13 SEO Mistakes Bound To Bring You Bad Luck

Want to avoid bad luck for your store’s SEO this Friday the 13th? Then stay far, far away from these 13 sneaky techniques.


Friday the 13th is usually a day of superstitions, eerie sensations and unexplainable occurrences. But when you’re doing your own SEO, those feelings can sound all too familiar year-round. From sudden rank changes and to mysterious algorithm updates, SEO can be pretty frightening at times.

Luckily (or unluckily), search engines are quick to pick up on the latest SEO ploys and start demoting websites left and right. So in honor of Friday the 13th, let’s ward off any bad luck by learning about some of the most common SEO pitfalls.

Here are 13 SEO mistakes you should avoid at all costs:


1. Don’t use rankings as the sole indicator of SEO success

Exclusively relying on rankings to gauge your SEO campaign’s success can be very misleading. Not only are search results becoming more personalized, but Google also uses over 200 unique signals in their algorithm to rank sites and make regular updates. Altogether, these factors make focusing solely on your site’s ranking both scarily subjective and frighteningly fickle.

So how do you get a whole picture of your SEO’s success?  By looking at your ranking in conjunction with other helpful metrics.

Here are some metrics that can help you gauge your SEO progress:

  • Organic traffic: Specifically, you’ll want to measure non-paid traffic increases and decreases from major search engines.
  • Organic revenue: This is revenue generated on your online store as a result of a non-branded visit. (A non-branded visit being someone reaching your site via a specific keyword rather than by searching for your company name.)
  • Multi-Channel Funnels: This philosophy helps you better understand the buying process. You can use this feature to help determine how users interact with search engines before making a purchase.  For example, some visitors may find your site using Google, leave your site to shop the competition and later return to make a purchase.
  • Traffic sources: You’ll want to determine which sites are sending you the most traffic, and which sites are sending you the most visitors that convert into sales.


2. Don’t rely on one traffic source

Depending on only one traffic source and thinking it’ll help your SEO is about as advisable as walking under a ladder and hoping for good luck. It’s not impossible, but it’s a pretty bad bet.

Instead, you’ll want to diversify your traffic sources. Channels like social media, industry directories and advertising sources such as AdWords can be great sources of targeted traffic. And once you start incorporating different traffic sources into your marketing efforts, don’t forget to track which sources are leading to the most traffic and sales.


3. Don’t over-optimize your incoming links with keyword rich anchor text

Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, especially when it comes to optimizing anchor text that leads to your site. You want to introduce variety into your linking strategy, especially in press releases. For example, if you sell online DVDs and have five sites linking to you, you wouldn’t want all five links to say “Buy Online DVDs.” This may violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines and won’t win you any favors in terms of SEO.


4. Don’t run a site without engaging content

Whether it’s interesting copy, useful videos, stunning photos (don’t forget the Alt attribute tag on those), podcasts or other rich media, interesting content encourages visitors to stick around longer. Not only that, but it increases the chances they’ll reference your site, link to your content and trust your brand.

In addition, great content helps capture “informational searchers,” meaning people who are looking for information rather than trying to make a purchase. When you have high-quality, engaging content for them to consume, your business is seen as a subject matter expert.


5. Don’t have duplicate content

Google isn’t a fan of seeing the same thing twice (or really, anytime more than once). So make sure there aren’t any content twins, triplets, quintuplets or more hiding around your website. This includes, but isn’t limited to, having duplicate web copy, title tags, meta descriptions and URLs.

To find duplicate content, look at your Google Webmaster Tools account and go to Search Appearance > HTML improvements. Adding a canonical meta tag can also help solve duplicate content and URL issues.


6. Don’t ignore Google Analytics

Google Analytics is one of the most effective tools when gauging the performance of your SEO campaign. In addition to all the basic metrics it provides, it also has ecommerce tracking scripts that allow store owners to measure the amount of revenue being generated from organic traffic. This is a good way to determine if your organic traffic is converting and can help you optimize pages that need some additional attention.


7. Don’t have your site publicly accessible with unfriendly SEO URLs

Nowadays, search engines don’t pay as much attention to keyword rich URLs as they used to. But these URLs can still help with enhancing the relevance of a page.

If you plan to optimize your URLs, don’t forget to 301 redirect your old URLs to your newly-optimized URLs. (For Volusion store owners this is actually done automatically.)


8. Don’t ignore Google+ and authorship

It’s no news that Google lets Google+ strongly influence search results. Use that to your advantage by building up the credibility of a personal Google+ profile and tying it to your content with Google authorship.

Some of the benefits of Google+ authorship include:

  • Helping followers, fans and potential visitors discover sites where you actively publish content.
  • Discovering other authors in your industry for potential networking and business opportunities.
  • Developing a broader fan base with the help of using Hashtags on Google+. For example, someone interested in SEO could click on the #seo Hashtag in Google+, and they’d be shown other content tagged #seo.
  • Potentially increasing your content’s visibility in Google compared to your competitors. High quality content tied to a credible Google+ account can be given priority by Google meaning more visibility and potential traffic.


9. Don’t acquire or buy spammy links

Google’s spam detection system is only getting better, and the penalties for being associated with a spammy domains are only getting steeper. Sites that link to spam will, at best, perform much worse than they did before, and at worst, completely disappear from Google’s search results.

So what kind of sites should you look for instead when trying to earn links to your domain? Sites with strict editorial guidelines, sites with an accessible way to contact the webmaster and sites with relevant content to your industry are more than likely great place to reach out to.


10. Don’t target the same keywords on multiple pages 

Although keyword research can be tricky, it’s worth targeting different keywords across your website. Using the same keywords on multiple pages can cause internal page competition, and the duplicate content it causes can hurt your website’s SEO.

To avoid this mistake, try selecting around three to five unique keywords to optimize for per page. Any more keywords than that, and you risk running into the other mistake of diluting your page’s relevance.


11. Never be satisfied with a manufacturer’s product descriptions

Don’t settle for a manufacturer’s product description when you can write a unique one. For such small things, original product descriptions can really help your online visibility. Not only will they set your products apart from the competition, but they give you an opportunity to use multiple keyword variations as well.

When crafting your unique product descriptions, add useful content, videos and charts. This additional audio and visual content can further differentiate your business and engage your customers.


12. Don’t have duplicate websites selling the same products

The phrase “the more the merrier” doesn’t hold true if we’re talking about online stores selling the exact same products. Some webmasters do this to try and build link networks and artificially boost their authority and relevance. But remember all the bad things that can happen if you have duplicate content on your site? Well, if you have several websites selling the same products, you’re going to have an even worse time.

The SEO penalties in these cases are dire, and it can take months for your site to recover. Instead, focus on building the SEO value of one store selling a particular set of goods. If you plan to open multiple stores in the future, make sure each store has a unique niche and is selling its own set of unique goods.


13. Don’t forget to revisit your SEO efforts

When it comes to SEO, you got to be in it for the long haul. That means every so often, you’ll want to revisit your strategy and see how you can improve in order to better achieve your SEO goals.

So keep a pulse on your SEO efforts by checking KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) regularly. KPIs can include any goal you would like to accomplish as a result of your SEO efforts. For example, a solid KPI can be to increase revenue from non-branded organic traffic. Using Google Analytics, you can set up reports and alerts for items you would like to track on a regular basis. If you have an SEO team or looking for one, look for transparency in the form of useful performance reports.


Avoid these 13 SEO mistakes and your store will be on its way to success. In the meanwhile, it’s time to let the black cat out of the bag and expose other bad SEO tactics. If you know any other scary SEO mistakes that people should be aware, let ’em loose in the comments below.


Happy selling!
-Mike Ramirez, Volusion

19 Responses to “13 SEO Mistakes Bound To Bring You Bad Luck”

  1. SEO is stepping stone for your long terms marketing impact |

    […] 13 Common SEO Mistakes You Need to Avoid […]

  2. Arash

    Thank you for the very useful information. Regarding tip#12:
    We have a store selling maps and globes (www.mapsnglobes.com) which are almost two complete separate product categories. After two years of optimization and improving the website, now we have found that this domain and brand name (Maps N Globes) is very hard to do the branding and marketing for. Now we want to build two other websites one for selling maps and one for selling globes (under new brand) but also keep the old one. We are planning to write original content for these two new websites and not making any link between them and the old website. So the old website will have overlapping products with new websites. Do you think in the long term this will hurt the websites SERP and Google finds it duplicate websites from the same business and punishes us in the SE ranking result?!


  3. Carol

    We sell collegiate licensed items – so I have several different versions of the same product..will this be considered “duplicate”information and hurt me SEO? Do I truly need to have a unique description for every item without duplicating? confused – thanks!

    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Carol, long story short, yes you do need and want unique content on all these product pages to give each one a better chance of achieving rankings. If you can’t create unique content for each right away, can you at least begin with the most popular pages?


  4. Carole

    How should we address not having the same keywords on multiple pages when we have a group of similar products with only minor style differences, i.e. 6 Mission style lamps or 8 cowhide leather chairs?

    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Carole, I’d have to look at your site to understand exactly, but it sounds like you may benefit by establishing a primary product page for each of you products that have similar attributes. I’d start by ID’ing which of your 6 Mission style lamp pages has the most ranking authority. I doubt they are all ranking well and the traffic distribution is likely uneven. How can you improve on the most authoritative page? Try to achieve higher rankings for this primary page and make sure you have established enough on-page paths to lead traffic through to your other, similar pages with different attributes. I hope this helps!


  5. Nicky Helmkamp

    Hey Mike! We featured you in our monthly round up! http://www.northcutt.com/blog/2013/10/september-round-up-best-seo-social-media-content-marketing/


    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi Nicky,

      I passed your comment on to Mike, and here’s what he said:

      “Nicky, thanks for the feature! Looks like you guys put together a very nice collection of Search articles for September. Looking forward to reading more of your content, especially in regards to inbound marketing and the impact of Google’s evolving algorithm updates.”

  6. Steven Clarkson

    Can you also advise how we apply the Alt attribute tag to photos?


    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi Steven,

      I passed your questions onto Mike, and this was his reply:


      Good to hear you’re interested in optimizing your images and making them more accessible to people with screen readers (ADA standards). There are a few ways you can add an Alt Attribute to your images.

      One is simply adding the alt extension to your image URL. Another way you can do it is by going through the backend of your Volusion store. Under the product page, look at “Photo Alt Text,” and simply add a descriptive Alt Text to this section.

      In terms of duplicate Titles and descriptions, it’s advised to have a unique content. A good approach is to have a solid naming convention, especially for multiple products. For example, a good title tag could be [Product Name]+[Unique Product Color]+[Unique Product Size]+[Product Number]. This combination helps you create unique titles and descriptions for your products, as well as gives you a lot of necessary info in the URL.

      Hope this helps!”

  7. Steven Clarkson

    In regards to duplicate content and specifically title tags, meta descriptions should you have different title and meta descriptions for each variation of a product. Example you might have a belt with several sizes.

    You feedback would be much appreciated.


  8. Gene

    For those of us who are brand new at this, what does SEO stand for?

    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi, Gene. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization, and if you’re brand new, I’d recommend reading this Beginner’s Guide to SEO. It’s informative, well-written and from one of the industry’s best. Hope that helps! 😀

  9. Carmen Engel

    In regards to mistake #12 I have a website with Volusion, a store on Etsy and a Facebook store created by Volusion sealing the same product. In addition to those I am selling some of my products on Amazon. Is that counts as duplicates websites? Please help? thank you 🙂

    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi Carmen,

      I passed your comment onto Mike, and here’s what he said:

      “Thanks for the comment, Carmen! #12 mainly refers to building multiple websites with duplicate content with the intent of manipulating search engines by linking them to each other. For example, building duplicate websites on the following URLs: http://www.carmenshoes1-1.com, http://www.carmenshoes2-2.com, http://www.carmenshoes3-3.com and then linking them altogether can cause some duplicate content issues.

      Promoting your products on multiple channels such as Amazon, Facebook and Etsy doesn’t count as duplicate websites. This is actually called “multi-channel selling,” and I encourage it heartily. Each channel has their own set of editorial guidelines to help protect you against falling into the duplicate content issues. Even so, a good rule of thumb is to create unique descriptions and promotional content for each channel.”

      Hope that helps!

    • Carol

      Hi Carmen – I also have a volusion site and sell on facebook – am considering selling on amazon -how is this going for you? I hear differing stories about it. thanks for any input you have!

  10. Gifty

    Content – How do you decide whether content should be in your blog versus being a part of your Volusion main site? Since duplicate content should be avoided it seems it should be either or but we struggle with pushing content to our blog rather than our main site?

    Authorship? Is there away to put an authorship tag on our Volusion site pages or are you referring to using the authorship tag on our blogs?

    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi Gifty. I passed along your questions to Mike, and this is what he said:

      “Content on your website is usually specific to your brand and unique product offerings. With that said, you want people to understand your brand’s personality, tone, as well as help people discover special shipping information, unique product offerings and content related to how your brand separates itself from its competitors.

      Content on a blog can be informational or based around a theme. For example, content on your blog can help people address a question or problem like “finding personalized gift ideas for a newlywed couple.” If this were a blog post, you can provide useful information while linking to specific product pages on your website.

      There are two Authorship tags we recommend adding, Publisher and Author. A Publisher tag is to tie your Google+ Page to your company website. It’s recommended to place a Publisher tag on your most important page (usually your home page) by going to Design > File Editor > Select Link to Template Files and Add Your Tag to the Head Section of your code.

      An Author tag helps tie content on your blog (or other areas you publish content) to your personal Google+ profile. The method of adding your Author tag will depend on which blogging platform you use.”

      Let me know if you have any further questions!


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