If your job is related to websites in any way, you have probably heard about SEO. But what exactly is it and why is it so important to take care of?
SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. There are multiple search engines across the web – the most popular are Google, Bing, Yahoo!, and Baidu – and each of them has its own specifications when it comes to finding the most suitable search results.
Optimizing your codebase and content according to search engine specs is crucial for businesses. Your visitors should have an obstacle-free road to finding your page. If your page appears lower in the search results, it will naturally receive fewer clicks.
We will discuss the seven most common mistakes that can kill your SEO.
1. Incorrect meta tags
Using proper meta tags is critical for search engines. As the web evolves, some of them have become less important than others. I’ll cover the most necessary ones.
The title tag is the only tag that is visible to users visiting your page. Not only does it specify the title of the tab they are currently in, but it also tells search engines about the main concept of the page. The title tag shouldn’t be longer than ~60 characters, or the equivalent of 600 pixels wide, as it will be cut off if it exceeds this limit. It should be as descriptive as possible, however, it shouldn’t be filled with keywords only as algorithms don’t like this. Also, you should avoid starting your title tag with insignificant information. It is much better to put important keywords at the beginning.
The description tag contains a longer summary of what your page is about. It will most likely appear under the title of your page in the search results. Although search engine providers declare that there is no connection between description and search ranking, this meta tag can generate a lot of clicks by informing users about the content they can find on your page. Going further, more clicks lead to a higher ranking, so it gives us an indirect advantage. The description should be shorter than ~160 characters, shouldn’t be similar to other pages, and the information it contains should be as specific to the content of the page as possible. Probably the worst thing you could do while writing a description is lie about the true content of your page.
The robots meta tag informs web crawlers whether they should mark pages as ready to be listed in search results. Make sure you have it formatted properly before final deployment.
2. Using only old HTML tags
HTML5 tags were invented for a reason. Using them semantically indicates very clearly which content is most important on the page. Search engines look for proper content by reading tags like <header>, <main>, <strong>, or even <nav>. Using only versatile tags like <div> can quickly lead to search engines indexing your page as old-fashioned and not worth reading. Make sure that your HTML code is semantically formatted as this can be a game-changer. You can find a tag for every occasion here.
3. Lack of responsiveness
It’s not news anymore that the majority of web traffic goes through mobile devices. If your page has not been created following RWD (responsive web design) rules, this is a big mistake. Search engines are smart enough to recognize whether you are catering for your users. Pages optimized for mobile traffic should:
- Scale to suit various screen sizes.
- Load fast.
- Animate smoothly even on older devices.
- Have elements big enough to navigate with ease.
- Be light on data usage.
4. Poor performance
Pages should load as fast as possible. A Google study shows that 53% of mobile users leave a page if the initial render takes more than 3 seconds. Most of that time is consumed by loading images, that’s why optimizing them is so important. You can check your website’s load score using this tool – it will tell you exactly what requires attention in order to deliver better user experience.
5. Content duplication and copyright
You should avoid copying any content directly onto your page from other resources, as well as having the same content in multiple places on your own site. Google checks the web for duplication or `appreciably similar` content and can mark your page as unreliable. Using this tool you are able to check if there is unintended duplication on your webpage.
Also, keep in mind that search engines are hunting for copyright infringement. The more copyright violations that occur on your page, the lower in the rankings you will fall.
6. Low-quality content
The next factor that can kill the ranking of a page is low-quality content. It is a very broad area to capture, that’s why Google, for instance, is using third-party Search Quality Raters. They are scanning web pages and giving feedback to web owners. The most common mistakes that Raters qualify as low-quality content are:
- Many grammatical errors.
- Content that is not unique and can be found in many other places on the web.
- Unintelligible language.
- Lack of concrete information (for example a page is built mainly with images).
- Outdated information.
Keep in mind that search engines are rating linked pages too. If you are recommending low-quality content pages, your page may be seen as unreliable too.
7. Not using alt tags
Search engines are not able to read content from images, however, they can check if media elements on your page are respectively equipped with alt tags. This has an influence on your final score. Aside from this, alt tags are one of the main factors that improve accessibility. People with disabilities, or those using screen readers (or text-only browsers), can have trouble understanding your content if you don’t include these tags, so it can be harmful to both you and the user.
- Google Data, Aggregated, anonymized Google Analytics data from a sample of mWeb sites opted into sharing benchmark data, n=3.7K, Global, March 2016