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The Biggest SEO Mistakes That Beginners Should Avoid

With thousands of how-to guides and listicles on Search Engine Optimization populating the web, it’s easy to fall into the trap of believing that SEO is a simple skill to master. But before taking it upon yourself to launch an SEO campaign, it’s important to remember that there’s a reason an entire industry has sprung up around such a seemingly simple concept.

Maximizing your website’s SEO potential isn’t just about knowing what to do–it’s also about knowing what NOT to do. There are no shortage of SEO mistakes that the uninitiated run the risk of stumbling into. For minor transgressions, the result might not be any worse than simply failing to maximize your keyword ranking potential, but major SEO violations can damage your site’s reputation and even result in being blacklisted by major search engines.

While SEO specialists like the ones here at CleverLight have a much more comprehensive understanding of how to maximize your search ranking without drawing Google’s ire, the following are a handful of simple SEO mistakes of which beginners should be mindful.

  1. Don’t overlook the importance of content. Perceived authority is a significant factor in your search engine ranking. Hiring cheap or inexperienced writers to produce your site’s copy will likely result in shallow, unoriginal content with little added value or demonstrated expertise. Hollow content devoid of share value will be recognized as such by both readers and search engines alike.
  2. Don’t shy away from Webmaster Tools. Both Google and Bing have easy to use webmaster tools, and making sure both are configured to your site can give you added insight into your web traffic data and make it easier for crawlers to index your site. Making use of the great tools offered through Google Analytics can give you even greater insight.
  3. Don’t think like a computer. Google’s Matt Cutts touched on this: when you’re looking to maximize your search result potential, it’s important to put yourself in the shoes of your audience. Including generic keywords like “moon distance” won’t draw users to your site because that isn’t how people search. Instead, use keyword phrases such as “how far away is the moon?” that actual people are likely to type.
  4. Don’t aim for the wrong keywords. On a similar note, make sure you choose your keywords are properly targeted. This is one of the most common SEO mistakes. If you run a foreign auto parts store in rural Michigan, chances are you’re not going to hit the front page for the “auto parts” keyword. It’s important to know who you’re trying to market yourself to, and adjust your site content accordingly. Your store might not rank for “auto parts,” but you might stand a good chance of ranking for “Saginaw auto parts” or “Michigan Volvo repair.” Maximizing your exposure is important, but so is targeting the right audience.
  5. Don’t use aggressive “black hat” techniques. This is by far the most important mistake to avoid. If someone promises you “quick and easy” SEO success, chances are they’re either lying to you or using shady practices. Common black hat techniques include spamming keywords and using hidden text to insert additional keywords. Others involve purchasing large numbers of low-quality backlinks. These tactics may enjoy some short term success, but will almost universally end with your site being blacklisted from every major search engine. As with all things, SEO success is earned. Working with experts who can organically improve your ranking using proven white hat techniques is the best way to ensure that your site enjoys legitimate and long-lasting SEO success.
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