By Mike Murray published April 2, 2018

Oops! 17 SEO Misfires to Avoid With Website Content Marketing


I doubt any marketing team can perfect its SEO and content marketing efforts. Time, degrees of expertise, and changing algorithms always get in the way.

But SEO misfires abound for B2B and B2C websites and they can be avoided or at least minimized.

Let’s dive in.

1. Keyword selection

Keywords are probably the easiest SEO area to mess up. Aim too high for a competitive keyword phrase and you may never rank. Settle for low-hanging fruit and you might fall asleep while waiting for a rare visitor to make his or her way to your website.

Keywords are probably the easiest #SEO area to mess up, says @mikeonlinecoach. Click To Tweet

I tell everyone to focus on relevancy and the sweet spot. What’s a sweet spot with SEO? You can sense it when viewing rankings in Google’s monthly search engine volume.

Try this: Do you tend to rank one to 10 on Google for keywords searched 300 times a month? Maybe 1,000? Get a feel for a variety of your pages. Your sweet spot is the correlation of top 10 rankings and the monthly search volume. Often, your sweet spot is more likely a range, such as 30 to 70, 200 to 500, or 1,200 to 1,500 searches for your one to 10 rankings.

Don’t be dismayed if your site typically ranks well for a keyword phrase that attracts only 50 visits a month. Your products and services may have good price points and margins. In other words, you should be happy with even occasional sales that can more than pay for your SEO investment. And any website page that may rank for multiple keywords can always be working on your behalf.

And the best part? With ongoing SEO, you could pursue more competitive keywords over time. Just don’t go after something with 3,000 searches a month when you can’t even rank for a keyword that has 100 searches each month.

2. Pages attract too many keywords

Your home page often supports tons of keywords because it has the most authority (backlinks). A keyword phrase may rank better if you optimize an interior page.

Your site may rank better for a keyword if you optimize an interior page, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet

Take Heinz’s home page, which ranks only ninth for “Heinz Ketchup.”

If Heinz made some changes to its Heinz Tomato Ketchup interior page, it might rank higher for “Heinz Ketchup.”

Heinz made a mistake because its ketchup page URL ( doesn’t have a keyword – it’s jammed with characters and lacks dashes.

A better (with a 301 redirect) page URL would be

The SEO page title needs help too.

Current: Heinz Ketchup Varieties | Heinz Ketchup

Better: Heinz Ketchup

The page’s visible content could remain until the title and URL changes affect search engine rankings and updated a little after that.


3. Engagement

Search engines like Google want users to have a good experience. If people jump from your website right away and conduct another search, it could affect your rankings. Time spent on a page matters with SEO and content marketing.

Time spent on a page matters with #SEO and #contentmarketing, says @mikeonlinecoach. Read more>> Click To Tweet

Generally, you want people to visit and make their way to other content pages. Unfortunately, those pages may not be well designed, may lack compelling content, or may switch visitors to a different language.

Yes, it happens.

Ernst & Young takes visitors from English pages to the Netherlands (I wonder how often pages are reviewed by the marketing team).

My trip began on what must be a popular page about risk assurance. I hovered over “cybersecurity” in the menu (as shown in the URL on the lower left of the screenshot):

And, in a second, I flew across the pond.


The conflicting language issue exists in part because thousands of Ernst & Young pages are indexed. I came across its English global version, which is indicated by the GL in the URL that I saw when checking the company’s ranking data. But it’s still odd that the language would change to the Netherlands – for cybersecurity and all other sections linked from the risk assurance and other pages within the global content.

4. Content headers

It’s best to use an H1 header tag with page content headers to identify important text. Unfortunately, headers often lack strategic keyword phrases.

Use H1 tags to identify the content’s strategic keyword phrases, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet

Citi has this page:

The H1 is “global citizenship.” No one can do much with that in search.

Or Cognizant has “business value of trust” as its H1 on this page:

But Nationwide does it better. It consistently leverages H1 tags like “choosing a cheap car insurance company” for: (I’m a fan of its SEO efforts.)

5. SEO page titles

It’s important for SEO page titles to include relevant keyword phrases. But sometimes the words used by content marketers in the titles aren’t well represented in the content.

It’s important for #SEO page titles to include relevant keyword phrases, says @mikeonlinecoach. Click To Tweet

Brands frequently mention their names in SEO page titles. Unfortunately, their inclusion limits the prominence of the remaining keywords. And sometimes the same words are repeated.

Here is an example from Cognizant, which uses “solutions” twice: “Healthcare BPO, IT Solutions and Services | Cognizant Technology Solutions.”

Keyword redundancy isn’t the only issue. The page’s content never mentions BPO or business process outsourcing. It’s probably not going to rank for “IT solutions,” which is too broad for this page, but it may be a good companion to “healthcare.”

A better SEO page title may be: “Healthcare BPO and IT Solutions.”

If Cognizant makes the change, the company may rank higher for “healthcare BPO.”


6. Image names

With SEO best practices – and knowing people search many ways – why wouldn’t you name images after keywords (use dashes to separate words)? Cognizant misses the mark with its image names like: “education-banner_436485.jpg.” A name like “education-consultant-colleges-universities.jpg” may be an improvement:


7. Image alternative (alt) text

Too often marketers ignore the alt text and don’t include a short description for search engines. Make sure the code doesn’t show an empty alt=“” attribute.

8. Internal links

Search engines consider your internal links and not just the ones in your primary navigation. Look for ways to use links to connect your relevant pages. If you have paragraph after paragraph, why wouldn’t you include an internal link in the text to guide a visitor to your other content?

Look for ways to use links to connect your relevant pages, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet

Don’t make the mistake like Archer Daniels Midland Company (ADM) does. It often has extended content without a single link to another page – like this description of container services:


9. Calls to action

It would be silly to put in motion SEO tactics for higher rankings and traffic if the content fails on the call-to-action front. But it happens all the time. SEO should be part of a holistic content marketing strategy.

ADM falls short left and right with calls to action. I found numerous pages that tease visitors with “Get a quote: See what we can do for you.” But the words don’t link to anything.

In this example, it includes the word “contacts” in the right side, but whom to contact is a mystery.


At least ADM includes a phone number on some pages. But too many companies do not. Why wait until the bottom of content to mention the phone number? Find a way to feature it higher in the text, a separate box, etc. Even in this case, the phone number could have been emphasized better by bolding it or using a different color – or doing both.


10. Broken links

Track broken links on your website. They can be created because of typos or content deleted without a 301 redirect. In a small way, broken links can make a poor impression on search engines and prompt users to go elsewhere.

11. Custom 404 pages

Given that broken links are inevitable, you should have a custom 404 page that guides visitors to relevant content and popular pages you don’t want them to miss.

Broken links are inevitable. Customize them to guide visitors to popular pages, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet

Siemens doesn’t exactly go out if its way to help anyone.


Lego does a better job, but I still think the company could highlight more content on this eye-catching error page:


12. Unsolicited backlinks

Everyone wants to get backlinks from other websites to help achieve higher search engine rankings (search engines reward quality links from other websites).

But watch out for questionable links that just come your way even if you don’t seek them. Moz and SEMrush have tools to help you find the lousy ones. Use the disavow option in Google Search Console to report them so they won’t hurt your backlink profile.

Use tools like @moz & @semrush to help find unsolicited backlinks, says @mikeonlinecoach. #SEO Click To Tweet

Here is what SEMrush shows for a Target backlink from


Check out this collection of indicators for backlinks SEMrush calls toxic.


13. URLs

I encourage companies to use keyword phrases in their page URLs. But keep them short – maybe three to five words. Anything longer looks spammy and could detract from the keywords you’re targeting.

Keep in mind that large websites can often overlook SEO best practices and rank well anyway. Backlinks, website age, etc., help them overcome any defects. For example, Lowes ranks No. 2 for “gas grills” on Google even though “grills” is used three times in a row.


14. Domain names

It still helps to have a keyword in the domain name, but you need to leverage other tactics and opportunities to make the most of it.

ShipHawk ( does well for “shipment tracking software” – No. 2 on Google. And it’s No. 4 for “shipping a painting.”

But it should work harder to align URLs with SEO page titles, content headers, and the overall content.

Let’s explore one of its pages.

Original URL:

It looks good at first glance. But “intelligence” isn’t anywhere in the content.

The content header is excellent – “Real Time Shipping Data & Analytics.”

Original SEO page title: Real Time Shipping Data and Analytics | ShipHawk

I like the SEO page title (but I would tweak it).

Shipping keywords may rank higher if ShipHawk changes its SEO title and page URL while keeping “shipping,” which is reinforced by the domain name.

Better URL:

Better SEO page title: Real Time Shipping Data and Analytics


15.Server redirects (www and non-www)

Over the years, I’ve seen many websites appear to have duplicate content even though they have only one set of content pages. Often, one URL includes “www” and another URL does not but they both go to the same page.

For example, I might start with But I shouldn’t go to and see the same pages without the www. Search engines could reasonably think someone is trying to game them – creating two websites to get extra rankings.

16. HTTPS vs. HTTP

If you haven’t done it, you should consider moving your website to HTTPS from HTTP. Google has been pushing the more secured connection. It’s possible your site might get a slight edge with rankings. But even if you don’t, appearances are everything. For example, Google Chrome calls out websites as not secure when they lack the basic security feature known as SSL (Secure Sockets Layer).

Move your website from http to https for a possible #SEO boost, says @mikeonlinecoach. Click To Tweet

I was surprised to see that Ernst & Young hasn’t switched to HTTPS:

Bissell attempted to use HTTPS, but it still gets the dreaded security alert on Google because some page elements aren’t secure.


17. Failure to make new content – for SEO

Don’t settle for the normal content planning routines or keep fighting SEO battles on old pages.

After you’ve updated your website for SEO, it’s sometimes best to just expand it. Invent new pages where you can get everything right from the start. Write some content on the longer side – maybe 1,000 words. Get the right URL, SEO page title, H1 header, etc. Send it some love with internal links from popular pages on your website.


Always take advantage of the possibilities right in front of you if you want to make leaps with your search engine visibility.

What’s been your experience? What SEO misfires have you encountered and corrected?

Please note:  All tools included in our blog posts are suggested by authors, not the CMI editorial team. No one post can provide all relevant tools in the space. Feel free to include additional tools in the comments (from your company or ones that you have used).

Don’t make a misfire in your content marketing training. Plan today to attend Content Marketing World Sept. 4-7. Register today using code BLOG100 to save $100.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Mike Murray

Mike Murray has shaped online marketing strategies for hundreds of businesses since 1997, including Fortune 500 companies. A former journalist, he has led SEO studies and spoken at regional and national Internet conferences. Founder of Online Marketing Coach, Mike is passionate about helping clients identify their best opportunities for online marketing success based on their strengths, his advice and industry trends. You can find him at his blog, Online Marketing Matters or on Twitter @mikeonlinecoach.

Other posts by Mike Murray

  • Vishwajeet Kumar

    Hello Mike,

    Very Informative post. SEO is a big part of a blog or website as it helps you to drive huge organic traffic to your website. These are some of the proven techniques you have mentioned here which helps to rank a site better in search engine result page. Thanks for sharing these helpful tips.

    • Mike Murray


      I’m glad you liked the article. I’m sure there are other tactics and SEO vulnerabilities. Hopefully, it will remind marketers to be as careful as possible.

  • Tushar Kumar

    Hello Mike,

    I am a huge fan of organic growth and thought that content development (and marketing that content) can help a brand connect with target audience. I am glad that came across your blog post. You gave excellent examples and quality information on different SEO practices. Thank you for writing this blog post.

  • Akash Srivastava

    Excellent tips, Mike! HTTPS is a must now, it’s no longer an option.

  • The SEO System

    Mike, great tips/reminders. In regards to #16, you know that we get the “not-secure” message on this very page 🙂 ?

  • Umar Tanveer

    Great content.

  • Vittoria Dmowska

    Mind blowing..!! Content writers are high in demand. Content writing means creating content that markets well of the brand. Thanks for this Sharing Fantastic tips 🙂

  • Sapna

    I am glad to read your post, Nice Content.Keep it up.

  • Ian Helms

    Thanks for the great post, Mike! If it wasn’t for the CMI weekly alert, however, I don’t think I would have ever organically come across this page.

    I say that because of the title/URL focus being “SEO misfires.” I’m curious what made you ultimately choose “misfires” as part of the keyword for this post? Google seems to associate the word misfires with automotive/manufacturing terms and it’s certainly not a part of my regular vocabulary (or something I would ever think to search—”What SEO misfires should I avoid?”).

    • Mike Murray

      It’s a great point Ian. With any piece, it’s a balancing act when initially writing a content header that captures the spirit of the article and SEO. At the same time, it should support social media sharing. All of that said, some marketers take a one and done approach to SEO. In many cases, I prefer to continuously test variations – with the main header, page content and SEO titles. And, when making those decisions, I look at what other content already ranks well for the keywords that I could target (in light of search volume and competition). I imagine “SEO Mistakes” may be an option among other scenarios. Thanks again for raising the question.

  • TechJeny

    I have checked topic number five but still in confusion. Should I use brand name at the end of SEO page title?

    • Mike Murray

      Thanks for your question TechJeny. Large brands frequently include their name at the end. They do it as a protocol and to leverage brand affinity and familiarity to help sell the link on search engine results pages. Personally, I think it can rob them of opportunities to rank higher. Why? The company name can consume much of the SEO page title real estate and weigh it down so much that other keywords don’t stand out as much or aren’t used at all. Sure, if you’re Sears or Ford, the characters aren’t wasted.

      In theory, if you have a long brand phrase, it could get cut off.

      But very often, Google will display the brand name anyway – at the end – dynamically (even if you don’t include it in the SEO title). Google will display the full brand name even if it decides not to show all of the other words in the SEO page title.

      For example, I searched for “applicant tracking software” on Google and came across a company called Software Advice.

      Here is the SEO title:

      Top Applicant Tracking Systems – 2018 Reviews & Pricing

      But here is what Google used:

      Top Applicant Tracking Systems – 2018 Reviews … – Software Advice

      The word “pricing” was dropped. But that doesn’t mean Google ignored pricing when making ranking decisions.

      My advice: test it out on a few of your pages.

      Extra tip. I routinely exceed the number of characters that marketers say to use. It used to be 72, then 50 or so and then 70 based on changing search result page designs. But what if you use 76? Sure, a word may get cut off. But Google still captures that word in the SEO title and it could help with rankings.

      In fact, Software Advice ranks #3 for “applicant tracking software pricing.”

      • TechJeny

        Thanks a lot for your great help! I will try all cases you have suggested.

  • François Barillot

    Thank you for the great and accurate content @mikeomc123:disqus

  • Md Abdullah Al Faruque

    Thanks Mike Murray for Awesome article. Basically most of the people do this mistakes!! The common mistakes that i find in my experience is people create unnecessary backlinks and too much keywords in content!!