SEO mistakes to avoid when blogging

These six SEO mistakes can reduce your website's chances for gaining organic traffic from its blog. SEO mistakes are no fun to learn the hard way. I made them so you don't have to.

SEO mistakes to avoid when blogging

Hi! Today's newsletter is less about sustainability and more about SEO.

I've struggled with SEO before, but I've also seen my posts gain enough traffic to know what works.

Some of my individual posts are bringing in over 2,000 monthly organic search visits to a client's website thanks to my SEO ranking strategy. Others are bringing none.

Too many people underestimate how hard it is to rank in Google, especially for newer sites. It's more complicated than the mantra "write for humans and algorithms" makes it seem.

But it's not purely a coin toss, either. Here are a few pitfalls to watch out for.

Placing too much importance on the topic

This one will annoy my writer friends, but you often have to defer to the keyword research to get organic traffic.

Keyword research is market research, y'all. Behind every "monthly search volume" metric are loads of potential site visitors.

In SEO writing, you go where there's a built-in audience for relevant topics, which you discover based on keyword research.

A creative topic, thoughts, hot take, etc. isn't going to draw organic traffic when no one is searching for it. It might work for PR or social media, but not for SEO.

Keeping this in mind, you also can't expect to squeeze in keywords for your otherwise self-selected angle and expect the organic traffic to come your way.

Keyword research has to be up front and center during the content strategy and planning stage. A keyword strategy is more than just sprinkling in keywords and hoping for the best. It often dictates the subject matter, rather than the other way around.

This is where the strategy comes in--it's an art form to find and choose the opportunity keywords that also match your brand and target audience. This is one of my favorite parts of SEO strategy and planning for blog content.

Too many KPIs

If your main goal is engagement + sales + shares + conversions + organic traffic then you don't actually have a main goal. You're placing too many responsibilities on one little blog post. It can do just one of these things well.

Digital marketing requires focus. You can't expect a single piece of content to do everything at once. And even whey you target a very specific KPI, it can take some trial and error to get it right.

If you really want to draw organic traffic, you're going to have to give up those other targets and focus.

Biz updates don't rank

Biz updates happen to be my least favorite category of blog post. Why? Because they belong in your newsletter.

I'm not saying you can't have part of your website devoted to news, but you definitely can't expect posts with temporary importance to get much organic traffic.  

For an SEO blog you'll want to publish evergreen content. This type of post covers content that will interest people now and in five years.

It has the most potential for long-term ROI. People can search at anytime and land on your blog post, thanks to your high-quality, searchable content.

Inaccurate structure

You have to format your blogs for search engines in order for them to get seen. I don't usually upload the content for my clients, but when it's not done right, it can be quite frustrating.

Here are a few tips:

  • Follow these guidelines from Moz.
  • H1/Title - Put your main keyword at the start of your title.
  • URL slug - Repeat your main keyword in your URL slug – and nothing else! No sentence-length string of words, please.
  • H2 and H3 Headings - Your main and secondary keywords should be written here, too.
  • Intro para - Write your main keyword and its variations, definition, etc. in your intro.
  • Write the rest in a UX-friendly style: short paras, bullet points, lists, headings, and lots of internal links.
  • No keyword stuffing: Search engines can understand "semantic synonyms" so they know what topic you're writing about. Stuffing only worked in the early 2000s.
  • Write for humans: Contrary to popular belief, you can write for both humans and algorithms at the same time. It's tough, but possible. It does require a some constraints on formatting, subject matter, and creativity, though. Just remember that you're doing it for the organic traffic gains.

Site-wide issues:

  • Don't write duplicate content.
  • Don't target the same keyword on multiple pages (keyword cannibalization).
  • Submit your site map to Google.
  • Ensure your site speed is high and your website has a mobile-friendly design.
  • Do SEO audits to check for poor site performance, broken links, etc.
  • Don't expect your content to rank if no other post on a related topic is published on your site.
  • Keep in mind that new sites with low authority need to fight for keywords to rank. New sites tend to need a much more vetted strategy than "hoping for the best." I repeat: it's hard to rank unless you're Wikipedia or NYT.

If you've done all of these things and still aren't seeing movement; wait.

It takes 3-6 months for content to rank. And the ranking depends on loads of unpredictable factors, too: search volumes, trends, search engine crawling frequency, etc.

Poor keyword selection

Keywords are the single most important part of SEO writing. If you don't have a good keyword, you're going to lose out on organic traffic.

Beyond that, you need focus. You really need to hone in on one main topic per page, and its secondary keyword buddies.

Here are some ways a keyword can fail:

  • Too broad: ice cream
  • Too specific: November, 1984 ice cream bar from the bowling alley in Norfolk, Virginia that melted on the number 4 lane
  • Too competitive: Ben & Jerry's
  • Low monthly search volume: (see too specific)
  • Wrong search intent: You want to write about "organic chocolate ice cream" but people are searching for a video game by the same name.
  • Not the right words for it: People type your keyword's synonym more than the phrase you chose.

Thin content

Thin content doesn't necessarily mean content with few words. Here are some ways your content might be "too thin" to rank:

  • Your blog post strays from the topic.
  • Your blog post body text doesn’t align directly with the title/keyword selection.
  • Your blog post is a list containing too many topics for any one of them to rank (follow the principle of one keyword per URL). Examples: Glossaries, team member pages, etc. give each item its own page!
  • Your blog post doesn’t answer any questions your audience needs answers to. Keeping the concept of "need" in mind helps weed out the unnecessary content.
  • Your blog post or site lacks Expertise, Authority, Trustworthiness (EAT) and backlinks.
  • Your blog post doesn’t have enough text.
  • Your blog post contains duplicate content found elsewhere on the internet or on your site.

Thanks for reading :)

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  • I'm Erica Eller, a sustainable business blog writer and SEO strategist. I love writing about renewable energy, climate tech, and think pieces on climate policy.  
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