Search engine experts Search Engine Land have published a blog looking at common SEO blunders.

We examine the flip side, and look at what not to do, summarising their findings to explore the 7 SEO mistakes you need to avoid.

Why is SEO important?

Before we examine some common mistakes, a quick reminder on just why search engine optimisation is such a vital element of your marketing strategy.

In fact, ‘search engine optimisation’ is a bit misleading. Because of course you’re not writing for Google and their peers – you’re writing for your audience.

But search engines assess websites using criteria that decide how user-friendly your site is. Writing content that works for search engines should therefore be one and the same as writing content that works for your audience. Just one reason why high quality content is so important in the era of SEO.

As with all aspects of marketing, the factors influencing SEO are ever-evolving.

What are the most common SEO mistakes?

According to the Search Engine Land blog the six errors you need to beware of are:

  1.  Adding keywords to your business name in Google’s ‘My Business’ listing

People often do this as they are aware of the importance of keywords – with misplaced enthusiasm leading them to include them in their business name.

For example, your business may be a law firm called Smith, Jones and Brown. It could be tempting to list it as ‘Smith, Jones and Brown, family lawyers’.

But in fact, if these keywords are not part of your company’s legal name, using them contravenes the Google My Business Guidelines. This – and similar tactics including fake reviews and virtual office addresses – risks having your entry reported as ‘spam, with Google responding by taking action against your listing.

However appealing it is to add them, therefore, lesson one is: don’t include keywords in your business listing unless they are part of your legal name.

  1. Having a website that isn’t secure

Site security was introduced as a ranking factor by Google in 2014. However, it’s only since July of this year, when Google’s Chrome browser started showing ‘not secure’ warnings on sites that aren’t secure, that digital marketers have started to really take notice.

The ‘not secure’ warning clearly has huge negative implications for your site and for prospective customers’ overall perception of your company.

How can you make sure your site is secure? First, you need to buy an SSL Certificate from your website host or domain name registrar. Once it’s purchased, you need to install it on your site – something your website hosting firm may do for you, or your digital marketing or web manager could do it.

As part of your SSL installation, you’ll also need to redirect all your non-secure URLs to your new secure ones so that visitors finding old URLs on search engines aren’t taken to dead pages.

  1. Having a site that loads slowly

Site load speed is one of the 5 SEO basics, page speed – the speed at which your site loads – became a ranking factor for the first time.

Although it isn’t one of the primary factors used to determine rank, it does form part of the suite of things Google looks at to decide where your page appears.

And because slow page speed is one of the chief causes of user frustration – and of course, user experience is already a key ranking factor – speed really is a vital element of your SEO toolkit.

The Search Engine Land blog quotes Google as saying that 53% of mobile website visits are abandoned if the page takes longer than three seconds to load.

So, while Google stops short of giving exact definitions of what ‘too slow’ is, this can be used as a good guideline – although this is actually pretty fast, and a speed that many websites would struggle to meet.

The good news is that Google has its own Site Speed Test, which allows you to enter your URL and be given results for your site on both mobile and desktop. It also provides specific tips on the changes you can make to improve your site speed.

  1. Using ‘click here

It’s easy to do – you want to link to another page, so ask people to find out more by clicking ‘here’.

Google’s Developer Documentation Style Guide, the search engine has its own thoughts on what makes good content. And one of its preferences is for so-called ‘anchor text’ – text that sends people elsewhere on your site – to be as helpful as possible to the reader.

Google therefore uses both the anchor text and the page it links to when deciding on rank. So it makes sense to use that anchor text to include more of your keywords, rather than a bland ‘here’.

  1. Not using image alt-tags

What is an alt tag? Alt tags – also known as alt text, altattributes or altdescriptions, are HTML descriptions applied to image so that they can be found by search engines.

For instance, an image of a person poring over documents could be labelled ‘Compliance manager approving financial promotions’.

Failing to use relevant alt tags means you are missing an SEO trick by not giving Google something else to hook onto when crawling your site.

  1. Not using a Google maps
Using one of Google’s own maps to show your firm’s location may seem like a no-brainer – yet many firms fail to use one at all or – possibly a worse crime! – use a map from Yahoo or another search engine. Unsurprisingly, this won’t earn you any brownie points from Google!
Having a Google map on our site helps your customers find you – and also helps your site to perform better in local searches. The Search Engine Land blog has a step-by step guide to creating your own Google map.

7. Ignoring pages that don’t rank on page 1

You can use a tool called Google Search Console to measure your site’s search traffic and performance and fix issues that are holding it back in search results.

There is no shortage of advice on getting pages to rank higher – you may want to add content (Google has a preference for content that is at least 1,500 to 2,000 words); update the page with newer content, make better use of keywords; add rich content like videos, podcasts, infographics or images (with alt tags, of course); refine and add to your headings with better use of keywords; and add links to and from your better-performing pages.

All of this will help to move your current under-performing pages up the rankings, with far less effort than is needed to create and optimise brand new pages.

Best practice SEO is easier than you might think

So, there are plenty of pitfalls to avoid when looking at your search engine optimisation. But there are also lots of relatively simple steps you can take to improve your rank.

Bear in mind these tips while building or updating your site and you can expect to see it perform better in search. While you’re making changes, take the time to test them out so you can be sure your edits are having the right impact.

Some automated workflow systems incorporate web-testing capabilities, so you can see, for instance, how mobile-friendly your site is as you build it rather than once it’s built, which can be helpful.

For more information on how mobile-friendliness impacts your rank, and tips on how to improve your own performance, please contact us.

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