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The most common SEO mistakes – and how to avoid them

No SEO is sometimes better than poor SEO. We’ve compiled a list of the 5 most common SEO mistakes.
Image: © csbphotography / Unsplash

SEO mistakes are often similar in nature

Around two billion websites are vying for the attention of users, with every brand wanting its content to stand out from the crowd. However, that can only be achieved with systematic search engine optimization, a process with plenty of room for error. According to Matthäus Michalik, most of these mistakes are similar in nature, though. The Co-Founder and Managing Director of Claneo GmbH is an absolute SEO expert and is all too familiar with the most frequent SEO mistakes from firsthand experience.

The five most common SEO mistakes

We spoke to Matthäus Michalik and asked him to let us in on the five most common SEO mistakes that he sees time and time again.

SEO mistake no. 1: Not focusing on the target group

Matthäus Michalik: In many cases, companies tailor their content more to their own preferences and goals than to the needs of the target group. However, online search is a pull channel, not a push one. Consequently, since we can only respond to the search queries of users, pure marketing content will hardly generate relevant rankings.

SEO mistake no. 2: Incorrect keyword targeting

Matthäus Michalik: The correct use of keywords, keyword variations, and synonyms is still important if you want to consistently rank high. From the URL and title right through to headings and tags – you need to make the most of all the options available. Therefore, simply mentioning a keyword (usually in the singular) is by no means enough.

SEO mistake no. 3: Cannibalizing content

Matthäus Michalik: All too often, content is created that is too similar to or serves the same search intent as content already on the website. That makes it impossible for either of them to rank well. The content has to be consolidated in this case. An example would be searching for the terms “eyeglass frame” and “eyeglasses”. Although the words are different, Google interprets them both as a single search intent: the person is looking for eyeglasses and wants information.

SEO mistake no. 4: Content without added value

Matthäus Michalik: Content must always offer users added value and answer any questions they may have. It’s not enough to simply produce content in order to rank for a certain keyword. If users don’t get any added value from the content, it will have little chance of standing out in the competitive search engine market.

SEO mistake no. 5: Outdated content

Matthäus Michalik: Diamonds are forever, content isn’t! And that’s why it’s extremely important to regularly check that the most important content is up to date and adapt it if needed. The requirements, questions, and problems of users can change over time. What’s more, the competition never sleeps and will keep creating even better content.

In an interview with DMEXCO: Matthäus Michalik

Matthäus Michalik is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of Claneo GmbH, a search, performance, and content marketing agency based in Berlin. His expertise enables him to advise startups, SMEs, and large corporations in the fields of content marketing, search engine optimization (SEO), search engine advertising (SEA), app store optimization (ASO), and marketplace optimization (MPO).

Matthäus Michalik, founder and managing director of Claneo GmbH

What is worse, no SEO or poor SEO?

Matthäus Michalik: Search engine optimization is and will remain a skilled craft, and if you don’t master it, it’s best to steer clear. Poor SEO is hardly going to positively influence traffic and thus potential corporate goals. In the worst-case scenario, poor SEO can even lead to a website being blocked from the Google index or a domain becoming completely unusable. Although that is an extremely rare occurrence, it has happened to big brands in the past.

For example, BMW’s entire domain was removed from the Google index in 2006 because its agency violated Google’s quality guidelines at the time. Google spokesman back then, Stefan Keuchel, called the company’s SEO activities “spam of the worst kind”.

Another example worth mentioning is home24’s loss of rankings and visibility following a Google algorithm update targeting the quality of external (off-page) links, which saw home24.de being penalized for low-quality and manipulative backlinks. That lasted three and a half years until a new Google update meant that the domain was allocated relevant rankings again and its visibility and traffic ultimately returned to its previous level.

Companies should therefore make sure they either approach SEO correctly or stay away completely, because poor SEO can cause lasting damage to a company’s domain and reputation.

What tip would you give website owners who haven’t really thought about SEO yet?

Matthäus Michalik: One plain and simple tip is to understand your target group/customers and their needs, problems, and worries. Only when we understand how potential customers will search for our products or services, can we also respond in a targeted way. Google is a pull channel, so our website is a response to an existing need. It is also important to understand that online search is about speaking the language of potential customers rather than forcing our language or wording on customers.

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