3 Most Deadly SEO Mistakes and How to Fix Them

How to avoid these common but deadly SEO mistakes, plus how SEO writers create and maintain blockbuster SEO posts

seo mistakes

We recently spent time auditing the SEO work of one of our partner sites, triggered by a sudden drop in year-over-year search traffic. We’ve seen this happen before, and most of the time it’s because SEO best practices have stopped being followed,  blockbuster posts are no longer being recycled, and the editors have essentially gone rogue, which can be determined by the audit. When this happens, we initiate an SEO Fire Team that meets weekly to coach the daily editors on how they can avoid the deadly SEO mistakes that are causing their website traffic to drop.

I got inspired by this recent experience to attempt the creation of my own new blockbuster post on the topic of SEO mistakes. And while I am a master of search engine optimization and have been for almost two decades, my chances for success in this attempt are not high. Why, you might ask, can a search engine master not sit down and write a new post that will show up on page 1 in Google any time they wish? Because ironically, even a search engine master will only be successful at this task about 10% of the time, and only if they follow our SEO Scorecard Guidelines with the discipline of a tight rope walker. The sad truth of being a search engine apprentice, journeyman, or master is that most of what you attempt will fail.

Never one to shrink away from a challenge, I will structure this post into two sections. First I’m going to list and describe the three most deadly SEO mistakes. Violating any of these three rules will destine what you write to the dustbin of the Internet where posts go to die, and most new posts join them quickly. Next, I will walk through the process for properly creating and updating a blockbuster SEO post, a critical component to organic SEO success.

Now you may be asking yourself at this point, “why would anyone bother to try and write an SEO post with the goal of putting it on page 1 for a Google search, when the odds of success are so low?”

The answer is quite simple:

When an SEO master is successful at creating a blockbuster post, not only will it get on page 1 for a Google search engine results page, it can stay there for months and even years when properly cared for by its author, editor, and publisher. Creating a page 1 SEO post in Google gives the writer’s SEO post Internet immortality. Most writers I’ve worked with over the years want to have their content read. If you can achieve the lofty goal of becoming a master SEO writer, you can create dozens or perhaps even hundreds of posts that will appear on page 1 for a myriad of search engine results pages for years and even decades, if your successors continue to care for these little gems of Internet content.

So with no further delay, let’s talk about the three most deadly SEO mistakes, and how to create and update a blockbuster SEO post.

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Deadly SEO mistake number one: Aim at something that is not there

The Google keyword tool will provide any aspiring SEO writer with the number of searches that human beings around the globe are performing each year for any phrase they might think about answering.

Successful SEO writers answer questions that people are asking, and the Google keyword tool will not only provide you, the aspiring SEO writer, with quantification about the number of people asking the question you’re contemplating, it will also provide alternative suggestions that might be a better, more appropriate way to ask the question that you’d like to answer in your SEO post.

If you’ve never used a keyword tool, it may surprise you that what you think is an obvious question that many people are asking, is actually being asked by no one, ever in the history of the Internet.

I’ve seen brilliant posts from SEO writers that are well-researched and well-timed, and that also have the winning characteristic of a great SEO post because they are evergreen, yet the editors choose a keyword phrase and headline with exactly 0 search activity. This means that these posts will never see the light of day beyond their initial outing in the daily email newsletter and social distribution.

Instead of creating a truly evergreen post that is well SEO’d and that could be updated several times a year and kept relevant forever, these non-SEO’d posts will be one and done. If your goal is to be a successful SEO writer, there is no bigger waste of your time than creating a post in a way that destines it to never be found or even searched for until the end of time.

Deadly SEO mistake number two: Aiming at something you can’t hit

As noted, the Internet is a hyper-competitive environment for writers. Most online writers are like a room of chimpanzees pounding away on keyboards. Most of what they will produce will be drivel, but the sheer volume of content being generated will mean that one of them will type out Shakespeare, now and then. Eric Schmidt famously called the Internet a content cesspool. Because most online writers, and even SEO writers don’t have editors, most of what is published on the Internet is drivel. Great content is produced by great writers who have great editors. It is not written and published, great content is written, rewritten, rewritten again, edited, edited again, and again and then finally published after it has been iterated into something that’s actually worth reading.

Unfortunately, the Google algorithm does not always recognize great writing. Even perhaps more disappointing, many readers don’t recognize great writing, either. Consequently, when an SEO writer attempts to create a great bit of content, they will be competing not only with other great SEO writers, they will be competing with rooms of chimpanzees creating tons of content with which they must compete to win the coveted page 1 search engine results page rank. In the days of print, the cost of printing and distribution stopped drivel from propagating at the speed of light. Because literally, anyone with the ability to type and perhaps spell things correctly on occasion can have their own blog but not their own editor, you as an SEO writer will be competing with legions of individuals when you sit down to write a new SEO Blockbuster post.

Fortunately, Google will also tell you how many posts or pages of content already exist that are targeting the keyword phrase that you are contemplating a run for with your new SEO post. Almost two decades ago, we devised a metric that we call the keyword competitive index or KCI, which allows you to know just how competitive the environment you’re contemplating really might be before you sit down to write.

The Keyword Competitive Index (KCI) is a simple formula that takes the potential annual search volume for a keyword phrase and divides it by the amount of exact Google listings for that keyword: Annual Search Volume/Exact Google Listings.

The higher the KCI, the better chance you have of ranking on the term. If you can find keyword phrases with a KCI of one or higher, it means there is more search volume than exact Google listings. These are the type of keyword phrases worth targeting, especially if they are highly relevant to your audience and have high search volume. Learn more about calculating your KCI.

Because every website has its own domain authority, every website has a minimum KCI that should be used as a screen for keyword phrases that it will target. Because higher is better for KCIs, SEO writers should always target keyword phrases that are inside their weight class where they have a chance of being successful. We often see aspiring SEO writers create posts that have lots of search demand but are way out of their weight class with KCIs lower than they’ve ever been able to successfully target.

Now I’m not suggesting that an aspiring SEO writer should never swing for the fences. Just know that when you do, the odds of getting onto page 1 and achieving Internet content immortality get much, much longer.

If Internet content immortality is your goal for the content you are creating, and I can assure you that it’s your employer’s goal if you’ve been hired as an SEO writer with the goal of driving organic and social traffic to your website, you’re best to stick with keyword phrases that have a keyword competitive index that your website has historically been able to place on page one for a Google search.

Consider you’re a gardening magazine, and you want to choose a topic on preserving a type of herb or vegetable. Below is an example comparing search terms for preserving everything from parsley to habaneros. If all the terms have an estimated 600 searches per year, according to Google, which topic and term would you choose to cover first? If it were me, I’d go for “preserving shishito peppers” because it has a 600 KCI.

Anything over one is considered a good choice, because it means there are more searches for it per year than there are competing pages for it on the web. Frankly, all the terms are good targets because they have so few competing pages, but if you were looking at more competitive keywords for your industry, you’d want to start with the keyword with the highest KCI and work your way down.

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Deadly SEO mistake number three: create boring content

You might think this is a sin in its own right, and we agree, as this sin is going on thousands of times per hour as drivel is being published on the Internet. Because it takes a village to create a page 1 SEO blockbuster post, you will need your audience to engage, link to, and comment on your post if you want to have any chance of getting it on to page 1 of a Google search and keeping it there.

Therefore, everything you’ve learned about great writing since your eighth-grade English class must be put to work. Your post must be well structured, clearly written, and a pleasure to read. It would be helpful if your thoughts were original, colorful, and perhaps even controversial. You might even dare to create or at least elevate some thinking on the topic to a level where it has never been. Because being a great SEO writer also means you must be a great writer.

What follows is a basic outline of the steps required to create a new, SEO blockbuster post that has the potential to make you, the SEO writer, an Internet immortal whose content will be read every day for years into the future, assuming your successors keep it up-to-date and republish it regularly.

This last part is key. You can avoid the first three deadly SEO mistakes and get one of your brilliant, well-optimized, well-written posts on page 1 in Google. However, if your analytics don’t identify it as a blockbuster post and then get it into a blockbuster editorial calendar which causes it to be updated, rewritten, and republished at least twice a year, your post will be kicked off of page 1 faster than you can say “page load time.”

Do the math and find an opportunity for success. Read up on, and create a Google Visibility Report. High KCIs (Keyword Competitive Index) should be your main focus while looking to create blockbuster SEO articles. Find some keyword phrases with healthy KCIs, and keywords with low competition (less than 100,000) are great targets too, even if they only have 20-50 searches per month.

Infer a question. When people type phrases into search engines, what are they looking for? The questions your audience is asking should be answered in your SEO blockbuster article’s headline. SEO blockbuster articles are commonly centered on an educational topic, often including advice on the best information or actionable how-to pieces.

Keep score. Use the Mequoda SEO Scorecard to write your posts.

Measure your success. Create a Blockbuster Report. On at least a quarterly basis, our Analytics Director and her team create a blockbuster report for our publishing partners. This simple report—which you can create by exporting your top trafficked posts from Google Analytics—lists the top 100 articles that are driving traffic to your site over the course of the last 12 months. In some cases, this list may be larger, depending on how much traffic is being generated.

Recycle your top players. This is the part where many daily editors fail, and the source of heavy traffic drops out of the blue. If you have a top-ranking post driving tons of traffic for years, and then it drops to page two, you’ve just lost a majority of your traffic on your website. To avoid this traffic trauma, you must keep your top 100 blockbuster posts updated and republished frequently. After your blockbuster post is republished, it’s appearing as a new or updated piece of content to Google, which in our experience can help it stay ranked on page one in Google, or improve its ranking if it has slipped off page one.

I will close this potential SEO blockbuster post by thanking my editors, who will spend much more time editing it, optimizing it, and then republishing it every six months if it does become a blockbuster post than I spent writing it. I would like to acknowledge that I have been studying, teaching, and doing SEO writing for almost 20 years. My colleague and world-class direct response copywriter Bob Bly, when asked how long it took him to write a highly effective sales letter landing page, replied “about 20 years.” Obviously, Bob is pointing out that any writer, if they are a really good writer, is leveraging all their experience every time they sit down at a keyboard. Everything I have shared in this post is based on knowledge that I’ve accumulated over the past couple of decades as an SEO writer, instructor, and critic.

And finally, I will ask you quite shamelessly to help me out here. Please give me a comment below about your experience and exploits as an SEO writer. Whether successful or not, please share your experience at trying to become an Internet immortal by putting one of your posts, or perhaps several, on page 1 for a Google search engine results page. And if you got here via social media, please share this post with your friends and link to it from any social media account that you manage. As I’ve noted above, without my readers participating and engaging with this post, it has no chance of giving me another shot at Internet immortality.


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