Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is one of those marketing activities that can be quite intimidating for people new to web development or marketing. If you are just starting out with developing an online presence you probably don’t have the budget to hire a specialist. Luckily, you can do a lot of the work yourself just by making your way through a simple checklist. Let’s look at the most common mistakes people make and how to fix them.
- Hosting your content on a dubious server
To save money, many businesses decide to serve their content on the cheapest host they can find. Unfortunately, some of these hosts also have clients serving dubious content like pirated software, movies, and music. This can lead to your search rankings being penalised. Another important factor is downtime and speed. If your host doesn’t have the adequate resources and technical skills you might find your website is frequently offline with technical support nowhere to be found! Instead, look for an affordable host with a good reputation.
- Not researching your niche first
Many small businesses forget to do their homework. You need to know your market and your customers. The businesses that rank poorly in search engines often do so because they fail to deliver what their customers are looking for. Invest time looking at your competitor’s sites and develop a list of keywords. Long-tail and short-tail keywords help search engines determine the quality of your content. You can learn more by looking at Google Adwords. Another good tool to see what people are actively looking for is Google Trends.
- Keyword Stuffing
Once you have relevant keywords make sure you don’t go overboard. Keyword stuffing is where you pack so many keywords into your content that it becomes increasingly less friendly to the reader. Search engines penalise such content because they consider it to be low quality. Instead, use keywords wisely and sparingly. The focus should always be on delivering fresh, original content. See others are doing and looking for new, creative spins on it. Also avoid “cloaking” content by hiding text with the same colour as the background—it’s another sure fire way to get penalised.
- Not bothering with title tags and meta descriptions
Search bots need help indexing your site. Title tags and meta descriptions help them categorise your content so if you don’t include them you are penalising yourself. Start by learning about title tags and meta descriptions with Moz’s free resources. Don’t forget that multimedia content cannot always be indexed so avoid java applets and flash animations. Images should include ALT text. For videos consider including a transcript of the dialog in an adjacent scroll box so that its content can be indexed by the search bot.
- Not providing a mobile-friendly experience
Have you ever tried reading an online article designed for a laptop screen on a smartphone? It’s cumbersome because reading sentences requires constant scrolling and pinch-zooming with your fingers. Navigation can be almost impossible. Google now ranks mobile-friendly content higher in search results. The solution is to develop your content with mobile devices in mind. Google provides good resources for learning about mobile-first design and building responsive or dynamic content. In the event that you do need to serve duplicate content on your site, learn to use canonicals to tell search bots which page should be indexed as the “authoritative” version and which are just copies to be ignored.
- Not including a sitemap
Another thing aspect often overlooked is the inclusion of an XML sitemap. These help search bots understand the structure of your website. XML Sitemap Generator is a good online tool that you can use to make one for you. You can then add your website to Google Search Console and upload your sitemap.
- Low quality external links
Linking to low quality content on other sites also affects your rankings. Instead, make outbound links to relevant, quality content on sites with a good reputation. You can take it a step further by getting those same reputable sources to link to your content.
- Forgetting to monitor performance
Finally, don’t make the mistake of being complacent. You need to constantly checking the performance of your website. For this you can make use of tools Google Analytics and the Google Search Console mentioned above.
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