We’re human: we all make mistakes.
But, the bright side of making mistakes is that we learn how to correct them and in doing so become slightly better at avoiding those mistakes in the future (usually).
In content creation, there are a lot of mistakes that inundate the Internet, unfortunately. My mind and soul cringes as I discover them. From the simplistic ones regarding spelling and grammar to the more complicated ones that impact our SEO validity, mistakes are a pain in the side of any content creator.
And it’s not just one person. Content creators the world over suffer from the same problems that you do regarding content creation.
10 of the Worst, Eye-Digging, Bad-Bad-Bad Content Mistakes
Let’s take a look at ten of the worst content mistakes I’ve ever come across. (Beware: it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard.)
1: Duplicate Content. Ah, this evil beast. From an SEO perspective, this is a capital sin and one that many content creators and blog owners fall victim to all too often. Duplicate content hurts your search ranking and can lead to erroneous search results. Redirection tags and multiple hosted copies of a home page can lead to terrible problems when a search engine is trying to reference your actual home page. It can be something as simple as a double-posted blog entry that could lead to the dreaded duplicate content error in your site.
From a marketer’s point of view, you’re probably going to need to have a handful of home pages in order to gauge the effectiveness of any particular one. The problem arises when you forget to state these pages as non-indexed one to the search engine robots. The result is that you can have multiple copies of your home page being referenced and one may be a draft or incomplete one. Leaving the decision to the robots on the search engine means that they could be sending users to your unfinished landing page, leaving them with a horrible impression of your site. In the blogger’s case, multiple posts can easily be detected and removed, but only if you know your post was double-posted. Keeping an eye on your site helps you to avoid these issues.
2: Too Much & Bad Backlinking. Backlinks are very important in determining the usefulness of a site and how well it shows up on search engine rankings. The trustworthiness of a site comes down to how well it backlinks to other sites. Creating backlinks that incorporate spammy sites, link directories or ad-heavy sites drives a site down the search rankings. When you’re creating backlinks, you should really examine where your backlinks are coming from to ensure you don’t get flagged as an untrustworthy site.
Creating a backlink history that is on the up-and-up requires some research into where you’re linking to. Always try to keep authority sites at the top of your link data. For content that already exists, you should ensure that the links that exist in these content pieces are viable and do not link to any shady sites. Using utilities such as SEMRush aids in creating a backlink report that can help you to weed out these bad backlinks. It’s a time consuming process, but in order to keep your ranking intact, it’s a necessary one.
3: Over-Optimization of Keywords. This one makes me want to gouge my eyeballs out. Seriously. There’s nothing much worse (except maybe my first two points).
Creating a page that has a plethora of good information does require you to use keywords to aid in finding the information when a search engine user requests it. But in the past, throwing together a handful of keywords and using them inside the text of the landing page was usually what you needed in order to place high up on the search rankings. Eventually, the focus moved away from keywords and into a combination of factors. This came about because of the abuse of keyword stuffing in the early days of search engine optimization. Over-optimization of keywords occurs when you have more than one page with the same targeted keyword. The search engine doesn’t know which one of your pages is the main site and so you are left with pot luck as to what the search engine decides is the more relevant site, which may not be the one you want to appear there.
Proper SEO practice requires you to use different targeted keywords for different pages in order to ensure a situation like this does not arise. Over-optimizing your site for your keywords can have a massively detrimental impact on your search engine results and your overall SEO strategy. As a technical content error it can be a lot harder to spot, requiring constant vigilance over your SEO results and targeted keyword seeding.
4: Too Many Links Off The Home Page. This might seem counter intuitive after having described how important backlinks are, but having too many links from your home page makes your page hard to navigate. Links serve as incoming traffic points and outgoing traffic locales. The more there are, the more areas that you send traffic out to. However, by limiting your links, you are able to direct a larger amount of traffic to the pertinent sites instead of trying to create a link storm that doesn’t really send significant traffic anywhere.
Building links is important, but too many links results in a page that is difficult for your reader to navigate and even harder for a search engine to rank. Link building, therefore, should be done in moderation and the locations to your links chosen carefully to align with your overall SEO strategy. You can easily determine if you’ve over-linked on your homepage by using the Moz Tool Diagnostics Summary. It will also inform you if you have too few links on the page. Maintaining a healthy balance of links on your home page is very important to making your page successful, so doing too much or too little does register as a bad content error.
5: Spammy Title Tags. Grrr. I hate this one too. And so does Google.
Title tags are supposed to be embedded descriptors that aid a search robot in indexing the titles on your page. When developing title tags you need to strike a balance. They must not be too wordy (over 60 characters) or you risk Google rewriting them and you losing the impact of your title. They should also be unique for each page that you have, since overlapping title tags have their own associated problems.
Duplicate title tags can lead to Google indexing multiple pages as the home page or the targeted keyword page. It can also lead to Google indexing the wrong page and this, in turn, leads to a lot of confused users that end up on one of your content pages instead of your home page. Create title tags that are concise and to the point for each one of your pages. Don’t overdo the titles since you shouldn’t really cross sixty characters in length. Anything longer than that is simply begging the search engine to truncate it. This leads to a loss in impact and a very unprofessional outlook when users see your page show up in search engine results.
6: Bad Grammar, Spelling and Punctuation. On the Internet it’s a commonplace situation to see social media blowing up over simple grammatical and spelling errors. When it comes to content production, proof reading goes a long way towards ensuring that the content you have is properly capitalized, grammatically sound and doesn’t contain any typos. We as writers knows how hard it is to write for hours without a typo. It’s nearly impossible to do so, but if you’re posting things to a blog, it’s your duty to ensure that the post is at least grammatically sound.
The reason why good grammar and spelling (and to a lesser extent punctuation) is important is the nature of our business: we create content that informs people. People are less likely to take you seriously if your content is riddled with spelling errors and subject-verb disagreements. In creating the content you are responsible for it being readable. Communication that is unreadable is worthless and your content is communication in its most basic form. All it takes to avoid this content error is a quick proof-reading of your work. If you have more time, you would be well advised to give it to an independent pair of eyes for scanning.
7: Low Quality Content or Just Plain Bad Content. Content creators build content from the ground up that is designed to give our readers value when they read it. To this end, if we create content that is no benefit to anyone, then what good is the content that we create? Good content should do one of three things. It should inform the user to a new situation developing, teach the user something they did not know before or give the user an opinion of a particular situation or product. If content does not do any one of these three things it immediately becomes bad content.
The quality of your content affects how inclined a visitor is to stay on your site. If your content is all of the “bad” variety then it’s unlikely you’ll have a visitor staying for any length of time since it doesn’t benefit them in any way. In creating good content you should focus on the user. What does the user get out of this content? Will it benefit him or her in the long run? Users are human first and we should create content that stirs them, that informs them and that gives value to their lives. Anything else just makes your site trashy and liable to be ignored by users. Avoiding this problem is as simple as asking yourself, “Who does this content benefit, and how?”
8: Long Page Load Times. Page load times might not seem like an issue with high speed Internet available almost all over, but you’d be wrong. Users have grown used to being able to access web pages quickly, and if your page takes longer than two seconds to show signs of life, users quickly discard the page and go back to their search results. The users that you lose the most through poor page load times are mobile users, but desktop users are just as bad. The fact that their Internet is many times faster than mobile users might lower that two-second window to just one.
Page load time problems are usually signs of poorly built web pages or pages that are hosted on servers that are sluggish to respond. However, it could also be due to internal coding within the webpage itself. Utilizing tools to determine why your page is loading slowly can aid you in isolating the problem which you can then go about fixing. Page code optimization can be done yourself, but if it’s a server-side problem, your only redress would be moving your hosting to a company that has a better response time on average.
9: Unreasonable Expectations from SEO. SEO is not a silver bullet. It’s not a quick cure nor a panacea that will fix all your traffic problems. SEO is a tool, and like any tool, you must be aware of its limitations. Using SEO is the first step in improving your page rank, but it is not the last step by a long shot. SEO allows your pages and sites to be more findable for the people who are looking for your particular set of skills. You can’t expect to implement SEO and within a month have ten times as much users: that is a pipe dream.
A realistic expectation of SEO is that it can boost traffic through search engines through your site in the long run. This means that you have to adopt the idea of continually updating and improving your SEO strategy. Gone are the days when you could use algorithm exploits to trick the search engine to display your site as one of the top ten in a particular keyword niche. Now if you want traffic from a search engine, you have to earn it, and it is not an easy road. SEO won’t fix your UI problems, your site design problems and it won’t make your content less boring. Before you implement SEO you need to fix those things first or else SEO won’t be able to help you at all. Avoiding this pitfall is as simple as being honest with yourself regarding what you can expect from a well-planned SEO strategy.
10: Evaluating Content Solely from an Analytics Standpoint. Really, people? Aren’t we past relying on robots when it comes to content? I also (really) hate this one.
Content is more than words on a page. It’s more than a collection of targeted keywords. This isn’t 1995 anymore, a page stuffed with only keywords is going to drop you to the very bottom of the search engine rankings for that keyword.
I will tell you this with a completely serious face: content is alive, it breathes, it grows and feeds off the energy of the backlinks that support it. When you’re evaluating your content, you have to look beyond the numbers and see the importance of its existence.
Numbers are important too. From an SEO perspective the numbers behind your keywords, the cost-per-click and the volume of the search results can give you a general idea of what works and what doesn’t. Analytics will tell you traffic signals of incoming and outgoing links as well as the veracity of your backlinks. But these are all sides to the main course, the content itself. Your content must provide value. It must be interesting and it must keep the reader engaged. Without that, your statistics will just tell you that your content is underperforming. It’s up to you as a content creator to understand why and to take appropriate measures to fix it.
Don’t Worry, Be Happy: Fix Your Mistakes With a Content Audit and Continue
Your best guarantee for as close to 100% error-free content, from your blog or website, is by investing in a content audit. Just be sure you aren’t hiring a machine. A real, SEO-knowledgeable person should be conducting the audit and giving you real recommendations, like replacing duplicate meta tags or writing a new page for that duplicate piece of content (and naming that specific page).
Content creation mistakes are not limited to any one portion of the content creation spectrum. We all make mistakes. Whether it’s a technical mistake, a content-based mistake or even a simply thing like spelling and punctuation, we all make them. We are only human and we must accept that sometimes we fall short of our own expectations. What we can do, however, is to keep an eye out of these mistakes that may lurk in the shadows, and stamp them out when we find them. With any luck we can manage to avoid having these horrible practices trip us up and lead us to a fall.
Photo credit: gmast3r