Search engine optimization is one of the most sought after online professions. As more and more businesses are turning their attention to the web and trying hard to snatch a hefty piece of online visitors, the demand for SEO isn’t going to wane anytime soon. Especially with the ongoing pandemic, many business owners are finally getting around the idea of having their own web presence.
That, in itself is a great thing. However with the growing number of websites being launched and only a certain amount of slots available on the search results page, the competition to be found on the first page of Google (or whichever search engine you’re targeting) is immense and will always be.
Of course, it all starts by understanding how SEO works and once you have a general overview, you can work your way up and around it. In this article, we look at 9 mistakes that you can commit while trying to rank your website and how to avoid them.
1. Complicated Web Design
As a precursor to doing SEO the correct way, your website design plays a crucial role in how it ranks eventually. SEO, as the name suggests, is about optimizing your website for the search engines to understand the structure and content prior to placing them on their results page one after another.
The architecture of the website thus plays an important role in how the website is “read” by search crawlers to figure out what information there is and how to find it. Having an inappropriate navigation system, too many nested pages, broken links etc., will have a tremendous negative impact on your site’s SEO.
2. Using Cheap Hosting with No SSL
As a business owner, it is understandable that you’d like to cut down expenses. But shaving off expenses at the cost of risking your potential to go big online doesn’t seem to be a very prudent idea.
Instead of opting for cheaper web hosting solutions that may be lighter on the pocket, they also come with their own disadvantages that search engines dislike. Most of them have infrastructure that slow down your website. Having a slow sluggish website will greatly hamper your chances of ranking above others.
Besides, a lot of these cheap, inexpensive web hosts do not offer an SSL certificate – a small but important ranking factor according to Google. It means that your site will be labeled ‘Not secure’ when someone visits it. Search engines obviously do not like unsecured websites and therefore like to name and shame, as they say.
3. Not Writing for Users
Optimizing a website following industry guidelines is one thing however over-optimizing is taking it to a dangerous extreme. A prime example of such a practice is keyword stuffing, wherein every third word is the keyword you want to rank for. Doing so, not only annoys the visitor reading the content but it vexes the search engine algorithms as well. Doing so would get you top spot on the SERP back in the day when SEO was still nascent and evolving, but the algorithms have gotten increasingly smarter now to spot such menial tricks and you’ll get your website penalized in no time.
Losing focus on who will ultimately consume content will prove to be a risky affair – one that will make your content look monotonous, soulless and difficult to engage the end user.
4. Not Having Proper User Intent
We all turn to search engines looking for answers. Search engines have to go through trillion of web pages to find the best possible answer you’re looking for, and display them for your perusal. They tend to do their job pretty well because they understand what kind of content you’re on the lookout for. If you’re searching for informational content (such as a ‘How to…’ guide) or a comparison content (such as: Instagram v/s Pinterest) or a transactional content (such as: ‘Where to buy…’); search engines know what your intent is and will display the results accordingly.
Bad SEO is not satisfying the user’s keyword intent and you will soon find yourself struggling to understand why your content isn’t getting the traction it wants. A good idea here would be to step in the shoes of your intended audience and write from their perspective. What information would you like to see for that particular search query? Does your content sufficiently answer every question? What kind of content would the user prefer – text, images or videos?
5. Incorrect Keyword Research
Satisfying user intent is important. It is also extremely crucial to do thorough keyword research. I’ve seen a number of bloggers write amazing content, hoping that it will be rewarded by sweet SERP rankings. Alas, that day never comes because they didn’t put in the time doing necessary keyword research. The chances of search engines ranking your content that is devoid of crucial keywords, is pretty slim. They need to analyze what your content speaks of and sprinkling important keywords at strategic places helps with that.
Maintaining a fine balance between writing for the end user and ensuring search engines understand the content completely, takes significant SEO efforts.
6. Not Updating Content
As someone who knows a thing or two about SEO, I can bet we’ve all committed the crime of not having freshly brewed content on our sites. Writing content is a hard job. It takes a great deal of time and effort to write quality content for the world to read. However, the majority of us write and forget. When, in fact we should be in the habit of revisiting and keeping it current. Writing content isn’t a once done-and-forget activity. Especially when you want that piece of content to be read by thousands of people online who can become your potential customers.
Not keeping your content up to date means that you run the chance of making it seem old, unimportant and redundant. No search engine wants to display stale content to users who are looking for current subjects and trending topics.
7. Inappropriate URLs
Search engines are constantly evolving to provide the best experience to the end user. As such, they are constantly crawling the web to find content that is unique, rich, and compelling. One of the ways search engines know about the kind of content a page has, is by paying attention to the page’s URL as well (besides, the actual content of course). It would thus make sense to allow the search engine bots to crawl readable URL links instead of complicated jargon that make little sense at all. Look at these two URLs and let me know which one seems easier to understand what the page is about:
Of course, the second one is easier to understand and remember – not just for us humans but for the crawlers as well. Having twisted URLs with numbers thrown in will just be another reason for bad SEO and you want to stay away from that practice. Aim to make life easier – even if that means a bot’s.
8. Not Interlinking Pages
This one is pretty straightforward yet I see many people not taking advantage of it. Once you have a new page published, looking to increase its authority will take substantial amount of time. A rather sneaky way to give a little jumpstart is to pass link equity from the higher ranking pages to this fresh page. Internal linking is one of the best way to ensure that the link is passed, related topics are interconnected and users stay on your website longer than they would have (which decrease the bounce rate and that’s a good thing).
Not linking pages would mean that you stand to lose these benefits that can be easily avoided without doing much legwork.
9. Spamming the Internet
While we’re discussing the dos-and-don’ts of SEO, backlinks cannot be left far behind. A link back from other websites indicate that they are vouching for your site’s authority on a subject. Backlinks are fundamental to doing SEO and every SEO consultant is on the hunt for backlinks from other authoritative websites.
Sometimes though getting backlinks can get easy, especially when they are available via abundant comment link sections on other blogs or forum replies etc. This is when “SEO gurus” start abusing the system to get as many backlinks as possible, without wisening up about their quality. Spamming the internet with links pointing to your website is a no-go when it comes to doing SEO the correct way. Getting backlinks from spam-free quality blogs is what one should aim for, not some randomly available, easily-acquired, low-quality link backs that’ll do more harm than good.