The Most Common SEO Mistakes of 2017 Allie Wolff As memories of 2017 slip away, we should take some time to consider the unfortunate trends that persisted throughout the last year. In some cases, it’s astonishing that website managers and entrepreneurs keep making these mistakes—there is little that’s happened in 2017 that hasn’t come up before. In many ways, the core tenets of search engine optimization have held true since the beginning of search. The websites that appear at the top are deemed the most relevant, as determined by the quality of your content, the authority of your site and the relevance of your topic. And so, as we make our way through 2018, it’s time for a refresher course in the best SEO practices—and the worst mistakes from 2017. No, black hat SEO still doesn’t work Whether it’s keyword stuffing, copied content, mass redirects or link buying, black hat tactics persist, largely because people keep buying into them. And because SEO doesn’t show its effects immediately, there’s no easy way to tell that they’re ineffective, or even harmful to your website. Any company that offers mass backlink purchases should be met with skepticism. You should only focus on natural backlinks from authoritative websites. Mass backlinks from sketchy places will only signal an alarm from Google and potentially harm your SEO ranking. The same goes for keyword stuffing and bland, inauthentic content. The results of this type of optimization will likely backfire in the long run—nobody will read that content, and anyone who does will be disappointed. Choosing the wrong keywords Keyword research is critical. Otherwise, your SEO efforts will be for nothing. Focus on long-tail keywords that fewer people will search for—like “pizza stone for sale Miami,” instead of just “pizza stone”—and you’ll more likely reach your target audience. You may reach fewer people, but those fewer people will be more likely to stay engaged. Keyword research takes time, but the benefits last. A high search ranking will make your career much easier down the road. Popular options for researching keywords include using free tools available online, paying for research software or just imitating the success of others after many hours of research. Lengthy load times Plugins, widgets, auto-playing videos, animations and advertisements are all wonderful elements of modern web design. Images are great for building more SEO, but too many images—and especially ones that aren’t properly compressed for web—can bog down a site. Increased load times mean more than just a bad user experience. They can affect your Google ranking as well. Long load times mean high bounce rates, which in turn may affect your SEO ranking. The load speed in and of itself can also translate into a lower ranking, as Google analyzes it as a metric of a site’s quality. When creating a complex site, always be sure to use a proper image and video compressor, keep banner ads to a minimum and use a strong caching mechanism. Free online tools such as GT Metrix and Pingdom can help you analyze your site’s speed and pain points. Poor site architecture For Google to find your site, you have to help them out. Google bots crawl the Internet every second, categorizing web pages according to their content and sitemaps. That means having great content and choosing the right keywords isn’t enough—you also have to organize them in a user-friendly fashion. If you don’t have a sitemap, using a free plugin or tool is an easy way to create one. And be sure to submit your website to Google Search Console when it’s done, so Google knows where to find it. In your content pages themselves, use clear headers and page titles to communicate your website’s content—both for Google and for the reader. Not having Google+… no, seriously Google+ is good for precisely one thing: helping you secure a prime real estate info box next to relevant search results. Even though the number of people using Google+ is dwindling, and it’s easily the smallest of the major social platforms around, Google has thrown its weight behind their fledgling social network in a few ways. Aside from a fresh redesign in early 2017, it’s most useful as an easy way to create a bio for your brand, which appears in a prominent position next to top search results. Everyone is quick to criticize Google+, but no one should be dumb enough to overlook it entirely—it’s still Google, after all. Starting, then not continuing with, new content The biggest mistake you probably made in 2017—yeah, I’m talking to you—is assuming that starting a blog is good enough. Like any proper new year’s resolution (quitting smoking, going to the gym, actually finishing Infinite Jest), it’s easy to forget content marketing. But the follow-through is most important of all. Websites get stale quickly. Posting new content at least weekly is critical to telling Google, Yahoo and Bing that you’re an active, knowledgeable resource worth people’s’ time. You just need to keep climbing that mountain, much like that actual resolution you made this year.