5 Beginner SEO Mistakes to Avoid at All Costs

When I started doing SEO in 2019, I did not buy any courses — I relied mostly on free resources I could find online. Unfortunately, I did not pick the best sources, and this led to a lot of mistakes. However, I turned most of them into valuable learning experiences. Today I want to share with you the 5 biggest mistakes I made in my first few months and how I fixed them.

Going after the High Value, High Competition Keywords

One of the first, and biggest mistakes I made was not knowing how to do proper keyword research. Thus, like any SEO beginner, I thought that going after the keywords with the highest traffic in my niche would be a good idea. So I started to write a few articles and published them.

And guess what? Nothing happened. I got a few impressions, but never any real traffic.

Since then, I have seen this mistake repeated by many people. It’s one of the most common issues I’ve seen many of my clients do. They would try a few articles themselves, give up, and then hire someone with SEO experience.

When you’re starting a new website, never go after those keywords because they are impossible to rank. Instead, you should go for those that are easy to rank but, at the same time, you can use the create a content silo.

You can use a tool like Semrush or Ahrefs to find such keywords. Simply type in your main keyword and use the filters to find keywords that are easier to rank for.

Below you can see an example from Semrush, with 3 such keywords related to motivation.

motivation keyword with low Keyword Difficulty
other 2 keywords

On the other hand, trying to rank for ‘motivation’ would be impossible, as the Keyword Difficulty is the highest: 100.

Keyword difficulty for ‘motivation’

Not Matching Search Intent & Results

Everyone talks about matching search intent, but I want to take it a step further. So, what does it mean to match search intent?

There are 4 main types of search intent:

· Informational — Users with informational intent are seeking to learn more about a particular topic or concept. They may be looking for definitions, explanations, tutorials, or reviews. Example: “How to pick cat food”

· Commercial — Users with commercial investigation intent are in the early stages of the buyer’s journey. They are researching products or services to learn more about their options before making a purchase decision. Ex: “best cat food”

· Transactional — Users with navigational intent want to find a specific website or page. They may be using a search engine to find the homepage of a company they know, or they may be trying to find a particular blog post or product page. Example: “Buy cat food”

· Navigational — Users with navigational intent want to find a specific website or page. They may be using a search engine to find the homepage of a company they know, or they may be trying to find a particular blog post or product page. Example: “Facebook login”

So, writing an article targeting the keyword “Facebook login” means not matching search intent, as users are just looking for the Facebook login page.

Now, let’s take it one step further.

Let’s say you want to write an article about “best cat food”. From your experience, you know that Pawsitively Purrfect Protein is a brand that you’ve used for years and you know is the best. So you write an amazing article about it, but it doesn’t rank.


Because it doesn’t match the rest of the results of Google’s first page — or the article type.

If we google ‘best cat food’ we will see that most of the results on page 1 are listicles — articles that list the top 10, 11, or 16 best brands of cat food.

Search results for ‘best cat food’

Thus, to have a chance of ranking for this keyword you need to write a listicle-type article.

Cannibalizing My Keywords

This is another huge mistake I made when I launched my first website. What I did was take 2 different keywords that meant the same thing and create 2 separate pages. Although the site doesn’t exist anymore, I still remember the 2: “advantages of standing desk” and “benefits standing desk”.

A couple of months after publishing the 2 pages I saw that none of them were getting any real traffic — only a few clicks here and there. When I analyzed them closely in the Google Search Console I discovered that they were both ranking for mostly the same keywords. And they were ranking badly — page 2 and below.

I’ve learned my lesson and I’ve never repeated this mistake. Here’s how I make sure I don’t end up with keyword cannibalization issues. If I suspect that 2 keywords could be used on the same page, I just google them. If most of the results on page 1 are the same, it means that the 2 need to go together and that splitting them up will only lead to cannibalization.

In the screens below you can see that most of the search results for the 2 keywords are identical.

the 2 different keywords
Search results for ‘advantages of standing desk’
Search results for ‘benefits standing desk’

Not Using Google Search Console and Google Analytics

After publishing your website, the first thing you should do is set up your Google Search Console (GSC) and Google Analytics (GA) accounts. These offer some crucial information that can help you grow your website’s traffic and engagement.

When I first got started, I didn’t care too much about Google Analytics, and, for my first website, I waited around 4–5 months before finally setting up my account. And during this time, I didn’t use GSC too much either. Instead, I relied on Ahrefs. Yes, I paid $100 per month for a tool that gave me estimated numbers instead of using a free tool that gave me 100% accurate information.

Once I started using GA, I found that my most important articles had a 95% bounce rate and the time on the page was only a few seconds. So, I started experimenting with button placements and other tricks to increase the time on the page. I would set up different tests for different pages and wait for 2 weeks. For example, I would move a button after the first paragraph to reduce the bounce rate or add a video or infographic close to the beginning of the article to increase the time on the page.

When I would see that one experiment would improve these metrics, I would test it on a few different pages for another 2 weeks, just to make sure it wasn’t a ‘false positive’.

On the other hand, the GSC could have provided me with some important information to improve my existing pages.

It’s worth noting that, for the first 2–3 months probably, these 2 tools won’t be very useful, since your website is new and doesn’t get a lot of traffic. But, after 3 months, the data they provide is invaluable.

Write and Forget

The last mistake I made, and I still see many people making, is forgetting about an article once it’s published. Yes, the article could rank high at first but, with time, it will most likely begin to decline.

Why? For many reasons: Google algorithm updates, new competitors, new important information (like studies), industry updates, etc.

Depending on how important that article is for your website, you need to update it regularly. If you see Google released a new algorithm update, wait for 2 weeks after the rollout is complete. Then, check the rankings and update your article if it lost some positions.

If there’s no new update, check and update your article every 3–6 months. The more important your article is, the more frequently you should update it.

In Conclusion

When starting SEO, there are many mistakes one can make. One of the biggest ones I’ve made was to go straight for those high-volume, high-difficulty keywords, instead of building a content cluster with easier-to-rank keywords.

Another mistake is not matching search intent and article type with what I see on the SERPs when I google those terms.

Next is keyword cannibalization — because 2 keywords are different it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t be on the same page. Check the SERPs before writing. If both keywords provide similar results, use them for the same article. If you create 2, they’ll cannibalize each other.

The last 2 mistakes are related to monitoring and editing existing articles. You should always update your article, at least every 3–6 months, and use Google Search Console and Google Analytics for keyword suggestions and information on how to improve time on page and reduce bounce rate.

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