- Too often a site’s SEO performance suffers because of bad SEO practices. Luckily, you can remedy the issues as long as you identify them.
- Perform a site audit roughly every six months to identify SEO issues that need fixing.
- Working with SEO experts can make fixing mistakes and preventing future issues much easier.
There’s nothing more nightmarish than realizing the reason your SEO is suffering is – you! But when the call is coming from inside the house, at least it’s you who can eliminate the threat. Everybody makes mistakes. With a little help from the experts (hint: that’s us), you can avoid making the same one twice!
Keep reading to learn some common mistakes that drive down the SEO health of a website.
Five Mistakes That Kill Your Site’s SEO
1. Bad architecture
Site architecture is arguably the most important element of your site’s technical SEO. Just as a dilapidated, abandoned building is hazardous to anyone who enters, bad site architecture is inhospitable to search engine crawlers and users alike and therefore, deadly to your SEO. By contrast, good site architecture provides a smooth user experience and an information structure that is easy for search engines to crawl.
Next time you perform a technical audit on your website, be sure to check the following elements:
- Menus – Menus tell search engines and users what they’ll find on your site and provide a way to get there.
- Page URLs – These should follow logical patterns and include clear, descriptive keywords. Long strings of arbitrary letters and numbers do nothing to help users or search engines navigate your site.
- Content categories – Imagine walking into a library where books are just placed randomly on shelves with no labels. Mystery novels next to books of poetry, magazines, and biographies. It would be nearly impossible to find anything specific. This is what it’s like to visit a website with no content categories – i.e., frustrating for users and crawlers alike.
- Linking – A sound linking structure further supports user and crawler navigation of your site. This topic deserves its own discussion and is explored in greater detail later in this guide.
2. Duplicate content
Duplicate content is any content that appears in more than one place on the internet. I.e., the same content appears at more than one unique URL. Duplicate content is often discussed in the context of one domain, meaning a single website has the same piece of content in more than one place on its own site. However, duplicate content can also mean syndicated content or plagiarized content.
It should go without saying that plagiarism is a big “no” in digital marketing and should be avoided categorically. In this guide, we’ll assume you are not plagiarizing the work of others, and instead focus on duplicate content that exists within your own domain.
This is a fairly common issue that we’ve seen time and again with clients. It usually happens by accident, over time, as you make changes to your site, migrate to new sites, etc. Thankfully, regular audits should catch it and allow you to fix the problem. But why exactly is duplicate content a problem?
According to Moz, duplicate content is not an explicit cause for penalty according to Google. However, remember that search engines are designed to identify the highest-quality, most relevant content for a particular search query. When a single piece of content exists in multiple places, the search engine has to work harder to figure out which content should rank. As a rule, you should always be making it as easy as possible for Google to index and rank your content.
3. Toxic backlinks
Backlinks are another crucial element of SEO. It’s so important, in fact, that we have an entire team dedicated to it. But not all backlinks are created equal, and some are downright toxic. When an audit reveals toxic backlinks on your site, it’s important to take action immediately to prevent them from sabotaging your organic performance.
There are several types of toxic backlinks, but just a few include those that come from poor-quality websites, spam links forced into comments, sitewide links, and paid links. Learn more about how to disavow bad backlinks in our blog on the subject.
4. Broken links
A door that leads nowhere is the stuff of nightmares and horror films. Similarly, links that lead to error pages have no place on your website. They’re frustrating for users and terrible for your SEO. The longer a site has existed, the more likely it is that old content will contain links to pages that no longer exist.
When auditing your site, you should pay special attention to status codes and use them to your advantage. Not all status codes are problems – for example, if you’ve properly implemented redirects from removed content to existing content, you will see status codes reflecting this, such as 301 and 301.
However, some are to be avoided at all costs, namely “404 Not found.” This results automatically when Google tries to serve or crawl a page for a URL that does not or no longer exists. In SEO, it tends to happen when a website has removed content but failed to redirect the URL using a 301 or 302 status code. Don’t let this happen! If you don’t have a new page to redirect the old page to, you can also deliberately tell Google that the page no longer exists with a service code 410.
You should use status codes to communicate to search engines everything from the status of a URL to how to cache your pages to whether or not to index a page.
5. Unoptimized meta tags
This may seem obvious, but we still find ourselves onboarding clients who need major meta tag makeovers. Two important tags in this context are meta titles and meta descriptions. Fairly often, we see the following mistakes with these two types of meta tags:
- Meta tag is too long or too short: If the meta title or meta description is too long, it will be cut off on the SERPs. Not only does this look untidy, but it’s also not great for users since they can’t fully read it. By the same token, a title or description that is too short likely won’t suffice to accurately describe the content. Both of these mistakes lead to a poor user experience, which Google doesn’t like. Thankfully there are free meta tag tools online to help you preview your tags before publication.
- Meta tag doesn’t exist: This is possibly the worst meta tag mistake. Meta titles and meta descriptions are your chance to take control of how Google and the user first perceives your content. Failing to provide these meta tags not only wastes an opportunity for a better user experience but also makes it harder for Google to understand your content.
Meta titles and meta descriptions aren’t the only meta tags you can use to improve your SEO. Ahrefs outlines some lesser-known tags you may want to consider.
Preventing SEO mistakes
The only true mistake is one you make twice. As long as you take measures to identify and remedy SEO issues on your site, you’re on the road to success. So, how do you avoid these SEO mistakes?
The first part of avoiding SEO mistakes is to regularly check for them. As a best practice, you should perform an SEO audit roughly every six months or twice per year. An SEO audit is like a diagnostic test to check the health of your website and identify issues that need correcting. There are different types of audits – technical, local, content, backlink, etc. They’re all important to your SEO health. Audit results are like your blueprint for taking corrective action.
Work with SEO professionals
You don’t have to be an expert in SEO if you partner with experts. An SEO agency has the expertise to not only perform thorough audits at regular intervals, but also interpret the results and walk you through any necessary remedies. Working with SEO experts ensures you always have someone paying attention to your SEO health. This is what we do for our clients every day, and we’re happy to help you too. Reach out to Redefine Marketing Group today!