Skip to content

Don’t Make These 9 Common SEO Mistakes


SEO is only one way to get your content found, but it’s essential for content marketers to understand the basic principles. During Content Marketing World, Stephan Spencer, co-author of The Art of SEO, shared nine common mistakes you should avoid.

Please note that all of these suggestions are intended to help you maximize your SEO potential. Some of the tips below are things that do work well in social, but they aren’t necessarily best practices when it comes to SEO. In Stephan’s opinion, there is often no downside to applying the principles if you are focused on SEO.

1. You go for likes, not links

“It’s not a social media strategy if it’s not underpinned by SEO,” Spencer says. “Otherwise you’re making a lot of noise without going after a goal.” Viral social traffic is helpful as an intermediary step because the content is more likely to reach bloggers or influencers who can share the content, which would then be tracked by Google, but make sure to include at least one link in the text of your social content so users can read AND click.

Example of what NOT to do: The Flattering Man by Old Spice is a likable and shareable campaign that promotes a faux product – the push-up muscle shirt (clothing that squeezes fat into muscles) — then interrupts the “ad” with a red-flashing screen before the hot Old Spice model appears and tries to dissuade viewers from buying the shirt in favor of Old Spice body spray. The SEO mistake? The words “Old Spice” never appear in the page’s HTML source, which also means there is no link to the Old Spice website. The Flattering Man site may be receiving flattery (shares and likes), but that does nothing to make Old Spice attractive to search engines nor does it drive traffic to Old Spice’s site.

2. Content doesn’t go to a source

Don’t think that social media sites are good homes for content. They can be great places to promote the content, but that content usually doesn’t appear on the page’s HTML source code, which is what search engines monitor.

Remarkable content needs a home where it appears in the source code. For example, a blog hosted on the company’s main domain will boost SEO because the content appears in the page’s searchable code. An added benefit? Being hosted on the home site, the blog draws attention to other content on the page. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” Spencer says.

One other tip – don’t think the content in the actual videos on YouTube moves your Google rankings higher. The search influencers in YouTube are the titles and keywords – the actual text.

Example of what NOT to do: BuzzFeed may seem like a great home for your content to help boost SEO, but it isn’t. Examine the post, “12 Things Women Do Every Day That Are Fearless,” authored by Victoria’s Secret. When you check the article’s HTML source code, BuzzFeed does not include the words “Victoria’s Secret.” If you click on the author’s page, the source code includes Victoria’s Secret but few will visit the page and it won’t do much to help SEO. “Post where you’re going to get the most (SEO) juice,” Spencer advises.

3. You are targeting the wrong audience

“You might be writing content for your customer base and it gets really great reviews from your customers … but from an SEO standpoint, you blew it,” Spencer says. If you want to boost your SEO rankings, then content needs to be created for and attractive to the “Linkerati” — users that have authority in the eye of Google. He offers MozRank, Majestic’s Citation Flow and Trust Flow, and CEMPTER Power*Trust as tools to identify link authorities.

4. You don’t enlist the help from a power user – someone with a lot of SEO influence

Power users plant the seeds in social media. They promote your content to their subscribers and fan base. Spencer advises content marketers to build rapport and relationships with power users in their industry and then provide them with remarkable content worth pushing to their audiences. He offers more how-to insight in his “The Social Media Underground” article.

Example of what TO do: Spencer’s client, Overnight Prints, partnered with web entrepreneur Jeremy Schoemaker to create a contest to design Schoemaker’s new business card (the winning prize was free business cards for life). Shoemaker’s involvement influenced search because he promoted the contest and Overnight Prints on his highly visited websites, blog and social media, and included links to the Overnight Prints-hosted contest page. Prior to the online campaign, Overnight Prints was nowhere to be found on searches for “business cards.” During the campaign, it ranked second and stayed there for months.

5. You use the wrong (or no) words

Research the words your targets are using with tools such as Google Trends. Or, just start by typing words into the Google search box to see what suggestions are automatically populated below it. Spencer says another free tool,, allows you to enter a word and see the autocomplete results from multiple search engines, including Google, Amazon, Yahoo, Bing, YouTube, and Wikipedia.

Ann Gynn 9 SEO Misktakes Screenshot 1 10_28_14
Click to enlarge

Examples of what NOT to do: Spencer shared how one company’s legal department mandated the use of “home loans” on its website rather than the more searchable term, “mortgage.” Another company opted to use “kitchen electrics” rather than words like blenders, mixers, and toasters. The SEO results weren’t surprising. When the technical terms were used, the site tracked low and flat.

6. You break your site

When you redesign or create a new website, don’t dismiss the old website pages. If you kill the site, you kill the rankings, Spencer says. Old pages that have boosted SEO should never be deleted; instead, you should be using 302 redirects to keep those pages in play and current. Also, ensure all the images and links are properly reconnected so they continue to appear in a website redesign or page upgrades.

Examples of what NOT to do: Mentos created a killer campaign and a wildly successful SEO-optimized site, The concept was simple — an intern sat in front of a webcam for the summer and would execute consumer requests. But Mentos didn’t keep the site up after the campaign was completed — it’s not broken, it’s dead, and so is the impact on Mentos’ SEO.

TurboTax hosted a rapid music video contest with the winner of “The Tax Rap” receiving $25,000. “They nailed it,” Spencer says. But when TurboTax redesigned its site, the rap’s new page had a broken link to the image. “Google doesn’t trust sites with broken links,” he notes.

7. You don’t have a plan for systematic outreach

To scale your outreach to Linkerati and influencers, create processes. Spencer advocates creating systems for prospecting, leveraging your CRM, distributing templates with personalization, moderating, following up, and creating a pipeline. Spencer goes into detail in this article, “Scaling and Systemizing Your Link Building.” He also suggests using a tool like to facilitate the process.

To learn more about process for influencer marketing, you can also download our toolkit, The Complete Guide to Influencer Marketing: Strategies, Templates & Tools, which walks you through a simple 10-step process and provides three customizable templates. 

8. You don’t gather intel

Know what keywords work well for your site and your competitors’ sites. Establish baselines and track your keyword success. Spencer offers these platform-specific analytic tools:

  • Authority Labs provides daily search-engine ranking reports.
  • Voot tracks and trends YouTube video performance, engagement data, video comments, and even search.
  • Google Webmaster Tools, Open Site Explorer, Majestic SEO, and Ahrefs quantify and qualify inbound links (who is linking to your site/page) and some will show how to compare your inbound link statistics to other URLs.

9. You buy into SEO myths

Thinking meta keywords or descriptions will help your SEO? Stop. It’s a myth — they never count in Google’s algorithm. As for country-specific sites creating duplicate-content issues in Google? It’s a myth too. SEO is an experimental science that you can reverse engineer, and you don’t need to buy into the myths, Spencer says. He has heard so much wrong information that he came up with more than 70 incorrect notions – 36 myths in this article and 36 more in this article.


Now that you know what not to do, you know what to do to boost your SEO. Spencer cautions content marketers not to be overwhelmed by the SEO process. He suggests that you pick out three of the lessons learned and get started today. As you gain ground in knowledge and success, add another actionable tip to push your content up the ladder of SEO success.

Stephan Spencer helped prevent the CMW audience from making these common SEO mistakes. Didn’t attend the presentation or couldn’t make it to CMW this year? You can still catch up on the practical tips, biggest issues, ideas, and innovations in content marketing. Check out our Video on Demand portal for more info.

Cover image by Surminga WN via