We’ve all heard “a wise person learns from their mistakes, while a wiser person learns from the mistakes of others.”
Today I’m hoping that I can make you wiser about SEO by learning from my mistakes.
When I first got into SEO it was because I was looking to promote my iPhone app and was looking to spread the word about it.
If you’re starting from ground zero, you probably can’t tell good information from bad information. It’s not something to be embarrassed about because we all started somewhere when learning a new skill. To be honest it happened to me.
In this article, we are going to try to help you prevent the hardships of being de-indexed by Google or spending a bunch of money with “experts” who don’t get results.
We know that ranking well in Google could take your business to the next level with warm leads who are looking for your products and services. Knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do.
These mistakes can be bad but the good news is they are very easy to avoid.
Learning From The Wrong People
We touched a little bit on getting malicious and misinformed SEO advice. Avoiding misinformed advice is simple, don’t take advice from people who don’t practice SEO consistently or aren’t in the industry.
To put what I said into perspective, who would you take money advice from, Warren buffet or your uncle Larry who’s living paycheck to paycheck? I trust you know the right answer.
The malicious advice is much harder to avoid because sometimes this advice is spread by “experts” who can show you results and are running their own agency.
This is the trap I fell into when I first got started to learn SEO. You’ll notice that a lot of the early mistakes I made in my career were rooted in this simple mistake.
I don’t want to burden you too much around this because the next three mistakes I talk about later were all learned from these band of characters who taught hundreds of people (maybe thousands) of people these outright unethical tactics.
I put a lot of thought into whether I should mention their names or not and ultimately I decided it’s best I don’t give them any more publicity than they already have.
To help you avoid learning from these band of characters, I will give you the tools to avoid them and provide you with good sources information.
A way to weed out malicious “experts” is to ask yourself the following questions:
Is this person promising instant results?
Do they mention the word shortcut or fastest way to do SEO?
Do they focus only on keywords and promise number one ranking?
Do they oversell the ease of their methods?
Are they teaching an “advance” tactic that very few know about?
If you answered “yes” to any of these questions then you’re likely dealing with someone who is selling you snake oil that will likely work in the short term and sink you in the long-term. If it were this easy everyone would be an expert SEO.
The general rule of “if it’s too good to be true then it is” holds true here.
Below is a list of amazing people to learn from but before I introduce you to them, I want you to notice that all of these sources give an abundance of free information that you could use. The snake oil salesmen aren’t willing to do that.
Brian Dean – Brian from Backlinko is a great resource for those looking to learn how to build backlinks in a safe and organic way.
Neil Patel (doesn’t always look this serious, sorry Neil) – This is a person I personally invested money into to learn about content marketing and SEO. Neil has a way of simplifying complex topics and making it actionable. He focuses on the broader topic of digital marketing.
Search engine land – Want to keep up on Google algorithm changes and SEO news? Search Engine Land is usually always first to break the news and how it could impact your website.
MOZ – Great local SEO resource that will help local businesses navigate SEO if you’re a brick and mortar store looking to get more foot and website traffic.
I’ve spent years reading their articles and implementing their advice for years. The basics rarely change (they evolve) and all four of these resources always keep the basics in mind.
You might go to their websites and feel a bit overwhelmed by the amount of information (I was) available. You can sign up to get a free SEO checklist that will give you the basics in an organized manner.
Looking For Shortcuts
When I first started to learn SEO for myself and my web design agency, I wanted to learn how to show up in Google for searches relating to web design.
I was hungry to get results but not hungry to do the work required to get those results. So I took shortcuts taught to me by the snake oil salesmen under the guise of “everybody” is doing it.
I am here to tell you that everyone who won’t be around for long is doing it. As a matter of fact, a lot of these people are no longer teaching SEO.
First thing I learned from them (and later unlearned) was how to create a personal blog network (PBN).
A PBN is a network of websites that were purchased for the sole purpose of linking to your business website.
I would go out and purchase expired domains who have a history of being indexed by Google only to rebuild them to blog on them. On this blog, I would create content around the web design topic and shamelessly link back to my business.
The results came but they didn’t last long because it didn’t take long for Google to figure out what I was doing and tank my website. Most SEO’s won’t admit they made this mistake but if I never talk about it then you won’t have the chance to learn from it.
Another malicious tactic taught was to go to “link farms” and pay them to put your link on their website. A link farm is a website that has a bunch of links on their site and charges others to place their link on the site.
Why is this really bad for your website you might ask? That’s because one you’re usually charged a lot for link placement and you can’t control where or how your link is placed.
If you’re a dentist who is trying to generate more relevant traffic, it’s not a good idea have your link in a place around spammy links that have to do with prescription drugs, cheap designer stuff, and etc.
Although I never practiced this, it’s important to know it’s wrong.
Now we know how not to get links, let’s talk about how to get them.
The right way to get backlinks is to create great content that is helpful, establishing relationships with people who visit your site and influencers who relate to your niche.
Once you’ve established a relationship with these people you can ask them to link or share your content.
I know this may seem very time intensive (it is) between doing research and reaching out to these influencers or related sites but you automate the outreach if you use a tool like
Expecting Instant Results
Another poor habit I learned was expecting results to happen overnight. I think this is one of the biggest mistakes you can make because it really hurt my drive.
I would try something and not see results right away. The next thing I would do is get discouraged by the lack of results and walk away from SEO only to pick it back up after a few months.
This is a lot like doing one workout and then quitting because you don’t have six-pack abs immediately after.
What I needed to learn was that SEO isn’t an event but a process which means that you need to put in consistent effort day in and day out.
Understand that SEO success can take 6-months to appear and sometimes longer. You wouldn’t plant a sunflower seed and expect a fully bloomed flower the next day.
In the book Atomic Habits by James Clear, he talks about how making 1% improvements daily is what separates the best in the world from the wannabes of the world.
Not Tracking My Results
When I first started doing SEO all I would track is my search rankings and nothing else. Now I give myself credit for tracking something because it’s better than nothing. But that ’s not good enough.
I was working on wrong assumptions that lead me to chase down tactics and topics that weren’t adding value to my visitors and that means it wasn’t adding value to my business.
To understand if you’re getting 1% better every day you need to be able to track your progress and look at the right metrics then improve them.
To put it in perspective, You’re the top rank for both the terms “ice cream” and “ice cream shop Troy, Mi”. The short tail word shows 10,000 monthly visitors while the long tail term shows 1,000 monthly visitors.
If you’re able to have 1% of the visitors from the short tail word do a measurable action but 25% of the longtail word, then you know not to waste your time with such broad terms.
Being Selfish With My Content
I use to view content as a commodity that was a medium to introduce keywords onto my website and nothing else.
I would commonly practice writing on a subject just to signal that my website was relevant to a certain topic and nothing else. This was a really crappy strategy because it made my job a lot harder than it needed to be.
Since my content sucked, it made it extremely difficult to get other sites and influencers to share my content because they do not want to feed crap to their base.
Because my content did not serve my visitors and only myself, it made my site have a terrible bounce rate. Someone would visit my website and instantly not find what they were looking for and leave… that’s not good.
When I did create good content it was usually
To avoid these woes make sure to focus on the informative content and not just the quantity.
The likelihood of creating evergreen content goes up dramatically when you focus on the quality because your visitors are likely to share your content with people just like them.
Since evergreen content lives forever, it’s more powerful than advertising because it takes minimal work to generate ROI on it whereas ads stop when you stop paying.
Not Doing Proper Keyword Research
Doing keyword research properly is pivotal to doing SEO that gives you an ROI.
When first starting my SEO the extent of my keyword research would start and end at Google keyword planner. From there I would search random terms and make guesses on what to target.
I would usually do this based on volume and my uneducated opinion of what I thought was being searched for.
I would also look at the volume and think “yeah that is worth going after.” Just because a term has a large estimated volume doesn’t mean it’s a good phrase to go after because of competition, relevancy, and many other factors.
That’s like playing the game Guess Who and trying to pick the right person before your first turn. It’s not a good strategy for that game and it isn’t for SEO either.
There is no definitive answer to help you know exact words you need to target but there are ways to make sure your guess is more educated.
You want to use multiple tools to help gather more market insight. Using tools like Google Trends, competitor analysis, and customer personal profile will help you push in the right direction.
Using some of the tools I mentioned above will help you target long tail keywords which are less competitive and usually more profitable. Long tail keywords are usually what your searchers intent is and not just a general phrase or term.
If you want a good overview of keyword research then have a look at what SEO PowerSuite has shared.
Ignoring Meta Descriptions
I use to think that once I posted my content I was done and didn’t have to worry about it after. This is a very common mistake people make and I was part of the crowd.
Remember when I said that I use to only check rankings and no other metric. I was finding that when I did start to get good rankings, my traffic didn’t improve as much as I thought it would. What gives?
What I didn’t realize at the time was that I was being out clicked by others who were spending more time on their metadata. Metadata is the title of your listing and the short description shown under it.
If you are going to get serious about your SEO then you need to start getting serious about your metadata. Not because it’s going to help you improve your rankings but it’s going to help you receive more clicks for the rankings you do have.
In general, you want to accomplish a few things with your metadata. First, you want to make sure your title relates to the search it is showing up for.
Second, you want to put a short summary of what the searcher is going to learn but be careful not to be misleading. If you can naturally fit keywords in the description you will stick out more than those who don’t because the keywords will be bolded.
There is a lot more that goes into crafting great meta descriptions and if you’re interested in learning more about it check out what Frank Isca has to say about it.
Learning SEO doesn’t have to be a mystery and shouldn’t create frustration or bruise your confidence in SEO.
Hopefully learning from my mistakes will help you avoid the stupid mistakes I made when first learning to do SEO.
As long as you make sure that you:
- Learn from the right people
- Don’t look for shortcuts
- Only practice white hat SEO
- Allow for results to bloom
- Do proper customer research
- Create quality content
- Put user experience at the forefront of your strategy
- Craft mindful meta descriptions
There is no reason why you shouldn’t be successful in search engines and attracting relevant traffic to your website.
What SEO mistakes have you made and how did you fix them?