5 Common SEO Mistakes & How to Fix Them
“Ahh, we’ve finally mastered our SEO! We have the perfect plan in place!”
(1 month later)
“Our SEO totally isn’t working! We’re screwed! Call in the reserves!”
Search Engine Optimization is constantly changing. It might make more sense to call it “Suddenly Everything’s Obsolete!”
While it’s important to stay on top of trends, what may be relevant now may have less of an impact in the future. What’s most important is content. It’s the main factor in creating great SEO. If your content isn’t well written, or relevant, or influential, your page will not rank high. That’s a simple truth that nobody at Google, or anywhere else, can dispute.
So content is king. But that still doesn’t mean great content always wins because we’re human and we aren’t perfect. Even if you have great, consistent content, there are still some common mistakes that could hurt your page rankings. Below are five we’ve seen, and thoughts on how to fix them.
Note: these tips focus on Google SEO as it’s the top search engine in the US and globally (some countries have alternate top search engines).
Common SEO Mistakes
1. “I created a page for our new product but when I Google the product name, it doesn’t show up at the top of the search results.”
As previously mentioned, content is the primary SEO factor. So let’s assume your content is great and consider how to make your product page work harder. Here are some key questions to ask about the content on that page:
- Does the page have a Title tag and an SEO-friendly URL path? Title tags, which are ideally 65 characters or less, are displayed in your browser tab and describe the topic or theme of the page. According to experts, these tags are one of the top-ranking factors in SEO, so it is important to make sure your title tags contain keywords relevant to the page contents. The URL path is also an important factor. It should be concise, easy to read, and also contain relevant keywords.
- Does the page contain content related to the keywords you’re searching? Just because the title tag and URL path contain the keywords does not mean it will rank; the contents of your page must also contain relevant keywords. Before writing the page, we suggest performing keyword research in order to achieve effectiveness in page optimization. You can use tools such as Google’s AdWords Planner to better understand which keywords are commonly searched.
- Does the page have an H1 tag (headline) containing the keywords? The primary headline of the page should be enclosed in an H1 html tag and should be descriptive of the page contents. The H1 should include your targeted keywords that are relevant and closely related to the page title.
If you can answer “Yes” to all of the above, you’re doing great. Remember that it takes Google a little while to crawl and index any new page, so it’s possible that you might just need to wait. If you don’t think Google has indexed your page yet, you can submit a crawl request in Google’s Search Console.
2. “We created a new page to replace an existing page, but I still see the old page showing up in search results.”
First, check to make sure you set up a re-direct from the old page to the new one. If you did, confirm it was set up as the correct re-direct type.
There are two main types of re-directs: 301 and 302. When looking to permanently re-direct the page to a new location, use 301s. Setting up 301 re-directs from old pages to new ones not only passes incoming traffic along; the majority of the page value will be passed along with it. Experts say that around 90-95% of an old page’s SEO value will be transitioned over to the new page when 301 re-direct is put in place. Without a 301 re-direct, the page’s SEO value starts from scratch.
When looking to temporarily re-direct the page, use a 302 re-direct. It tells Google this page has moved to a different location but will return to its old site spot soon. For example, imagine that you’re hosting a big event and want all of your visitors to know about it. You might want to temporarily re-direct the main landing page of your site to a page about the event for the day prior to the event. In this case, you would use 302 redirect to temporarily route traffic to the landing page without moving any of the SEO value over from the homepage.
When using re-directs, remember to avoid re-direct chains (A redirects to B, then B redirects to C), as that can decrease the SEO value of the final destination page. For every step in a re-direct chain, you lose a small percentage of SEO value.
3. “I have 2 pages with the same content and they’re both showing up in search results.”
Do you want both pages to exist? If not, see #2 above.
If you intentionally created two pages with the same content but did not add the proper tags, your pages may be inadvertently penalized. This is because duplicate content forces Google to choose which is the primary page, so Google splits the SEO value across the two pages rather than attributing it to one.
Assuming these pages serve the same audience (if they serve different languages or locations, see #4 below), you can combat the negative SEO by adding canonical tags to both pages. This tag indicates to Google that, while you are aware that two pages exist, Google should only index the primary page only in search results.
If Page A is the primary and Page B is the duplicate, Page A should have a canonical tag that points to itself and Page B should also have a canonical tag that points to Page A. The canonical tag will look like this on both Page A and Page B and should be added to the <head> of each page:
<link href=”http://www.example.com/page-A” rel=”canonical” />
4. “I have the same page for my US and International site, but they serve 2 different audiences. How can I make sure Google does not penalize me?”
If they are both serving different audiences, you should inform Google using hreflang tags. Hreflang indicates that although the pages are the same (or similar), they are intended for audiences in different locations or languages. This allows Google to keep both pages in its index without penalizing a site as users from one region should receive a different page than visitors from another.
This differs from the canonical example above where you only want Google to show one page in search results. Make sure to note that pages should not have both a canonical tag pointing to another page and hreflang tags. This gives mixed signals to Google.
Structure of an hreflang tag:
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”en-us” href=”https://www.example.com/us/home”>
<link rel=”alternate” hreflang=”fr-fr” href=”https://www.example.com/fr/home”>
The hreflang reference in the tag is structured as <language>-<country> using ISO codes. The example above tells Google that the page living at /us/home is in English and intended for US audiences while the page at /fr/home is in French and intended for audiences in France. Both pages should include the hreflang codes for all similar pages in that grouping, including itself.
If you need help generating hreflang tags, we find this tool very helpful.
5. “I launched a new site on a new domain. How do I start building SEO for my site?”
First of all, have patience! SEO will not come overnight. Building SEO takes time when launching a new site as you will need to build domain authority and page authority for all of your new content.
Domain authority is the value a search engine places on your top-level domain (e.g. www.vodori.com). The score is made up of an aggregate of metrics where each one has an impact to the domain’s rank. Whereas domain authority measures the ranking strength of an entire domain, Page authority is the value a search engine places on one specific page. It is best to use page authority and domain authority as comparative metrics when doing research on determining which sites/pages have more relevant and powerful link profiles than another.
If you are trying to migrate content from an existing site to a new one, make sure to implement 301 re-directs to move the SEO value over from your old domain. In addition, it is important to engage in link-building campaigns to have other reputable sites link to your site as that is one of the best ways to build domain authority. If those sites link to your old site, have them update their links to your new domain.
Hopefully the items above help you uncover some ways to ensure you’re following SEO best practices. Remember that even if you comply with these, having good content is the best way to ensure optimal SEO. In an ever-changing SEO landscape, good content will always prevail.
If you would like to learn more about SEO or uncover some issues with your own site, below are some great places to start:
- https://moz.com/blog (read about trend updates and best practices)
- https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/home?hl=en (measure the performance of your website through this tool from Google)
- http://www.screamingfrog.co.uk/seo-spider/ (run an audit of your site to uncover opportunities)
If you’d like to learn more about how Vodori can help with your SEO, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.