Are you guilty of these 7 technical SEO mistakes? Here’s how to fix them
Optimizing for SEO is at once complicated and simple. If you want to increase your website traffic via organic search, you need to ensure that you aren’t making any big SEO mistakes. If you are guilty of SEO no-nos, it’s pretty easy to correct them through some technical know-how, content strategy, or the right partnership. Here are seven SEO considerations that will have a major impact on the success of your site.
It’s important to make your site as easy to index and rank as possible; people really do judge a book by its cover and URLs are no exception. “Unfriendly” URLs are those unattractive, computer-generated combinations that often contain special characters like question marks and ampersands. Not only do they lack readability, they often exclude the keyword you are trying to optimize. Here’s an example:
The fix: The best solution is to include keywords directly in your URLs. Depending on your site builder, you can create link templates to maintain an intuitive and consistent URL structure. Otherwise, you should manually change the URL to include the focus keyword(s) from your article along with any other relevant information. For example, the URL for this blog post is this:
See the difference?
Title tags and meta descriptions
What’s in a name, anyway? Apparently, a lot. Unique title tags and meta descriptions offer important information that appears in search engine snippets, social media shares, and aggregated feeds. Not having distinct title tags and meta descriptions is a big missed opportunity for SEO.
The fix: This is the simplest problem to fix—just add unique title tags and meta descriptions to each page! When optimizing a page for a specific keyword, incorporate the word in both the title and meta description. If you are using WordPress, add the Yoast plugin to customize meta descriptions, keywords, and title tags.
Anchor text for internal links
What for what now? Don’t worry: this one is pretty straightforward. Let’s go over the terms. An internal link is a hyperlink to a page somewhere else within your website. Anchor text is the text that contains the hyperlink. Search engines like anchor texts and internal links because they help structure your site and guide navigation.
The fix: Use a keyword as the anchor text to another internal link that corresponds to the focus keyword of the page you’re linking to. For example, if you’re linking to another blog post about content marketing metrics where the focus keyword is “content marketing metrics,” then you want to make sure that “content marketing metrics” is used as the anchor text.
A general rule of thumb is to not use the same anchor text for every link to a page. For example, if I were to link to our content marketing strategy doc post, I would use content marketing doc as the anchor text for the link. Why did we choose that and not “content marketing strategy doc”? Because we have already used that anchor text elsewhere.
301s and site breaks
301 redirects are used when someone is linking to a page on your site that is broken or no longer exists. If someone visits your site through that link, they are then shown a relevant page on your site, instead of the broken one. The idea of using 301 redirects is to ensure that there are no dead-ends and that all relevant CTAs are effectively bringing readers in or keeping readers on your site. This improves the overall user experience and can also decrease your bounce rate.
The fix: Create a profile with Google Webmaster Tools and find a list of all the pages on your site that Google tried to crawl unsuccessfully. In many cases, it’s worthwhile to redirect those URLs to other relevant pages on your site. It’s important to note, however, that too many redirects can hurt your site performance. If a page links out to another page that no longer exists, you should either remove the broken link or replace it with a working link. Google will penalize you if your pages contain broken links.
Local SEO is often overlooked regardless of business or industry. If you own a business that serves local customers, your SEO strategy should strongly reflect that. Are you using keywords specific to your location? Does your company turn up among local listings across the web? These are all musts in order to be seen by the people in your community.
Even if your business mainly serves customers on the other side of the globe, you still need to optimize for local SEO. Search engines like Google are always looking for credibility, and if you can prove that your business has a physical presence, this demonstrates to search engines that you are authentic.
The fix: There are three major ways you can optimize for local search.
- Research region-specific keywords to insert in your page titles and meta descriptions. You may also want to incorporate these words into your overall content strategy.
- Add information about your physical presence—your address, your phone number—to either the header or footer of each page. This will show search engines that you are locally relevant to users.
- Add your brand to local and online directories, including Yelp, Google Places, FourSquare, and other review networks.
Keyword optimization not only extends to your marketing site, but your site’s written content—your blog posts, your case studies, your whitepapers, etc. If you aren’t combing through your content for keyword density and optimization, you need to start now. The tendency is to either overdo or underdo keyword optimization. Of course, your brand wants to chase those high-value keywords related to your industry; however, you may neglect opportunistic long-tail keywords that fit within your strategy.
The fix: In order to find the right balance between volume and value keywords, you should devote a two-person team to each piece of content: a strategist and an editor. A strategist is there to research keywords and make recommendations based on your content strategy. A writer implements this feedback into a post to optimize the right keywords. It’s a partnership we like here at Quietly because it combines data and editorial to cover your SEO bases without sacrificing quality content.
Duplicate content is any case where the same page of content is fed to a search engine from different URLs. If the exact wording of this post appears on another site with a different URL, we have committed the sin of duplicate content. It’s only a “sin” so much as search engines have trouble determining authenticity and ownership between the two pages. Search engines want to be as accurate and useful as possible, and directing users to the copycat site betrays that idea.
The fix: On a macro level, you can avoid duplicate content by being smart about your content strategy. Be strict with guest contributor guidelines, be wary of syndicated content—or content that is redistributed on other sites—and be smart about which pieces of your content appear where. On a micro level, you can prevent the duplicate content penalty by using something called a rel=canonical tag, which is a fancy tag that tells search engines where the original and official version appeared first:
<link rel=canonical href=http://www.yourwebsite.com/blog/original-article.html/>
By adding this to the original page, you can control who is duplicating your content and be sure that search engines know you published it first.
By making these adjustments to your content (past and present and future), you are ensuring that search engine users can find your content more easily. Keep in mind that these days, SEO and content are completely intertwined. If you want to succeed at one, you have to succeed at the other.