Is your content great, but not ranking? Columnist Kristopher Jones shares some of the more common SEO errors bloggers and content marketers make.

The dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing land­scape has evolved sig­nif­i­cant­ly over the last two decades. And between Google’s ever-chang­ing algo­rithm and the del­uge of mis­in­for­ma­tion float­ing through the dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing sphere, it’s easy to lose sight of basic prac­tices we should be employ­ing in our own SEO and con­tent mar­ket­ing strate­gies.

With every new algo­rithm update and tech­no­log­i­cal shift in search, we become obsessed with how the field of SEO will enter a whol­ly new par­a­digm, and we shift our focus to reflect this. Yet as much as the medi­um may change, the core prin­ci­ples remain the same — and it’s time to get back to the basics.

We all under­stand the secrets and best prac­tices of SEO, so why do we often fail to lever­age these tac­tics? Let’s explore five com­mon blog­ging mis­takes you may be mak­ing right now.

Unoptimized keyword structure

Despite the rise of seman­tic search and machine learn­ing tech­nol­o­gy, key­word research should still take prece­dence when mod­el­ing an inter­nal con­tent mar­ket­ing cam­paign. All on-site con­tent should be the­mat­i­cal­ly linked by top­ics and key­words to your over­all busi­ness objec­tives.

If our con­tent is sim­ply cov­er­ing top­ics and not key­words, how do we know what users real­ly demand? With­out key­word research, how can you tru­ly know who your audi­ence is and who you are writ­ing for?

Key­words serve as the bridge between user intent and informational/transactional con­tent. Key­word-opti­mized con­tent helps to posi­tion indi­vid­ual web pages to rank high­er organ­i­cal­ly and dri­ve impres­sions for tar­get­ed search­es. This effec­tive­ly makes blog con­tent a lead gen­er­a­tor.

For on-site blogs, the focus should remain on infor­ma­tion­al long-tail key­word phras­es. Com­mon exam­ples include ques­tion phras­es begin­ning with how, what, when, where and why.

Oth­er key­word ideas could include action­able phras­es that are often searched for, such as the top “tips” and “hacks” to improve upon some process.

Blog­gers often fail to opti­mize their head­ers, meta tags and con­tent with tar­get­ed key­word phras­es. Con­sid­er the fact that spe­cif­ic key­word phras­es will often be bold­ed with­in the meta descrip­tion of a SERP list­ing, poten­tial­ly increas­ing your click-through rate.

Inad­e­quate key­word research runs deep­er than fail­ing to opti­mize your head­er struc­ture (e.g., title, meta descrip­tion). Many blog­gers fail to lever­age seman­tic SEO, or sim­i­lar key­word phras­es with the same mean­ing. Seman­tic SEO allows blog­gers to cre­ate more thor­ough and read­able con­tent that can dri­ve impres­sions for mul­ti­ple key­word phras­es, answer more user ques­tions and qual­i­fy your con­tent to be a fea­tured snip­pet — think of the rise of voice search.

On the oth­er hand, over-opti­mized con­tent could cross a dan­ger­ous line as well. Key­word stuff­ing, or pos­sess­ing a high key­word den­si­ty, will qual­i­fy your con­tent as spam. Key­word stuff­ing also obstructs your content’s read­abil­i­ty, which results in poor user sig­nals.

Fol­low­ing SEO best prac­tices, it’s still impor­tant to opti­mize all rel­e­vant site ele­ments, such as URLs and meta tags, with tar­get­ed key­words to cat­e­go­rize and rank indi­vid­ual web pages. And aside from sig­nal­ing to search engines the main focus of your on-site con­tent, key­words also serve an impor­tant func­tion for your site archi­tec­ture.

Inconsistent internal links

Inter­nal link­ing is prob­a­bly one of the most over­looked aspects of SEO opti­miza­tion, and issues with inter­nal links fre­quent­ly occur on SEO agency web­sites them­selves!

There are many func­tions of prop­er inter­nal link­ing for SEO:

  • Estab­lish­es paths for users to nav­i­gate your web­site.
  • Opens up crawl­ing to deep linked web pages and increas­es crawl rate.
  • Defines site archi­tec­ture and your most impor­tant web pages to search engines.
  • Dis­trib­utes “link juice,” or author­i­ty, through­out your web­site.
  • Index­es linked-to web pages by the key­words used in the hyper­link anchor text.

While back­links remain the gold stan­dard of search engine rank­ing fac­tors, their mag­ic can be ampli­fied through strate­gic inter­nal link­ing.

Ide­al­ly, you’ll want at least three to five inter­nal links per blog post, and a drop-down or nav­i­ga­tion menu on your home­page to pro­vide deep links to inac­ces­si­ble web pages. Just because a piece of con­tent is post­ed to your blog, it doesn’t mean Google or Bing can auto­mat­i­cal­ly access it.

Con­duct a thor­ough inter­nal link audit and record which web pages have the most author­i­ty. Sim­ply insert inter­nal links on these pages to oth­er high-val­ue inter­nal pages to dis­trib­ute author­i­ty even­ly through­out your domain.

Many web­sites dis­play fea­tured posts in a drop-down menu or on the home page to dis­trib­ute author­i­ty to their blog posts. A blogger’s home page will be his/her most author­i­ta­tive. Lim­it the num­ber of links between each blog post and your home page to even­ly dis­trib­ute link juice through­out your domain.

Don’t over­look the impor­tance of a sitemap, either. This will ensure all web pages are prop­er­ly crawled and indexed — assum­ing URL struc­tures are clean and key­word-opti­mized.

Final­ly, opti­mize all anchor text to cat­e­go­rize and dri­ve impres­sions for linked web pages. Be sure to use vary­ing anchor text phras­es for each link so that you can rank your web pages for mul­ti­ple search queries.

Poor page copy

As we often say in dig­i­tal mar­ket­ing, it’s impor­tant to write for read­ers and not search engines. Keep a con­tent light, don’t try to show off knowl­edge with exces­sive jar­gon, and write for read­ers on an eighth-grade read­ing lev­el.

In most cas­es, on-site con­tent is not about pub­lish­ing, but build­ing aware­ness around a need. I always sug­gest plac­ing action­able tips in infor­ma­tion­al con­tent to pro­vide val­ue.

Con­tent mar­ket­ing is as much a brand­ing exer­cise as it is a mar­ket­ing tac­tic. Con­sis­tent con­tent pro­duc­tion estab­lish­es your brand’s ethos and also cre­ates your voice as an author. In turn, this estab­lish­es you as an author­i­ty in your niche.

Don’t sac­ri­fice this author­i­ty with poor body copy.

Look over your blog post as a whole. What does a read­er expe­ri­ence when they first encounter your web page? Con­sid­er the fact that the aver­age atten­tion span is esti­mat­ed to be eight sec­onds. Opti­mize your head­er struc­ture and meta tags to encour­age easy scan­abil­i­ty and com­mu­ni­cate a clear pur­pose.