Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical asset to any inbound marketing strategy. A sound approach to SEO will land you strong rankings, relevant search traffic, as well as leads and sales. According to industry experts, 70 percent of users today choose to click on the organic listings in Google’s SERP. And with nearly a 15% close rate, SEO leads are some of the most valuable to marketers and businesses today.
Weeks ago, you may have thought you had this SEO thing down pat—your marketing team has been churning out content nonstop, building hundreds of links to help boost your site’s credibility, maybe even going after high-volume keywords on your website in efforts to get traffic. The problem is, you’re not seeing the results. Your efforts aren’t adding up; your rankings aren’t moving up; your position might even be falling in Google’s search results. Technically, you’re not where you need to be.
Perhaps one of the biggest strategic SEO mistakes you can make on your website is putting too much weight on your organic rankings. While important, good rankings will come later down your story line. SEO is a process, and in order to be successful at it, you must start from the ground up. You must first ensure that your website has a solid technical SEO foundation in order to achieve organic visibility.
I’ve already talked about the SEO mistakes that hurt content marketing. Today, I walk you through the seven technical SEO mistakes we’ve seen sink search engine rankings and bring down entire websites in Google.
1. Your website is slow, period.
Of all the technical elements that go into a website’s success, the one that remains a top consideration in Google’s ranking algorithm is page speed. Fact of the matter is, users want answers to their searches fast, and search engines therefore want the web to be the fastest it can be possibly be. As an effort towards meeting user demands, search engines like Google and Bing rank the fast loading websites higher than equivalent, slower websites.
Your organic performance is going nowhere fast if you think that page load times do not have a direct connection to SEO. For one, a faster website is typically ranked higher in the search engine results. This higher ranking will bring in more traffic to your website, in turn generating more pageviews and converting more leads. Not only this, but page speed has a direct impact on user experience as well. If your website is operating slowly, your bounce and exit rates are likely to increase. To put it into perspective, users typically do not want to wait more than five seconds for a page to fully load.
Page speed mistakes we’ve commonly seen are: over-sized and high-resolution images that take excessive time to load, failure to use compression and browser caching on slow-loading resources, and poorly structured HTML or CSS code. To analyze your website’s load times and to see exactly where it may be tripping up or falling short, you can use Google’s DIY PageSpeed Insights Tool.
2. Your site isn’t mobile friendly.
All too often, we see companies ignore the weight of a mobile-friendly and mobile-responsive website. Yet today, more than half of all Google searches happen on mobile, leading Google to now prefer sites that offer optimal mobile experiences. (Hence their 2015 rollout of “Mobilegeddon,” when the search engine giant started penalizing sites that were not “mobile-friendly.”)
And, as mentioned in my previous article, Google gives mobile-friendly websites a rankings advantage by adding “Mobile-friendly” labels to their listings in the SERP.
For businesses trying to boost their SEO strategy, optimizing your website for mobile search will be a critical factor in your multi-channel ranking success.
3. You’re telling Google to ignore you.
That’s right. All the time, websites unknowingly tell Google to ignore and not rank their pages organically. This is one of the most detrimental SEO mistakes of all, and inadvertently can happen right in your site’s own source code or Robots.txt file.
A Robots.txt file is essentially a guideline that tells search engines which pages on your site you do not want to be crawled and indexed. Every site should have a Robots.txt file. To take a look at yours, just type in the URL format: yourwebsite.com/robots.txt. While you’re there, you might want to check the Disallow portion of the file—and make sure it isn’t structured like this:
User-agent: * Disallow: /
Any pages following the word ‘Disallow:’ will be ignored by crawlers. And if a trailing slash is following, it means that you are telling search engines to ignore your entire website, homepage and all. A healthy Robots.txt file may only tell searchers to ignore login or administrative pages, such as this:
User-agent: * Disallow: /wp-admin/
Another common SEO mistake is blocking crawlers from individual pages on your site. We typically see this through the use of a ‘no-index’ tag in the page’s source code. If you want your pages to rank, you should ensure that they do not contain the following tag:
<meta name="robots" content="noindex" />
4. You have cookie-cutter or duplicate content.
Content is king in the realm of SEO, and one of the most common mistakes we’ve seen affect organic rankings is the creation of unoriginal or duplicate content. To put it simply, Google ranks pages that offer value to readers; content that is insightful, educational, or has merit – Google does not want to rank content that looks like everything else on the web.
According to the Webmasters themselves, “One of the most important steps in improving your site’s ranking in Google search results is to ensure that it contains plenty of rich information that includes relevant keywords, used appropriately, that indicate the subject matter of your content… Google will take action against domains that try to rank more highly by just showing scraped or other cookie-cutter pages that don’t add substantial value to users.”
When ramping up keyword optimizations on your website, it can be tempting to replicate or recycle content that targets similar keyword themes. Our advice? Don’t. Write unique content that engages your readers and that encourages them to spend time on your site. This will tell Google that you are credible and rank-worthy. If you use quotes from other sources, link to them.
5. You’re forgetting about on-page SEO.
Perhaps one of the greatest SEO mistakes you can make on your website is forgetting to implement or customize its on-page elements: title tags, meta descriptions, alt tags, even header tags are often lost amidst website builds. But skipping out on these meta tags is a major missed opportunity for SEO, and can deter Google from ranking you on the key terms your target markets are searching.
Some common on-page SEO mistakes that may be hurting your organic rankings:
- Multiple pages on your site have the same title and description tags
- Each title tag on your site reflects only your brand, and lacks a keyword focus
- Your meta tags exceed Google’s character limits
- Your header tags (H1s, H2s, H3s) are not structured in their appropriate hierarchy
- You forgot about Alt Tags (Google crawlers can’t read images – it’s up to you to tell them what each image is about through the use of alternative tags)
- You’re missing meta tags completely on the core pages of your website
6. You’re stuffing keywords onto the page.
Along with valuable content and optimized content comes quality content – content that is readable and relative to users. Yet in attempts to boost SEO efforts, many companies lose sight of quality and aim to “stuff” their pages with target keyword phrases, over and over again; so much that it is no longer readable to users, but solely optimized for search engine crawlers. If you aren’t familiar with keyword stuffing, it looks something like this (we’ll let you guess the keyword phrase here):
“Building an SEO strategy? A good SEO strategy is key to your success! The best SEO strategy is the kind of SEO strategy that will get you to rank in Google. Every site needs a good SEO strategy to rank, but only the best SEO strategy will help you rank on page one in the search results. Start building your SEO strategy with us today!”
Keyword-stuffing is not only a black-hat SEO practice, it is also an outdated method that can actually get you reprimanded by search engines and lose you site traffic. See, Google’s top priority is providing a good user experience, and users do not want to read an article that is stuffed with keywords and lacking any takeaway value. Not to mention, they won’t link to keyword-stuffed content. You won’t look credible and you won’t rank well.
7. Your webpages are not authoritative.
We often hear, “I just created a keyword-optimized webpage for SEO. Why isn’t it ranking?” or, “Why are competitors ranking above me in Google?” If you are here, you may be experiencing similar concerns.
Let me tell you this: if you have implemented an optimal keyword strategy on your website and are still falling behind rankings-wise, it is likely because your domain or page authority is low and not up to par with the other players. This is especially true for new webpages or domains that start out with an authority of 1 (on MOZ’s scale of 1 to 100) and need to gain credibility in Google’s eyes. The best way to build up authority is through natural and quality links.
If you don’t have links pointing to priority pages on your website, they are not likely to rank well in Google. Links, both inbound and internal, spread equity to and throughout a site. They build both domain authority and individual page authority and are strong ranking signals in Google’s algorithm—with one caveat:
Google will penalize you for generating unnatural, paid, spammy, or engineered links. Do not make the common SEO mistake of paying people to link to your site; do not use black-hat link-building tools like ScrapeBox to spawn backlinks in mass quantities from sketchy sources. This will not only get you demoted in the search results, but also blacklisted if Google finds out. Earn your links through quality, credible, and linkable content and you will be rewarded with improved rankings.
When it comes to SEO, there are no shortcuts. Whether you are a business owner, marketing director, or CMO, whether you are an enterprise, small business, or non-profit, it is important that you approach search engine optimization the right way in efforts to gain Google’s good graces for the long haul. Your first steps will be correcting these ever-so-common SEO mistakes.
To learn how Synapse SEM can help improve your SEO strategy, you may complete our contact form or call us at 781-591-0752.