SEO is no longer optional for bloggers, it’s now an essential part of blogging – but are you doing it right? Make sure you are not making any of these 17 SEO mistakes to avoid in 2021…
If you want to grow your blog, you need to get to grips with Search Engine Optimization. No longer an optional extra for SEO geeks (like me!). SEO now an essential part of blogging if you want your blog to grow and thrive in 2021 and beyond.
The trouble with SEO is that search engines are getting ever smarter and more sophisticated. Which means that the goalposts are constantly moving.
SEO techniques which once worked, are no longer acceptable and could even land you with a big fat Google penalty! Things you could get away with and still rank well in Google, are now holding you back – and search engines are coming up with new tweaks to make their algorithms better all the time.
If you want to stay ahead of the curve and give your blog the best chance of success in 2021 and beyond, you need to focus more of your efforts on SEO and make sure that what you ARE doing is current best practice.
If you are new to SEO, you may like to check out my beginner’s guide to SEO before reading this post. But if you are already implementing what you think is SEO best practice, you might want to take a look and see if you are committing any of these 17 SEO mistakes to avoid in 2021!
1. Focusing on quantity rather than quality
This is probably the biggest SEO mistake I see in the blogosphere. Increasingly, search engines are focusing on quality over quantity.
Writing 1 really well written, well organised blog post that really helps your readers is far, far better for SEO than writing 10 rushed, badly written, disorganised, poor quality posts.
In fact, focusing on quality over quantity really is the essence of good SEO strategy in 2021. These days, the way to truly rank number 1 on Google is simply to BE THE BEST RESULT. And the best result is never going to be a poorly written, sloppy, or very short post – no matter how well you do all the other elements of SEO!
2. Not writing what your readers want to read
People search Google for answers to their problems. If you want your posts to rank well in Google, you need to make sure your blog posts are solving real problems for your target audience.
One of the biggest SEO mistakes I see bloggers make is writing what THEY want to write not what THEIR READERS want to read.
If you truly want to do well in search engine results, then you need to start getting into the heads of your readers – what do they want to read about? What are their problems? Pain points? Headaches?
Just focusing on solving your readers problems and writing truly great answers to their problems will get you a long way towards truly AWESOME SEO in 2021.
3. Not updating / deleting poor quality content
But it’s not just about your NEW content. Increasingly search engines are concerned to send their searchers to results from websites where ALL the content is good.
If you have poor quality, out of date content on your website, that will hold back your SEO efforts – even if your new posts are good!
Start getting into the habit of regularly reviewing your older content. Focus on your oldest content and posts which get little or no traffic.
Ideally you should try to salvage old content – improve and update it so it is high quality, up-to-date and helpful to your audience.
However, if a blog post is not salvageable, there is no point in keeping it, so hit DELETE.
Consider this like pruning for your blog. It hurts a bit, but ultimately it will help your blog grow and flourish long term.
READ MORE => How to update an old blog post (and why you should!) + CHECKLIST
READ MORE => Should you delete old blog posts?
4. Not doing keyword research
Keyword research is essential if you want to grow your blog via organic search traffic. If you don’t conduct keyword research BEFORE you start writing you blog post, how will you know if anyone is actually searching for the topic you are writing about?
You can do everything else right, but if you don’t do keyword research to establish that there is sufficient search volume, you may be wasting your time. Bear in mind that you can rank number 1 for a search term, but if no one actually uses that search term, your blog post will get NO organic traffic!
Another keyword research mistake bloggers make is targeting search terms which are too competitive. When researching your chosen keyword, make sure you do a Google search on that search term and look at your potential competitors – do you stand a chance against them? If they are all big powerful sites, then it’s probably worth choosing a less competitive keyword.
A final mistake people make with keyword research is only choosing only ONE keyword to focus on. While it is good to have a focus keyword, which you mainly optimise for, you should also optimise your blog post for synonyms of that keyword and secondary keywords too. A blog post can (and should) rank for more than one search term.
5. Not optimising your blog with your chosen keywords
It’s not enough to do your keyword research, you need to actually USE those keywords in strategic places in your blog too.
Make sure you include your focus keyword in your URL (ideally), your title, your first paragraph, at least one image alt tag, at least one subheading, your meta description and scattered (naturally) a few times through your blog post.
Make sure you use your secondary keywords and synonyms naturally throughout the text and in headings and image alt tags too.
READ MORE => How to use Yoast to optimise individual blog posts
6. Keyword stuffing / over optimisation
It used to be a good SEO tactic to simply repeat your keyword phrase over and over again throughout your blog post. Not any more! These days this tactic is likely to HARM, not help your SEO.
Make sure you use your main focus keyword sparingly throughout your text – aim for a keyword density of 1-2% and the rest of the time use synonyms and secondary keywords instead.
This approach will benefit your SEO much more longer-term as Google is getting ever more sophisticated at understanding synonyms and the text around your main keyword.
READ MORE => How to use Yoast to optimise individual blog posts
7. Not using H tags properly
H tags are not an optional extra in 2021, they are an important part of good SEO – and increasingly so.
You should be using H tags for ALL your headings. Use H1 only once – for your blog post’s title (and make sure it includes your keyword). Use H2 for your main subheadings and H3 for sub-sub headings when breaking up H2 sections into smaller sections.
Subheadings are becoming ever more important because of the way we read web pages – people these days are busy and don’t have time to read a great wall of unbroken text.
Subheadings (and similar devices such as images, bullets, numbered bullets, shorter sentences and paragraphs) help to break up text and enable readers to find out if your blog post covers what they want to know. It also helps them find exactly what they are looking for quickly and easily.
H tags also help Google to know what questions your blog answers, which helps it know to show your blog post when searchers type those questions into the search box.
8. Not setting Yoast up correctly
The first mistake here is not having the Yoast SEO plugin in the first place – If you don’t have this amazing plugin, get it now! It’s FREE (although they do have a premium version available if you want to take your SEO to the next level.) and can help with all sorts of aspects of your SEO.
The second mistake bloggers make is not setting up the Yoast SEO plugin correctly.
Set up correctly, this plugin can do amazing things for your blog traffic. Set up wrong, it can actually DAMAGE your SEO (as many bloggers found to their peril a few years ago).
Not sure if you have it set up correctly? Find out in my post on how to set up the Yoast SEO plugin PROPERLY!
9. Too many tags
Site structure is becoming more and more important to SEO. Search engines want to send their users to sites which are easy to navigate.
One area of site structure that many bloggers get wrong is having hundreds, if not thousands of tags. Each time you create a new tag, you create a new tag archive page (it will look like this => www.yourwebsite.com/tag/yourtagname).
Usually these tag archives have no text on them and are just a list, or grid, of blog posts. This means, when a reader or a search engines lands on this kind of page, they have no idea what they are looking at.
Google considers these tag archives ‘thin content’ and, given that you may have thousands of these ‘thin content’ pages, this can seriously drag down your overall SEO.
In fact, many bloggers will have more of these ‘thin content’ tag archive pages than they do good quality blog posts – and that can seriously damage your SEO!
The ideal solution is to reduce your tags down to just a handful of really good ones, which will be genuinely helpful to your readers, and optimize them fully (see below).
However, if that seems like way too much work, there is a really good quick fix – simply no index your tag archive pages!
10. Not optimising your category and tag archive pages
Another big mistake bloggers make is not optimising their category and tag archive pages. Fully optimised, these pages can be a real asset to your blog and rank in their own right in search engine results – often for more competitive search terms. But un-optimised these pages can drag down your overall SEO.
Head over to my post on site structure for bloggers to find out how to optimise your tag and category archive pages.
11. Paying no attention to your internal linking structure
Another mistake I see a lot is bloggers paying no attention to their internal linking structure. This is a big no-no in 2021.
Firstly, you must ensure that all your blog posts have internal links pointing TO them. Search engines follow links in order to index pages and posts, so if a post has no internal links pointing to it, it will be hard for search engines to find and index.
Posts with no internal links pointing to them are called orphaned posts. You should aim to have no orphaned posts on your blog.
Additionally, search engines consider the number of internal links pointing TO a post when assessing that post’s importance. Search engines will consider a blog post with no links as unimportant.
Conversely you should also make sure the most important content on your website (known as Cornerstone Content) is also the content on your website which has the most internal links pointing TO it.
Ideally each category you write about should have one cornerstone article – some kind of ultimate guide to that topic – and all the other posts in that category should link back to your cornerstone article.
12. Buying / selling backlinks
Whilst building good backlinks from other high-quality websites back to your blog posts remains an important SEO strategy in 2021, you should NEVER buy backlinks. Doing this can land you a Google penalty – meaning your blog is demoted in Google’s search results…or even removed from them altogether!
Whilst most bloggers don’t actively BUY links, many bloggers continue to SELL links on their websites – even though the punishment for selling links is also a Google penalty (and consequent demotion in or removal from Google’s search results).
Any time you are paid, either in cash, goods or services for a FOLLOW link, you are violating Google’s rules and could get a penalty.
So, make sure all your links to the brand in sponsored posts and all the affiliate links on your site are set to NO FOLLOW, and NEVER accept payment of any kind for FOLLOW links in the future!
13. Poor site maintenance
Another area that can negatively affect your SEO in 2021 is poor blog maintenance. Google rewards blogs which are well maintained and so not maintaining your blog can result in your blog slipping down in the rankings.
Remember, the way to do well in search engine results is the BE THE BEST RESULT. Part of being that best result is ensuring your blog is well maintained. Google does not want to send its users to poorly maintained blogs, and so is less likely to show results from blogs which have poor site maintenance.
You should be regularly checking your blog to make sure everything works properly, you have a good internal linking structure with no orphaned content and your content is updated and fully optimised.
READ MORE => Website Maintenance
14. Not fixing broken links
One area of site maintenance that you should focus particular attention on is broken links. Broken links occur when you have a link on your blog that sends your reader to a ‘404 Not Found’ page when they click on it. This might be a 404 on your own site or one on an external website.
A website riddled with links to 404s is a sign of poor blog maintenance and can cause your blog to slip down in search engine rankings.
To tackle this issue, use a service like Broken Link Check to find the broken links on your site and then work through them, line by line, either deleting those links or updating them, as appropriate.
15. A slow website
Having a slow website can seriously harm your SEO. The faster you can make your website, the better, as far as SEO is concerned.
To improve your site speed:
- ensure your web host is fast and reliable
- reduce your image sizes
- enable lazy loading
- delete unnecessary plugins and themes
- use a caching plugin and a CDN to seriously speed things up
For more information on how to test your site speed, as well as step by step instructions on how to make these improvements to your site speed, check out my blog post on 11 easy ways to improve site speed that ANYONE can do!
16. Not having a mobile responsive website
This is a BIG SEO NO-NO in 2021!
Given that well over 50% of web traffic is now from mobile phones, it is essential that your blog looks and functions just as well on mobile as it does on desktop.
The first thing to do is to make sure your theme is responsive. If it is, it will automatically resize photos, text etc. to give your reader an excellent experience on mobile. If it is not, it might be time to think about getting a new blog theme.
The second thing to do is, whenever you publish a new post, check that it looks good on mobile and functions well there too. It is very common for bloggers to spend all their time on desktop and never glance at their site on mobile – which could result in your readers having a much worse UX than you realise.
17. Not focusing on SEO at all!
Of course, the SEO biggest mistake you can make in 2021 is not spending any time at all on SEO. It’s a mistake that many bloggers made in previous years and are now desperately trying to play catch up and FIX issues on their blogs. If you have not yet started to work on SEO make sure that you start ASAP or it will take even longer to catch up!
Ready to start taking SEO seriously? Check out SEO Jumpstart!
How to avoid making SEO mistakes in 2021?
If you have neglected SEO up to this point, don’t worry – you can still catch up! I suggest you start by reading my beginner’s guide to SEO – which will help you get to grips with the basics of SEO.
Follow this up with reading some of my other popular posts on SEO, such as my post about setting up the Yoast plugin correctly and my post on site structure for bloggers. This will give you a firm foundation to work from.
Make sure you subscribe to my newsletter where I regularly share information on SEO best practice with my subscribers.
And don’t forget to join the Productive Blogging Facebook Community, where you can ask all your SEO related questions and keep up to date with the latest developments on SEO!
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Over to you!
What would you add to these 17 SEO mistakes? Have you made any other SEO mistakes in the past that held you back? What do you most need to work on after reading this post? Or do you have any questions about this post? Let me know in the comments below!
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