SEO mistakes can be devastating to a website’s placement in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Pages). Whether you have a new website or you have had your site up for a long time, this article is for you.
We all want to get more traffic to our websites. Following the directions is vital to obtain optimal search engine rankings. There can’t be any shortcuts or additions that break the rules. Now is the time to make sure your site is following SEO best practices.
Following the Directions
I will never forget how gracious my father was when I was learning to bake. The first time I made oatmeal cookies, I added too much baking soda. You guess how bad those cookies tasted. Then, I attempted to make the perfect pie crust, but left out the salt. That pie crust ended up bland. You guessed it. My dad patiently tasted them both and didn’t criticize me.
Similar to following the directions while baking, there are key ingredients that must be included in search engine optimization. There are directions that need to be followed. My father was gracious with my baking blunders, but Google will not be so kind when it comes to SEO mistakes.
Common SEO Mistakes
Common SEO mistakes that can hurt your website’s SEO and rankings that should be avoided include:Common SEO Mistakes to Avoid That Can Hurt Your RankingsClick To Tweet
- Not Making Your Website Crawlable
Making sure that your website is crawlable by search engine spiders is critical to be included in Google’s search results – as well as other search engines.
Check your site’s robots.txt. If your robots.txt is blocking your entire website, this could be result in your website not showing up in the search engines at all.
Google provides a free robots.txt Tester tool to make sure you are not blocking content from the search engine crawlers. To check your robots.txt, log into your Google Search Console (formerly Google Webmaster Tools) and go to:
- Not Having Unique Content
I was recently asked to analyze the falling traffic on potential new client’s website. I discovered an article that went far beyond the scope of other blog articles on the site. I ran the URL of the article through the Copyscape, a service that identifies copied work.
It turned out that the article was a near duplicate at 82% of another published by a high profile website. The sad part was that the website owner did not realize this.
Duplicate content may be unintentional as it may be caused by a CMS (Content Management System). You won’t want to invite the wrath of Google Penguin that could cause your website to plummet in the search engine.
Go through your website to make sure that your content is unique. Review old posts and revise where necessary. If you have two posts that could be perceived as duplicates, choose one and 301 redirect the other to it.
If you use WordPress as a CMS, you may like to read: WordPress SEO by Yoast Tutorial: How to Avoid Duplicate Content
- Not Having Quality Content
Low quality content and shallow content are another invitation for a Google’s wrath with the Google Panda algorithm filter.
Low quality or shallow content is content that offers no value. Perhaps you have old blog posts that have outdated information or have very little content. It is time to take action as Google Panda will harm an entire website in search engine rankings.
What is high quality content? Google’s Search Console Help outlines how to create valuable content that includes:
- Include useful, unique and specific content.
- Write more valuable and useful information than other sites.
- Provide credibility “by using original research, citations, links, reviews and testimonials.
You may like to take a look at your content length. A study by serpIQ showed that the average top ten results in Google for over 20,000 keywords all contained over 2,000 words. The study’s conclusion is that 1500 words would be a good target to shoot for.
Review and analyze your site’s content. If a post is outdated or has very little content, re-write it, 301 it to a relevant article on your site or delete it.
- Having Unnatural Links
Having unnatural incoming links to your website can bring on Google Penguin’s wrath. Perhaps you paid a SEO company to build links to your website years ago. Then, you discover that those links violate Google’s Quality Guidelines including:
- Buying links to pass PageRank to manipulate PageRank or
- Participating in link schemes
Analyze incoming links to your website by using Google’s Search Console. One of my favorite new tools for analyzing incoming links is Monitor Backlinks. There is a 30 day free trial for you to test how this service works.
- Not Including the Right Words on the Page
Having the right words on a page is essential for your potential audience to find you online. One way to determine the “right words” is to think about what a user will type to search for a product or service that you are providing. Include those words on your page or post. For example:
- Instead of a searching for “Color of roses meaning”, people will most likely search for, “What do the color of roses mean?”
- If you are have a restaurant website, include a menu in plain text that is easily crawlable by the search engines.
Evaluate your posts by re-reading them from a user’s perspective that is searching for a product or service you are offering.
- Not Thinking About Compelling Content and Marketing
One of the most common SEO mistakes is not thinking about compelling content and marketing.
- Make your content compelling by thinking about why someone would really want to use your website. Does it offer unique value?
- Don’t just focus solely on link building. Instead, focus on creating compelling content that others will want to link to naturally instead of focusing solely on building backlinks to your website.
- Think about what you can do to market your website to make it better known within your community. Ideas include talking to newspaper reporters, billboards, paying for advertising, guerilla marketing (an advertising strategy that focuses on low-cost unconventional marketing tactics that yield maximum results), and reaching out to people in the community.
- Not Thinking About the Title of Your Pages
The title of a web page is critical. Take the time to craft compelling titles. The title tells your visitors and the search engines what your page is all about. According to Google:
Titles are critical to giving users a quick insight into the content of a result and why it’s relevant to their query. It’s often the primary piece of information used to decide which result to click on, so it’s important to use high-quality titles on your web pages.
CEO of Stone Temple Consulting, Eric Enge, provides 3 golden rules for title tags:
- Rule 1: Have One Distinct Page for Each Major User Need You Address (A page for each for each product, service, or need.)
- Rule 2: Don’t Overdo the Granularity (Don’t create a web page for every keyword variant.)
- Rule 3: Don’t Reuse Title Tags (Don’t reuse the same title tag on more than one page.)
Examine your titles to make sure that they are unique and compelling. Use Google’s Search Console to see if there are duplicates by going to:
Dashboard > Search Appearance > HTML Improvements
Correct any duplicate, long, short or missing title tags.
- Not Thinking About the Meta Description of Your Pages
The description of a web page is also crucial. Make certain that each page has a unique and compelling description. The description may be used as snippets in search results along with your title. According to Google, the Meta description:
“…is a good way to provide a concise, human-readable summary of each page’s content.”
Scrutinize the Meta descriptions of your pages to make sure they are distinct and accurately describe each specific page. Again, you can use Google’s Search Console to see if there are duplicates, short, or missing descriptions by going to:
Dashboard > Search Appearance > HTML Improvements
Make corrections as needed. If you are a WordPress user and have Yoast SEO installed, you may like to read, WordPress SEO by Yoast Tutorial on Fine Tuning SEO, for specific tips.
- Not Optimizing Images
Do your images have descriptive file names and alt tags? Image SEO begins with an accurate descriptive file name. For example, for an image of red roses:
- Instead of: DSC04011.JPG, name the file, red-roses.jpg
- The alt tag in this example would be, alt=”Red roses”
Conduct a website audit on your website’s images to make sure that each image has a unique file name and alt tag that accurately describes it.
- Not Checking Your Website for Internal Broken Links
Broken links on a website lead to a poor user experience. Google’s Quality Guidelines clearly state to check for broken links. The search engine giant also states that broken links that result in 404s are “a perfectly normal part of the web.”
While there is still some debate over whether or not broken links affect SEO, the bottom line is that broken links are not good for your visitors. You may also have broken links that result in 404s that were caused by other reasons including a typo in a URL.
Analyze your website for broken links that lead to 404 pages. Tools to check include:
- Free Online Broken Link Checker
- Google Search Console: From the Dashboard > Crawl > Crawl Errors
- Not Having a Mobile Friendly Website
Google expanded the use of mobile-friendliness as a ranking signal on April 21, 2015. This change affects mobile searches globally for all languages and significantly impacts search results.
Make sure that your website is mobile friendly. To see if your website passes Google’s mobile friendly test tool, please see:
For more information, please see: Google’s Mobile-Friendly Ranking – What you need to know.
- Not using Google’s Free Webmaster Resources
The last common SEO mistake is not using Google’s free resources. Google provides a treasure chest of tools and resources to help fine tune your SEO marketing efforts.
Take full advantage of Google’s free resources that include:
Knowing and following the directions for your “SEO recipe” is the first step to SEO best practices. From making sure that your website is crawlable to using Google’s free resources, you will be on your way to ultimately reaching optimal placements in the search engine results.
If you need help, please contact us.
Over to You
Do you have a SEO best practice to add to this list or one you were not aware of? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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