Content Creation

SEO Mistakes That Are Costing You Serious Money


March 16, 2012 (Updated: February 8, 2023)

“Hi. I’m Tim Elam. I’m addicted to SEO.”

Tim Elam, VP and Chief Technology Officer at, doesn’t need an intervention for his self-proclaimed addiction to SEO, he needs a pat on the back.

His obsession with search engine optimization means that he is an expert in a difficult industry, and we don’t have to be.

Elam, along with co-author of “The Art of SEO,” Stephan Spencer, shared some of their on-page secrets for seducing search engines at the 2012 IRWD during their presentation “SEO Mistakes That Are Costing Your Serious Money.”

Mistake #1 – Making Assumptions About Your Customer’s Vocabulary

image via flickr by Joelk75

image via flickr by Joelk75

Don’t assume the words used in your industry are the same words your prospects use in search.  When selecting keywords, think about the vocabulary of your audience. Use the keywords they use.

The words may not be the correct terminology in the industry, but that doesn’t matter. If you are an apparel site offering “hooded sweatshirts” and all of the interested prospects are searching for “hoodies,” the prospect may never find you.

Use the same words, phrases, and slang that searchers use.

Mistake #2 Improperly Using Analytics Tools

Doing research with analytics isn’t enough. You have to make sure you are doing it right.

Don’t forget to log in and log out of your accounts. Log in when you want personalized results. Log out when you want general results.

Keep a clean browser. Google provides search results based on your past searches and preferences. Keep a clean browser solely for checking search results.

Run the right search queries.  Search engines | “search engines” | intitle:searchengines, will all produce different results.  Make sure you are using the right format when researching keywords.

Mistake #3 Using the Same Product Names and Descriptions as the Manufacturer

Yes, you absolutely need product descriptions to appeal to search engines, but simply using the manufacturer’s descriptions won’t cut it.

Lots of websites use the descriptions provided by the manufacture and search engines will penalize you for having the same content as your competitors. That lowers your search rankings.

Use unique content for both your product and category descriptions.

Mistake #4 Using Duplicate Content

Image via flickr by Shahrokh Dabiri

Image via flickr by Shahrokh Dabiri

Having loads of content pages on your site will help increase your search status, but only if the content is unique. Don’t recycle your content by creating multiple URLs that lead to the same piece of content or product page.  It won’t add to your search rankings; it will do the opposite.

Identical content triggers Google’s duplicate content filter and lowers your page rank.

Don’t duplicate title tags either. Google hates that.

Mistake #5 Trying to Rank for Every Product and Service on Every Page

Set your aim high when it comes to SEO, but don’t overshoot your goal.

“If you try to rank for everything, you end up ranking for nothing.” – Tim Elam.

By trying to rank for too many products or services on a single page, you become your own competitor. You dilute your overall rankings and worse, appear as spam. Don’t try to rank for more than one product or service on a page. Each page should have one specific focus and 2 or 3 targeted search keywords.

Mistake #6 Sacrificing SEO for Aesthetics

It might be hard to walk away from a well-designed, image-focused webpage, but you must if you want to increase your search results. An image heavy site may look nice, but it won’t help search engines crawl your site. You need content for that.

Don’t get caught up in aesthetics and forget about what really matters — getting people to your site in the first place.

But don’t forget about images completely either. You need a fine balance of text and images to appeal to both search engines and consumers.

Mistake #7 Unintentionally Spamming

Image via flickr by cookipediachef

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by unintentionally spamming search engines while you think you are attracting them.

  •  Don’t stuff keywords into your content, footers, or tags
  •  Don’t write SEO copy that is clearly not written for humans
  •  Don’t hide text or links
  •  Don’t target irrelevant keywords

Right Your Wrongs in SEO

Tim Elam and Stephan Spencer are SEO addicts, and thankfully we don’t have to be. We can use their advice to save ourselves from wasting time, money, and hair-pulling by taking their experience and learning from it.

What other SEO mistakes or SEO myths have cost you time, money, or unneeded frustration?

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