The success of your online business is dependent on driving traffic to your website. To even have a chance of showing up at the top of search results, however, it is essential you have good SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). With Google algorithms constantly changing and there being over 100 different ranking signals and metrics, how can you be sure that you’re following best SEO practices? This quick tutorial will cover the biggest pitfalls you must avoid when planning your SEO strategy. So common are these problems that in many cases all you need to do is rectify them to start seeing results.
No XML sitemap
A sitemap is an XML file (Extensible Markup Language) read by search engines when they crawl your site. An XML sitemap includes all the pages, posts and categories within your website. It also includes certain information about these pages such as when they were last updated, or their importance in relation to other pages. A sitemap also makes it easier for search engines to find pages and index them.
You can generate a XML sitemap for free using a tool like https://www.xml-sitemaps.com, or if you’re using a popular content management system like WordPress then you can use a plugin such as YOAST to build the sitemap automatically. Once your XML sitemap has been created you should submit the URL to Google using a site-verified Google Search Console account.
No heading tags
Heading tags are part of the HTML standard and are used to structure content. To improve your on-page SEO it is vital that you make good use of appropriate H1, H2, H3 and H4 heading tags. The H1 should take priority and appear once at the top of your page, followed by H2 and then H3, in this order. Having different variations of your keyword included in these heading tags will also further improve your SEO, but be careful not to repeat the same keyword too many times or it will be viewed as keyword spamming. It is generally a good idea to include your main keyword in the H1 heading tag and then some variations of different keywords in the headings that follow.
Poor performance and slow page speed
Although not necessarily a ranking signal a fast website is essential for a good user experience. A slow website that takes too long to load could easily result in visitors giving up and looking elsewhere. There are some free tools available which you can use to check the speed and performance rating of your website. At Digital Mad we prefer to use Google Page Insights and Pingdom Speed Tool.
Is your website accessed with or without the www prefix? What happens if you visit one version compared to another? A canonical indexing issue means that there is more than just one URL that can be used to access your site. This can cause problems when it comes to indexing as several similar versions of the same URL can be submitted and will lose equity. Consider the following protocols:
All four URL’s are perfectly valid but you will notice they all redirect to https://digitalmad.co.uk, regardless of whether you prefix the ‘www’ or not. The same also applies to the http and https version. This is because we have taken the time to setup the correct 301 redirects to ensure there are no failed canonical domains. You should check that Google only has one version of your URL indexed and take action to implement redirects if needed.
No ALT attributes for images
According to the W3C specification for HTML standards “the required ALT attribute specifies an alternative text for an image, if the image cannot be displayed”. The ALT attribute provides an alternative description of the image if it cannot load in the client browser.
In its most simplest form an image tag with the required ALT tag would look like
<img src="smiley.gif" alt="Smiley face"> where “Smiley face” is the description of the image we are loading. You should include an ALT tag on all your images to improve on-page SEO with the added benefit of the page showing up in a Google image search which will generate more traffic.
Metadata is data about data. If it’s missing from your site then the search engines will have no idea what your web pages are about or who they are intended for. Each page of your website should include the appropriate metadata about that page to explain the title, its description, language and encoding etc. Title tags are still considered to be one of the most significant factors for on-site SEO and a well thought out title and meta description can substantially increase click through rates and conversions in the SERPS (search engine rank positions). At an absolute minimum you should have a unique title and description for every page of your site. Try to avoid using stop words with no meaning or value such as “is, why, to, and” in place of well researched and targeted keywords.
One of the biggest mistakes any website owner can make is using duplicated content. Perhaps you copied and pasted text from a competitor’s website or hired a content writer who did not supply unique content. Whether done intentionally or not this can seriously damage your SEO and trustworthiness to Google. A website with duplicate content offers no real value in Google. You can check whether a page on your website has duplicate content using a free plagiarism checker tool such http://www.copyscape.com/. A good SEO strategy will include unique content that offers real value to your website visitors.
Your backlink profile is a list of external websites that link back to your website. This is still considered a ranking signal with Google but only from trustworthy, natural and relevant links. This means if you have violated Google Webmaster Guidelines and purchased backlinks as part of a link exchange program then you’re considered to have an unnatural link profile and may get hit with a Google penalty. You should take appropriate action to disavow negative links in Google whenever you locate any.
Keyword weight and density
You should aim for a keyword weight of around 3-4%. What this means in terms of on-page SEO is that if your web page has 1000 words of content then the keyword should appear at least 3-4 times in the main body of writing on the page. It’s also a good idea to repeat slight variations of the same keyword or keyphrase and to avoid keyword stuffing. This is where you have a high keyword density caused by repeating the same keyword too many times on the same page.
Lack of internal links and keywords in anchor text
Google crawls links to discover new pages on your site. One way it learns what the page is about is by analysing the internal link anchor text URL. For example a link that just says “Click Here” does not say much about the page it will redirect you to. However, a link with anchor text that says “Kids Dance Shoes” tells the search engine that this page is likely to be about kids dance shoes. You can have as many internal links as you like and there are no limitations. A lack of internal links without keywords in your anchor text is a common mistake made by those attempting to build their own website.
Expert SEO and internet marketing services
At Digital Mad we’re experts in search engine optimisation and strategy. We can provide a free audit of your website to identify any potential issues that may be affecting your SEO. To speak with one of our Bournemouth based SEO experts please call 01202 901 607 or email us to find out how we can help your business grow online.