This is Part 5 of Cannabiz Media’s 5-part Guide to SEO for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses. Follow the links to read Part 1 – Introduction, Part 2 – On-Site SEO, Part 3 – On-Page SEO, and Part 4 – Off-Site SEO.

So far in the Guide to SEO for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses, you’ve learned about things you can do to improve your website’s search engine rankings based on Google’s 200 search ranking factors. Now, it’s time to focus on SEO mistakes that you should avoid so you don’t negate all of your hard work.

SEO problems can happen on your site, on specific pages, and off-site. Let’s take a closer look at some of the things you should always avoid so Google doesn’t penalize your site or ban it from appearing in search results entirely.

SEO Mistakes to Avoid Based on Google’s 200 Ranking Factors

Google’s algorithm and its human quality raters are continually evaluating websites and web pages to flag content it deems to be spam and ensure no one is gaming the system.

In effort to always deliver the best results to every search query, Google has a zero tolerance policy against a number of blackhat SEO tactics that aim to get around its system of catching spammy SEO tactics and penalizing sites that use them.

Following are 20 of the SEO mistakes you should avoid to stay on Google’s good side so your site and pages have a chance to appear in search results.

  1. Don’t publish low quality content.
  2. Don’t publish duplicate content or meta information that has already been published on your site or another site.
  3. Don’t allow HTML errors, broken links, slow page load speed, and other technical elements to lower the quality of your site.
  4. Don’t link to spammy sites or get backlinks from them.
  5. Don’t use sneaky redirects.
  6. Don’t keyword stuff or hide keywords on pages, and don’t excessively highlight your keywords in bold, italics, etc.
  7. Don’t use distracting ads like pop-ups and full-page interstitials, particularly if they’re hard to close.
  8. Don’t use doorway pages.
  9. Don’t publish spun content or gibberish content.
  10. Don’t display lots of ads but little content above the fold.
  11. Don’t stuff keywords into meta tags, meta descriptions, or H1 tags.
  12. Don’t allow the number of links or types of links coming to your site to look unnatural.
  13. Don’t get a lot of low quality links to your site, particularly if the number of low quality links is a higher percentage than high quality links.
  14. Don’t get a high percentage of links from sites that aren’t related to yours.
  15. Don’t get a lot of links from low-quality directory sites, forums, or blog comments.
  16. Don’t get an unnatural number of backlinks from sites with the same IP address.
  17. Don’t get a sudden spike in backlinks.
  18. Don’t use YMYL (your money or your life) words.
  19. Don’t participate in excessive link exchanges that Google may flag as a link scheme.
  20. Don’t include an excessive number of outbound links on a page that obscure or detract from the main content.

While the above SEO mistakes are essential to avoid being penalized, there are many additional mistakes you should avoid in order to improve your search rankings. In simplest terms, avoid doing anything that is the opposite of Google’s 200 ranking factors.

Top SEO Priorities for Cannabis Businesses and Cannabis-Related Businesses

Once Google penalizes your site (whether or not you’re guilty), it’s very difficult – if not impossible – to get back on Google’s good side. Once your site is penalized, your cannabis business or cannabis-related business could lose all search traffic. You don’t want that to happen, so always avoid the SEO mistakes listed above.

Following are 10 questions to ask yourself as you work to avoid making detrimental SEO mistakes. If you can answer yes to these questions, then you should be safe.

  1. Does your site have a natural link profile?
  2. Have you avoided publishing duplicate content anywhere on your site or in your meta information?
  3. Is your site free of distracting pop-ups or other ads that hide the main content?
  4. Is your main content visible above the fold with few ads detracting from it?
  5. Is your site well-coded with no broken links or HTML errors?
  6. Is the content on your site well-written, useful, and high quality?
  7. Have you avoided overstuffing keywords into pages or meta information?
  8. Have you avoided using YMYL words?
  9. Do all of your links send visitors to the URL they originally requested?
  10. Have you avoided using too many outbound links on a single page?

Most Google penalties were put in place to weed out bad content and ensure searchers get the best results. Review Google’s Quality Guidelines to make sure you don’t make any penalty-generating mistakes.

Key Takeaways for Cannabis Brand Websites

It’s important to understand that avoiding SEO mistakes today isn’t enough. Google updates its algorithm all the time, so to stay out of trouble, you need to keep up with the most current SEO best practices.

Just one mistake could get your site penalized and banned from Google search results entirely. For cannabis businesses and ancillary businesses that can’t advertise using Google AdWords, Facebook Ads, and other popular digital advertising networks, search traffic is critical to generate brand awareness, leads, and sales.

Bottom-line, don’t try to get around Google. You need to play in Google’s sandbox and follow its rules if you want people to be able to find your website in Google search results.

That means you shouldn’t look for a quick rise in rankings, because big jumps typically involve shady practices. Instead, invest in SEO as a long-term strategy that when coupled with a strong content marketing plan, can deliver significant results.