than 200KB is that specific metrics begin to suffer. Load time begins to ramp up. Page speed starts to suffer. Mobile users start having to wait longer and longer for your pages to load, meaning statistically, more of them bounce off of your page, and start looking through search results again, etc. 

To reiterate, to avoid these things, you want to ensure your images are no larger than 200KB and, more ideally, between 10KB and 50KB. Smaller than 10KB if possible, but again, this isn't going to be possible in some cases.

6. No Alt Tags

SEO Optimization

If you don't include alt tags in your images, search engines will trust your website far less, because the content put out on websites without alt tags is not user-friendly for users with disabilities. Alt tags are standard, and so websites without them automatically are deemed less credible. Your website should cater to people from all walks of life, especially those with disabilities. For example, some users will be blind and require a reader to have your website read to them, which is where alt tags come into play.

Alt tags allow you to describe your images to those with disabilities. The current readers cannot decipher images and rely instead on your alt tag to explain your photos to your users with disabilities. If possible, you want to include your keyword in them, but it isn't always possible. There is no way we could include our keyword "the 11 deadly sins of search engine optimization" in all of our alt tags without it coming off as weird and spammy. So if you inspect our alt tags, they cater to smaller, more relevant keywords while also explaining what the image is and how it is appropriate. 

7. Your Meta-Descriptions Aren't Optimized For Search

On Page Optimization

Similar to your title tag, your meta description is what your potential customers are reading to decide if they want to leave the search results and visit your website. You must ensure that you include your keywords in the meta description in an organic, non-spammy way that will entice them to click through to read more of your content. Search engines are measuring how many users scroll over your page without clicking through to your website. The fewer users that click through, this tells the search engine your content isn't worth promoting. So you need to take your time and create meta-descriptions and title tags that will catch your user's attention.

Often, however, search engines will take snippets of your content that is more relevant to your user's query and replace your meta description with that snippet. So, you cannot always be sure what exactly they will see. Surprisingly, however, based on a few studies we have conducted, and studies we've read through that are available online, the meta-description isn't a main contributor to your ranking potential. It is more critical to helping your CTR (click-through rate). Well-written meta-descriptions will lead to more visitors to your website, and poorly written ones will cause search engines to punish your website because fewer people are clicking through than they should be.

8. Not Enough Content

SEO Content

While it's better to have smaller blogs than no blogs, and it's better to have a smaller website than no website, if you don't have enough content, you will stand no chance at competing with your competition. It doesn't matter what search engine you're talking about, none of them want to serve subpar content to their users, and a huge sign of low-value content is a page with little-to-no content. If you do see a competitor, that ranks well and their website has little-to-no content, you have a tremendous opportunity to give the search engines what they want and out rank them.

On average, you shouldn't have a blog post with less than 1,000 words. Some blogs can rank with only 500 words, depending on the competition. If all competitors currently ranking for topic "a" have less than 1,000 words, then you can rank with less than 1,000, but you generally want to write at least 500 words more than the average of the top three results. In more detail, we'll write a blog post about this in the future, but say you analyze the top three competitors and the average word count is 1,200. You'll probably want to write a 1,700-2,000 word article. Position in the search results is by no means determined by the article's length, but it is one of the factors that almost all search engines consider.

9. Copied Content

SEO Copywriting

Even if you loosely copy the content, no search engine will take this lightly. You will - at best - not rank and - at worst - get your website taken down. You want to make sure that you are creating 100% original content. You can figure out what your competitors are doing to make them successful. Topics they are writing about, which keywords they are using, the number of photos they are using, etc. But, when you use that info to write your article, you have to ensure that it is all your own. One of the fastest ways to make any search engine penalize you is to be lazy and copy the content of another website. Search engines are way too smart for that, they are running your content through all sorts of checks to see whether or not your content is original.

Data however, is completely fine to copy. If your competitor has 1,200 words, write 1,700. If your competitor has eight images, make sure you have 16. If you plan to outrank your competition and they have a video, you need at least one video as well. Data can be used in this way simply to help you determine what content your page needs. In fact, copying data in this way will help you understand what search engines are looking for so you can give them exactly that.

With the algorithm advancing continually, you typically never want any record of copied or skimmed content in search results. It will always come back to haunt you. Whether from the owner of the original content when they find your duplicate swimming around the search results, or when an algorithm detects it. Either way, you're likely to see several of your pages to drop back in the rankings. It's very common for website owners to experience horrible penalties, causing them to drop entirely from search results, which is obviously something you don't want. Search engines, especially Google are taking more and more seriously the results displayed in search. They only want the very best content to show up for their users, and as iterated above, you definitely want to make sure you aren't sending any signals that your content is anything less than amazing.

10. No Research Before Making Content

SEO Search Engine Optimization

Making a webpage without doing adequate research is like taking a shot in the dark. Whether it's a blog page, or a service page, you need to do proper keyword research to determine which keyword offers the largest ROI. In order to do this, you'll have to search through which keyword makes the most sense by using various tools, and the SERPs themselves.

Once you research which keyword makes the most sense, you then need to look at the first 3-5 websites ranked for that keyword to determine what they have done to succeed. You need to figure out how many words are on the pages, how many images and videos, which keywords they have used and how many times they have used them, etc. All of this research is critical to ensure you capture as much traffic as possible and can rank as highly as possible.

11. Failure To Promote Content

Local SEO

Optimizing a website isn't just about content creation and keywords. It's also about promoting your content so you can convey to search engines that you care about your content. Once Google sees that you value your content, it's more likely to promote it higher up in the SERPs (search engine result pages). Promotion is one of the most critical steps to success in search engines, because if you don't, this leads search engines to think, "even the creator of this content doesn't care about it, so why should I"?

Promotion can take many forms, from interlinking, sharing on various social media platforms, getting backlinks, running different ad campaigns, etc. The main thing to consider with promotion is that it's all about sending as many positive signals to each search engine you can. Signals like social shares, and good on-page metrics tell search engines like Google that your content is valuable.

You don't have to be a marketing guru or get your content to millions of people for each search engine to see that you are promoting your content. Even just sharing it on a few social media accounts is enough. Just that alone will show search engines that you - the content creator - care about the content, and it will care more as well.

12. (BONUS) - Not Using Semantic HTML

Code snippet showing code that doesn't use Semantic HTML

Another common mistake people make is just to lump all your website content into <div> containers. The benefit of HTML is that it's a semantic language. We'll have an article that covers this in more detail in the future, but for now, we'll briefly cover what this means.

Search engines are quickly becoming increasingly semantic in nature in navigating through languages and the elements on your pages. The benefit of using semantic HTML is that search engines can understand your content more efficiently, which means they'll see your content as higher quality, and in turn, you'll rank higher.

One of the best ways to get an edge on your competition is to use the appropriate HTML tags instead of just taking the lazy approach and slapping everything into a div tag. Make sure your content doesn't look like the picture above but instead looks like the picture below.

Code snippet showing code using Semantic HTML

It would be worth your time to read into how to use various elements involved in semantic SEO, such as:

  • <article>
  • <main>
  • <aside>
  • <header>
  • <nav>
  • <section>
  • <footer>

The list above doesn't cover each tag available to you, just the ones you're most likely to see. MDN has a great article on Semantics that goes over everything you'd need to know to get started optimizing the HTML of your website.
Semantic SEO is a great way to get an edge in search engine optimization, and quite honestly, it's one of the most accessible aspects to learn, so we encourage you to head over to MDN and get started!

Things To Know Before Making The SEO Improvements Listed Above

Now that you understand which mistakes you should avoid when it comes to SEO, you are going to want to make these changes to your website to begin seeing more traffic. However, before you start to optimize your site, it's important that you do proper keyword research before you get started.

The last thing you'd want to do is to finish reading this article and jump straight into optimizing your website without doing proper keyword research. We recommend you sign up for a free trial of SEO tools like Semrush. These SEO tools will help you get a detailed report on which keywords offer the best ROI for your efforts. Once you have your free trial account activated you can start to dig into which keywords offer the best return for your time so that you can create content based around that.

However, it's not as simple as creating content for random keywords. You want to steer clear of keywords that have a high level of difficulty. The reason you'd want to avoid these keywords is because in SEO, you're going to have to compete with other websites that will most likely have a better potential to rank for those high-difficulty keywords. 

Why is this? Mainly because of how Google works. Search engines tend to only let websites that have proven themselves - by avoiding the SEO mistakes we've talked about here - and that consistently create high-quality, optimized content. SEO isn't just about optimizations, it's also about consistent output of quality, authoritative and original content. So if you're reading this article and you rarely publish anything to your website, you're not going to be able to rank for higher difficulty keywords.

We'll have an article published soon that goes into detail about what keyword difficulty is, and how you can use it to leverage your website to the first page, but for now, just know that it would be best to focus on keywords that have a low level of difficulty. When you're in Semrush, you can find the DA (domain authority) of your website. Typically you want to target keywords with difficulty as high as that, or lower. This technique will give you the best chance of ranking. Obviously you want to go after more difficult keywords, but if you practice SEO, in time your authority will increase, and so too will your ability to rank for difficult keywords.

Why Do SEO?

Local SEO Services

One thing continues to ring true. It doesn't matter what type of business owner you are. If you want to improve your client acquisition process, you want to generate more organic leads, traffic, and visibility, SEO has proven time and time again to be the most cost-effective way to do this. Search engine optimization is the process of improving, analyzing, and adjusting your website until it reaches the level of an industry authority. Client acquisition will no longer be an issue once your website and your business have reached that level. Once hundreds/thousands of people visit your website each month because of the quality content your SEO has created for your website, the issue of visibility and lead generation will be a thing of the past.

If you are asking why you should be optimizing for search, I will urge you first to continue reading this article, but once you're finished, open up a different tab in your browser. Next, Google the keywords you feel your potential customers are typing in to find services like yours. Keywords you want to show up for on the first page of Google. All of those businesses you see are currently paying for - or have at one point in time paid for - SEO. Unless there is remarkably low competition (10 or fewer competing businesses in all surrounding cities combined), no one shows up in the local SERPs without some level of SEO. Now, it could be that a business owner you're seeing has taken the time to learn to properly optimize their content so they can execute their strategy themselves, and so they aren't paying anyone for it. However, they are still using SEO to show up there organically. 

You might be asking, "well, I could easily invest in Google ads, so what does optimizing your website for search have that an ads campaign doesn't?" For starters, SEO is far more cost-effective per click because there is a flat rate. The average monthly SEO campaign is between 1,200 - 2,500. For the level of traffic you will be experiencing after 6-12 months in an SEO campaign (400-1,000 depending on the industry), getting that much in monthly traffic with Google ads can be anywhere from 2-10x to the price of 1,200-2,500 dollar SEO campaign. We aim to get you as many organic visitors as possible, not make you pay excessive amounts for more clicks. We're hoping that by the time you've finished this article, you'll no longer be wondering why you should do SEO but why you haven't started sooner!

W‍hat is SEO, And Why Is It Important?

SEO Expert

Investing in a campaign to improve your performance in search engines is the best and most sustainable way of getting your website to the top of Google. SEO is vital to any website if showing up in front of potential customers is even remotely a goal. Regardless of the page you want to rank - if it is a service page, your homepage, or a blog page, this is the best way to ensure you succeed online. So, now that you know why having an optimized website is important, what is it?

Well, before we explain what it is, we'll first explain the main two goals of a search engine. A search engine has two primary goals. One - serve a user with the most relevant content. Two - serve a user with the highest quality of content. There are certain best practices that search engines - particularly Google - like to see. Search engines are looking for all sorts of signals and signs from a website to determine its relevance and quality. Websites that give off enough of these quality signals will be seen by search engines as more trustworthy. 

The main goal of SEO - also known as search engine optimization - is to optimize all content and assets on a website to ensure that search engines deem the website trustworthy and authoritative. While gaining trust and authority in the eyes of various search engines takes time (3-9 months), it is more than worth the effort. Once search engines have placed their trust in a website, everything they create will rank much more easily, meaning the benefits of increased traffic, leads, etc., will begin to snowball more and more.

What Does SEO Do?

Search Engine Optimization

You might understand why it's crucial to optimize your website for search by now. But what does optimizing for search do? When you optimize your website for search, you focus on more than just getting higher up in the search rankings. You're focused on making quality content and improving your website. SEO is not just about getting traffic. It's about improving the quality and authority of your website. 

When you design and execute an SEO strategy, your focus is on the goals of your business. Where do you want to take your business, and how soon? Do you want to grow, and if so, how much? Would you like to appear in the search results in any other cities than you currently are in? 

Once clear goals have been established, you can design a strategy that will help you achieve those goals. Optimizing for search is more than just keywords, statistics, and rankings. SEO is about providing users with the most quality content they can find. Search is about answering all possible questions your users might have when they visit your website. Optimizing for search by consistently creating quality content is the best way to take you there if you want to dominate in your local markets.

What Should You Not Do In SEO?

SEO Specialist

Of the 11 deadly sins of search engine optimization, the main thing you need to keep in mind is creating quality content. It is a common saying that content is king, and it's commonly said for a reason—Google, above all else, highly-regards relevant, quality content. The algorithm wants to deliver only the best content to a user. So if you don't work hard and don't go the extra mile to ensure you are creating correct, quality, engaging content, you will never rank. Writing quality content that people want to read, share and link out to seems complicated, but really it's not. It just takes time to ensure you cover all perspectives on your topic. You don't have to look very hard to ensure this because Google tells you what it wants to see in an article. We will be writing an article to show you how to find what Google is looking for in more detail, so keep an eye out for that in the future!

So now that you know the 11 deadly sins of SEO, you can get out there, do your research, take your time, and create quality content for your users! Eventually, you'll get into the swing of things, and it will be easy to write a 1,500-word article that gets on the first page almost immediately, but at first, you'll have to do your time. It may take you 10 hours for one article, and that's okay. You can only get better if you only publish the best, most relevant, highly-targeted, and optimized content! If you have any questions, comments, or concerns, feel free to reach out and contact us directly, and we can help guide you in any way we can.

Until then, feel free to read more of our content. It's our goal to produce quality, updated information that you can use to learn and implement these skills and tactics on your own website. White hat SEO is something that every business owner should know at least a little bit about. If you're armed with even just a little bit of knowledge when it comes to how to carry out website optimization, you can easily improve your rankings. Learning how to create quality SEO content is an amazing skill to have, especially when it comes to organic search in your local markets. The more well optimized your website, the more likely your local clients will find your website, and therefor contact you!

How Long Does It Take For Improvements To Show In The Search Results?

On Page Optimization

So, once you've made the changes mentioned in our article, how long should your website climb up in search engines? In all honesty, it's going to be a slow climb. A solid search campaign takes time, and the on-page issues this article deals with are only half of the battle. A solid search strategy depends mainly on combining both on-page and off-page efforts. 

If you make all of the changes mentioned in this article, it should only take a couple of weeks before you notice that your pages start to climb up in the SERPs. That being said, though, you aren't going to be dominating the search results. You may notice an increase of 5-20+ positions if you address everything in this article. However, once you get close to pages 1 & 2, you'll notice that you stop seeing improvements for most keywords. This is mainly because once you start to get to the top in terms of the search results, your off-page efforts come into play. Getting quality backlinks, marketing your content, etc. All of these methods are proven ways to boost your pages to the top of search.

So to wrap up, if you take all of the advice mentioned in this article and you're consistent in your content creation, you could easily see that your website gains traction within a month. However, you won't be dominating the search results in any less than six months. SEO isn't something you can just jump into. You're going to need to educate yourself on the topic a lot and, most of all, get first-hand experience.

Can SEO Be Used For YouTube?

SEO Content Writing

YouTube videos can absolutely benefit from being optimized for search. Many people have proven that search engine optimization works similarly for YouTube as it does for Google. Google owns YouTube, so each search engine's algorithms are very similar. Everything from the video title the description, etc. It's vital that you do the research required before making your YouTube video and that you carefully optimize each part adequately.

As with all forms of any topic, the hardest part is learning. While there are a lot of steps to help ensure your video is completely optimized for YouTube's algorithms, once you understand what is required to rank, the rest is muscle memory. After you understand what is required and know how the algorithm works, the rest is common sense. You'll have to keep up-to-date on the latest changes by following Google's documentation regarding how the algorithm works, but this is easier than it might sound.

If you want to optimize your YouTube videos, it is worth watching a few videos regarding how to optimize them properly.
Many videos and blog posts walk you through optimizing your videos properly. If you are new to YouTube or are a veteran, learning how to implement SEO on your channel will help your channel grow immensely.

If you have a business that your YouTube channel is making videos about, then you need to learn how to optimize your content for YouTube. YouTube has been proven as one of the best sources of leads any business can find. Not to mention, it's been confirmed as one of the fastest ways to make your audience trust you and beat out all other forms of marketing. Why? Because your potential clients can see your face, hear your voice, and experience your personality first-hand. So not only can SEO be used for YouTube, but it can be one of the best ways to grow your YouTube channel! Especially once you start using your videos on your website. Video content is huge for search engine optimization.

Search engine optimization does slightly differ in YouTube as compared to actual search engines, but it's quite similar at the same time. Really, all you need to do is provide relevant, quality information, and you'll appear in results where you should. In order to push yourself up the rankings in YouTube, you'll just have to work on dialing in your message, creating more videos, and impacting your audience. Search results are much more lenient in YouTube than they are in actual engines like Google, so you'll definitely have this on your side. Not only that, but it seems to be far easier to sway rankings in your favor so long as you provide quality information, and are very thorough with the data you provide.

In the future, we'll be sure to post blog content and YouTube content showing you how you can do this yourself. If that interests you, join our RSS feed to be notified of our newest blog posts!

Book A Free SEO Consultation With An Expert

Whether you're planning on hiring a professional SEO agency or want to learn how to optimize your own content, asking a professional is one of the best ways to start your journey. We hold free consultations all the time, and a common thing we find is that people are overwhelmed and need help figuring out where to start in the world of digital marketing & search engine optimization. 

If this sounds like you, call us or schedule an SEO strategy call, and we'll help demystify your search engine optimization journey. SEO isn't complicated. It's just a slow-going process. It's just like planting a tree. The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; obviously, you can't go back in time. But the second best time to plant your tree is right now. Give us a call, and let us help your business grow using what we know best - SEO.


If this article on the 11 deadly sins of SEO was helpful, consider subscribing to our RSS feed to get notified when we post another blog. Our focus is to help business owners like yourself optimize their websites for search so they can get in front of more potential customers and improve their client acquisition process, so if that sounds like you, check out our other blog posts. We've got many blogs focused on SEO topics ranging from organic search consulting all the way to the differences in PPC & SEO.