There are so many aspects to SEO, and it can be difficult to draw them all together efficiently and effectively. As an agency, we have seen clients make mistakes time and time again and we've also made some howlers ourselves.
To help you keep up with Google’s ever-evolving algorithm, avoid search engine penalties, and become a trusted site in a web saturated with content, we’ve put together a list of five of the worst SEO mistakes we have come across.
1. Launching your new site without redirects
This is the most important point for anyone who is planning a new site. From an SEO perspective, website migrations can be tricky.
In order to minimise the impact on your traffic, it’s vital that you have a migration strategy in place. If redirects aren’t mapped out and implemented, your search visibility could fall dramatically.
This means your customers won’t be able to find you as easily and could result in a sharp drop in revenue. It could take months to recover, should the worst happen.
When launching a new site, it’s crucial that your redirects go live at the same time. Make sure your SEO and development teams are communicating from the start, and have a clear plan in place to follow. Check that everyone knows their roles and responsibilities for the migration and carries out the work they are assigned.
2. Not telling your SEO team about major site changes
This next point is also about communication and keeping everyone in the loop.
People often forget to let their SEO team know about any major changes to your website. You may not think it’s important, but if you're unsure of the impact it could have on your rankings, let you SEO team know.
Here’s an example of what happened when a client changed the URLs on about 30% of their site without putting in redirects and without telling their SEO team.
Their search visibility dropped massively and wiped out seven months of progress, all because their web team made the change without telling marketing. If their marketing team had been consulted, the drop could have been avoided altogether.
All it takes is a quick email or call to get an answer from your SEO expert and ensure you don’t end up with a massive traffic drop that could have been avoided.
You should always consult your SEO team or agency when doing any of the following:
- Moving to HTTPS
- Removing sections or individual pages
- Adding new sections
- Changing functionality or UX
- Changing site structure
- Changes to copy on important pages
3. 10-second page load times
Old sites, in particular, suffer from this problem. After years of neglect and tagging on different widgets and functionalities, you find that your average page loads speed is over 10 seconds.
Slow sites are actually painful to use, they take forever to do anything, and your customer is more likely to abandon the site than attempt to press on.
Not only does Google count page loading speed as an SEO ranking factor, but users demand better performance than this. According to KissMetrics, 47% of users expect a web page to load in two seconds or less. For an e-commerce site, speed is even more important and could seriously affect your bottom line.
Take Walmart for example. After finding out that it was the fastest retail website compared to sites like Amazon or eBay, it decided to increase its speed performances further which resulted in it experiencing up to a 2% increase in conversions for every one second of improvement.
For every 100 milliseconds of improvement, it grew incremental revenue by up to 1%.
Ensuring that your site delivers a smooth customer experience will mean that audiences can do what they need to on your site. With this, you should see a steady increase in your organic traffic, as well as happier customers who want to return to your brand.
4. Keyword cannibalisation
Believe it or not, your biggest competitor in Search could actually be your own business. It’s one thing optimising your site to rank higher than your competitors, but if you ignore the content of your own pages, you could be the one blocking your success.
Keyword cannibalisation is when you have more than one page on your site that have a very similar purpose or deals with the same topic. The result is ranking flux, as seen here:
Pages A and B talk about the same topic, and as a result, they switched positions regularly.
This is bad because Google can’t tell which of the pages is the best match for the search query. Rankings are often suppressed because it’s much easier for Google to pick a suitable page on another site where it’s very clear the page is the only one on that topic.
In order to fix cannibalisation, make sure you audit your content to identify duplication. Tools like Lindex are great for this and can help you map keywords to the most relevant pages. From the findings of your audit, work through your site and eliminate or edit any duplicate content.
5. Not creating quality content
You’ve heard it before, and I’ll say it again: Content is King. With the rollout of Penguin, a real-time, rolling update of Google’s algorithm, came even more emphasis on fresh, quality content that answers the user's intent.
Organisations would hire cheap content writers or use article spinners to churn out a number of articles from one original piece. Sure, this saves you time and might contain all of your mapped keywords, but what does it tell your visitors?
If they feel that your content isn’t useful, aueinces will leave the page quickly and stop coming back. Google takes this as a very bad sign. You’ll also break trust.
Quality content also means more links. If your site holds information that is worthy of a citation in an industry blog or articles, you’ll soon see your quality backlinks increasing. It also gives you an asset to share with editors when putting together your link-building strategy.
Focusing on quality content and user experience is one of the most important aspects Google takes into consideration when ranking your site.
If people are visiting your pages and taking the time to read them, Google takes this as a sign that your content must be of high quality.
The key here is that Quality is King. Not purely content.
The Bottom Line
While not a complete list of everything that could go wrong between your site and search engines, avoiding these five serious mistakes is a good place to start. If you’re already facing the wrath of Google and have been penalised, identify the issue and begin to work through rectifying it. In the long term, by following SEO best practices, you will start to see your site’s rankings rise and reap the benefits from your site.
Emily Marchant is a content and SEO consultant at Selesti.