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As most blog posts about search optimization are either restating something Google or a Google employee said publicly; or very thin content in the hopes of getting links, I write very little about SEO. But with clients, I see a few non-technical SEO problems on repeat, and having conversations about avoiding these mistakes takes up a lot of time. So here are three non-technical SEO mistakes to avoid.

Assuming people are searching for something

The example I always give is a friend who wanted to start a travel blog called “strategic travel info” for the SEO value. The problem is that no one, at the time or now, seems to search for “strategic travel” — ahrefs shows under ten monthly global searches. And when I Googled the phrase in quotes, one of the only things that show up is a blog post I wrote years ago using this strategic travel example.

Using a name that includes three easily understood dictionary words has advantages. It’s easy to brand words people understand and can spell.

It’s also possible that by using a name like “strategic travel info” for a blog that created a lot of high-quality content and was shared widely, that term would see a significant spike in search volume. We see this all the time with brand names; ahrefs shows “squatty potty” receives nearly 200,000 global monthly searches.

Fame can generate searches, but don’t expect fame to be forthcoming unless you have the budget for a viral marketing campaign. If no one is searching for a term, with the exceptions of viral hits like “machete order” don’t expect people to start searching for a phrase because you created a page on the internet using it.

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Trying to differentiate to the detriment of ranking

If you’re selling anything that people look for on Google, understand others sell the same things. Just because you do something better, faster, cheaper, or safer doesn’t mean you will outrank your competition on Google for the terms people are searching.

The features that differentiate your product may get in the way of ranking for the terms people search. As an abstract example, if your service offers contactless credit card processing, being contactless differentiates you from your competitors. However, your potential customers likely include everyone looking for “credit card processing,” not just those looking for “contactless credit card processing.” And “contactless credit card processing” doesn’t have enough search volume to build a business around.

“Contactless” is at least a meaningful adjective for the service being marketed. However, adding that term will increase the difficulty of ranking for the far more lucrative term “credit card processing”. The real sin is adding modifiers like “creative”, “innovative” and so on. These words generally do not meaningfully differentiate an offering and make SEO for practical terms harder (even if only a little).

If someone searches for your offering, would you rather them see you plainly as a service provider on page one, or hope they find out you’re “innovative:” if they scroll to page two? Also, don’t say you’re innovative, be innovative.

Not all modifiers are bad for SEO. “commercial roofing company” sees around 4% of the traffic that “roofing company” garners. Yet, the differentiation matters, especially to roofers who don’t handle residential jobs.

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Focusing on traffic that will never convert

As a ridiculous example, “bounce house rentals” receives 39,000 global monthly searches. It should go without saying that few to none of those 39k searches are people looking to rent apartments. It would be best not to name an apartment brokerage “bounce house rentals” for the SEO value.

The above is an over-the-top example, but many businesses simply chase traffic, which will never convert. Sometimes going after traffic will help with SEO. A topically relevant article may attract people who are interested in your service.

Links are still an essential part of SEO, so writing blog posts that get links will help with SEO. It is absolutely a reasonable marketing strategy for a homebuilder or realtor to blog about local events, but the location makes that content relevant.

Stating the obvious

Everything I name in this article has an exception. Sometimes, branding is more important than SEO. Occasionally, traffic from an odd and unrelated topic leads to sales. And at approximately the rate hell freezes over, a blog post will spontaneously go viral and create a brand new high volume search term. 

Mason Pelt is the founder of Push ROI. First published in on November 1, 2021. “Screaming” by SGPhotography77 is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0