Recognizing Repeated SEO Mistakes
After optimizing hundreds of websites over the past 5 years, I've gained a good grasp of the most frequent SEO errors on websites. By making a list of the common mistakes I find on each website, it has become easier to analyze a website, determine its SEO shortcomings, and make appropriate updates. Today, I wanted to share the most common on-page SEO errors I encounter when optimizing websites. This list is meant to help you find your website's SEO blind spots. If you are still struggling with how to analyze and improve your website, perhaps check out my free SEO audit and get started with a customized report. Otherwise, keep reading to learn more about common local SEO errors and how to correct them.
- The meta keywords HTML attribute was initially used by search engine algorithms to help rank websites according to their topic. However, once websites became aware of the search engine's approach, this attribute became heavily abused in attempt to manipulate search engine rankings. As a result of the extensive abuse of the meta keywords tag, Google stopped using it as a ranking factor in 2009. If being up-to-date with search engine best practices is one of your priorities, your website shouldn't be using meta keywords either. Now, a website using meta keywords only helps its competitors. Meta keywords are publicly visible and can tell competitor sites which keywords you're targeting. It's best to avoid them altogether. Don't use meta keywords.
- "Structured data is a standardized format for providing information about a page and classifying the page content; for example, if is it a recipe page, what are the ingredients, the cooking time and temperature, the calories, and so on.Google uses structured data that it finds on the web to understand the content of the page, as well as to gather information about the web and the world in general." close to 95% of the websites I work on are not using structured data, or using it improperly. Test structured data for free using Google's tool. When used properly, structured data improves metrics like clickthrough rate, benefitting your website. Structured data also gives you more control over your Google knowledge graph results. It is important that websites make use of structured data to ensure search engines are able to effectively read and categorize the content on your web pages.
- I find many websites that omit heading tags (H1, H2, etc.) from their content. It is also common to see websites misusing heading tags -- stuffing keywords where they should not belong and negatively impacting user experience. The importance of heading tags like H1, H2, etc. is something that is regularly overshadowed by other SEO attributes. Properly optimize H1 tags can measurably improve a site's rankings. Search Engine Journal wrote a great post linking to several case studies and resources regarding the importance of optimized H1 tags. If your website is missing or misusing heading attributes, it might be time to consider an SEO overhaul.
- Many websites do not consider the names of the pages of their site -- they are focused on the primary domain name. Forgetting about URL structure is a common website oversight, and leads to unreadable URLs that are hard for users to type into their web browsers. You can make your website URLs more readable for search engines by keeping them short and to the point. Some website platforms have settings that allow you to easily configure your URL structure. Backlinko's case study of search engine ranking factors shows shorter URLs rank better than longer ones. A URL that is less than 60 characters or less, uses your target keywords, and is easy for users to understand will be more effective in search engine results than a URL which uses strange dynamic parameters and is not readable for users.
- Search engine best practices for images are often more difficult to follow than others, but can have a significant impact on your website's rankings and traffic. I have never performed an initial analysis of a website that had 100% optimized images. Every website I have ever worked on required SEO updates for its images. Pages and posts with at least one image rank significantly better than those without. This Moz.com blog post does a good job of illustrating some of the differentiating factors of top ranking images. If you have not taken the time to actively optimize all of the images on your website in accordance with search engine best practices, it's time to consider whether or not you need to hire an SEO consultant.
Improving the Internet
Search engine optimization is an important part of creating a great website that is easy to find and use. As an SEO, I feel a direct and personal responsibility to help improve as many websites as possible. The internet is filled with a large amount of content that, with some careful optimization, could provide immense value to a large audience. If I can find that content and make it more accessible for the general population...well, I'd like to think that is one way I can help to make the internet a better place for everyone. In a perfect world, that would be the goal of all SEOs -- to make the internet a better place. How likely that is, I'm not sure, but I can certainly hope.
Thanks for reading.