SEO mistakes to avoid
If you run a website, you’ve no doubt heard a great deal about search engine optimization (SEO). This is the process of earning higher rankings in the organic (unpaid) results on search engines, the biggest of which is Google by far. This is achieved through the effective use of many factors involving content, technical issues and linking.
Ranking on the first page of Google can vastly improve your traffic, so it can be tempting to try all manner of tricks to try and get there. But you can do more harm than good if you go about it the wrong way.
Up until recently, it was possible to ‘hack’ SEO with content that satisfied search engine checklists and ranked highly, but wasn’t particularly useful or interesting for human readers. But Google’s criteria are constantly changing and becoming more sophisticated, and it’s now much more focused on the value websites provide for human users.
Nowadays, how users respond to your website is a hugely significant factor in its SEO. Google monitors key indicators such as bounce rates and dwell time to interpret whether your website is providing value. If a person leaves the page without performing an action such as clicking a link or filling out a form, they have ‘bounced’. The bounce rate is the percentage of visitors that do this, and ‘dwell time’ is the length of time a visitor stays on a page before leaving.
If a page has high bounce rates and low dwell times, it indicates that it isn’t providing value and Google will send it down the rankings. Many of the SEO mistakes we’re going to look at cause problems not only because Google’s crawlers discover issues with them, but because they also cause users to respond negatively to your site – something that Google picks up on and will factor into its search results. Here are our seven deadly sins of SEO.
This simply means using a keyword lots of times on a webpage to make it appear more relevant and boost its ranking. It’s sometimes called over-optimisation.
In the early days of the internet, search engines were much more basic than they are today, and simply using a keyword lots of times could get you up the rankings. However, Google is wise to this now, and will penalise any web page it thinks is overusing a keyword.
It’s easy to tell when this has happened – if you read a paragraph and notice a word or phrase appearing many times, in a way that feels forced or unnatural, then that page risks being penalised for keyword stuffing.
Low-quality or disorganised content
While good content will make your site more appealing to both human readers and search engines, bad content will do the opposite. Adding pages or posts to your website without proper thought can actually harm its SEO.
So, what makes content low-quality? It could involve content that hasn’t been properly researched, doesn’t have a clear subject or target audience, or simply contains poor grammar. It could also suffer if there are no supporting elements such as images or graphics to support the text.
Disorganised content fails to make use of headings and subheadings to provide structure. This makes it more difficult for Google’s crawlers to interpret and for human readers to understand. Low-quality content makes this more likely that readers simply won’t stick around, and the resulting effect on your bounce rate and dwell time will hit your SEO.
Poor user experience (UX)
Effective UX means it is easy and enjoyable to interact with your website. Unsurprisingly, sites with good UX tend to rank higher than those with poor UX. Let’s take a look at three things that can have a severe negative impact on your UX and therefore hinder your SEO.
Page is slow to load
Every second waiting for a page to load increases the chances of users leaving your page. Not only will this increase your bounce rates, but Google monitors loading times and will penalise any pages that take too long to load. It recognises that web users expect a swift and smooth experience and will reward sites that provide it.
Slow loading can be caused by things like large, unoptimised images, errors in code, and having too many ads.
Page is unresponsive on mobile devices
Over half of web traffic now comes from mobile devices. If your website is difficult to use on mobile devices, users will leave and find one that isn’t. Google have also explicitly said that they will favour responsive websites in their search results. It has a free checking tool that you can use to find out if your site is responsive.
Site is difficult to navigate
It’s essential that your site is easy to navigate. It improves the experience for the people viewing it and it allows search engines to crawl it easily.
Links to all the main pages should be clearly displayed in menus, and if you have a large number of pages they should be organised into a logical structure and hierarchy. Anchor text should also be clear and relevant to the page it links to.
Messy sites that don’t have categories and subcategories for their pages are difficult to navigate and therefore penalised in search rankings. Another common problem is ‘orphan pages’ that don’t have any other page from the site linking to them. You must also ensure that all pages on your site are indexed in a sitemap so search engines can crawl them.
Duplicate content, whether intentional or not, will harm your site’s SEO. While it’s not an official factor in Google’s search results, when Google recognises the same content in more than one place, it does not know which one is the most valuable and relevant. And it will usually only show one example of it on the first page, meaning your page will lose out on being high up in the rankings at least some of the time.
Duplicate content could make you liable for plagiarism if the content was published elsewhere first.
Not considering your audience and their intent
User intent (also called search intent) has recently become a crucial factor in Google’s rankings.
Since it aims to provide users with what they’re looking for as quickly and accurately as possible, it will put pages that answer a search query most effectively at the top of the rankings.
Nearly all searches fall into one of four categories: informational, navigational, transactional and commercial. Failing to consider why a user is on your page can lead to content that is not relevant enough to the search query that brought them to it. This means that they’re more likely to leave quickly and find a more useful page. Google will notice this and your search ranking will be affected.
Neglecting site maintenance
A common problem with old web pages or blog posts is that links can become broken. This happens when the link’s original URL changes or the page is deleted.
When search engines identify a high volume of broken links, it indicates that the site is poorly maintained, and they will place it lower in the rankings. You can check links manually or use software to check all the links on your site.
Backlinks are the number of other websites that link to your site, and building them up is one of the most powerful SEO tools. When sites link to your page, it shows that it’s authoritative and useful. However, it’s only effective when the sites linking to yours are credible and relevant to your page’s content.
In an attempt to increase their backlinks, some people may be tempted to purchase them. This is a big mistake for two reasons. Firstly, the sites that end up linking to yours through purchasing are extremely likely to be spammy and completely irrelevant, and therefore have little to no impact on your traffic. Secondly, it actually goes against the rules of Google and other search engines. In recent years, they have cracked down on the shady tactics some websites use to try and game the SEO system. They will penalise any sites they find to have purchased backlinks with a lower ranking.
Don’t do it.
The complex and ever-changing world of SEO can feel overwhelming at times, but avoiding these deadly mistakes will stand your website in good stead.
The Digital Services team at NECL have a wealth of expertise. By supporting you with digital marketing strategy and website design, we can ensure your website continues to perform highly.
Get in touch with our friendly team to discuss your business’s website