Pitfalls in search engine optimization are numerous (and very common). Let me save you some time and help you avoid some of these issues even if you aren’t an SEO expert. That way, you can help save us some time as well. We like to help folks learn how to do thing so that we can focus on trying brand new tactics and testing how Google bot reacts to things.
Stop obsessing over the Yoast Green light
You don’t need to be the world’s best SEO expert to use Yoast SEO properly. The gamification in the content analysis helps you improve your SEO. It’s a dopamine kick to see the light turn green but it also means you could end up messing up your WordPress’ Google rankings.
Never change your focus keyword to get a green bullet!
You will need to pick a primary keyword and a few secondary keywords. In the free Yoast version, you cannot add multiple keywords to the focus keyword field. As such, the best you can hope for, are a few green lights and a few orange ones. You cannot get 100% green score in Yoast while doing some great SEO. So don’t sweat the small stuff. Put in your focus keyword but optimize your content for users vs trying to get a green light at all cost.
Not every post or page has SEO ranking potential
You should always think about how your content fits in the grand scheme of things. Do you even need to optimize your tag pages? NO! Not always. I usually don’t because these pages generally don’t bring much value to my visitors. If your tags are important and cover a specific theme, go for it (looking at you travel bloggers). If not, please, put these pages in no-index so they stay out of Google’s index.
Not Aligning Keywords with the Search Intent
RankBrain and artificial intelligence try to figure out search intent (and so should you
To show up in Google, you need to understand what people search for and why. You need to pay attention to what keywords they search for and what content best meets their specific needs at this point in the customer journey:
- Informational – your visitors have specific questions they need answers to.
- Navigational – your users have a very good idea of where they want to go and look for a query to take them there (such as looking for a specific brand or website domain name).
- Transactional – your potential customers already know what kind of product they want to buy and they’re looking for the places where they can find it.
- Commercial – a searcher knows what they want to buy. They compare brands, prices, features before making their purchase.
Make sure you use keywords that show the proper search intent that matches what your page is about.
Piss-Poor Mediocre content
Google looks at click through rates of search results to fine tune its results. Did you notice how results update themselves as you search? If people keep bouncing from search results to your site and right back to search results…that’s a pretty clear signal to search engines that your content is not what people are looking for or that your website is just not up to their standards.
You are not your audience
First, move past the pop-ups and focus on delivering value right there, on the above the fold spot. You should start experimenting with different forms of content, angles and keywords. Stop assuming you know what matters to your audience. You don’t know until you start looking at search intent, query volumes or carry out some user testing. Creating authoritative, useful content entails knowing what visitors are looking for. Interview your customers, analyze Google Search Console data and check in with your customer support team to gain insights. If you don’t know where to start, drop us a line, we’ll be happy to help you do a deep-dive in your customer data.
Your site is painful to visit (because it’s slow, has too many popups, etc.)
Let’s keep this short and sweet shall we? If you want to do a deep dive into load times, we have written a few things about it. I’ve also given a few conferences about it available on YouTube. Here is my advice for you, right now:
- Upgrade your hosting plan. If your budget allows it, switch from shared hosting to managed hosting. Here’s what nobody ever tells you about hosting: shared hosting is like changing in a gym locker room. If there are too many people in there at the same time, things are bound to get mucky. If you have your own changing room, things are much more comfortable.
- Invest in CDN. A content delivery network copies your content to different places around the world that way it can serve it up faster to users all around the globe. So, when a user in a country visits your page, their browser will download the copy of your site from the closest server, in turn making the page load faster.
- Enable caching. Instead of loading the whole website from scratch every time a visitor searches for you, a cache helps load the website faster the second time a visitor comes around. Your hosting plan should specify how to activate your cache and some WordPress plugins like WP Rocket help you do that as well.
Images weigh you down, especially the stock photo ones
- Compress your images to reduce their size (but not quality). Use PhotoShop or a WordPress plugin like ShortPixel.
- Leverage lazy loading. This means that your visuals will load as the visitor scrolls down the page. If they don’t get to a certain image on your page, it won’t even load.
No seriously, we mean it. Download an image on Unsplash or Pexels and see how much they weigh. We actually advise you to download a medium version of your image on stock photo websites.
That’s it for the most common pitfalls I see people make with their WordPress websites. Do you have any questions for us? Leave them in the comments below and we’ll answer them.