If you’re just starting to learn about SEO it can sometimes become a little overwhelming. One of the first things that probably strike you about it is the multitude of different advice you can find. This is why we wanted to create our top 5 SEO tips and errors infographic and accompanying article. We wanted to provide some practical steps for you to follow to improve your online visibility. If you’re researching SEO options for your business, then the complexity of SEO, combined with industry-specific niches, makes it no easy task. Feel free to contact us any time! We’re more than happy to provide some simple tips as to what you should look into!
Practical steps to help your site rank in search engines
SEO companies are mostly providing B2B services to businesses that either need help with, or are unfamiliar with, the search engine landscape. As there are more than 200 ranking factors with Google alone it is the SEO company or individual expert’s job to help balance this as much as possible. They can then incorporate this into comprehensive SEO services that help their clients. Therefore, before we dig into our top 5 SEO tips and errors, let’s quickly explain what SEO is.
What SEO is and how it can help companies
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is the process of improving on-site and off-site elements that organically increase the ranking of a website for specific terms in Search Engines (SE).
There are a couple of aspects that deserve immediate attention. First of all, you will frequently come across the term “organic” in relation to SEO. Organic ranking, or traffic, increase refers to the increase in visibility on search engines, and increase in visitors as a result of website improvements – as opposed to using paid promotions to generate traffic which hopefully results in increased rankings on search engines. SEO companies often focus on efforts that organically improve your rankings in search engines outside of paid ads. Although, some choose to supplement their services by also offering Pay Per Click (PPC) and other paid traffic options. A good example of on-site SEO is improving how easy it is for search engines to crawl your site. You could also create optimized content for key services you offer that you wish to rank better for.
The second aspect is understanding what search engines inherently focus on. They use search queries or keywords entered by users to scan for specific pages or parts of pages. The relevant pages are then listed on Search Engine Result Pages (SERP). While it’s tempting to churn out content for your site where you list all your services on every page, using different pages for each of your products or services is important. This way you avoid accidentally making your pages compete with each other for the same search terms. SEO companies can help you develop a strategy to diversify and focus your content creation so you don’t cannibalize your own traffic.
How our top 5 SEO tips and errors can help your company
SEO can be confusing for a lot of people who don’t work with it on a daily basis. The purpose of our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors infographic and article is to provide simple and actionable items that you can implement. We aim to be as universal as possible, by and large, avoiding advice that’s circumstance-dependent. By implementing actions from our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors you should have a safer and more easily ‘crawlable’ and engaging site overall. If you should have any questions about the infographic and our advice, feel free to contact us any time! We can then look more specifically at your site and how we can apply different advice.
Different nuances of SEO
If you’ve been looking online to find answers to your SEO questions, you might come across very contradictory advice. This could be due to a variety of factors. SEO can be highly specialized. For one, it could be due to the geographical focus of the source; local, national, or international. On top if this there are other SEO specialities that further diversify the list. Technical SEO, Web Development, and specialities more akin to Marketing are all under the SEO umbrella. Even though there is a great deal of overlap between them, certain critical elements make them different.
Because of this, SEO goes by many names, and focuses on a great variety of niches. Digital Marketing, Online Marketing, Content Marketing, Search Engine Marketing, and Inbound Marketing… the list goes on!
This level of specialization is very helpful for those of us in the SEO industry, for example when narrowing down relevant information or finding the right people for a job. However, it doesn’t always help those who need our services. It can create confusion rather than clarity about SEO. This is a problem, as SEO is a critical component in modern business practices.
Needless to say, the multitude of ranking factors on search engines, and how these correlate to different goals (local/international, lead generation/newsletter subscribers etc.), makes Search Engine Optimization a highly complex business. This brings us to the Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors infographic below. We want to provide some tops tips that are as universal as possible, as well as being applicable for almost any website. We also want to address some typical issues that most people come across at one point or another. After the infographic, we will go through all the tips and common errors – step by step.
Without further ado: our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors infographic!
Top 5 SEO Tips
This is integral to the functionality and “rankability” of a page, which is why it’s the first thing we want to address in our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors. The structure of a specific page or post on your site is important for a couple of reasons. For one, it’s important for your visitors. A well-structured article provides a heightened user experience. It makes it easier for people to navigate your page and understand what you’re trying to say. Not to mention that it improves the overall argument and stylistic flow of your article. All great things!
How URL Structure Can Help Ranking
Let’s start with creating a new page or post. Research has shown that having primary keywords in the URL extension (or slug) improves the ranking of the page. For example, if your page is about minimalist interior design, your slug might look something like this:
This combination is a commercially focused sampling of keywords, yet using ‘nordic’ is less competitive than using the word ‘minimalist’. This gives you a benefit in that you are more likely to rank for the term due to low competition. However, it’s at the expense of how many people will search for the term. Rather than being stuck on page 2 or 3 of Google when using ‘minimalist’ as your keyword (because of how many people try to rank for it), you will be specializing on a less competitive term. This is more likely to earn a high page 1 placement for your page, and therefore you will be immediately visible for a more relevant and accurate search term for your product.
Use Headers To Improve User (and bot) Experience
In terms of the practical execution of on-page content, let’s talk about headers. They are referred to as H1, H2, down to H6, with the weight or importance diminishing the higher the number becomes. We advise you to refrain from having more than one H1. It’s not a crisis if you have more, but it makes life easier to use just one. The best comparison would be to think of the H1 like the title of a chapter in a book.
Instead of using multiple H1’s to structure your article, you can make full use of H2, H3, down to H6. This will allow you to create very specific headers, giving clear instructions for your readers about what section they should read to get specific information.
Creating a structured page or post is doing your visitors a favor in terms of usability. Simultaneously, it helps Google crawlers (bots) understand your page better. In turn, this will aid the ranking of the page.
Secure HyperText Transfer Protocol, or HTTPS://
While having a secure connection is important for obvious reasons, it Google made this a specific priority in 2014. This is why it’s quite high on our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors list. While it might not be the biggest ranking factor, if your site is not using https:// Google will warn your visitors about the insecurity of your site.
One of the key elements for online traffic, conversion, and e-commerce, is to establish trust. Lacking a secure HyperText Transfer Protocol (https) will erode trust, and therefore increase the probability of visitors to your site deciding to leave immediately. In other words you’ll have what the SEO industry calls a high bounce rate. In turn, this will harm the ranking of your site in search engines. A simple solution would be to upgrade your http:// to a https://. This is safer and will encourage trust, and that’s just good business.
How To Implement HTTPS On Your Site
If you realize that you need to implement https:// for your site, you can either purchase it or update your current site set-up. If you decide to purchase a certificate, there is a multitude of options. For example, you can purchase one from the well-known company GoDaddy. Alternatively, you can look into one of the many specialist companies like Digicert.
On the other hand, if you’re using outdated, or low-performing, site infrastructure you could get an https when upgrading or moving your site to a new hosting company. The reason we suggest a hosting change is that sites that are not on https:// often have not updated their hosting solution for a long time. There is a huge variety of choices when it comes to hosting your site, and you can get great advice from PCMag in their Top 10 hosting providers of 2018.
On our end, we’re very happy with our business hosting solution through Hostwinds. Both ourselves and our clients who we have referred to them have been so satisfied with their services that we decided to affiliate with them. Their client support has been especially excellent, and often you will get a free site migration when you sign up for their services. So, if you are considering changing your hosting, we absolutely recommend checking out their business hosting services and options.
At the end of the day, when it comes to implementing https:// across your domains, you really ought to do it sooner rather than later.
Metadata is information that your website communicates to search engine bots, but that your visitors don’t see. While there is a lot that goes into optimizing metadata, we will cover some basics here. These elements are pretty universal, so the tips should apply to most of sites and businesses.
In the meta category, the meta title is among the most important. You can find it simply by looking for this in the code:
This can have a direct impact on the ranking of your site. By including keywords in the beginning of the meta title, you ensure that there is a good focus on what your page is about. The length of your title is rather subjective, but you should think about how it is viewed by most of your visitors. If your site gets most impressions and clicks from mobile devices, as opposed to desktop, you should consider a shorter title.
Meta descriptions are slightly less important nowadays, as Google simply ‘reads’ your entire page. This is why the meta description serves more as a suggestion than anything else. However, creating an accurate meta description to be shown in the Search Engine Result Page (SERP) is an opportunity you should take advantage of.
Creating an enticing and accurate meta description can help your Click Through Rate (CTR). The reason why this is important is that click-through rates and bounce rates are huge indicators of whether your site is actually relevant to solving the problem the searcher had when entering their keywords in Google. which will also help improve your ranking.
Functioning a bit like an instruction manual for how bots crawl and approach your site, you ought to treat them with great care. Unless you’re a web developer, or you’re very familiar with how to use them, we recommend that you steer clear. If you’re inexperienced with robot.txt, you might end up doing more harm than good to your site.
For example, you could accidentally tell bots not to crawl your site, which would lead to your site not being indexed by Google. More likely than not, Google will index your site just fine by default, and the bots will follow the links. Therefore, you have more to lose than gain. Should you need to discourage furthering link equity, change the links to “no-follow”.
If link equity threw you off, you most likely don’t have to worry, but if you want you can read more here. If you’re using WordPress and need to keep Google from indexing your brand new site while you build it and upload content, install a minimalist plugin that solves the problem. Try to make life easy for yourself when dealing with meta robots.
As mentioned, our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors infographic offers basic advice, and doesn’t go into great detail. However, Yoast.com has created an excellent resource that deals with metadata in a more in-depth way.
The speed of your site can be instrumental in how your site gains, retains, and cultivates traffic. It is critical to user engagement and your site’s ranking, and therefore had to be on our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors list.
The longer a page takes to load, the more impatient your potential visitors will get. The more impatient they become, the more likely they are to bounce off your site before having a chance to see your services and awesome content. This is especially true when it comes to mobile loading speed. Neil Patel brings some excellent stats to the table on this, and demonstrates that the bounce probability increases by 113% if it takes more than 6 seconds to load a page!
If you’re unsure whether you ought to look into improving your site’s speed, simply run it through Google’s PageSpeed Insights. It provides some custom tips on how to address elements that might be slowing down your site.
There are many ways to address site speed, some more complicated than others.
On the simpler side of things, we have images.
How Image Optimization Can Help Site Speed
We all know that images and graphics are both important factors in enhancing user experience and retaining your users’ attention. However, images are one of the more common culprits in slowing down the loading time of a page. Luckily, there are multiple ways to go about solving this issue. We’ve also written an article exclusively on image SEO best practice if you’re interested in learning more.
Optimize images for WordPress sites
For WordPress sites, there are multiple plugins you can use to optimize images. One of the easiest ways to reduce the size of an image is to use plugins like the Smush plugin for WordPress. The process is really quite simply. Once the plugin is activated, all you need to do is upload your image files as usual on WordPress. The Smush plugin will do it’s thing automatically. However, there might be times where it’s not automatic. In those cases, simply click the “Smush now” icon.
Optimize images without plugins
If you’re not using WordPress as your Content Management System (CMS), or you are afraid of adding too many plugins, there are other options. For example, Affinity Photo goes for a better price than Photoshop while it has similar features. This allows you to reduce the file size of the image while maintaining most of the quality.
Alternatively, there are free online tools that do the same job as the Smush plugin we discussed above. For example, you have the site Web Site Planet. It is a free online tool that use a simple and effective drag-and-drop user interface. It is very simple to use, can reduce file size by between 60 to 80 percent, while retaining much of the image quality. It’s an excellent alternative should you want to avoid adding new plugins to your WordPress site.
Server Issues Can Cause Slow Sites
Unfortunately, no amount of optimization is going to help if your site is run from a slow and low capability server. If you haven’t considered or evaluated your hosting for a while, it might be worth looking into it.
Keep people posted! Generally speaking, data indicates that you ought to keep a very active blog/website. Research shows that for small companies with fewer than 10 employees, publishing 11 times or more generate 3 times more traffic to their site! This is pretty amazing when you think about it.
However, achieving this can be very challenging, and sustaining it over time can be even more difficult. The fact is, you can’t publish 300-400 words of jargon or babble 11 times a month and expect to engage and attract more visitors. Articles need to provide something useful to the reader in order to be successful. To follow good SEO practice, adding correct internal links to improve conversion, many choose to outsource their SEO content needs.
That said, keeping your content informative, doing your research, and ensuring that you focus on providing value to your visitors will take you a long way. You can use tools like Grammarly to check your grammar, and you can assess the readability through multiple free online tools. One tool that can be particularly helpful is the Passive Voice detector, which you can use to focus your sentences, which in turn makes the tone of an article more direct.
Top 5 Common Errors
This is by far one of the most common errors out there and therefore deserves its #1 spot in our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors. According to research by SEMrush, duplicate content is an issue that 50% of sites face. While there is no penalty as such for duplicate content, it can be malignant or harmful depending on type, severity, and other factors.
The problem with duplicate content is that it confuses search engines, and makes them unsure which of the two (or more) pages is “the right one” to give authority to. Basically, the two pages will be competing with each other for attention. They will also compete for backlinks, meaning that both ranking and backlinks will be diluted across two pages, rather than focusing on one.
Dubious Duplicate Content Issues
An obvious cause for duplicate content issues is if the content is copy-pasted from another site. For one thing, you might face copyright issues. If this occurs, you need to address it very quickly, usually by simply removing the content. On the other hand, if someone took your content you’ll need to ensure that they take it down.
Innocent Duplicate Content Issues
However, if you’re faced with duplicate content issues of the more innocent kind there are other ways to deal with it. For example, many bloggers find that they accidentally create duplicate content problems for themselves because their blog and “uncategorized” section is practically identical due to a lack of categories on their posts. A simple fix would be to add categories to your blog post. For example, if you’re publishing content on fashion, add categories like “summer clothes”, “winter wear”, “beach clothing” and “suits”. This way your blog page will be markedly different after a few posts than your various categorized, or uncategorized sections.
If your site is live on http:// and https://, or www. non-www. all at once, this can also create problems. You ought to give priority to one over the other. You can solve this through 301 redirects or using rel=canonical to tell search engines which one is the authority. Though we did cover more than planned on duplicate content for our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors, it’s really only an introduction. Moz has a very clear and detailed article that can help with specific duplicate content issues.
Over the course of your site’s lifespan, you will very likely see a 404 page show up. This is not necessarily a bad thing, it’s simply important that it appears when appropriate. There are two types of 404 pages: 404, and a Soft 404.
A soft 404 occurs when there is a 200 success code communicated to the browser, while the page itself shows very thin content, or a custom 404 content page. What is Google’s take on these?
“Returning a success code, rather than 404/410 (not found) or 301 (moved), is a bad practice.”
How you solve a Soft 404 page depends on the circumstances. If you’ve removed the content because it has become obsolete you can use your CMS to delete the page. This should result in the URL returning a correct 404 code. However, if you don’t intend to use the URL in the future, you can use a 410 code. This will tell search engines that this page is permanently deleted, and it will stop indexing it sooner than it would a 404.
That said, there is another option if you have a different content piece that is very similar to what was previously on the now obsolete URL. In these cases you can use a 301 redirect to try to improve user experience. If you have a lot of traffic on this 404 page, or have backlinks to it, then a 301 redirect is probably the route to take.
If it’s not a Soft 404, the fixes are usually very similar. For example, you could have accidentally created a 404 through a faulty internal link that sends users and bots alike to a non-existing URL. The simple fix is to update the link. However, if it’s an external link that sends traffic and potential visitors to a non-existing page you have two options. Get the site linking to you to update their link, or create a redirect from the 404 URL to the intended page.
If you have removed the page in question, and it is reporting a correct 404 code to the browser, then all is well. However, you could also optimize it by changing this code to a 410, which will speed up how quickly search engines pick up on the fact that this is no longer a URL worth indexing and ranking.
We included 404’s in our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors as it is a very common and normal issue to occur for most sites. Since there are so many variables changing the best course of action for how and when to deal with a 404, we advise you to check this more in-depth crawl error article.
It might sound sad, but some pages are without parents. Some are unlucky, and accidentally become orphaned, while others are cruelly destined to be that way.
It may sound slightly dramatic, but it’s also accurate. Much like 404 errors, there are different kinds of orphaned pages, and they need to be treated differently. While we wish to focus on universal solutions in our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors, this is such a common error that it needed to make the list.
If the orphaned page is that way by design, then it’s all good. After all, there is a myriad of reasons why a page would be orphaned by design; special promotion, seasonal product relevance, or specific landing page from referrals, to name a few.
However, if your site has pages that have become orphaned accidentally, you ought to take action. An orphaned page is a page that has no internal links leading to it. This leads to the page becoming isolated from the rest of your site. While this isn’t inherently bad, you should actively deal with it. Either you should simply incorporate it into the wider structure of your site by providing internal links to the page, or you should simply remove it.
If the orphaned page is useful, link to it! Make it accessible; allow your users to reach it easily. On the other hand, if the page is useless, just remove it. Otherwise, you will have a page using crawl budget on something you are not investing in, and that’s just a waste. It’s better if crawlers focus on pages that you do want users to see.
Internal links are your friend, and has certainly earned its place on our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors. They work by helping you to guide your visitors to the pages you think they’d most like to see and interact with. They also simultaneously send signals to search engines as to which pages on your site are the most important. While you should actively use them to improve the maneuverability of your site, you should be wary not to accidentally over-link and make your site look spammy. Use them only when they can help improve the functionality of your site, and when there is a need for them.
In terms of internal link errors, the most important things you need to do are to a) use them when you can, b) monitor them on a regular basis so that none are broken for long, and c) fix them once you see any broken internal links. While getting internal links right isn’t too complicated, it is a very common issue. This is usually a result of sites growing and developing naturally, while the required maintenance hasn’t really been in place in the meantime.
While internal links are quite straightforward to get right when you practice good site maintenance, you can find more details about internal links here.
Neglecting your site
Lastly on our Top 5 SEO Tips and Errors is ignoring your site. It is understandable that many focus on having a “do-no-harm” policy for their small business website. Unfortunately, the wrong “do-no-harm” policy can quickly turn out to do just the opposite. It is important to realize that ignoring your website after its launch is a sure-fire way to diminish its value over time for the great majority of sites.
As you can tell by the above, a lot of the major common issues that pop up are due to insufficient maintenance and failure to keep up with the Google updates that are continuously changing how sites are ranked.
SEO tools and how to avoid neglecting your site
Business owners and SME/SMB’s that don’t work in the SEO field can’t really be blamed for not being on top of everything going on with search engines. It can be very challenging as the updates and tweaks are near constant. To gain this insight, many choose to subscribe to SEO agency tools such as SEMrush Pro or Guru, or Raven SEO Tools Start. These are tools that many SEO agencies use to get further insight during the process of helping their clients. They are excellent and can certainly help you identify problem areas with your site on a regular basis.
Although, it’s always important to keep in mind that, as with any tool, the end result depends on the skill and expertise of those using them. Therefore it might be worth at the very least to consider hiring SEO specialists to provide monthly SEO reports with actionable advice. The added benefits of this is that it frees up more time for you to do what you do best, while you simultaneously get contextualized advice. On top of this, SEO agencies can use more specified tools in order to provide a more comprehensive report than can be created using one of these SEO tools.
We are, of course, more than happy to provide you full, detailed reports. However, we will also give you solutions. Rather than saying “this is the problem,” we will say “this is the problem, and this is how you solve it.” Contextualization is important, especially considering the wealth of information available through these tools. This allows you as a business owner to focus the right amount of energy on the right SEO issues. Please, feel free to reach out to us anytime! We’re more than happy to give you some insights and help you with the SEO you need!