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5 Ways to Fail at SEO

Although SEO is ever-evolving and what worked in the past may not generate the same results today, it will always remain essential. So, like it or not, your website needs SEO to survive and thrive in today’s business environment.

How does your SEO efforts stack up? Your website analytics will help answer that question. But if you haven’t looked at them for a while, here are a few sure-fire signs that your SEO needs attention.

Five SEO Fails to Fix ASAP

SEO Fail #1: You Don’t Have a Mobile-Friendly Website

According to Google research, people do online searches more often from mobile devices than computers — and 9 out of 10 smartphone users will leave a site if it isn’t easy to use. So, even if your business offers the most amazing products or services, you’ll put yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t have a mobile-friendly website.

Also, in April 2015, Google began giving sites with mobile support some preferential treatment in search results page rankings. It looks like mobile friendliness will carry even more weight when Google’s algorithm change to implement mobile-first indexing (predicted to happen in 2018) occurs. 

According to the 2016 Searchmetrics study Rebooting Ranking Factors: “Where in the past the desktop versions of pages were used as the Google’s main index for evaluating websites and determining rankings, the mobile version is set to take over.” Meaning, if your website pages don’t perform well on mobile devices, their desktop rankings could suffer, as well.

If you’re not sure how well your site works on mobile, you can check it by using Google’s free Mobile-Friendly Test.

SEO Fail #2: You Don’t Have a Blog

What? No company blog? You’re missing out on a prime opportunity to increase your website’s visibility.

With a blog on your business website, each time you write and publish a blog post, you gain one more indexed page on your site. That provides more opportunity for you to appear in organic search results and drive traffic to your website.

SEO Fail #3: You’re Writing for Search Engines Rather than People

Google’s algorithm doesn’t just look for keywords to assess how relevant users will find a web page; it also takes into account the entire context and intent of the content. Therefore, you’ll shoot your SEO efforts in the proverbial foot if you’re overzealous about appeasing search engines and neglect writing content that flows well and engages readers.

 A few quick tips to ensure you write for humans include:

  • Write in a tone that’s appropriate for your audience.
  • Vary your word choice. (And don’t overplay keywords — not only will it make your content redundant, but it could also result in Google penalizing your site for keyword stuffing.)
  • Choose topics that will interest your readers.

SEO Fail #4: Your Content Is Focused on Broad and Highly Competitive Keywords

While it requires minimal thought and research, using “head-term” keywords of just one or two general words will put you in a virtually unwinnable position when competing for traffic. According to Adam Clark in his book SEO 2017: Learn search engine optimization with smart internet marketing strategies, “Long-tail, informational and transactional keywords are good keywords for most SEO projects.”

Suppose your business sells custom-made, monogrammed dog jackets. If you use the head-term keyword “dog coats,” you probably will not appear prominently in searches on that keyword phrase because there’s an immense amount of online competition (including Chewy, BarkBox and Petco to name a few) targeting those words.

But if you focus on long-tail keywords that are more exact and tailored to the people looking for the specific type of products you’re selling, you’ll have more opportunity to be found in search results.

In our dog coats example, better keyword options might include:

  • Personalized dog coats
  • Gift ideas for dog lovers
  • Custom winter dog coats

These keyword phrases generate fewer monthly searches than “dog coats”, but that doesn’t automatically make them inferior keywords. With less competition for them and greater relevance to your audience, they might help your website rank higher on the SERP (search engine results page). 

Discovering keywords that will best serve your SEO purposes starts with keyword research.

  • Brainstorming to determine relevant keywords
  • Using tools such as Google’s Keyword Planner to gauge how many people use those keywords and phrases when searching online
  • Using a competitive analysis tool such as Moz’s SERP analysis tool to identify how difficult it will be to rank for your desired keywords

SEO Fail #5: You’re Not Nurturing Relationships on Social Media

If you’re not sharing your content and interacting with your audience on social media, you’ll miss out on the potential to increase your brand’s visibility online. Social media is a digital word of mouth. When people mention your company, like your status updates or tweets, and share your content with their followers on social media, you expand your reach — sometimes exponentially.

As more people learn about your brand through Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc., an increase in website traffic is naturally a direct result. And even though the correlation between ranking on Google and social signals remains imprecise, most SEO experts agree that a connection exists.

Next Steps for SEO Success

Let’s not dwell on what’s wrong. With some effort on your part and the help of an SEO firm that can help you create an effective strategy for your business, you can begin to make strides in improving your SEO results. Substantial changes won’t happen overnight, but with time, consistency and patience, you’ll see steady progress.

Dawn Mentzer is a contributing writer for Straight North, one of the leading Internet marketing agencies in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. As a solopreneur and freelance writer, she specializes in marketing content — and collaborates with clients nationally and globally.

Written By

Dawn Mentzer is a contributing writer for Straight North, one of the leading Internet marketing agencies in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. As a solopreneur and freelance writer, she specializes in marketing content — and collaborates with clients nationally and globally.



  1. Nikhil Rangpariya

    May 8, 2018 at 1:18 pm

    This is really good information for SEO. Thank you so much to share this information with us.
    Black Hat SEO also bad things for any website. No follow backlinks and slower site this are main way to fail at SEO.

  2. Soma Sekhar

    August 28, 2018 at 8:29 am

    Hello this is soma,
    I been working as an seo expert since 4+ Years. When I read your 5 Ways to Fail at SEOl article it’s really having the meaningful and insightful tips. Every digital marketer who were working as an seo experts need to focus content which is solving the problems to their targeted audiences rather then writing the content to rank the websites.

  3. Wes Lawrence

    September 17, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    I have a friend that I tell all the time “you have to get on the social media bandwagon” He has resisted it fully. I think that he is missing out on a huge potential audience reach. Thank for your article.

  4. Manoj Kumar

    February 19, 2020 at 7:07 am

    Thanks for sharing useful tips for a better understanding of SEO. These tips help for doing better for my website ranking and traffics.

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