These days Google changes its algorithm so frequently that it can be hard to keep up SEO best practices. In fact, Gary Illyes from Google said the other day they update Goolge’s algorithm multiple times in day, making yesterday’s best practice today’s mistake. Now in my time as an SEO I’ve seen a lot of website that still rely heavily on SEO strategies from almost half a decade ago creating a lot of common mistakes on websites. I’ve compiled a list of the 13 most common SEO mistakes that I’ve noticed a lot of companies are still making on their website.
Duplicate Title Tag
A common mistake I regularly come across on websites are the website’s web pages having the same title tags. A title tag is created for the Homepage which then is used on every other page with the intention of eventually going back and updating them, which for the most part doesn’t happen. Typically, the larger the website the more likely for this problem to occur most likely because of the sheer volume of pages makes it more likely for mistakes. You can use things like Search Console’s HTML improvements to find the duplicate title tags to make updating them easier on you or your development team.
Duplicate Meta Descriptions
Much like duplicate title tags, duplicate meta descriptions tend to be a common problem among websites. I frequently see websites with pages sharing the same meta descriptions and that is if they have one at all. Meta descriptions are arguably one of the most important things in SEO that people tend to overlook. Each page should have its own unique meta description that describes exactly what’s on the page.
Meta Descriptions That Aren’t Actionable
Even if meta descriptions are added to a web page and are unique, a lot of time they are not actionable giving no incentive for anyone to click through to your site. It is well documented that the more click throughs your site receives for a keyword the higher in the SERPs your page will go. Having meta descriptions that are actionable will not only help to get more visitors to your site but will also help to increase your websites rankings.
Not Optimizing for Site Speed
If your website takes longer than 4 seconds to load you have already lost 25% of your visitors. Page speed has become and continues to be an increasingly important factor in SERPs and should be a priority, especially with all free tools that will help you to make improvements. If your website is having page speed problems the first place to start would be Google’s free page speed tester. It will give you a baseline score for your site and gives you actionable improvements on you can improve upon it. I also like to use it to compare my site against my competitors’ websites to see where I stand when it comes to page speed.
Adding meta keywords to webpages is and has been a big no no. I’ve been told before people either keep meta keywords or add them because there is no impact so what does hurt? Well Bing announced some time ago that it uses the presence of meta keywords on a webpage as an indicator that a web page is spam. So, if your using meta keyword in your content you should start removing them from your content immediately.
In theory, I’ve always thought heading tags were straightforward, use an h1 for the title, h2 for subheading, h3 after that and so on. It wasn’t until I went to a web development boot camp where my teacher told our class to use h1 tags for every heading on a web page we were building that I realized some developers don’t follow best practices for heading tags. For SEO purposes always remember the title of the article should always be an h1 and that every web page should only have one h1.
Missing Alt Tags
Probably the most common mistake in proper SEO is forgetting to add alt tags to images or using the same alt tags for images. Alt tags should describe one image on a particular webpage and the alt text should not be duplicated for other images across the page. Since the images should be used to complement the content on the page they should all be different which would cause them to have different alt text. If your image is used specifically for design purpose you might want to rethink the image and if it is really need or has impact to the website.
No External Links
I think the use of external links within content can be extremely confusing for those not well versed in SEO to understand. So, I can completely understand why some choose to completely leave external links off of their websites especially because the intent is to keep visitors on the site. External links should be used when referencing another website or another websites content so think of it as a way of siting your sources. The best way to add external links to content is to have the links open a new window or new tab when someone click the external link. The reason you’d want it to open into a new window or tab is to decrease your time on site or bounce rate.
All websites accumulate links and eventually those links will probably break due to website moving, restructuring, or disappearing. Google is more likely to trust pages with no broken links when compared to pages with one or multiple broken links. If we were to breakdown Google’s algorithm, broken links would be a only a small part but that doesn’t make it unimportant to update them. Tools like Google Search Console, Screaming Frog and Ahrefs make it easy to find both internal and external broken links. I’d check for broken backlinks on a quarterly basis to make sure all the links on your site are working properly.
Using 302 Redirects
I see a lot of websites using 302 URL redirects when they should be using a 301. In the case of redirects you should always follow best practices, 301 is a permanent redirect and 302 is a temporary redirect. 302 should only be used if your only temporarily redirecting a URL and have every intention of reusing that page at some point in time in the near future. If you are moving a page to a brand new URL you’re going to want to 301 the old URL to the new URL because that old URL will never be used again.
Bad URL structure
A lot of websites have URLs that use a mishmash of numerous subdirectories, numbers, and unreadable text. First off I’m not a fan of using subdirectories unless that subdirectories by itself is a page otherwise I don’t think it should exist. I’m a big fan of hub and spoke website building and only creating subdirectories that make sense otherwise you’re are ruining your website structure. For example if you have a URL like www.mywebsite.com/blog/name-of-article you should be able to get to the main blog using the URL www.mywebsite.com/blog. I also see a lot of URLs that seemingly uses a random string of numbers which makes it difficult for someone trying to remember a URL. In general URL should be readable so it easier for potential website visitors and crawlers to understand.
Nothing is worse for a page in SERPs than to have little to no content on it. To me if you don’t have a enough content to fill that page, you might want to rethink why you need that page in the first place. It is well document long form content is preferred by Google. Now, I’m not suggesting to write a five thousand word product page for the sake of having long content that is unless you have five thousand words worth of unique content. Writing long form content doesn’t mean you have to use filler content just make sure you have enough content to explain the purpose of that page.
Keyword stuffing is the act of using a keyword over and over again in content with the intent of ranking that page for that particular keyword. Now it’s understandable that you have a keyword multiple times within the content but what I’m talking about is using the same keyword in almost every sentence, to the point where it shows up dozens of times. Using a keyword that many times will lead to bad user experience because the content will read unnaturally and will probably force the reader to another website. When trying to optimize for a keyword, try to not force the use of it and using it naturally or preferably use variance keywords. Variance keywords are similar versions of the same phrase just word slightly differently, which will read more naturally to your website visitors.