September 19 2017

10 Biggest SEO Mistakes You’re Making

SEO mistakes blogCreating a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that drives quality traffic to your website involves continuously optimizing various elements to support your goals. From on-site keywords and content to off-site inbound marketing tactics, these strategies need to be continually nurtured to stay effective. Most businesses unknowingly make mistakes when it comes to optimizing their website for search engines, so explore some of the most common SEO issues website owners make so that you can avoid these pitfalls.

  1. Not investing in your mobile experience. Search engines prioritize mobile-friendly websites. If your site isn’t built using responsive design, this should be a top priority. With a responsive website, you are no longer dividing your traffic between device-specific sites, which helps create more credibility for your website overall. This improved credibility can then improve your search ranking and of course will also improve the user experience for the many visitors coming from mobile devices. 

  2. Blocking a site from search engine robots. It’s essential that your site can be fully crawled by search engines. This will ensure that the pages on your website are indexed (in other words, show up in search results). Make sure your robots.txt file allows all pages of your site to be indexed, except any intentionally excluded. Also, some content management systems allow you to determine on a page level whether search engines should crawl it or not. If your CMS has this, be sure that feature is enabled for all pages you want indexed.

  3. Not making your site trustworthy. Search engines look for trust signals when crawling your website. Backlinks and SSL certificates are two simple ways to indicate site trustworthiness and support your SEO strategy. Backlinks are links from other websites to yours. If the linked site is credible, this can serve like positive peer reviews and recommendations, signaling site credibility to search engines. Building backlinks from quality sites to different pages on your site over time will increase the overall trustworthiness of your site. An SSL certificate is a more explicit signal of credibility. Protecting your website data through an SSL certificate encrypts your data, which helps demonstrate that your site is more reputable. In fact, Google has announced that sites without an SSL will be penalized from a ranking perspective beginning in October 2017. So, if you don’t currently have your full site set as https, it’s time to invest in an SSL certificate.

  4. Listing related products/services on one page. Having unique pages for each of your products or services increases your optimization opportunities. Avoid bundling all information for major services and products onto a single page, and use internal links to make a connection between your site’s information. Not only can this create a good user experience, but it will allow you to optimize for more specific keywords and phrases which might then attract additional, quality traffic.

  5. Using the same anchor text for every link. Internal linking (aka creating links between pages) is a great tactic for site users and SEO. Linking pages to each other in your site allows users to explore additional relevant site content, and the anchor text (e.g. the text being linked) can then be optimized for specific keywords to support rankings. Avoid using generic terms such as “click here” for internal links since that doesn’t tell search engines or users enough about why to click the link. It’s also a problem for website ADA conformance since it isn’t descriptive enough for screen readers.

  6.  Not monitoring keywords or using the wrong keywords. It’s important to do preliminary research using tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or Moz to ensure you are optimizing for the right keywords and phrases. The keywords you choose to optimize for should be relevant to your page topics, and ideally have medium-high search volume and low-medium competition. When optimizing for these keywords, you should also include references to your business’ geographic footprint, if applicable. This helps ensure that your site ranks well in local search results, and that the user is satisfied with their search.  

  7.  Creating content that doesn’t incorporate keywords naturally. The days of keyword stuffing are long gone. When optimizing content for search engines, you must write for the user first. This involves infusing your page content with multiple, natural variations of the keyword being optimized for, which should then correspond with your meta data. This will increase the relevancy of your page content to users and contribute to the perceived value of the page to search engines, which in turn will boost your ranking in results.  

  8. Duplicating pages without changing the meta description. A common practice for adding a new page to any site is to duplicate a similar page in the CMS or make a child page of a parent. A frequent mistake made while doing this is not changing the meta tags and description for the new page since they are inherited from the parent or copied page. Duplicate meta tags and descriptions are bad for SEO all around. Duplicates cause confusion for the user searching for your site and for search engines, which don’t know which page is most relevant for the search query. Instead, each page should have its own specific meta title and description. Since these issues can be hard to spot for the typical website administrator, it’s advisable to use tools like Google Webmaster and Moz to identify duplicate pages.

  9. Not following meta tag writing best practices. Search engines use title tags and meta descriptions to understand what a webpage is about. A title tag should include relevant keywords to your page content as well as your brand name. The meta description should help potential visitors understand your page, so should be written to describe your page's content. Both the meta title and meta description fields have a maximum character limit so be aware of this as you craft these so you can maximize their value and ultimately your rankings. 

  10. Creating duplicate content. Duplicate content can be a result of URL variations or parameters, multiple versions of your site that are both indexed (HTTP vs HTTPS), or copied content from one page of your site to another. When search engines identify duplicate content, several issues arise. They do not know which one to index and they also don’t which version to rank for query results. With this mistake, you could suffer both ranking and traffic loss for the confusion to both the search engine and the user. To fix these issues, verify that only one version of your site is indexed (preferably https) by permanently redirecting your http domain to your https domain. If you have to have multiple versions of a page with very similar content, then use a canonical tag (rel=canonical) to tell search engines which page should be crawled and indexed. Finally, always ensure that each page of your site has unique content so that you can avoid duplicate content penalties.

Securing high search engine ranking on top keywords is the shared goal of nearly every business. Avoiding these mistakes can help you avoid some common pitfalls so that together with additional search engine strategies, you can drive quality traffic to your site. For help with SEO, learn about ZAG’s SEO services and get on the path to improved search engine rankings. Contact us with your questions.

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ZAG Interactive is a full-service digital agency in Glastonbury, CT, offering website design, development, marketing and digital strategy to clients nationwide. See current job openings.
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