SEO is an art form that requires businesses to apply the “Goldilocks Principle”: every factor has to be just right for their website to have a chance of vying for top positions for any particular search term.
With over 200 factors affecting your organic rankings, it can be very easy to miss the mark in a few areas. Failing to meet Google’s brutally discerning expectations can have consequences varying in severity from a lack of ranking improvements, to warnings in Search Console, and the dreaded manual penalties that could have you wiped from the SERPs. Things that may even seem small could really be holding you back from an SEO win. The following guide could help you to identify and correct some of the most common SEO mistakes – hopefully before it has a negative impact on your business!
Going for Quantity over Quality
Quantity was a strong approach to backlinking in the early years of SEO. However, today’s more advanced Search Algorithms demand quality over quantity. In fact, a quantity of poor quality incoming links may see you slapped with a manual penalty or the best case scenario is that you will see no change at all. Ensure that backlinks are contextually relevant to the subject matter of your website and that they are from authoritative sources.
Not Measuring Performance
As the famous saying goes, “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half.” By correctly configuring Google Analytics and Google Search Console, you can easily track which keywords and landing pages are working for your SEO campaign. By vigilantly monitoring and measuring your success, you can see exactly which areas of your SEO are paying dividends and adjust accordingly. Digital marketing without analytics is like proceeding with a blindfold on.
Another favourite with SEO newbies is to stuff content with the keywords that you want to rank for. This mistake will really put the brakes on your SEO campaign because Google is smart enough to understand that you’re trying to trick the system and will deliver your poor rankings accordingly. Back in SEO renaissance, keyword stuffing was a perfectly valid and effective technique. But as algorithms have been updated, a focus on keyword density has gone the way of the fax machine. In 2016, you have to optimise for topics not keywords. Google’s heuristics are skilled at picking up synonyms and even the intention of a page. For example, it can identify if the intention of the page is to sell, inform, compare or entertain.
Got links on your website that lead to a 404 error? This kind of mistake is one that makes a big red flag go up in Google’s books. Broken links are a signal of a dilapidating or poorly built website in many cases. Getting these kinds of things right will mean that your onsite SEO is spot on.
Duplicate content is a topic that has a vast array of opinions throughout the SEO industry. However, through my experience, and backed up by Google’s Search Quality Guidelines, a page simply requires a decent quantity of unique content. Some content may be identical across a range of pages, however, as long as there is a chunk of content that makes a page unique from the others on your website, it will have no troubles with ranking. In the context of duplicate content from other websites, be much more cautious.
Non-descriptive Meta-titles and Descriptions
So often you may see a page ranking in the SERPs that has a title to the effect of “[Business Name] – Home”. Underneath it will be a description that Google forms from excerpts of content from the page. Not only are you not making the most of the keyword targeting powers that your meta-title and description offer, but you’re not making a very compelling case for a user to click on your page instead of the other results. Carefully craft your meta-titles and meta-descriptions with great care so that they clearly explain your product, service or subject matter in a way that will tempt users to enter your website. Well-executed titles and descriptions can result in an increase in your rankings and in some cases may double your click-through-rates!
Website Set to NoIndex
It’s not too common, however, having your website set to “noindex” will completely discourage search engines from showing your website. The effect of this would be like your car not starting because you don’t have the keys in.
Not Mobile Rresponsive
Particularly in searches on mobile, having a responsive website is essential. As mobile usage overtakes desktop, you might be missing out on as many as 50% of your potential clicks due to a lack of presence in the mobile search results.
Slow to Load
Page load speed is an important factor for search engines and users. You could miss out on 25% or more of your traffic if your web page takes more than 4 seconds to load. This is due to the lack of patience of the modern internet user who will bounce back to the search results to find a faster loading page. Aside from the effect on users, Google’s aim is to help provide a quality browsing experience for users and will reduce your visibility if it sees that your pages are loading too slow.
Each of these points will have different weightings in Google’s algorithm and we can’t know exactly which components are the most important. However, all of these percentage gains can add up to a monolithic impact on your bottom line. There are a wide range of other factors to consider, so if you’ve tried all of these and you still can’t gain traction, think about getting an SEO audit completed on your website to see what might be holding you back.
About the author
Chris Schimkat is an SEO Specialist from Alpha Digital, a Brisbane and Sydney-based digital agency. He specialises in SEO, AdWords, Display Advertising and Social Media Marketing.