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Avoid These 8 Web Content Mistakes


One of the fastest ways to correct web content mistakes is by using a tool like Yoast SEO. This WordPress plug-in not only highlights mistakes, but it also tells you how to fix them. Why bother? Because it’ll make your content more readable and better optimized for search algorithms (aka, the machines).


Unfortunately, Squarespace and Shopify don’t offer the detailed guidance that Yoast does. Sure, they allow you to optimize web pages and blog posts, but they don’t tell you when you missed something or did something wrong.


So for those who either don’t have a WordPress-based site or don’t have Yoast SEO installed, this is for you.


Also, if you fall into that latter group, have your web developer add Yoast asap.

Avoid these web content mistakes


Using passive voice


When you write in passive voice, the subject of the sentences doesn’t “do” the action. Instead, the action happens to the subject.


For example:


  • Active voice: The dog ate her dinner.
  • Passive voice: The dinner was eaten by the dog.


Why is passive voice so bad? Well, just look at those two sentences. The one written in passive voice is longer and more complicated. 


If you’ve read enough of my stuff, you know that I am a crusader for simple and concise writing. Passive voice drives me nuts. 


And it also drives Yoast nuts. If it’s bad for your readers, it’s bad for SEO. 


Overdoing it with your keyword


First of all, let’s clarify that you only want to be found for one keyword per web page, whether it’s your home page or a blog post. By choosing one keywords, you can optimize that page for search. 


In the text on your page, you want the keyword to appear in one heading and few times in the body – but not too many times. The general rule of thumb is one keyword per 200 words of copy.


If you choose too broad of a keyword, this could get you in trouble. Let’s say you are writing about water filtration, but you choose “water” as your keyword. It could end up appearing five times per 200 words. To a search engine, this looks spammy.


So, choose your keywords wisely, and use them judiciously. 


Not writing enough text


Super short copy has its place – in emails and social media posts.


Web content cannot be too short, or search engines won’t understand exactly what the page is about. If they can’t understand the page’s main topic, they can’t index it properly.


Regular web pages need to contain at least 300 words. In theory, blog posts can follow this rule too, but blog posts of at least 1,000 words are more popular with readers and thus rank higher in search.


Believe me – I know that writing a long blog post seems like a mission impossible when you barely have time to write – and really don’t want to do it. I’m not telling you have to write a mini novel for each blog post or the earth will stop spinning. It’s just better for your audience and the machines.


Consecutive sentences


Yoast SEO absolutely hates when you start consecutive sentences with the same word. In fact, one of their readability measures is called “consecutive sentences.”


I am sure they developed this measure to help people mix up their word choices and thus keep their writing more interesting. Like, don’t start every sentence with “the” – that kind of thing.


However, I think this rule is stupid. Some truly great writing breaks this rule. (And yes, I break this rule a lot.)


It can be incredibly powerful to start consecutive sentences with the same word. Case in point – this wonderful paragraph written by Susan Dominus in the New York Times earlier this year:


“Imagine that some significant portion of the male population started regularly waking in the middle of the night drenched in sweat, a problem that endured for several years. Imagine that those men stumbled to work, exhausted, their morale low, frequently tearing off their jackets or hoodies during meetings and excusing themselves to gulp for air by a window. Imagine that many of them suddenly found sex to be painful, that they were newly prone to urinary-tract infections, with their penises becoming dry and irritable, even showing signs of what their doctors called ‘atrophy.’ Imagine that many of their doctors had received little to no training on how to manage these symptoms — and when the subject arose, sometimes reassured their patients that this process was natural, as if that should be consolation enough.”


This message would not nearly have been so powerful had she followed the consecutive sentence thing. 


(This excerpt is part of an infuriating article on menopause – and the lies we ladies have been fed about it for years. If you missed the article, do read it. You can find it here.)


Using complex words


This is a new feature from Yoast. I’m so glad they’ve added it, because complex words drive me nuts for the same reason that passive voice does.


My biggest pet peeve is “utilize.” Why do we need three syllables when the one-syllable “use” is available?


Answer: we don’t.


Other examples on my list (with my substitution in parentheses):


  • Leverage (use)
  • Bandwidth (time)
  • Objectives (goals)
  • Facilitate (lead)


Note that my substitutions are one syllable words. 


(I also really hate “best-in-class” and “mission critical.” I don’t have one-word substitution for them. Instead, I would demonstrate, not tell, why something is best or important.)


Writing long paragraphs and sentences 


Before you call me out for including that long paragraph full of long sentences from the New York Times: The rules for journalism are different. Even online.


Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way:


Web pages and blog posts with short paragraphs – two to three sentences on average – and short sentences – less than 20 words – contain a lot of white space. White space is easier on the eyes. 


And if something appears to be shorter and easier to read, guess what? People will stick around and read it.


Not using enough transition words


Transition words connect your thoughts and ideas when writing (and speaking). The list of these words is long – here are a few: 


  • First
  • Finally
  • Likewise
  • But
  • However
  • While
  • Unless
  • As a result (yes, they include plenty of phrases)
  • In general
  • Overall


You get the idea.


Transition words (and phrases) allow you to smoothly move from one point to the next without causing confusion.


Here’s an example:


“The stock market had another up day today. However, another interest rate hike from the Feds could trigger some selling.”


Without the “however,” it might sound like I’m contradicting myself.


Forgetting to use subheads properly


Subheads organize your ideas, break up text, and allow readers to skim until they find what they’re looking for. Machines like them for this reason too.


However, it’s not enough to use bold text on a phrase and call it a subhead. You need to use heading tags like H1, H2, H3, etc. 


Here’s what WordPress says about them:


“… [Headings] are not just about appearance. They also help search engines to find the page. Google scans your post for content relevant to the searched words and looks within the heading tags to see what the content is all about.” 


Does your web content needs some TLC?


If you’re afraid your web content is a hot mess and in need of some copywriting and SEO love, get in touch. We’ll schedule a call to review your site and discuss some fixes. And who knows – it might not be that bad!

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