Although SEO trends come and go, some principles stay the same. One of them is the ability for your site to be properly indexed by the ‘Googlebot,’ as it’s called. Even if you’re producing great content on a regular basis, if your site isn’t properly optimized, you won’t get the rankings you want. Whether you’re a blogger or an SEO specialist, here are some basic SEO errors many people make, as well as strategies for avoiding them.
1. Optimizing for the Wrong Keywords
Though you may have a specific language for how you define and present your products and services, one of the most common SEO mistakes people make is failing to consider the preferences of search engines and users. The terms you would use to describe your brand could mean something different for users, or they could be too generic.
Instead of trusting that you’ll choose the right terms, be sure to do background research into keywords that will work best for your site. Rather than trying to rank for the most general terms related to your products or services, look at trends surrounding more specific, long-tail keyword phrases. Long-tail keywords will likely have fewer overall searches and can allow you to earn higher rankings more quickly while providing more relevant content for users.
2. Stuffing Keywords
This is still one of the most common SEO mistakes many website owners make. When your site is trying to rank for particular phrases, it might seem like the best way to get Google’s attention is to stuff your keywords and phrases in every sentence possible.
Tactics like this might have worked on older versions of Google’s ranking system, but today it’s considered a spammy practice. Not only does this negatively impact your SEO performance, but it often makes your content seem unnatural which creates a negative user experience.
Instead, aim to create useful content that uses your keywords in a natural way. You should also avoid repeating the same anchor text for every link in a piece of content as this looks unnatural and may hurt your rankings.
3. Producing Thin, Unoriginal Content
It’s a common practice for some websites to publish the same articles that have simply been reworded in order to appear to offer a wealth of resources. From a user perspective, it is easy to tell if a website is publishing shallow, duplicate content without much practical use, and this hurts users’ trust in your site. Aside from losing your audience, your rankings will also take a hit as Google has continually updated their algorithm to penalize websites with thin content. Rather than using article spinning software, invest the time to come up with original ideas and content that provides value to users.
4. Focusing on Quantity Over Quality
Though it’s possible to get hundreds of backlinks to your site through low-quality blogs and directories, these will have much less of an impact on your search rankings than a few backlinks on relevant, high-quality websites. Also, be sure to avoid placing links on websites that often link to pornography, pharmaceuticals, or gambling as these sites have less SEO value. The association between your website and these industries can also hurt your brand’s reputation with your target audience.
5. Ignoring Analytics
With the variety of analytical tools and metrics available, it’s essential to monitor which content and keywords are impacting your conversion rates. Even if you’re not familiar with how analytics can impact your SEO efforts, learning to use Google Analytics can allow you to create reports and interpret data about your site.
In particular, you should track which landing pages receive the most traffic from organic search results and which search queries are driving traffic to your site. This data can help you to understand what you’re already doing well, focus your efforts to maximize that success, and help identify potential gaps in your SEO strategy.
6. Neglecting Meta Tags
Simply including target keywords in your articles is not enough to fully optimize your content for search engines. Including specific title tags allow search engines to more accurately associate keywords with relevant content when crawling your website. This can have major benefits to your SEO efforts. For example, having specific title tags, especially those related to ‘how to’ searches, can determine whether Google features your website in their Quick Answers Box, which can significantly improve your traffic. Without meta tags, search engines and users will have a difficult time finding your content, even if it is highly relevant to their search terms.
7. Using HTTP Instead of HTTPS
As a brief introduction, HTTP stands for hypertext transfer protocol. This protocol allows communication between different systems, most commonly between a web server and a browser. The “s” in HTTPS stands for secure, and unlike HTTP, it utilizes a sublayer that encrypts and decrypts information transferred. Websites that use HTTP are more vulnerable to hackers who would intercept personal information transmitted to a site.
In Google’s efforts to encourage a higher standard of security throughout the internet, they have confirmed that HTTPS is a ranking signal for SEO. When they made this announcement in 2014, they stated that this will carry less weight than factors like providing high-quality content. However, they added that they may strengthen its effect over time, and it seems that change may already be taking place.
According to a report by MOZ, there is a growing correlation between HTTPS and page-1 Google results. The data shows the percentage of page-1 results has risen from around 7 percent in 2014 to 32.5 percent in 2016. Though it’s possible this change is the result of updates from Google that reward or punish websites based on their usage of HTTPS, this change is fairly gradual. It may simply be the result of Google’s PR campaign to encourage websites to switch to the more secure URL. It might also be due to the fact that many websites are naturally switching to HTTPS in order to maintain trust with their audience and customers.
Should you switch to HTTPS? If you’re doing it purely for SEO reasons, you shouldn’t necessarily rush to switch. Making the transition to HTTPS is a complicated, resource-intensive endeavor, and if not done correctly, it can create issues with your technical SEO which could negatively impact your search rankings. However, HTTPS is becoming the new standard for security online, and as more sites make the change, there will be more pressure for sites to use HTTPS.
As the algorithms used to calculate search result rankings continue to evolve, it’s important to stay up to date on things that can negatively impact your rankings. By avoiding these basic SEO errors, your site stands a better chance of being properly indexed by search engines. With persistent effort and patience, you should see an improvement in traffic and conversion rates.