Search engine optimisation (SEO) is a long-term strategy and process, and for many business owners it can seem overwhelming at first. While it’s not as scary as it sounds, there are still a lot of different factors that go into determining your search rankings. Here are some basic SEO mistakes that even professionals make. The good news is they are simple to fix so let’s get started:
#1. Poor title tags and descriptions
Many websites have several different pages containing very similar sounding page titles. The title tag is one of the most important on-page SEO factors and therefore needs to be distinctive and unique. Sometimes content management systems auto-generate page titles and this can lead to poorly optimised title tags. Page titles need to accurately reflect the content of each page to assist search engines to index it correctly so it can provide relevant content to searchers. Similarly, you also shouldn’t overlook meta descriptions. Meta descriptions are essentially ~155-character teasers that appear in the search engine results page helping users decide if they really want to click on the link and visit your website or not. So make sure you put together a compelling and descriptive pitch.
#2. Duplicate content
There are a variety of different forms of duplicate content on webpages. Sometimes it may be the result of plagiarism (for example using someone else’s content on your webpage), however more often than not you may have double ups of content that appear in more than one location on your site. This causes a headache for search engines as they get confused as to where to direct people to. Should Google send them to this page or that page? The easiest way to fix this is to redirect traffic from one of the lower quality pages to the preferred page using 301 redirect rules.
#3. Over-optimised keywords
It may be very tempting after you have done your keyword research to inject your chosen phrases into your text as often as possible however doing so can actually be detrimental. Firstly, although still important, Google’s new algorithms have downgraded the overall role of keywords in overall SEO success in favour of content that is user-centric. Secondly, you must remember that users come first and the way to reach them is through quality content not quantity of keyword mentions. Still use keywords but be thoughtful – if your text starts to sound unnatural you’re probably keyword stuffing.
#4. Not submitting sitemaps to search engines
Sitemaps help search engines index your content faster and therefore decrease your reliance on backlinks to bring visitors to your site. Although you could just wait for Google and Bing to get around to indexing your site in their own time, in the meantime you might miss out on valuable traffic. Sitemaps can be particularly valuable for new sites that are trying to get established or existing sites that have created a lot of recently updated pages. Use a free online sitemap tool to generate your sitemap for you, upload it to your site and then notify Google about it through Google Search Console.
#5. Dubious quality links
Most of you are aware that backlinks are a great way to improve your search rankings. However not all links are created equal. Imagine for example that you have a backlink from Bill Gates or President Obama. These are influential people and their backlink would mean a lot. Now imagine that you have a backlink from a little-known site that features pornographic ads and bad English. This might in fact damage your reputation rather than help it. The best links are from sites that are high traffic, and relevant to your industry. Do not substitute quantity for quality.
#6. Irrelevant anchor text links
The final mistake I want to mention today is irrelevant anchor text links. Anchor text is the formal term given to clickable hyperlink text that appears on a webpage. Clever anchor text links are those that describe that what the user will actually find if they click on this link. For example, in this article I have used anchor text links about 301 redirect rules and a free online sitemap tool. Those anchor text links should leave you in no doubt about what you will find if you click the link. However many people when they create anchor text links simply write “click here”. That doesn’t tell the user – and more importantly the search engines – anything about what they can expect to find. Therefore every time you write “click here” it is a wasted opportunity to build a link.
These, of course, aren’t the only mistakes you have to watch for, but they are among the most common ones that I see all the time. Fixing these mistakes is one way to be proactive in building solid organic search visibility for the long term. Even if your search rankings are good, there is always room for improvement so don’t be content to rest on your laurels. Search rankings change all the time especially as competitors learn these tips and tricks too.