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The Most Epic SEO Blunders of 2014

There’s nothing new about SEO, and yet, if you gaze across the spectrum of websites on the web at the end of 2014, you’re going to see an endless array of blunders and boo-boos. Don’t let the SEO experts try to convince you that basic, steadfast SEO is complicated or mind-boggling. It can get a bit convoluted with terminology (canonical URLs, anyone), but the truth is, the foundation of fantastic SEO is not rocket science. Nor has it changed drastically this year.

So let’s go through the current landscape and identify the biggest SEO issues that so many sites are guilty of. Address these standouts, and you are on your way to the rankings and visibility you’ve been dreaming of.

Mistake #1: A Lackluster Website

The very first thing I do when a client asks for SEO assistance is head straight for their website. Without fail, there are problems to deal with, but the most typical of all is poor website design. Consider SEO a science of usability honored by search engines directing people to the content they are looking for. By this token, great content equals great design. So your website needs two things without fail (and in this order please!)

1) Usability: This means your site has intuitive navigation, an attractive design that immediately draws customers in, and it’s fully functional. This is absolutely non-negotiable if you want any level of SEO success. And by all means, your site must look good too! A crappy WordPress blog will never be top tier in SEO. No matter how hard you work at every other component, great design and navigation are essential. The greatest click-through rate in the world won’t do you any good if your bounce rate is over 50%. Make your website your priority, and the rest is icing
on the cake.

2) Content: SEO could not exist without content; it’s your web pages, blogs, articles, meta data, and the like that sets the scene for your SERPs. Content, therefore, needs to address your audience directly, in the language they would use to find you (which equate to your keywords.) Without a fair amount of fresh, original content, you will never be an SEO darling.

In other words, if you approach SEO from a design and content standpoint first and foremost, you’re building a strong foundation for the remaining tactics to really push you over the top.

Mistake #2: Ugly Ads

Here’s where things might get a bit controversial – it’s time to get rid of Google Adsense. Yes, Google owns it, so you might think this would be helpful to SEO, or at least neutral. That’s no longer the case. Adsense, and services like them, create hideous looking ads, and people are bouncing from these faster than a cancelled check. Once again, be completely dedicated to great design, and you will see the payoff. Ads can certainly be an important segment of a beautifully designed site, but definitely not those hideous text ads. Incorporate them intelligently, and your users will reward you with loyalty and conversions.

Mistake #3: Incomplete On-Site SEO

Now that you have a gorgeous site that converts users like a champ, it’s time to polish your on-site SEO. Here are the most important parts to this process:

  •  Be clear and concise regarding what your site is about, and use your keywords, but do so sparingly.
  •  If you resort to old keyword-stuffing tactics, you will be penalized – Google and friends no longer need you to shove keywords down their throats, or that of your users.
  •  Have quality content; the more recent, the better.
  •  Be consistent with your content messaging – the more you speak directly to your core customer, the better your odds for higher SEO results

Include keywords in things like title tags, description tags, and a few times in your content – especially the first paragraph.

Mistake #4: No Link Building

Yes, links still matter! Receiving quality inbound links from relevant sites is still important to Google; it helps to validate your credibility. Outbound links are just as critical, especially to authority domains. Please do not add links for linking sake, however, as that practice is what doesn’t work anymore. If you are linking to sites that are completely outside of your industry, or are doing any black hat practices, you can actually get penalized. So build links with quality partners only.

Mistake #5: Not Using Long Tail Keywords

Long tails are fast becoming the SEO keyword darlings. Long tail keywords are simply more descriptive in nature, and therefore longer. Searches are getting very precise with how they are searching for content, so you should follow suit. Instead of pushing generic terms (which are almost impossible to rank high for), go for the long tails. Sure, the audience size is smaller, but these folks are more targeted and far, far more likely to convert if you are giving them exactly what they’re searching for. So when it comes to keywords, go long!

Seriously, if you put together a user-friendly, attractive website with solid (but not over the top SEO), plenty of relevant and quality content, and a smart keyword strategy, you are literally light years ahead of your competitors. Add in a nice mix of intelligent link building and even some extras like long tail and trending keywords, and you have hit the level of SEO expert!

What other SEO blunders do you see sites making regularly? We want to hear about them!

About the author

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Tina Courtney

Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile

36 Comments

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    • Hi Sophia – would have to know specifically what happened with your site and Panda, and do quite a bit of research. If you read my SPN articles on Panda, however, there are lots of tips on how to recover from issues 🙂

  • So basic, yet so true and necessary to continuously be reminded about. Thanks.

    But talking about basic, I am still confused about the whole link building thing. That one cannot build do-follow links yourself is clear enough (no more guest blogging, even if you used to do it according to the guidelines in the past).

    So my question is, is there still such a thing as a legitimate do-follow link? What if a blogger writes an article on his own blog and point a do-follow link to my site? Do I ask him/her to remove it and to make it no-follow even though he may have a solid, legitimate, niche related site?

    • Hi George,

      Ah yes, links are confusing! If they link is from, as you say, a legitimate, niche-related site, it is still golden. The operative word nowadays is “relevant”. Legitimate too, but Google now cares very much that links are related to your industry, and not just for the same of link sharing. Hope that helps 🙂

  • First of all thank you for this great presentation. Basically your points are the primary things that people should do to improve their SEO for their website. If we follow the guidelines you mention, a positive impact will result, slowly but surely. You have reminded us again how important it is to build a business (read : website) with a healthy foundation.

  • One thing that I’ve noted is how many neglect the absolute basics of good Title and Description meta tags – of the right length and with concise descriptive text.

  • Indeed good (essential) approach. It is amazing how many sites and businesses would fail on this checkup list.. Most common reasons are unawareness then lack of resources – in terms of time and know how.

  • I know that we need new content on our websites, if we want to succeed. We have added a Press Room (constant stream of relevant articles) and a Blog (which nobody has commented on yet, but it is only two months old). We also have some do-follow backlinks concerning foreign languages and translation.
    But our site is still in the wasteland, over 50 pages from Google P1. What can we do to get it to the first page?

    John Hadfield
    service@oxtran.com

    • Honestly John, your goal these days should now be ranking on page 1 for head keywords that are generic and highly competitive – long-tail keywords are now your best friends. If you’re ranking well for your relevant long-tails, your business will flourish. Don’t waste time competition for the generic terms.

  • Design your sites for mobile use. Go for a Responsive Website Design.

    I still see a lot of major industry players with websites that are not optimized for mobile devices or don’t have mobile versions of their sites. It really is a pain to navigate their sites using a smartphone. =(

  • Good points Tina. 100% agreed with your views regarding SEO in 2014. But in less competitive landscape I have been able to achieve 1st page rankings for my clients with out building any links whatsoever. Thanks for your effort.

  • This is great information for me and my company,We are a small handmade jewellery company from the UK. We started from nothing, Had no big pot of start up money, We just had a new website made for us and business is growing year on year but its through other peoples websites and not ours so I’m now in the process of learning about SEO so bring customers to or website.

  • A very informative write up Ms Brown, I totally agree with Mistake no#3. incomplete on site seo is like committing suicide for any business.Many companies start seo activities but stop it mid way thinking its giving no results. consistency is a must to see results.

  • Great post! Totally agree, ugly ads (hello bellyfat ad) are a huge turnoff. Just want off the site asap.

    Also, too long of load time is the worst, when you have to wait forever for the pictures to pop up,it’s like, hmmmm, I don’t have all day here.

    Now I’m just asking myself though, Ha, is my website ugly? I mean, most food blogs are beautiful presentation……but those aren’t the recipes I actually make. I actually make recipes that LOOK real, like I could make it, not the glamor shot photo’s.

  • Great article, good work.

    SEO did not change, it just got less spammy and unfair. If you work hard on your content, design build links back to your site, you deserve to rank!

  • It is very important to have a good looking website. Even if you are not going for a SEO you must have a decent looking website with original content. A dull looking website cannot make impression on anyone even not on your existing clients, forget about the prospective clients.

    Rest, it a great post highlighting the existing trend of SEO.

  • I totally agree with you, your all the points are too important and most epic SEO blunders.
    Big thing is content, Google always says that use only unique or original content. Content is king. Make only great link building…Real great article and very useful information..

  • The article is very informative for beginners like me. Although I knew about most of what you mentioned, I did learn about the importance of website design. That idea is totally new to me. Thanks Tina Courtney-Brown for your article and reminding us of the importance of website design alongside of content.

  • This is a great article. Thank you for sharing this valuable information. Obviously most of us need to do a lot on our websites. Ranking high does not come easily. It usually takes lot of right effort in the right direction. I fully agreed with the points mentioned here. God bless.

  • Long tail keywords are insane. Sometimes they just have such low volume, so you have to pump up so much content for a group of long tail keywords.

  • “Mistake #4: No Link Building”. I’m amazed how many people actually think that by just making a blog post you can rank on google. Sure content is very important, but you have to find ways to get the word out, this includes link building and other strategies. Also, it’s important to maximize organic link building.