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15 SEO Mistakes to Avoid in 2021

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SEO is lucrative.


It gets more clicks than PPC.


It targets quality traffic.


And the sky is the limit when a ‘holistic’ approach is taken.


But optimum results in 2021 and beyond are only achievable when you avoid these 15 SEO mistakes!



1. Not Treating SEO as a Recurring Task

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SEO is not a one-time event.


It’s a continual process that never stops during the life of a business.


And this is because:

  • The market is constantly changing – with rapidly changing market wants and needs evolving.
  • The competition changes – and it’s your responsibility to keep up to date to maintain your edge.
  • Search engine rules change – 500 to 600 times a year according to MOZ (a thought leader in SEO).


For more in-depth reading on each of these points check out this great resource but remember:

  • SEO is a long-term investment (often taking 3-6 months to see first results), and
  • SEO is a process (what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today).


So, if you want prominent search rankings on the first page then accept:


SEO is an ongoing business requirement.



2. Not Understanding that SEO is Part of The Digital Marketing Puzzle

Brown and black jigsaw puzzle

SEO is an integral component in Digital Marketing.


But it’s not the only component.


Besides SEO other major Digital Marketing components include:

  • Pay-per click advertising (PPC)
  • Web design
  • Content marketing
  • Social media marketing
  • Email marketing, and
  • More (as per this extensive list) 


Because full impact in SEO can only be achieved when SEO is integrated into your overall Digital Marketing strategy.


And Smart Insights outline 4 practical ways to do so.


Ultimately: Understand that SEO is not a  ‘stand-alone’ activity and that many areas of Digital Marketing drive and influence SEO performance.



3. Not Having an SEO Strategy

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Having an SEO strategy is fundamental to success.


This strategy is what foundations are to your home.


Craft an effective SEO strategy and you increase chances of maximum visibility, traffic and return on investment for your business.


Yet despite this 70% of small businesses do not have an SEO strategy.


Without it you can’t expect to:

  • Know your audience
  • Have a great website, and
  • Keep on track.


A good SEO strategy is:

  • Long-term (and why you need that here)
  • Focused on the fundamentals (10 great tips here)
  • Constantly evaluated and improved (how to here).


Useful Resource: Backlinko’s how to create an effective SEO strategy in 2021.



4. Not Paying Attention to Conversion Rate Optimisation

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Getting caught up in high-traffic keywords is a common mistake.


They look great (with their search volume) and may make you feel great (with the traffic you are getting) but remember:


Conversions are what matter.


Because these high-traffic keywords are much like a freeway where:


Everyone is driving too fast to slow down, stop and become your next customer.


Instead, lower-traffic long tail keywords are the secret of increasing your search traffic and you can find some great illustrative examples of why here.


They are more specific, targeted and hence convert better.


Tip: Google Analytics is your best tool for tracking  conversions and here’s how to do it.



5. Not Keeping People on Your Site

Graphs of performance analytics on a laptop screen


So a user comes to your website and immediately leaves – no big deal.


But then:


Many users come to your website and immediately leave – that’s a big deal.


It’s called bounce rate and although it’s not a direct ranking factor (outlined here) a high bounce rate can indicate underlying:

  • User experience, and
  • Targeting issues with your website.

Never look at bounce rate in ‘isolation’ and instead get to the root of the problem by:

  • Assessing how good or bad your bounce rate is (great guide here)
  • Reassessing your SEO strategy (discussed earlier in 3.)
  • Formulating an action plan for reducing it (13 ways here).

6. Not Optimising for Local Search

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Are you running a business that focuses on customers within a certain local geographic area?


Then understand that:


Local search is handled differently by Google (and other search engines).


Because if you think logically:


A small local business cannot compete with a major brand like amazon and hence why it’s different to create a level playing field.


You can learn more about local SEO in this simple (but complete) guide by Ahrefs but know that Google has three main local
SEO ranking factors:

  • Proximity
  • Prominence, and
  • Relevance.

Read more about each in this great resource by Forbes and also note just like Google algorithm changes, local SEO ranking factors are constantly changing.



7. Not Having Unique Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

Selective focus of a red tulip flower

Think of your title tags like the chapters in a book.


Each should be:

  • Accurate
  • Descriptive, and
  • Unique.


Neil Patel covers the ‘accurate’ and ‘descriptive’ part in this how to create search engine friendly title tags guide.


And for ‘unique’ below is an example for a copywriting business named ‘Better Copywriting’:


Copywriting services – Better Copywriting

Website copywriting – Better Copywriting

Blog copywriting – Better Copywriting

Email copywriting – Better Copywriting.


The ‘Better Copywriting’ is the brand name being carried at the end of the title tag.


But at the beginning of the title tag a different keyword is being targeted for different services offered.


This makes each title tag unique.


Meta descriptions are also important to be:

  • Accurate
  • Persuasive, and
  • Unique.


And again, Neil Patel offers the solution with this awesome guide on how to write click-worthy meta descriptions every single time.


Tip: You can check the uniqueness of your title tags and meta descriptions using Ubersuggest.



8. Not Creating Unique Content that is Useful

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If you are not creating ‘useful’ content, then you’re not serving the user and that’s Google #1 goal.


Creating useful content starts with understanding user intent to create:

  • Original content (that is not plagiarised)
  • Relevant content (that benefits the user), and
  •  Valuable content (that is link worthy).  


And this includes:

  • Adding alt text to images (examples & 2021 best practices here)
  • Strategic placement of high quality internal and external links
  • Creation of evergreen content (key to high organic traffic over time).

Duplicate content, outdated content and content that is not fresh are big no’s when it comes to creating useful content.


Instead look to 6 quick tips for creating useful content fast by Inc and the 10 ingredients of great content writing by Neil Patel as awesome resources.



9. Not Focusing on Link Quality

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Link quality and not quantity is what matters.


Read more on that here and the 7 link quality metrics that matter here.


This means one quality link from a popular website can have a greater impact for your search rankings than:


Thousands of low-quality directory links for example.


This is because Google places a greater amount of ‘trust’ in high quality links because:


Not every website can get them.


And forget about buying backlinks because it is not only against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines but will result in your website being hit:


With a penalty if you get caught and this will kill your search engine rankings.



10. Not Targeting the Right Keywords

Woman with archery bow choosing from four targets


We spoke earlier in ‘not paying attention to conversion rate optimisation’ (4) about the conversion difference between:

  • High-traffic keywords, and
  • Long-tail keywords.


But targeting the right keywords is more than that.


And it starts with keyword research and here is a great beginner’s guide for doing it.


Besides keyword research Search Engine Journal outlines 7 other great tips for choosing the right keywords:

  • Identify goals
  • Ask stakeholders
  • Analyse competitors
  • Identify topics
  • Ensure topic relevance and alignment
  • Review the SERPs
  • Monitor performance.


Read more on each tip here but note as Neil Patel points out here:


Google’s algorithm has become so sophisticated that you need to start targeting your customers and not just keywords.


Again, you can read more on that here in this useful post by Neil Patel.



11. Not Mixing up Anchor Text for Links


While optimizing anchor text is important:


Mixing up anchor text is a must.


Think about your user first.


When your user clicks a link in your content, are you:

  • Satisfying them? or
  • Frustrating them?


Relevancy to the linked page is key and so implement:

  • Succinct, and 
  • Accurate anchor text to satisfy the user.


And when it comes to search engines, they are using anchor text:


To learn about links and content.


So, if you are using the same anchor text it not only looks suspicious but can:


Result in a Google penalty.


To keep you on track here are anchor text SEO best practices 2021 according to Moz and a step-by-step guide to using anchor text in 2021 by Accelerate Agency.



12. Not Utilising Content Formats Other Than Text

Red and white square illustration


Attention spans are short.


The Guardian confirms global attention span is narrowing and trends don’t last as long.


Therefore, you need to think beyond text content (like blogs) to satisfy the user.


Opt in Monster detail 15 content formats proven to boost audience engagement that include:

  • Video
  • Infographics
  • Podcasts
  • Presentations
  • Images, and
  • More.


Nielson Norman Group’s research finds people scan first before reading and this proves:


Users want to be satisfied with content that doesn’t necessarily involve reading.


And videos are your starting point.


They are not much different to TV and can generate quick SEO results according to Search Engine Watch.


Tip: 8 ways to take a fresh approach to content formats is a great read to get you motivated to start acting.



13. Not Focusing on Building a Better Brand

We like you too quotes on wall


Google love’s brands.


After all Google is a brand!


And no this does not mean you have to be Amazon but a:

  • Genuine
  • Trusted, and
  • Popular website.


This is Google’s E-A-T (expertise, authority and trust) concept.


More on what it is here but to demonstrate it:

  • Increase brand-related searches (having this incorporated into your SEO strategy)
  • Be a legitimate business that builds your brand right (caring about customers and having values)
  • Constantly work to demonstrate expertise (and values to Google).


That’s what you need to do to improve your E-A-T from the highest level and for a more in-depth guide check out how to improve your website’s E-A-T by Search Engine Journal.



14. Not Keeping up to Date with SEO Best Practices

Person holding black, red, yellow and green dart board


SEO moves fast.


It’s a moving target and constantly changing like the Google Search Algorithm.


And with 500 to 600 changes to the algorithm per year according to MOZ:


Forget about last year – because what worked yesterday won’t necessarily work today.


Therefore, old school SEO practices (6 listed here) only waste time and resources.


Instead invest and make a total commitment to learning SEO best practices.


The 3 thought leaders in the industry that will help you on any aspect of SEO are:

15. Not Conducting Regular Website Audits

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Just having a website does not guarantee results.


And this is where website audits come in.


They are what a ‘car service’ is to a car and essential to improving:

  • Efficiency, and
  • Visibility of a website.


Don’t skip these and aim for:

  • Once a quarter, or
  • Once every six months (for smaller websites).


Failure to conduct regular website audits and you will overlook ‘SEO problems’ and ‘SEO opportunities’ that maximise conversions.


And to get started on your website’s audit today you cannot beat Neil Patel’s definitive guide to running an SEO website audit.


But be sure to avoid these 4 mistakes during a website audit by Search Engine Land.




Man in black suit standing beside black car

“A website without SEO is like a vehicle without fuel” ~ Ravinder Bharti ~


But there is a right or wrong SEO way.


And it’s only when you avoid one of the 15 SEO mistakes that you can succeed by maximising SEO impact for your business with:

  • Visibility
  • Traffic, and
  • Return on investment.


Over to You…

Do you agree or disagree with 15 SEO Mistakes to Avoid in 2021? Or is there something missing or you would like to add?? Would love to hear from you in the comments – any feedback is greatly appreciated.


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