5 Dumb SEO Mistakes That Smart People Make

Dumb SEO MistakesThere are 5 dumb SEO mistakes that you’re probably making right now

…and they might be costing you some SERIOUS search engine traffic.

Worst of all, you may even think that these mistakes help you…even though they put a ceiling on your site’s potential to rank and earn.

But what if I told you that fixing these mistakes only takes a few minutes of work?

You’d be pretty psyched, right?

But what ARE these 5 mistakes and how can you fix them?

That’s coming right up…

But First, The Key To Getting a Tidal Wave of Search Engine Traffic

If you’re serious about dominating the SERPs, you can’t follow the latest trends like a 5th Avenue fashion designer.

After Penguin, everyone in SEO came to the conclusion that:

“You can still build crap links…you just need to diversify anchor text.”

(You can see why that theory is iffy in my post about Google TrustRank)

But to me, diversifying anchors treats the symptoms and not the disease…the disease of trying to rank using latest spammy backlink strategy.

The algo changes.

SEO changes.

Google changes.

But creating a link magnet is pretty much the same as it was in the early days of the web.

That’s what makes fixing these mistakes so powerful.

These are time-tested ways of getting more backlinks and more traffic that…(wait for it) never stop working!

So let’s get to them.

Dumb SEO Mistake #1: Ugly Looking Site

I can’t believe how many sites scream:

“I’m just another generic WordPress blog…

…please click away as fast as possible. And whatever you do, don’t ever link to me!”.

So why do so many people still pump out crappy-looking sites?

Because people think that:

Great Content > Great Design

A few years ago, one of my high-ranking niche sites was plastered with Adsense blocks above the fold.

I looked something like this:Nasty MFA Site

Nasty, right?

Sure, my CTR was pretty good…but (as you can see) the site looked absolutely hideous.

One day I decided to redesign the site so it looked legit…

…and similar to this site:

site with a nice design

(Obviously I don’t own the sites in the examples. But they’re similar to my actually site’s old and new design).

What happened?

My CTR blasted up by 30%.

And my bounce rate went from this:

Bounce Rate Before

to this: bounce_rate_after

As described at SocialTriggers, people largely evaluate your site based on design…not content.

And people that see a shady site do one thing very clickly:

Click away.

But CTR and bounce rate should be the least of your worries if your site is lacking in the design department.

In the not so distant past you could blast a site with blog comments and profile links to the top of Google…and it didn’t matter if your site was ugly as sin or could win a beauty pageant.

No more.

To rank today you need high-quality, authority links.

And you’re not going to get them if you have a generic WordPress template with 7 ad blocks above the fold.

Remember: Outbound links reflect on the site owner. And no authority site is ever going to link to a site that looks spammy.

Quick Fixes:

1. Get Rid of Adsense: I don’t care if Google owns it: Adsense looks spammy. Monetize with CPA, an email list or your own product. You’ll open up a world of design options that will allow you to aggressively market, while maintaining a legit-looking site.

2. Evaluate your site’s design from a first-time visitor perspective: What would your Mom think if she stumbled upon this site? Would she share it with her Facebook friends or click away as fast as possible?

3. Hire a pro designer: Want to make link building 300% easier? Make your site look and feel legit. Seriously. True story: I got a dofollow testimonial link from a PR8 site yesterday and it never would have happened if my site looked spammy.

Dumb SEO Mistake #2: Lazy On-Page SEO

There’s a lot more to on-page SEO then title tags and keyword density.

And if you just slap a bunch of low-quality outsourced content on your site, you’re making SEO harder than it has to be.

Remember: on-page isn’t just about relevancy.

Panda was able to pinpoint crappy content from a mile away…without looking at a single backlink (unlike Penguin).

And based on a recently leaked Google Quality Guidelines document, your site’s on-page sends a strong message to Google about your site’s overall quality.

You need to do these 2 things to rock on-page:

1. Tell Google What Your Page Is About

Google is smart: you don’t need to shove relevancy down its throat.

Going too far makes you vulnerable to Google slaps and spinning back fists.

So hit the point where Google knows that your page is about your keyword…and don’t take another step.

2. Show Google Your Content is Quality

This is what trips most people up.

Next, you want to give Google the quality signals it looks for from your content.

You may think that writing a “quality” article is enough.

While that’s a good start, Google can’t necessarily tell that you’re pumping out quality content unless you give them the quality signals they look for.

SEOs that go the extra mile by including these signals are able to rank better with fewer links.

Quick Fixes:

1. Hit the basics of relevancy…but don’t push it: Include your keywords in your title tag, description tags, the first paragraph, and a few times in your content. You can also include an image or two that include your keyword and an LSI keyword in the alt text.

2. Go the extra mile with quality signals: This means including the goodies that Google wants to see, including: Outbound links to authority domains ( .edu and .gov). From testing on my own sites, things like a list of hyperlnked references, LSI keywords and loooong content (at least 800 words per article) make a huge difference.

Dumb SEO Mistake #3: Ignoring Long Tail Keywords

Long Tail Keywords

I see way too many site owners pin their hopes, dreams, (and business) on a single keyword.

But you can easily double or triple your traffic by targeting long tails that your competition ignores.

And if you think long tails aren’t worth it, take a look at this:

Let’s say you find a keyword that gets 5 searches per day.

Because most long tails have such low competition, you can usually rank for them with very little link building.

At the #1 spot you get about 60% of the clicks:

.06 CTR x 5 searches per day = 3 visitors per day

With a 2% conversion rate (if you’re selling your own product):

3 visitors x 2% conversion  =  .06 sales per day

At $40 profit per sale, that’s:

.06 x 40 = $2.4 per day…not much.

But over the course of 365 days:

$2.4 x 365 =$876 per year…from one long tail keyword!

And if you write a piece of content for 90 long tail keywords:

90 x $876 = $78,840 (!)

That’s a lot of moolah!

Quick Fixes:

1. Create Long-Tail Content: You obviously don’t want to build a piece of content for every long tail keyword. But if you see a decent-volume long tail that you can write some quality content around, write a post about it. Just don’t go the path of ehow.com and bang out hundreds of reworded articles…and end up as Panda food.

2. Sprinkle long tails into content that already ranks: And watch your traffic go kabloom! Remember: long tails usually have super-low competition. So dropping them once or twice in a long article is often enough to rank. You can usually rank the same page for dozens of long tails if you take the time to do this right.

Dumb SEO Mistake #4: Sleeping On Monetization

I’m not hating on Adsense…OK yes I am.

I love the fact that you can use Adsense to monetize a site about ANYTHING…even if there aren’t any good CPA or affiliate offers to promote.

But I absolutely hate how many site owners reflexively copy and paste Adsense code on their site before trying other monetization strategies first.

What does this have to do with SEO, you ask?

Oh, just everything.

The SERPs are a battlefield.

And if your enemy is raking in more money per visitor than you are, he’ll be able to:

  • Spend more money on paid links
  • Create more (and better) content
  • Tap into pricey white hat SEO marketing (infographics, traditional PR)
  • Split test to decrease bounces and boost conversions

And basically win the war of attrition that Google’s first page often is.

Quick story:

I once had a site that boasted a 21.4% (!) Adsense CTR.

Adsense CTR

Crazy right?

I didn’t have a magic theme or layout.

It was just that this traffic was in extreme “buy mode”.

Because the CTR was bananas, I was reluctant to try anything but Adsense…until I pulled the trigger.

I switched to CPA marketing and never looked back.

The next month, I literally made 8x more than I did with Adsense (monthly data):

Earnings With CPA

(Yes I did have more traffic that month…but most of the earnings increase was from the monetization change).

That extra cash flow allowed me to do some sick promotion for the site…ultimately bringing me from #7 to #1 (where I’m at now).

That would have never happened if I didn’t squeeze every penny out my traffic.

Quick Fixes:

1. Dig for New Money: There are A LOT of ways to make a buck from your site. CPA is my personal favorite. New to CPA? Head to OfferVault.com and shop around for CPA offers in your niche. I think you’ll find that they usually pay significantly more than Adsense. Also consider making your own product or reaching out to product owners in your niche and dealing directly with them (that cuts out the Google or CPA middleman).

2. Test: In some cases Adsense IS the best way to earn from your site. Instead of saying: ‘Forget Adsense, I’m only promoting Clickbank products now’, test it against something new for a few days. Worst case scenario: you made a little less money…but you learned something about internet marketing that you didn’t know before.

Dumb SEO Mistake #5: Ignoring Trending Keywords

Oh, Google Keyword Planner…how would I live without thee?

Fortunately, I don’t have to.

But it’s just nuts to think that Google’s Adwords Keyword Tool is the holy grail of keyword research.

There’s a MASSIVE lag time before a keyword ends up in the tool…even if hundreds of people are searching for it every single day.

Here’s an example for the keyword “Pinterest Followers”:

This is what the Keyword Planner says:
google keyword planner result

And Google Trends:

google trends

You really think only 390 people search for that? Riiiiight.

You can usually increase your traffic by 50% or more in a few weeks by creating content around keywords that don’t show up in the tool or don’t show accurate search volume (as in this Pinterest Followers example).

Chasing keywords in the Keyword Tool forces you to compete with every other SEO on the planet…who all use the same tool.

Work smarter, not harder, by targeting trending keywords.

Quick Fixes:

1. Use Google Suggest: Google Suggest is a gold mine of trending keywords that haven’t earned a spot in the keyword tool. And it couldn’t be easier to use: just type in a few keywords in your niche and see what Google suggests to you. These are generally keywords that are hot at the moment. Write some content for these zero-competition keywords and watch your pages rank with relative ease.

2. Look for Latest Purchases: This is one of my favorite tricks for finding buyer keywords that my competition doesn’t know about yet. Just type in intitle: ‘latest purchase’ or intitle: ‘latest purchases’ into Google and start poking around. You’ll usually find a boatload of new products and services in your niche that won’t end up in the Keyword Planner for months…after you’ve already raked in thousands in easy money.

3. Google Trends: Every niche has a few keywords that people suddenly search for in droves. And you can easily find these by spending some time in Google Trends. If you see a massive spike in searches for a trending keyword, you can probably bet an article optimized for that keyword is going to bring in a lot of targeted traffic.

Anything I Missed?

Are there any mistakes you’ve made — and corrected — and it made a  world of difference?

Or better yet, are there any mistakes you keep making that you haven’t been able to solve yet?

Then drop a comment below and share the love.



Your blog deserves the Newcomer of 2012 award – Awesome article!
A couple of questions:

1) What do you think about zenhabits.net? This is an authority website (really popular) but his theme is VERY minimalistic
2) Do you think one can rank a website for a long tail keyword (300-500 searches) using only internal linking?

Brian Dean

Thanks Andrii!
Onto your questions:

1) What do you think about zenhabits…

Zen Habits is minimalistic but professional. And it’s a theme most people remember. And it doesn’t look spammy (something that many niche sites scream out to first-time visitors).

2) Do you think one can rank a website for a long tail keyword…

It depends on the authority of the site and the competition of the keyword.

For example, if you have a PR5+ homepage and a low competition keyword, then yes.

But if you’re site has no domain authority and your long tail keyword is in a tough niche (like insurance) then you’ll definitely need some direct linking to that page.


Hey, another great post I’m glad I subscribed 🙂

A question, I’m currently getting backlinks from high PR domains but the actual page with my link on has only PR0. Are these worthless? It’s so hard to find a high PR page that I can get my link DIRECTLY on…

Brian Dean

Glad to hear that Lewis!

One of the only ways to get links on pages that already have toolbar PR is through blog comments…which usually don’t do much for ya.

Remember: Google only updates PR every 3 months. So if you’re getting links on PR0 pages that sit on authority domains, those pages will usually show PR after the next update.


ahh I see, so if the page says PR n/a or PR0 then it could well be higher you just don’t see it yet?

Brian Dean

Exactly. 🙂

Tom Buckland

Hi Brian, another great post, already started making a plan for targeting long tail keywords with SEO and affiliate offers instead of adsense. Just a quick thing, you got x36 not x365 in your third point about long tail keywords, so might want to change that. Alright, great article again, Tom.

Brian Dean

That’s great to hear, Tom! I think you’ll do well with that strategy. Thanks for the heads up about the typo. Fixed.

rakesh kumar

you missed nothing in this article brian, I am now cursing myself why i have not seen your website. at-least i can do something more with my business blog. Thanks a lot for this wonderful article.

Brian Dean

Thanks Rakesh. Glad I could help you with your business blog.

Izzuwan Adnan

Hi Brian, thank you again for the great post.
I am sometimes having a problem to setup my authority site. Maybe you can share details on how to setup setting plugins etc for WordPress in future?
Thanks again mate.

Brian Dean

You’re welcome, Izzuwan, and thanks for the suggestion 🙂

Issac paul

Hey brian,
This post was the best post which i have read today, Thanks for taking effort crafting high quality content 🙂 & sharing your clear cut ideas with us it’s making me to learn something new everyday 😀 ! Again thanks for sharing your precious knowledge & time online 🙂 you’ve shared the basic mistakes which many bloggers commit now it allows other bloggers overcome it easily 🙂 !

One more thing why you love making Lengthy content always ?

Is it a part of seo strategy bro ?

Warm regards,
Issac paul



Well, Greatly described points about SEO mistakes, we make or have made in our past.

When it started my career in blogging, the only thing I know, was writing article and building links, but majority of my articles were full of keywords and the links I was building was just spam links with optimized anchor texts.

Also, I was not aware of internal links important, but with time everything has improved and these days, I rarely make any SEO mistake.

But, still a huge number of newbies are making these mistakes and I sadly say, that they are wasting their valuable time.

So, considering this, a brilliant post written, it will help many out there, searching for this.

Keep up the good work.


matt m

Hey Brian,

Great job. thanks for the content. Any “pillars” of design/aesthetic appeal for website deign?


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