A Dozen Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Mistakes That Are Ruining Your Rankings
SEO can be a very frustrating process in the beginning, throughout the building stages, and even after you start to see some improvements. It is an emotional roller-coaster that is full of highs and lows.
Search engine optimization isn’t cheap to do right, so when you are dumping a lot of money, time, and effort into it only to see slow to non-existent results or even negative results, it can be a major disappointment.
Some people spam their way to quick rankings, some spend six-figures on content and link “earning” only to see their website fall from the top after a negative SEO attack, and some plug along without ever reaching the top of the SERPs.
There are so many factors that determine where a website sits in the current SERPs, but in an effort to help you improve your SEO, I have put together a list of a dozen common mistakes.
Make sure you avoid these SEO mistakes in order to give yourself the best chance at rising to the top of Google.
1. Ignoring Google Analytics (and GWMT) Data
Yes, most people check their Google Analytics account on a regular basis, but they are simply looking at traffic numbers. But, 10,000 daily visitors doesn’t mean a damn thing unless they are making your business money.
When you dive deep into the data, and look at referral traffic, it allows you to determine whether or not SEO is your best option. Now that Google doesn’t provide all of the keyword data, it’s important that you look at Google Webmaster Tools, which will show you every single search term that made your website show up in the SERPs and how many clicks each attracted.
When you set up conversion goals in Google Analytics you can see what traffic is converting onto dollars, which is really all that matters in the end. Getting traffic to your site is just part of SEO. Optimizing your website so that traffic converts, or putting offers in place to direct the traffic flow in a way that results in conversions is the other part.
2. Not Spending Time on Page Titles and Descriptions
Google’s algorithm still takes page titles into heavy consideration, but the old days of stuffing them with keywords is over. Five years ago, if you were trying to rank the homepage of an SEO company located in Los Angeles the page title would look something like this:
Los Angeles SEO Company | SEO Company Los Angeles | Los Angeles SEO Firm
It’s spammy according to today’s standards, but surprisingly a lot of websites are still over optimizing the titles with exact match keywords. Instead, something like this is more acceptable:
“Get a FREE consultation from our Los Angles based SEO company”
This still tells Google what the page is about, but even more importantly it’s a call-to-action, inviting the person performing the search to click on your listing in order to receive a SEO consultation.
Meta descriptions, while not a ranking factor, still contribute to click-through rates, which do in fact impact search results. Write descriptions that entice the person to click your page over the other options.
3. Not Formatting Content with Sub-Headings
Just like the article and page titles, Google scans your content and puts more weight on the content wrapped in heading tags. Not only does it impact your rankings, but it also helps to organize your content and make it easier to read.
It used to be as easy as slamming spun content stuffed with keywords, but as Google has advanced, so has its spiders that crawl your pages in an attempt to determine what they are about and where (if at all) they should appear in the SERPs.
Again, avoid using exact match keywords as headings and sub-headings, and instead write descriptive sentences that explain the product or service your page or content is about. This helps Google understand and rank the content properly.
If you have a ghost writer or use a content writer, make sure he or she understands SEO, and incorporates these into each article. Simply pumping out words without formatting and structure puts you at an automatic disadvantage.
4. Ignoring 404 Errors
404 errors are a bad look for two reasons. If someone is visiting your website and they click on a link and are brought to a 404 page it makes them question the legitimacy of your website. Would you trust entering your credit card information on a website that can’t even keep links and page flow up to date?
With so many choices when it comes to websites to visit, you have to eliminate every possible doubt. 404 errors are also a signal to Google that your website might not be reliable. It’s a good idea to check Google Webmaster Tools (Search Console) on a regular basis to see if they are reporting any issues.
If you are running a WordPress website download the plugin “404 to Start” and set it to redirect errors to your homepage. This way, if a page goes down, it will direct the traffic to your homepage rather than display an error.
5. Not Publishing Long-Form Content
I have seen a lot of industries that are still stuck on posting 500 word articles that provide little benefit to the reader and zero benefit to the SEO. A lot of the websites in the legal niche and healthcare industry, such as dentists and plastic surgeons.
I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that these businesses tend to use agencies that claim to specialize in their particular industry. The sad part is that most of the “law firm SEO companies” and “dental SEO firms” are using packages that existed 10 years ago, and slapping a premium price on it. They are delivering Fiverr quality work for a large monthly retainer fee and these businesses are paying it because they make so much money.
You have to start publishing longer content if you want Google to consider your pages for the top of the SERPs. I would consider 1,500 words to be the minimum, shooting for 2,000+ with some occasional 3,500 to 4,500 word counts in the mix.
6. Failing to Internally Link Your Web Pages
Internal linking is great for helping to tie page topics together and passing juice. For example, if you published an infographic on a particular topic and it received a bunch of high quality links, the Page Authority (PA) of that particular page will be higher than most. If you then link to other relevant pages of your website from the high authority page, you are going to pass some along, helping to push up the other pages in the SERPs.
It also is a good strategy to use that helps funnel visitors to pages that increase the chance of converting them into sales. For example, if you have a blog post that is an in-depth guide about a certain product or service, include several links to where it can be purchased, using a wide variety of calls-to-action as anchor text. Don’t think about anything other than getting the reader to click-through.
Anchor text like “which can be ordered here” and “click here to purchase this from us” are fine. You don’t need to worry about keyword-specific internal linking. If anything, that just looks spammy.
7. Not Optimizing Images on All Pages
Images make your content look better and can help tell a story. With that being said, they can also really slow your load times down unless they are optimized. The easiest way to take care of this is to install an image compressor script or plugin. For those running WordPress, there are several free compression plugins available.
“Smush it” is probably the most popular, and once you configure the plugin and compress all of the existing images on your site, it will automatically “smush” future images, working behind the scenes.
You will also want to assign an alt-tag to each, which is descriptive text that explains what the image is. You see, Google spiders can’t crawl images (yet) so you need to have a tag assigned that helps the spiders figure out what the image is.
In the future, image recognition software will handle this, and it’s already being tested and utilized. So, for the time being, make sure you give yourself every competitive advantage available to you.
8. Over Optimizing Page Content with Keywords
I still see content providers talking about keyword density and I just shake my head. The last thing you need to be thinking of when creating page content is keyword density. Sure, use the main keyword in the title and in the beginning if possible (and natural) but aside from that, pay no attention.
Instead, focus on writing content that explains the what, why, when and how, related to whatever the topic is. If you worry about keywords, it results in content that doesn’t flow well or have any true value.
Google’s algorithm is so far advanced when compared to just a couple years ago, and the AI can now read, determining how advanced the content is, and what it is about. It’s almost like a human is reading it, so now you need to focus 100% on writing content that your reader will understand and find valuable, because Google can now be considered a human visitor, in terms of what it deems as quality content.
9. Trying to Rank for the Wrong Keywords
Most businesses will take a very simple approach when it comes to keyword research. They use tools like Google’s Keyword Planner or SEMrush and look only at search volume. That is the wrong way to do it, because traffic numbers are a useless metric unless there are sales to support them.
The only concern you should have when selecting keywords to target is whether or not they are going to bring visitors to your website that have buyer intent. If you have a keyword that has a monthly search volume of 50,000 but it’s just information seekers, it’s a worthless keyword to spend money ranking for.
A keyword that only has 800 monthly searches, but people searching that term are wallet out buyers, then that is a golden term to rank for.
10. Failing to Link Out to Relevant Authority Websites
“Don’t link out to other websites because you will lose all of the authority of your own site.”
This is something I saw on a SEO blog not too long ago, and it couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, if a website has no external links and a pile of authority links pointing to it, that is a major red flag and Google can easily slap you.
Think about it. Real businesses link out to social media profiles, BBB profiles, articles, press, etc. Don’t be afraid of passing your authority. Linking out to authority sites helps your SEO, and if you are truly worried, you can assign the no-follow tag to all outgoing links.
Quick tip: when linking out, always make outgoing links open in a new window. This ensures your bounce rate and time on site numbers aren’t artificially lowered.
11. Not Optimizing for Page Speed and Load Times
The last blog I wrote had a section all about how to increase the speed and load time of your website. Rather than repeat myself, I am going to suggest you go and read this blog post when you are finished with this one.
You simply can’t ignore this. The fix is very simple, it just requires a little time on your end.
12. Using Shared Hosting
So many people use price as the determining factor when selecting a web host, and that is the worst approach you can take. Just recently there were large Black Friday sales, and most of the well known hosts had sales that offered year long hosting for as low as $10.
And you know what? They probably sold hundreds of thousands of packages, generating millions of dollars of instant revenue. Good for them, but bad for all of the poor suckers that are now hosting on these shared plans with hundreds of other websites sitting on the same outdated servers.
A good host is a big contributor when it comes to load times, as discussed above. If you can afford a dedicated server, get one. At the very least, use a virtual private server with a content delivery network to give you the best performance.
I’m not a fan of the SEO gurus that claim it’s easy and that anyone can rank and content is the magic key to shooting up to the top of the SERPs. There are so many factors that are out of your hands, like an algorithm update or a competitor deciding to torch your rankings by launching a negative SEO attack.
But, there are some things you can make sure you avoid, like the mistakes I just discussed, in order to give yourself the best fighting chance of pulling in organic traffic.
What are some of the other common SEO mistakes that you have seen or maybe even made yourself in the past? Let me know in the comments section below. Also, if you have any SEO related questions, leave them below and I will try to help you the best I can.
Latest posts by Tommy McDonald (see all)
- 8 Things You MUST DO When Launching an E-Commerce Brand Online - January 12, 2018
- [InfoGraphic] Why Are Keywords So Important for Your Online Sales? - January 4, 2018
- A Dozen SEO Mistakes That Are RUINING Your Rankings! - December 21, 2017