The Five Biggest Mistakes of Onsite SEO
For any SEO program, the first order of business is to make sure your website is communicating clearly with Google. In order to properly index and rank your onsite content, Google must be able to find it, understand it, and determine its importance relative to other content on your site.
If your site isnâ€™t optimized correctly, important content will be completely ignored or under ranked. Consequently, the benefit of any link acquisition activities youâ€™re undertaking will be seriously diminished.
These five SEO blunders are not only big, theyâ€™re popular. How many of them is your website guilty of?
1. Bungling Meta Tags
Meta tags are HTML elements that convey information to Google about a web pageâ€™s content and importance â€“ and there are scores of ways to go wrong when setting them up. These are common Meta tag errors that reduce a pageâ€™s ability to rank well.
- Title tags neither keyword-optimized nor relevant. Title tags are the most important Meta element of a page, as they tell Google exactly what the page is about.
- Failure to do keyword research. Without it, itâ€™s impossible to keyword-optimize title tags â€“ and content.
- Duplicate tags. Certain types of Meta tags should be unique for each site page, such as Title tags and Description tags.
- Improper use of Robots tags. The family of Robots tags strongly influence site crawling and indexing.
In #5, Iâ€™ll provide a little guidance for dealing with these issues.
2. Having Duplicate Versions of URLs
For a variety of reasons, a site may have the same page of content displaying at different URLs. Frequently seen examples of this:
- http://www.company.com and http://company.com
- www.company.com and www.company.com/index.php
- www.company/miracle-widget and www.company/item-xxxxx
These situations force Google to decide which location (URL) of the content is the â€œrealâ€ page. Making matters worse, if inbound and internal links point to different versions of the URL â€“ a very common occurrence â€“ Google becomes even more confused about which page to rank and how highly to rank it.
Ideally, all duplicate versions of URLs should be eliminated. Sometimes, however, multiple URLs are unavoidable due to programming considerations. If multiples cannot be eliminated, all inbound and internal links should point to the preferred version of the URL. In addition, use rel=â€canonicalâ€ attributes to tell Google which version of a duplicated page to pay attention to.
Here is an example of the Canonical tagging from Magid, a manufacturer and distributor of leather safety gloves. Â The product page below has several versions, a non-preferred version being http://www.magidglove.com/Magid-DuraFit-Goatskin-Leather-Drivers-Gloves-with-Kevlar-Liner-1.aspx?DepartmentId=217.
Magid tells Google which version to index and rank by inserting the following rel=â€canonicalâ€ code in the above-noted URL:
<link rel=”canonical” href=”http://www.magidglove.com/Magid-DuraFit-Goatskin-Leather-Drivers-Gloves-with-Kevlar-Liner-1.aspx” />
By inserting this code, Magid tells Google to pass any value this version of the page has to the primary page, which has the URL http://www.magidglove.com/Magid-DuraFit-Goatskin-Leather-Drivers-Gloves-with-Kevlar-Liner-1.aspx.
3. Poor Internal Linking Structure
When Google crawls your site, it looks at your internal linking structure, and concludes that the pages you link to most frequently are the most important. Popular blunders for internal linking include:
- Not having a coherent internal linking structure.
- Failing to use keywords in anchor text for internal links. Doing so adds value to the page being linked to.
Footer links are a good way to establish a solid internal linking structure. PacMoore, an industrial spray drying company, uses this footer globally on its site:
The anchor text includes important keywords and features pages of the site that are most important to Google. Â Displaying these links site-wide reinforces the point that the linked-to pages are important and deserve high ranking.
4. Poorly Optimized Content
On-page text must be optimized in order for Google to match it up and rank it highly for relevant search queries. There are many ways to go wrong, but the good news is, the fixes are a matter of knowing what to write â€“ and then writing it. Common ways sites stumble:
- Failing to include keywords in page headlines and subheads.
- Failing to add keywords to image alt attributes and titles.
- Failing to optimize video.
- Conveying essential information in Flash, which is basically invisible to Google, instead of text.
- Failing to write enough text, which tells Google the page is superficial and therefore not valuable.
5. Not Using Google Webmaster Tools
As weâ€™re seeing, there are hundreds of tactical traps associated with each of these mistake areas. If youâ€™re throwing your hands up in despair â€“ donâ€™t. Google Webmaster Tools is a free, online resource that will tell you exactly and in detail what your onsite SEO issues are.
In addition to identifying issues in the areas Iâ€™ve already discussed, Webmaster Tools reports common site problems such as unidentified error pages, unintentional black hat SEO tactics and pagination problems.
Reviewing your site in Webmaster Tools on a monthly basis is a good practice. If you havenâ€™t done a review recently â€“ or ever â€“ you could be in for a bad SEO surprise.