Here Are 3 SEO Mistakes You’re Probably Making (And How to Fix Them)
Written By: Claire Brown
What is SEO?
“The not-so-secret secret to blogging success.”
Call it whatever you want, if you’re not utilizing SEO when you write your blog posts, you’re gonna have a hard time generating the traffic that you want.
So what is SEO? SEO stands for “Search Engine Optimization.” It’s the process of enhancing your web content in a specific manner in order to increase both the quality and quantity of visits to your website through organic (read: not advertised) search results1.
What the heck does that mean???
Let’s break this down a little bit.
Quality of Visits
You want people to visit your site for some sort of actionable reason whether it’s to read your blog, buy your product, or come into your office. But you have to make sure you’re attracting the right crowd.
Let’s say you have a travel blog all about your time in Georgia. Tons of people are visiting your site because they want to know what to expect and where to go when they visit the Peach State for the first time. Great! …except your blog is all about your travels to the country of Georgia.
All of those visits to your page don;t matter very much – they aren’t very high quality – because as soon as those people realize you’re not talking about the best place to find peach ice cream in the state of Georgia, they’re going to leave. And they likely won’t come back. And they likely won’t recommend your page when their friend is planning a trip to the state of Georgia. And they likely won’t ever talk about (or even think about) your website again.
So you want to optimize your web page to attract the right kind of people. You want Google to know that your web site is a travel guide about the country of Georgia so that when people search for “Georgia state travel guide” your site doesn’t appear and when people search for “Georgia country travel guide,” your site is the FIRST to appear.
Quantity of Visits
Now that you’ve attracted the right audience to your website, you want to bring as many people as possible to your site. And the best way to do this is to make sure that your site is the first one Google shows people when they search for anything that has to do with your site subject.
There are lots of “tricks” to good SEO, but when you stop and think about it, they’re really not tricks at all. In fact, a lot of good SEO techniques are just plain common sense at their root. The problem is, a lot of people just don’t even think about thinking about them.
As a beginner in the blogging world myself, I decided that I wanted to try to get a grip on good SEO techniques right off the bat. Perfect practice makes perfect, and I know that if I start incorporating SEO techniques at the beginning of my blogging journey, it will soon become second nature. It’ll also give me the best chance of early success.
So, what have I learned so far? Well, in the time I’ve spent studying copy, I can already see 3 major SEO mistakes that people often make. And I’ve already begun to learn how to fix them.
The 3 biggest SEO mistakes I see are:
- Writing pages that are too short
- Not dividing posts into subsections
- Not using specific long-text keywords
Keep reading to learn how to easily fix these mistakes and optimize your website to increase both the quality and quantity of visits to your site.
1. Why Does Page Length Matter?
Remember, your goals with SEO are to increase the quality and quantity of visits to your site. In order for Google to route the right audience and the biggest audience to your site, it has to comb through the text on your site and pull out keywords.
Logic would follow that the more words you have on a page, the easier it will be for Google to pull more keywords from that page.
The general rule of thumb is that each page should have at least 1,000 words. Specifically, the sweet spot tends to be 1,000-2,000 words. A study by Backlinko found that the average word count of websites that show up on the first page of Google results for any given search topic is 1,447 words2.
So how do you optimize your page for page length? The simple answer is: write more.
But, optimizing your page isn’t just about the quantity of words on your page. The quality is also imperative. I suggest taking some time to find a planning/pre-writing style that works the best for you. (I’m personally a fan of the essay outline).
Whatever you choose, the key is to find a way to focus your writing – each page should only cover one main topic – so that you can achieve both the quantity and quality needed to bring traffic to your site.
2. Why Do Page Subsections Matter?
You know now that Google pulls its keywords out of your long text. But why does it matter if that text is all one big block or if it’s split up into nice little sections. Google isn’t that smart, right?
Wrong. Google is that smart. And Google loves subsections.
Back in October of 2020, Google announced a new search technology called “Passages” which is a feature that it uses to rank specific sections on a single page (aka “passages”) independently. That means, instead of just analyzing the relevance of a whole page, Google will also analyze the relevance of each individual section on the page3.
To be clear, Google still evaluates entire pages. But this new feature, when utilized correctly, will actually help your chances of having your pages rank highly.
So how does this work? Well, let’s say that someone is searching for the best restaurant in the country of Georgia. Your travel site has a page about your dining experiences in Georgia and one section specifically about restaurants in Georgia. Your #1 competitor, on the other hand, has an entire page dedicated to Georgia’s restaurants, split up into small sections ranking the top 10 restaurants. Google will be able to pull out your one section that you wrote about the restaurant. But it will pull all 10 of your competitor’s sections and rank them individually. That means your competitor has 10 pages that have the potential to rank compared to your measly 1 page.
How do you fix this problem? The simple answer is to divide your content into discrete sections. Each section should cover a very specific subtopic. Each section should utilize an H2 or H3 header. And while each section should cover a specific subtopic, the page as a whole should cover one cohesive topic.
This will give Google more “passages” of yours to rank and increase your likelihood of your web page ranking highly overall.
3. Why Do Specific Long-Text Keywords Matter?
Think about how you word your Google search when you’re looking for something super specific. Like maybe you’re looking for a “chiropractor in Gainesville, Florida that accepts Florida Blue insurance.”
Or maybe you want to find a “florist in Austin, Texas that specializes in bridal bouquets.”
That long string of text you use to find exactly what you’re looking for as quickly as possible is called a “long-text keyword.” And you should care about it just as much, or maybe even more, if you’re trying to get people to visit your site.
Google wants to show people what they want to find. So you want to give Google as many keywords as possible to help it give the people what they want!
So how do you include these specific long-text keywords in a way that will optimize your site? Think about the questions you would ask and the words you would search to try to find answers to the topic you’re writing about. Do a quick Google search of your topic and see what keywords pop up in the “people also ask” box.
And then use those keywords organically in your writing.
So, if you’re a chiropractor in Gainesville, Florida that accepts Florida Blue insurance, you might want to include that exact string of words in your “about me” page on your site and in a quick “about the author” blurb on every blog you post.
If you’re a florist in Austin, Texas who specializes in bridal bouquets, you probably want to put that right on your home page and incorporate it into the photo descriptions of every bridal bouquet photo you feature on your site.
Be intentional with your wording. Think about how people are searching for the information you’re giving, then help Google help people find you!
A Quick Note
It’s worth noting here that this blog is definitely just a basic, basic, basic overview of some of the foundational principles of SEO. It is in no way comprehensive, and as mentioned above, I’m just starting out. I would never claim to be an expert on the subject.
But that’s the thing. Google keeps their SEO process a secret. So while some people have SEO figured out way better than others, there truly is no “expert.” We’re all in this together, just trying to get our pages to outrank each other.
If you’re looking for more on the subject (which, if you want to optimize your page most effectively, I highly recommend doing), here are the links to some of my favorite SEO guides out there:
The BEST SEO Guides
- Backlinko: SEO Training and Link Building Strategies
- Moz – SEO Software for Smarter Marketing
- Neil Patel: Helping You Succeed Through Online Marketing!
To end this blog, I want to say a quick sorry in advance for introducing you to SEO. Learning about SEO is kind of like learning how sausage gets made. Once you see the sausage-making process, you’re more likely to become a vegetarian.
And once you know about good SEO techniques, you’re more likely to notice bad ones. And they’re everywhere. In the TV shows and movies you watch, in the websites you visit, in the blog posts you read on Facebook and LinkedIn.
BUT it’s imperative for a high-ranking website, and it’s the key to online success.
- Fishkin, R., & Muessig, G. (n.d.). What is SEO? Search Engine Optimization 2021. Moz. https://moz.com/learn/seo/what-is-seo.
- Dean, B. (2020, April 28). We Analyzed 11.8 Million Google Search Results. Here’s What We Learned About SEO. Backlinko. https://backlinko.com/search-engine-ranking.
- Dean, B. (2020, December 16). SEO in 2021: The Definitive Guide. Backlinko. https://backlinko.com/seo-this-year.