Is Your SEO Underperforming? Identify and Fix These 5 Common Issues

Why is my SEO so bad? Learn expert tips to improve your site's search rankings. This post analyzes common SEO mistakes and provides actionable solutions to increase organic traffic.

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Why is My SEO So Bad?

We’ve all been there. You put in the effort to optimize your website, but your search engine rankings are lacking. If you’ve wondered “why is my SEO so bad?”, you’re not alone. Most website owners struggle at some point to understand why their SEO efforts aren’t paying off.

The good news is that with some thoughtful troubleshooting, you can diagnose what’s hurting your SEO and make tangible improvements. In this post, we’ll break down the most common reasons for poor SEO and provide actionable tips to strengthen your strategy. With a targeted effort to fix weaknesses and leverage best practices, you can overcome common SEO pitfalls and achieve higher rankings.

Common Causes of Bad SEO

In my 10+ years of experience in the SEO industry, there are a few key issues that typically plague websites with poor SEO:

  • Using duplicate content – Failing to create unique, high-quality content is one of the fastest ways to tank your SEO. Duplicate content signals to search engines that you lack expertise.
  • Lacking internal links – Internal links are the pathways search engines use to crawl and index your site. Without them, your content can get buried.
  • Not optimizing for long tail keywords – Neglecting long tail keywords is another common misstep. Long tail keywords are longer, more specific phrases like “content writing tips”.
  • Inadequate keyword research – Keyword research that doesn’t align with user intent will hurt your rankings. You need to research keywords that people are actually searching for.
  • Poor website structure – If your website structure is confusing or makes content hard to find, search engines will penalize you.

Using Duplicate Content

One of the fastest ways to tank your SEO is by using duplicate content on your website. Duplicate content refers to any content that appears verbatim (word for word) in multiple places, whether on your own site or somewhere else on the web.

When search engines like Google crawl your site and find the same content duplicated multiple times, either within your own site architecture or on other sites, it signals that your content lacks uniqueness and originality. You aren’t providing anything new or original – just rehashing what already exists.

Some examples of duplicate content issues include:

  • Publishing the exact same article or blog post on your own site more than once. For instance, copying and pasting a blog post onto multiple category pages.
  • Scraping content from other sites or press releases and republishing it verbatim on your own site.
  • Having other sites scrape and republish your unique content, resulting in duplicated versions online.
  • Accidentally publishing very similar or identical content across different pages on your domain.

The risks of duplicate content are multifaceted. First, it divides the strength of that content across multiple pages, diluting its focus and keyword targeting. It also signals to search engines that your site lacks expertise and original information on that topic. If search engines can find a content item in multiple places, they have no reason to rank your particular version of it.

Avoid duplicating content across your own site and others to maximize the strength of each unique page and showcase your original expertise.

Lack of Internal Links Can Hurt SEO

Internal links are one of the most vital parts of SEO. They provide a path for search engine crawlers to discover and index content on your site. Without internal links, your content could go undiscovered and have difficulty reaching the top search rankings.

When pages aren’t properly connected through internal links, crawlers can’t easily find new and important content on your site. This causes them to bury pages deeper in rankings or offer them little weighting or authority for keywords. Internal links act as signals for search engines, helping determine the relevancy and priority of your content.

To enable crawlers to pass “link equity” across your site, linking content together is key. For example, linking your homepage to your service pages, linking blog posts to product pages, and interlinking related content provides SEO power through relationships. Make sure you use relevant anchor text in links as well – anchor text points crawlers towards keywords and topics to focus on.

Building a well-interlinked internal network helps pages reinforce each other’s value and authority. This leads to improved crawl efficiency for search engines, and ultimately better indexing and rankings for your most important content. Failing to optimize internal linking is one of the biggest SEO pitfalls of website owners. Be sure to use strategic internal links to avoid having your content buried and overlooked by algorithms.

Long Tail Keywords are Critical for SEO

Neglecting long-tail keywords is a very common mistake in SEO. Long tail keywords are more specific, longer phrases like “content writing tips” rather than just “content writing”. At first glance, optimizing for these longer phrases may seem less efficient. However, there are some compelling reasons why long tail keywords deserve focus:

  • They drive highly targeted traffic. When someone searches for “how to write compelling content”, they have a specific need your content may solve. The visitor is more likely to convert than a broad term like “content writing”.
  • The volume is significant. While an individual long tail phrase may not have a high search volume, collectively they drive considerable traffic.
  • The competition is lower. Generic keywords are extremely competitive. Long tail versions are easier to rank for.
  • It supports topic targeting. You can zero in on topics and provide comprehensive content that fully answers a specific question or need.

Always make sure to do thorough keyword research to identify relevant long-tail options to target. This ensures you provide content that aligns with actual user intent. The specificity of long-tail SEO leads to traffic that converts and helps build authority around your topics.

Inadequate Keyword Research

One of the most common SEO pitfalls is doing keyword research that doesn’t align with user intent. Many website owners make the mistake of targeting high-volume keywords without considering whether their content fulfills the searcher’s needs.

For example, let’s say you own an Italian restaurant in Chicago. You might target the keyword “pizza” in hopes of driving traffic from people searching for pizza. However, if your website copy focuses on your award-winning lasagna with only a small mention of pizza on the menu, it likely won’t satisfy searchers’ intent.

While “pizza” has a high search volume, your content doesn’t deliver the in-depth information on Chicago pizza that users want. Meanwhile, you’ll miss out on long tail traffic from searches like “best deep dish pizza downtown Chicago” that better match your offerings.

Doing keyword research is only the first step – you need to create content optimized around topics and long tail keywords that serve user intent. Otherwise, you’ll attract the wrong audience and struggle to convert traffic into customers. Aligning your keywords and content with searcher intent is crucial for SEO success.

Website Structure Issues

A confusing or poorly optimized website structure can significantly hurt your SEO and make it difficult for search engines to properly crawl and index your pages. Some common website structure problems include:

Bad Information Architecture

If your site has a convoluted UI with a complex nested category structure or illogical content organization, search engines may struggle to understand the relationships between pages. This makes it hard for them to properly crawl your site.

Confusing Navigation

Navigation links that lead to dead ends or don’t have a clear hierarchy can confuse search bots. A clear, logical nav structure helps search engines efficiently spider your site.

Overuse of Flash or Images

Pages heavy in Flash content or images without alt text make it hard for search engines to understand your content. Optimize pages to focus on text and HTML content.

Thin Content

Pages with skimpy content and insufficient word count send signals to search engines that those pages lack value. Quality content over 500 words helps.

Duplicate Titles & Meta Descriptions

Having duplicate or missing page titles and meta descriptions across your site makes it hard for search engines to distinguish pages. Unique, optimized titles and meta per page are best.

Bad URL Structure

Overly long URLs, use of dynamic parameters or lack of keywords can negatively impact SEO. Search-friendly URLs get indexed faster.

By optimizing these technical elements of your website structure, you’ll eliminate issues that restrict search engines from properly crawling, indexing, and ranking your content.

How to Improve Your SEO Strategy

Now that you know what factors typically cause poor SEO, here are some tips to turn things around:

  • Create unique, high-quality content. Research keywords and user intent so you can produce content that meets needs. Avoid duplicating other pages on your site or competitors’ content.
  • Build internal links. Use relevant anchor text to link related content together. This helps search engines crawl your site and signals relevancy.
  • Leverage long tail keywords. Optimize pages for longer, more specific phrases like “content writing tips” rather than just “content writing.”
  • Use SEO tools. Tools like Google Search Console and Semrush provide data to refine your approach.
  • Improve website structure. Make sure your site architecture is simple, with a clear UI and easily scannable content.
  • Audit and optimize existing content. Review pages to ensure they meet quality standards and have proper metadata/structuring.

Create Unique, High-Quality Content

One of the most important elements of a strong SEO strategy is creating unique, high-quality content. Simply duplicating existing pages on your site or copying competitors’ content is a surefire way to tank your rankings.

To provide value to users, your content needs to be original and offer something not found elsewhere. The first step is thoroughly researching keywords and topics to understand user intent. Ask yourself:

  • What questions do people have about this subject?
  • What information are they trying to find?
  • What problems could my content help solve?

Once you have a solid grasp of interests and needs related to your focus keyword, avoid copying or reworking existing materials. Even if you cite sources, copying large portions of text signals to search engines that you lack expertise.

Instead, leverage your research to produce comprehensive, useful content formatted and structured for easy skimming. Offer actionable advice, interesting facts, data, examples, how-tos, and other engaging elements suited to the topic.

Creating content that is both high-quality and 100% original has multiple SEO benefits:

  • It establishes you as an authoritative source
  • Demonstrates in-depth knowledge of search engines
  • Provides more value to attract backlinks
  • Meets user intent better

In short, unique content creation should be a top priority. With focus and effort, you can produce pages that captivate and inform users while also boosting your SEO strength.

How to Improve Your SEO Strategy

Build internal links

One important strategy for improving SEO is building internal links between relevant content on your site. Internal linking serves a few key purposes:

  • It allows search engines to easily crawl and index your site content. The links act as pathways for bots to discover and access pages on your site.
  • Internal links signal relevancy and connections between content. Linking related pages together shows search engines’ semantic relationships in your content.
  • You can optimize anchor text within internal links. Use descriptive, keyword-rich text to highlight what the linked page is about. This provides context for search engines.

To build effective internal links:

  • Identify pages on your site with related or complementary content. Look for opportunities to interlink content on similar topics.
  • Craft descriptive anchor text using important keywords. This reinforces relevancy for search engines.
  • Link to authority pages from other content. This “page authority” gets shared via linking.
  • Place links in the body content and navigation menus to enable a natural linking flow.
  • Vary anchor text instead of using identical text for every link.
  • Check that linked pages load quickly – avoid directing users to broken pages.

Internal linking takes some planning and effort to execute correctly, but it’s a vital SEO practice. Well-structured internal link networks enhance crawlability, signal relevancy, and distribute authority on a site. This in turn can lead to better rankings and visibility for quality content.

Leverage Long Tail Keywords

Targeting long-tail keywords is an important and often overlooked aspect of SEO. Long tail keywords are longer, more specific phrases like “content writing tips” rather than just “content writing”.

Optimizing for long-tail keywords provides several benefits:

  • They have less competition – easier to rank for long-tail terms than short, broad ones
  • More closely match user intent – people searching for specifics are further down the purchase funnel
  • Help drive more qualified traffic – visitors find you for precisely what they’re seeking
  • Expand your reach – casting a wider net with long tail keywords brings in more visitors
  • Higher conversion rates – when people find very specific solutions, they’re primed to convert

Here are some tips for leveraging long-tail keywords:

  • Research long phrases related to your topics with keyword tools
  • See if you can break down short keywords into longer variations
  • Look at your analytics for actual long-tail searches people use
  • Create targeted content optimized for those keywords
  • Include important long tail terms on relevant pages
  • Use long tail keywords in metadata, alt text, etc.

Optimizing for long-tail searches takes a bit more effort but offers major SEO payoffs. You’ll attract visitors ready to convert while expanding your organic reach at the same time.

Use SEO Tools to Refine Your Approach

SEO tools like Google Search Console and Semrush provide invaluable data to help refine your SEO strategy. Taking advantage of these free and paid tools can give you important insights into how search engines view and crawl your site.

Google Search Console

Integrating Google Search Console with your website gives you access to key information including:

  • How Google indexes and evaluates your pages
  • Manual crawling and indexing requests
  • Queries and keywords people used to find your site
  • Links to and from your pages
  • Page speed and mobile usability issues

This data enables you to align your keyword targeting, content optimization, and technical performance with Google’s processes. You can also troubleshoot and improve areas where Google encounters indexing or crawling issues.


Semrush provides a robust suite of SEO tools for keyword research, backlink analysis, auditing technical SEO issues, rank tracking, and competitor research. With Semrush you can:

  • Uncover high-volume keywords aligned with user intent
  • See where your pages rank for target keywords
  • Analyze your competitor’s top-ranking content
  • Identify harmful 404 errors or other technical problems
  • Assess the value of your backlink profile

Running regular audits and analyzing the opportunities in Semrush can significantly enhance your keyword strategy, content creation, and link building efforts.

Refining Your Approach

Using data from Search Console and Semrush together gives you tremendous insight to fuel your SEO efforts in the right direction. You can drill down into month-to-month changes and trends to optimize existing content. Tools also facilitate researching future topics and keywords to target in order to improve rankings. With the right data, you’ll know exactly how to refine your approach.

Improve Your Website Structure

A clear, easy-to-navigate website is critical for both users and search engines. If your site structure is confusing, content and pages can get buried, hurting SEO and UX.

Follow these tips to improve your website’s information architecture and on-page optimization:

  • Simplify your UI. Avoid going more than 3 levels deep, as content gets harder to find. Audit your site map and condense it where possible.
  • Ensure clear navigation. Use simple, descriptive menu labels. Include navigation bars/links on all pages to facilitate easy movement.
  • Format scannable content. Break up text with subheads and bullet points. Bold key terms and phrases. Use white space between sections.
  • Optimize page titles and headers. Include target keywords where appropriate and keep text short and descriptive.
  • Improve page loading speed. Compress images, minimize redirects, and leverage browser caching. Faster load times improve rankings.
  • Highlight calls-to-action. Use buttons/links to encourage conversions from visitors who land on your pages.

With a well-structured site, you make it easier for search engines to crawl and index your pages. Users can also quickly scan and engage with your content. Monitor analytics to identify any pages that get high exit rates or bouncebacks due to IA issues. Address problems through iterations and testing.

Auditing & Optimizing Existing Content

One of the most effective ways to improve your overall SEO is to audit your existing website content. By reviewing and optimizing your current pages, you can identify issues and opportunities to strengthen your strategy.

When auditing content, here are some key things to check:

  • Page quality – Read over each page and ensure it provides a good user experience. Is the content well-written, comprehensive, and error-free? Does it answer searcher questions and intent?
  • Keyword optimization – Check whether key terms are used in titles, headers, meta descriptions, image names, and body content. Make sure you are targeting relevant keywords that align with the page topic.
  • Internal linking – Are other related pages on your site linked to the content? Outbound links can help search engines crawl your site and reinforce page relevance.
  • Media optimization – Ensure all images, videos, and other media have descriptive alt text and file names optimized with target keywords.
  • Metadata – Meta titles and descriptions should be compelling, keyword-rich, and accurately reflect the content. Make sure metadata is complete and consistent across all pages.
  • Structure – Is content structured with semantic HTML headings and clear sections? This makes it scannable for users and search engines.
  • Performance – Assess page speed and size. Optimize images, minify code, and compress files to improve load times.

Regularly auditing and enhancing your existing content is time well spent. By addressing any issues discovered in the process, you can directly strengthen your overall SEO and reap the rewards of higher rankings and traffic.

Recapping Key Takeaways

To summarize, if your SEO is underperforming, look for issues like:

  • Duplicate or low-quality content
  • Lack of internal linking
  • Failure to target long-tail keywords
  • Poor keyword research alignment
  • Website structure problems

The key takeaways focus on recapping the main problems that can cause bad SEO, including having duplicate content, not building internal links, failing to optimize for long tail keywords, doing poor keyword research, and having website structure issues. Identifying these specific problems will help diagnose why SEO may be underperforming.

Boost Your SEO Today

Now that you know how to diagnose and treat common SEO ailments, it’s time to take action. Start by auditing your existing content and site structure for any issues. Identify priority keywords and topics to optimize. Use tools like Search Console to align your approach with how search engines evaluate your site.

With a targeted effort to fix weaknesses and leverage best practices, you’ll be on your way to improved SEO and higher search rankings. Don’t settle for lackluster results – take steps to strengthen your SEO today.


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