Common SEO Mistakes and How to Prevent Them
Search engine optimization (SEO) has evolved more in the past few years than in the previous two decades combined, which has made it difficult for the average entrepreneur to keep up with the latest updates. There are Google algorithm updates such as Penguin and Panda to fight link spam and poor content quality, Pigeon to focus on local results, and new machine learning technology like RankBrain to strengthen the main algorithm’s accuracy. There have even been mobile updates to reward websites that optimize for smartphone users.
Nevertheless, these steps were a necessity to create a level playing field for all domains. It’s important, however, to steer clear of all the technical jargon and focus on what really matters to the modern search engines—results that matter to consumers.
Avoiding these common SEO mistakes is the easiest way to meet that objective.
NOT FOCUSING ON RELEVANT CONTENT
When the search giant Google first arrived on the scene in the early 1990s, they revealed everything you ever needed to know about search engine optimization within one simple sentence. It went something like this:
“We want the website with the most relevant content to always appear in the #1 slot for any given search.”
That motto still holds true many years and thousands of algorithm changes later; Google has essentially never changed. They simply became better at meeting their original objective of discovering what’s relevant to their users.
What Google found was that users seek experiences with sites that share comprehensive, well-written information with modern styling and simple navigation. These types of domains have become known as authority websites and it should be every site owner’s goal to fall into this category. The easiest way to accomplish this task is by providing unique, in-depth content that directly focuses on topics users are actively searching for.
BEING LURED BY BLACK HAT TEMPTATIONS
There have always been plenty of ways to “cheat” the search engines by using spam tactics for backlinks, exposure, and traffic. While some of these methods will still yield a temporary gain, they can also lead to long-term penalties once they’re discovered. Here are just a few to avoid:
- Using duplicate or low-quality content
- Keyword stuffing or hiding words on-page
- Questionable redirects and traffic patterns
- “Scraping” (i.e., stealing) content from other sites
- Cloaking or other tactics to hide a site’s real intent
- While it may be tempting to take a few shortcuts, it’s simply not worth the risk of having a website de-indexed from search engines entirely.
Causing Poor Load Times with an Overloaded Website
Business leaders have been told for quite some time now that photographs, videos, custom banners, and other types of graphics will increase a website’s overall appeal to consumers. While that statement is certainly still true, it’s essential to balance these features with the actual loading time of the website. If the performance is not up to par, then customers will be quick to leave. This is especially important for users on mobile devices that lack large amounts of memory or strong Internet connections.
Why does this matter? Every time a consumer visits a web page directly from search results, the search engines pay close attention to how long they remain on that page and what actions they take. If the user quickly leaves the domain, it tells Google that the search result was not relevant for the customer’s needs. Loading time is also one of the metrics analyzed by search engines as well, so neglecting this aspect is like a 1-2 punch to a website’s potential rankings.
There are a number of ways to lower a website’s loading times, including the use of caching programs and limiting the number of front-loading plugins. Images can also be lightly compressed to shave off a few more tenths of a second. In other instances, the culprit can be poorly written code and/or conflict issues with plugins. Web tools like GTmetrix and Pingdom can help analyze these types of problems.
MAKING IT HARD TO FIND IMPORTANT CONTENT
One of the most common mistakes in search engine optimization is forgetting about how important navigation is both for customers and search engines alike. In an ideal world, a customer would be able to find any necessary information within two to three clicks from the homepage. Since that’s not always an option, important content and frequently asked questions should be grouped as much as possible in a central location. Additionally, each page should be clearly labeled and properly formatted so the content is easy to consume.
From a search standpoint, solid navigation allows search engine bots to easily map out a website and determine how the pages relate to each other. Submitting a sitemap and offering multiple forms of navigation are definitely steps in the right direction.
MISTAKES WITH 301 AND 302 REDIRECTS
Whenever content is moved from one URL to another, the search engines will automatically consider it a new page with no ranking history unless a 301 redirect or a 302 redirect is made. By rule, 301’s permanently transfer authority while 302’s are considered temporary and signal that the content will return to its original location at some point in the future. There is also a 404 status code available for times when content is permanently removed and not available anywhere else online.
While setting up 301/302 redirects are a simple task, it is definitely time consuming for larger websites containing hundreds or thousands of pages. It is an essential task nonetheless because not redirecting can lead to a scenario where the search engines are penalizing for vanishing pages. Since that would also mean forfeiting any established backlinks and authority to the old URLs, it is one of the most costly mistakes in the SEO world.
FAILING TO UNDERSTAND THE BACKLINK PROCESS
Another common mistake in the search engine world is to obsess over the acquisition of backlinks. While every site does need outside mentions from relevant domains to establish credibility, it’s important that backlinks are acquired naturally. That does not mean that companies should not try to acquire backlinks, but any form of directly purchasing backlinks is heavily frowned upon
The bigger takeaway here is that a great website creates a buzz around the web and makes others want to talk about it. Look at the backlink profile of brands like Old Spice, Dollar Shave Club, or Zappos for a clearer picture—they earned their mentions by creating highly entertaining campaigns that resonated with consumers.
FORGETTING ABOUT LOCAL SEARCHES
Numerous studies in recent years have shown that up to 92 percent of all U.S. consumers perform a local search on their smartphones before visiting a brick-and-mortar store. Since these are motivated buyers who are ready to make an immediate purchase, ignoring them or presenting incorrect business information can have a devastating impact on a local business.
Businesses should ensure their NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) are correct on niche and local directories that are relevant to their industry as well as top search engines such as Google and Bing. Not only is this an opportunity to acquire a little bit of link-juice, but it also shows the search engines that the business in question is established and sharing verifiable information in a number of different places. Plus, your customers will be able to find you easily.
FORGETTING THE IMPORTANCE OF FRESH CONTENT
It would be easy to assume that once a website has many pages of solid content that seems to convert at a favorable rate, then there is no longer a reason to publish anything else. However, that’s not the case. Search engines prefer domains that frequently publish new content because it’s a signal that the business is active and dedicated to meeting the customer’s needs.
Frequently posting new content, or updating existing content with the latest information, also has a pleasant side-effect; it gives existing fans of a brand a reason to revisit the domain frequently, spend more time on the site, and visit additional pages. Fresh content is also more likely to be shared through social networks. All of these things are currently signals in search algorithms since they are a good measurement of engagement.
USING POOR INTERNAL LINKING STRATEGIES
While its common knowledge that using keywords as anchor text is preferable for inbound links, very few businesses seem to use this tactic on their own websites. For example, a very common mistake is to place “click here” on contact and lead pages, even though the phrase means nothing to the search engines. Similar oversights use anchor text like “Learn More” or “Next Page.”
A much better alternative would be “Click to speak with a search engine professional!”
EXPECTING DRAMATIC RESULTS OVERNIGHT
Finally, it’s essential to realize that search engine optimization is an ever-evolving process that requires a large time investment and plenty of hard work. Consumers should beware of offers promising “lightning-fast results” or “instant first page rankings.” These things are almost impossible to achieve naturally without an enormous advertising budget and some serious influencers pushing the campaign.
A key takeaway to remember is that search engine optimization is never truly completed since algorithms change and new competitors appear all of the time. More importantly, customers also change how they use the search engines to find great products and services, so a successful business has to change strategies accordingly.
Blog Source: Upwork | 10 Common SEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them by Keith Koons