SEO Writers: Are You Making These 5 Common Mistakes?

Once upon a time, I worked with a fantastic writer who wrote crappy Titles.

Instead of creating something clickable and compelling, she’d pen sleepy-sounding Titles like:

Geriatric Cat Care | Care for Older Cats | Cat Care


This woman didn’t create yawner Titles as a strategy. It was just the way she’d always done it. Once I pointed out that there was a better way to craft her Titles, she immediately pounced on the “new way” — and has created spectacular Titles ever since.

You see, all writers (and especially new SEO writers) make some pretty common mistakes. Some mistakes are more serious and could mess with your positioning. Other may not hurt SEO — but they can mess with your reader.

Raise your hand if you’ve ever made these common mistakes. (No judgement. We’ve all been there!)

Not checking your #1 source

It’s easy to look exclusively at keyphrase research data and get super-excited over the numbers. After all, if you offer a cloud computing product, seeing a 33K search volume for [cloud computing] seems like an awesome opportunity.

Until you check Google and find that product pages aren’t positioning for [cloud computing]. Google considers the search intent to be informational — not transactional.

It’s important to remember one thing when it comes to search intent: Google is always the decider.

That’s why it’s important to always check Google before finalizing a keyphrase choice. What sites are currently positioning? How does Google see the search intent? You’ll even want to click through the top-10 listings and see what the landing pages look like. If you were planning a 300-word article on “dog care” — and all the pages that position are 2,500+-word guides — you’ll want to rethink your strategy. 

Suffering from “topic drift”

Your article topic is about how to change a flat tire. But you find yourself writing about the history of the term “flat tire,” the different types of tires and their propensity to go flat, and the history of the tire-making process. 

Why? Maybe it’s because you found SO MANY COOL KEYPHRASES, and you feel they all deserve a mention. Or, maybe it’s because you think that more copy is better “for Google” — even if it’s not quite on topic.

Yawn. Ain’t nobody got time for that. As a reader, I dislike separating the fluff from the meat…and I’ll often boogie out of an article if I can’t find what I need, fast.

Just like with conventional copywriting, SEO writing is tight. If your headline promise is “The Best Bird Feeder For Woodpeckers,” don’t drift into mentioning other birds because you “have to for SEO.” You don’t.

As a side note: if a client ever asks you to create paragraphs of  “SEO content” for an e-commerce category page, just say no. Why? According to Google, it’s totally unnecessary.

Getting bogged down in absolutes

I understand why people want SEO writing certainty. After all, life would be easier if we knew that a post with 2,734 words, 15 keyphrase mentions, and five backlinks would always position top-10.

Sadly, that’s not SEO reality. 

I’ve seen writers tie themselves in knots trying to work with writing formulas that just aren’t real. If you feel like this now, know you can let it go.

There are no absolutes. There is no secret SEO writing formula.

The key is knowing how to read the data so you can make the best educated guess. That’s why SEO (and SEO writing) is an ongoing process — there are always things to try and to test.

Yes, follow best practices. Yes, track what works for your clients and company — tracking what works for you is the closest you can get to absolutes. Just know that what works for one site (heck, even what works for one page) may not be the perfect formula.

Trying to shove in ungrammatical keyphrases

This one is easy…

Nope. Don’t do this. Even if you think it’s a keyphrase opportunity. Even if it doesn’t sound that bad when you read the copy out loud. 

Why? Easy. How do YOU feel when you read copy like the following?

“Read our lawyer reviews Oregon, and learn more about our estate planning lawyer Portland, Oregon.”

Ouch. That was painful to type. And we’ve all seen web pages that read almost like this. 

Would you give those companies your money? Hard pass.

Ugh. Just…don’t do this. (And, feel free to send this newsletter to that client who insists that ungrammatical keyphrases are OK. You know the one.)

Focusing on size over specificity

Yes, I know that a keyphrase that sees a month search volume of over 18,100 looks so tempting. But if your client offers [construction accounting software] exclusively optimizing for [accounting software] won’t help them. In fact, they’ll never be found.

Plus, circling back to the first tip, the keyphrase [accounting software] doesn’t provide relevant Google results for someone looking for construction accounting software. 

That distinction is important.

The key to keyphrase research is specificity. It’s true that [construction accounting software] only sees a search volume of 1,000. At the same time, the person typing that phrase into Google is a highly-targeted reader — and wants exactly what your client offers.

Here’s more about about long tail keyphrases.

Do you make some (or all) of these boo-boos? The good news is the process change is an easy fix. Once you get used to the right way to write SEO copy, everything else gets way easier.

(And yes, this is something I can help with — just let me know if you have any questions.)

What do you think?

What boo-boos do you make (or used to make?) No shame — as I mentioned earlier, we’ve all been there! Leave a comment and let me know.

8 replies
  1. Ian Haynes says:

    Great Article. Especially for those who are new to SEO Content Writing. However, I would like to add one more point here. That is Not focusing on long-tail keywords. Most people believe short and precise keywords are successful for bringing a lot of traffic to your website. Long-tail keywords are really important from SEO Perspective and bring in a lot of traffic and improve your overall conversion rate.


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