According to Matt Cutts of Google, only 20% of the U.S. population has heard of Search Engine Optimization (SEO). That leaves a staggering 80% of people who are unfamiliar with the practice. And it’s likely a high percentage of this population has a website or helps maintain one.

Being unfamiliar with SEO leads to lost opportunity and many mistakes along the way as businesses try to understand the different ways to improve rankings in the search engines.

In the past, we’ve discussed exactly what SEO is and how it can be done right for your website, but what about how it can be done wrong? With Google changing its search algorithm up to 500-600 times each year, businesses can’t afford to be making these 5 key mistakes: 

#1. Overusing Keywords

A good practice of SEO that will help your company attract more traffic to its website, generate/convert leads and increase sales is to incorporate specific target keywords that are relevant to the products or services your business offers. Keywords can and should be included in website copy, blog articles and page meta data. However, when keywords are over-used and stuffed into these places (known as “keyword stuffing”), Google penalizes the practice. Avoid keyword stuffing at all costs, and include only the keywords that are truly relevant to what the particular page content has to offer.

#2. Creating Low-Quality Content

When writing your content, be sure your information is relevant, well researched and valuable. Content that adds no value and is unimportant to readers is considered to be thin content. Rather focus on creating high-quality content that is original and unique, as this will provide the searcher with better results and a better experience. If you aim to provide the best user-experience through your content, you can guarantee Google will reward you. That’s their whole purpose as a search engine!

#3. Using Doorway Pages

The term is unfamiliar to a lot of people and not used much anymore, but people still try to benefit from them. Google defines the term in its help center by writing that “Doorway pages are typically large sets of poor-quality pages where each page is optimized for a specific keyword or phrase. In many cases, doorway pages are written to rank for a particular phrase and then funnel users to a single destination.” Google strongly advises against the practice as they often frustrate users and are in violation of Webmaster guidelines.

#4. Paying For Links

One of the goals of an effective SEO strategy is to obtain quality inbound links from credible sources. This process is referred to as link building and will make your website appear more important and relevant. However, when a user pays for a link to appear on someone’s site that links back to their site, they are engaging in a harmful black hat SEO technique that Google finds to be unnatural. Instead, aim to obtain links through creating and sharing valuable content within your industry, which can include guest blogging and social bookmarking.

#5. Hiding Links and Text

Avoid hiding links and text in the script of your site that the user can’t see. Google is able to see them, and you will suffer a ranking penalty as a result. Instead, make your links and text clearly visible to your audience.

There are many other mistakes your company can make that will ruin your website’s SEO, but these 5 should be avoided for purposes of SEO best practices here in 2013. Creating high-quality content and gaining inbound links from credible sites organically should your top priority.