5 bad SEO habits that kill your search ranking

There’s no denying SEO has a history tarnished by bad habits. It seems like a lifetime since Google unleashed its first Panda update in 2011 – after all, six years is a long time in this industry – but how much have we really learned since then?

Sure, the classic black hat techniques may have been (mostly) wiped out, but most search marketing strategies are still clinging on to a bunch of bad habits. I hear a lot of marketers complain that it’s too difficult to rank in organic search – and I always wonder how many of these bad SEO habits they’re committing on a daily basis.

#1: Being a sucker for shortcuts

More than any modern marketing strategy, SEO is the one that demands most patience. It takes time to earn links from reputable sources (the kind you need to rank well). It takes time to understand what kind of content your target audiences need as they move along the consumer journey. It takes time to optimise your site to provide the kind of experience search engines and users both demand.

Can you spot the theme?

Shortcuts get you nowhere in this game. The only way to build a lasting presence in organic search is to consistently produce the kind of content and experiences worth ranking in those top spots.

And just in case that makes it sound like too much work:

Retail Ecommerce orders traffic sources 1

Source: Smart Insights

Organic search is still the top strategy for generating qualified consumer leads, alongside email marketing and PPC.

#2: Following every trend that comes along

Jumping from one bad SEO trend to the next is just about the worst strategy you can have. Instead of focusing on what works, you waste time and money gambling on trends that may or may not prove to be effective.

Always keep in mind the following:

  • Most trends are overhyped by nature
  • Even the best trends take time to mature
  • No marketing strategy works for every brand
  • You won’t stand out by doing the same thing as everyone else

Let me be clear: not all trends are bad, but following them all will get you nowhere. I recently called out a bunch of articles claiming to offer advice on optimising for voice search when Google hasn’t even figured out how to generate consumer leads from voice search. There’s no guarantee it ever will. So what exactly would you be optimising for other than a trend that hasn’t proven it has a future? Your time would be better spent focusing on proven marketing strategies – at least for now.

#3: Being a parrot

Every time I see the phrase “quality content” in a blog post, it sends shivers down my spine. Marketers sure love writing about quality content but good luck finding a blog post that tries to explain what it actually means.

What is quality content Google answers

When I ask Google what quality content is, I get an extract from one of the longest articles that still doesn’t really explain what it actually means.

It starts by saying not to repeat the same thing that everyone else in your industry has already said a hundred times. The biggest factor in “quality” content is value and you can’t be valuable if you haven’t got anything new or unique to offer. This is especially true if you’re trying to build your search presence rather than maintain it. The leaders in your industry might get away with publishing regurgitated garbage because of their reputation, but you won’t get the same privilege.

#4: Falling short on your products/services

No matter how good your SEO strategy may be, failing to deliver to your existing customers will drag everything down – something too many brands forget in the digital age.

Nail these two business fundamentals, though, and the following all become easier:

  • Creating exciting content
  • Landing the best guest blogging opportunities
  • Earning links from your content
  • Getting a profile of positive reviews on Google, Trustpilot, etc.
  • Generating leads from local SEO (reviews in Google Maps)
  • Building brand loyalty
  • Turning customers into repeat buyers

As search optimisation has matured, the lines between SEO, user experience and customer service are increasingly difficult to draw. Just like optimising for users is the best place to start with SEO, providing the best customer experience you can is the basis of your wider marketing strategy.

#5: Forgetting about technical SEO

If you want another example of nonsense marketing trends, try the “content marketing is the new SEO” idea. Even now, I still see the odd article crop up spouting this title (more parrots) and I only hope their readers take them no more seriously than I do.

All I’ll say is … good luck maximising your search presence without these non-content marketing factors:

  • Properly formatted HTML
  • Rich snippets
  • Mobile optimisation
  • Speed optimisation (loading times)
  • HTTPS encryption
  • Link audits
  • URL optimisation (including redirects)
  • Sitemaps, robot.txt, etc.

The list goes on but I’m sure you get the point. Content marketing is a fundamental part of SEO but it still needs the technical checklist covered to get you ranking at the highest level.

If you’re guilty of any of these bad SEO habits, don’t beat yourself up. I guarantee most of the leading names in your industry are falling into at least one of these traps and the majority of your direct competitors will be falling into many. Which puts you within touching distance of beating them in the rankings if you nip these bad habits in the bud with a long-term, no-compromise SEO strategy.

Related reading: Technical SEO – does it work?


Ben Jayston profile picture
Ben Jayston

While working as a consultant for the 85 Broads Network in New York City in 2004 (now Ellevate), Ben was asked to ‘look into’ SEO for the company website. Ben then formed his own company, Pebble SEO, to offer SEO and adjunct digital services to the US market, expanding into PPC, design and content writing services. Arriving back in the UK in 2010, Ben joined a small company on the Isle of Wight as a business development manager, getting closer to the web development and design side of things, before partnering with Vectis Holdings as the MD of we3create, a full-service digital agency, serving the Isle of Wight. Later, as the owner of Digital IOW and partner in Isle of Wight SEO, he used a broad range of skills, from web and graphic design to video production, and, of course, SEO. Ben is now Head of SEO for small and medium businesses at Vertical Leap. He enjoys cycling, photography, making sourdough and short films.

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