6 SEO Content Mistakes, Myths, and Misunderstandings

It’s hard out here for content marketers to attract the right traffic organically. With search engine optimization practices evolving and content competition coming from everywhere, it’s all too easy to get confused.

While watching several SEO presentations at Content Marketing World 2023, including talks by Andy Crestodina, Carlos Meza, and Mike King, I noticed some widely held misconceptions and common mistakes.

Let’s debunk, demystify, and deconstruct six common SEO mistakes and misunderstandings with help from these experts.

1. Misunderstanding: Wanting your website to rank higher

The next time someone asks why your website doesn’t rank better in search, drop this truth bomb courtesy of Andy Crestodina: “Google has never ranked a website. Websites don’t rank in search. Web pages rank in search.”

Why the misunderstanding? Google does seem to consider the authority of the website when ranking individual pages. Most SEO tools assess and consider a site’s authority when interpreting a page’s ranking difficulty for a keyword or phrase.

Each tool approaches authority rankings slightly differently. Moz calls this metric domain authority, Ahrefs and Serpstat call it domain rating, and Semrush calls it authority score. Most consider the quality and quantity of links to your website domain — quality matters more than quantity, Andy says.

But if websites don’t rank, why do domain authority ratings matter? Because they provide clues about which key phrases you can successfully target for SEO.

You can compare your website’s domain authority against the domain authority of pages currently ranking for a targeted keyword. If your domain authority is in the same range, your page has a good chance to rank, assuming it includes thorough, helpful content. If your page and domain authority are far below the pages that rank for the given term, your page probably won’t rank, no matter how good the content is.

TIP: Andy suggests using MozBar, a free Chrome extension, to see page and domain authority on a scale of zero to 100 for web pages and search results in your internet browser.

2. Mistake: Giving up on competitive key phrases

Don’t think SEO is pointless on pages for competitive key phrases. Andy shows why in this example of satellite launch services company Astraius using Moz Pro (the paid version).

Moz shows a website domain authority score of 19 and a page authority score of 22 for Astrauis’s services page, as this screenshot shows:

This Moz Pro example for space launch services example in Moz Pro shows how to avoid the SEO mistake of ignoring page authority in keyword research.

If Astraius tried to optimize its services page for “space launch services,” it would enter an unwinnable contest. Moz shows a difficulty score of 58 based on the average page authority scores of the links on the first results page, as shown in this screenshot:

SERP analysis in Moz, which helps you avoid the SEO mistake of targeting key phrases with difficulty too high for your page authority.

Should Astraius give up on search as a way to bring people to its site? Of course not — that’s its business. Instead, Andy says, it should consider these options for beating stiff SEO odds:

  • Get more specific: Competition typically lessens as key phrases get more specific. For example, “commercial satellite launch services UK” has a difficulty of 36 (per Moz Pro), which is more obtainable for a site with Astraius’ authority.

    Longer, more specific key phrases also bring visitors who are more likely to act. Though lower in volume, the traffic quality and conversion rate will likely be higher because they really need what you’re selling, Andy says.

    That’s also why Andy says don’t worry about the search volume for key phrases. You do not need to bring everyone to your site — just the people who will find your information, services, and products helpful and relevant.

  • Go deeper: A longer-term SEO strategy involves creating a lot of content about your key phrase and publishing it on more than your site. Andy suggests collaborating with influencers to create content for multiple sites and doing original research that your PR team will work to get covered by other media. “You won’t rank right away,” Andy says, “but you’ll be active on the topic everywhere.”

    These efforts should help you be more visible and earn quality links to your site, which will help improve your domain authority.

  • Write the page anyway: Even if your page has no hope of ranking, you should create it to serve other purposes and promote it through paid search, sales outreach, etc.
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3. Mistake: Not considering search intent when optimizing pages

You must consider the search intent behind every targeted keyword or keyphrase — that’s the only way to ensure the page content aligns with what searchers want.

If the content doesn’t align with the searcher’s intent, they’ll leave the page quickly, signaling to Google that the page didn’t provide what the searcher wanted. If it does align with what searchers want, they’ll stay longer to get the information they need, indicating to Google the page delivered what they sought.

In other words, content that satisfies search intent leads to better engagement with the page — a longer dwell time. It also can lead to higher conversion rates.

Consider the three kinds of search intent:

  • Informational: The searcher wants to know more about a topic — they’re looking for answers.
  • Commercial/transactional: The searcher needs services to do something — they have a product or service in mind and are considering their options.
  • Navigational: The searcher wants to find a specific company and go to its website.

A page optimized for informational intent should provide detailed and relevant information on the key phrase — think a blog, article, or explainer video. A page optimized for transactional intent should focus on converting the visitor into a customer.

Andy points out the “almost poetic” alignment of search intent (which he refers to as know, do, and go) with stages in the marketing funnel.

At the know stage, searchers are problem-aware. At the do stage, they know the problem and search for solutions. At the go stage, they know the problem and possible solutions and search for your brand.

Here’s how intent-based queries might look for the Astraius example:

Type of intent Searcher’s goal Query
Know (informational) Looking for answers Wants to do it themselves “best locations for satellite launches”  
Do (commercial) Has a product/service in mind Considering options “satellite launch services”
Go (navigational/branded)   Looking up a company “Astraius”

Understanding and matching search intent with the appropriate funnel stage can help you optimize your pages for the appropriate conversion (subscribe, watch a demo, talk to sales, etc.)

4. Myth: Thinking AI can write SEO content that ranks well

“If you expect to click a button, create 1,000 blogs, and be able to rank, think again.” That was Carlos Meza’s warning back in October 2023. And it (mostly) still holds true.

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Yes, some complain that low-quality AI outranks human-created content on the same topic. They point to a high-profile example of someone bragging about using generative AI content to hijack traffic from an established site.

But Google eventually caught up and penalized the low-quality AI content.

So, you might overwhelm Google in the near term with a flood of AI-created content. But as content marketers, that’s not your game. You’re in it for the long haul to position your brands as trusted resources, not gimmick-driven attention seekers.

Consider Google’s much-discussed EEAT evaluation. That somewhat awkward string of letters stands for experience, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness. It describes how Google tells its human search raters to evaluate the effectiveness of its algorithm-driven search results: “Would ordinary people feel the results they get demonstrate EAT, that is, expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness?”

What about that second “E” for experience? It’s a relatively recent addition to the search rater guidelines meant to consider whether the content “was produced with some degree of experience, such as with actual use of a product, having actually visited a place or communicating what a person experienced.”

Can content generated with nothing more than a generative AI prompt meet those guidelines? Carlos says no because it won’t send the appropriate trust signals.

“Google will know if you’re trying to create content only with the purpose of manipulating the search engine results,” he says. And using AI content that way violates Google’s spam policies.

Here’s the other problem with thinking generative AI content will give you an edge. All your competitors have access to the same tools. They could create the same kind of automatically generated content on the same topics. Where’s your edge?

EEAT provides a good framework for creating standout content. Create content with people who have direct experience with the topic where experience matters (product reviews by someone who has used the product, for example).

Ask someone with expertise in the topic to create the content and include their byline and credentials. Or interview them and include their credentials in the article. Create content only about topics relevant to your brand and align it with search intent to show your authority. Avoid deceptive links, and make sure the information is accurate and helpful.

Carlos points to NerdWallet as a content brand that hits all these elements. The screenshot below of an article, Best High-Yield Online Savings Accounts of September 2023, displays many EEAT signals. It includes a byline with a link to the author’s profile and credentials and the editor’s name with a link to their credentials. The page includes a disclosure about the inclusion and coverage impact of NerdWallet’s paid partners:

“Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here’s how we make money.”

The page also includes a direct pitch for why the reader should trust NerdWallet:

“Our writers and editors follow strict editorial guidelines to ensure fairness and accuracy in our coverage to help you choose the financial accounts that work best for you. See our criteria for evaluating banks and credit unions.”

Best High-Yield Online Savings Accounts of September 2023, displays many EEAT signals. It includes a byline with a link to the author’s profile and credentials and the editor’s name with a link to their credentials.

Could a page created solely by generative AI send as many EEAT signals to Google? No.

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So share Carlos’s truth bomb with anyone who thinks it can: “AI is a tool to make us faster and more efficient, but it’s not the answer to rank with great content.”

5. Mistake: Not using AI at all

Should you avoid AI for SEO content altogether? The consensus from these CMWorld presenters is a resounding no.

But use AI as a tool to improve your content, not as a substitute for human content creators. Mike King suggests these three reminders for using AI to create search-optimized (or any) content:

  1. AI is not an end-all-be-all solution.
  2. Use AI to improve your workflows and get more out of the team.
  3. Limit AI to co-creating awareness content because content deeper in your funnel requires more expertise.

Carlos Meza suggests using generative AI as an obedient and tireless assistant. Ask it to do things that would take days, weeks, or longer for a human to complete (for example, coming up with 100 article ideas on a topic). You can ask it to summarize existing articles as a research assistant and suggest outlines for new content. But Carlos advises checking its work at every stage and looking for ways to make it better, more engaging, and more relevant.

“Generative AI isn’t going to come up with anything new. It’s just going to regurgitate what is out there, which causes us to create bland content,” Carlos says. So, even if you use AI to generate some content, you may spend less time composing, but you’ll spend more time editing and fact-checking.

Andy Crestodina suggests a clever way to use AI to check the content you’re working on:

  • Use generative AI to create a persona. For his Astraius example, Andy gave this prompt to Chat GPT: “Build me a persona of a commercial satellite operator who works for a global telecommunications company. List the roles, goals, challenges, pain points, and decision criteria for selecting A spaceship launch services company.”

    ChatGPT provided a persona for London-based Emily Thompson, age 34, a satellite operations manager at GlobaTel Communications.

    He then asked it to review the proposed web page copy to see how well it aligns with Emily’s informational needs: “Review the following web page content. How does it align or not align with Emily’s information needs?”

    • Cost optimization
    • Vendor reliability
    • Technology integration
    • Compliance management
    • Security concerns
    • Environmental considerations
    • Customization
    • Geopolitical considerations
    • Ride-share opportunities
    • Insurance and risk management
ChatGPT produced a matrix showing how each site aligned or didn’t with the 10 information needs included in the persona.

The bottom line? You can use generative AI in many creative and compelling ways for SEO. Just don’t let anyone think it’s as easy as clicking a button.

6. Mistake: Thinking of SEO as a one-time effort

Algorithms change. SERP features change. Tools change. Your business changes. Your audience’s needs change. Your competitors (and their content) change.

That means you’ll need to pay attention to your rankings, your competitors’ rankings, and developments in the search space. Luckily, as Andy put it so succinctly, “Digital ink is never dry.”

Please note: All tools mentioned in this article were suggested by the author. If you’d like to suggest a tool, share the article on social media with a comment.

Want to dive deeper on SEO? Join us on March 20 for our free MasterTHIS: SEO webinar, where you’ll learn from experts Andy Crestodina and Zack Kadish on how to diagnose and reverse traffic downturns, demystify SEO complexities, and effectively track outcomes in GA4. Register today to watch live or on demand. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

منبع: https://contentmarketinginstitute.com/articles/seo-content-mistakes/