How To Improve Website SEO: Common Mistakes & How To Fix Them
Last month, I decided to offer free website assessments to women with small businesses. My hope was to connect with other businesswomen, do my good deed for the day, and learn more about the most common SEO mistakes people make when creating their website.
Without Google Analytics or access to each page's meta description, I wasn't sure how much advice I would be able to give. As it turns out, more than 50% of websites I assessed made the same on-page errors.
Here is a roundup of the most common SEO mistakes business owners make and how you can fix them to improve website SEO.
SLOW SITE SPEED
Site speed is the time it takes for your site to load. According to Google, the optimal page loading time is less than two seconds. You can check the time it takes for your site to load using this great free tool from Pingdom.
Supposedly, more than half of mobile users will click off a site if it takes more than three seconds to load. The average load time for the sites I audited was more than 4 seconds. This is partly because many of the sites were designed using Wix, which is notoriously slower than Wordpress. It is also because a lot of the sites had too many components on their home page.
How it Affects SEO
If more than half of people viewing on mobile devices click off a website if it takes more than 3 seconds to load, slow time is bound to increase your bounce rate. This is the percentage of people that click off your website after landing on it. If your page loads slowly, user experience is negatively affected and you risk losing search traffic to a problem that can be easily fixed.
Worse still, Google penalizes websites with slow load times. This is party because pages that load slowly have a higher bounce rate, but also because the Google algorithm prioritizes user experience. If search traffic has a hard time getting onto your site, Google won't deem your site to be of high quality.
If you want to improve your SEO, a very simple thing you can do is improve the speed that your page loads. Search engine optimization depends on a range of complex factors, but the page load time is one that has such an obvious impact on user experience, it is should not be overlooked.
Ideally, your web load time should be under 3 seconds but if your load time is above this, you should at least make sure that the top of your page loads instantly and gives an indication to visitors that they are in the right place.
The best way to reduce load time is to reduce the number of HTTP requests on your site by decreasing the number of components on a page. Every single piece of content on a page should earn its way there. Stick to a couple of fonts and if you use images, compress them with gzip to keep the image size down. Consider whether each image really adds user value to determine whether the component is worth the hit to your load time. If a component purely adds aesthetic value, it might not be worth the damage to your search engine ranking.
THE PAGE PURPOSE IS NOT IMMEDIATELY CLEAR
When a user lands on your page, it must be clear to them within 5-10 seconds what your page is about. View your site with the eyes of a new visitor and assess whether it is immediately obvious what it is you are offering. If you aren't sure, ask a friend to weigh in.
The more site visitors have to read to figure out what the page purpose is, the more likely they are to give up and return to Google search to look for other search results. Out of the 40 websites I assessed, about 25% of them failed to make their message clear. Many of them used creative taglines that were fun to read but told me nothing about their product or service.
How it Affects SEO
If figuring out what your page is about is too much of a puzzle, your bounce rate will suffer. As I mentioned before, Google punishes sites with high bounce rates as these people return to the search engine to look for more relevant content. Google's priority is ranking sites that give search engine users what they were looking for.
Most of the time, the opening content on a page is an H1 header. As well as being the first thing people read, this is the first thing that Google reads when deciding how to rank your site. Your header should contain the keyword you want to rank for. For example, if you want your site to show up when people search for "ethical makeup", this key phrase needs to be in your opening header. If it isn't, your search engine ranking will suffer.
Equally, misleading headers can cause people to land on your page when searching for something that is not related to your brand. User intent is an important ranking factor and if people don't land on the page they expected, again, your bounce rate will suffer.
To improve SEO on your page, make sure that the opening sentences are easy to read and clearly summarize what the page is about. If you have a tagline, make sure that your tagline reflects what it is that you are offering site visitors. This will improve the visitor's on-page experience and should reduce your bounce rate.
To optimize for search engines, you should be utilizing a keyword strategy. This is one of the most important parts of search engine optimization as keywords tell Google how to rank your content. Think about what pages you want to rank on in search engines and at minimum, make sure you use these keywords in your headers. If you want people to find you when they search for "ethical makeup", don't write "eco-conscious beauty" in your tagline.
LOW QUALITY CONTENT OR NOT ENOUGH CONTENT
When people visit your site, they expect to find relevant content. This content should tell them that they have found what they were looking for in the search engine and that your website will provide them the answers they are seeking.
About 70% of the sites I audited had very little content on their sites. In many cases, the content that was there was of poor quality and hasn't been proofread or spell-checked. Without content, it is pretty difficult to inform site visitors about your business and convince them to make a purchase and/or booking.
How it Affects SEO
When Google crawls a site, it scans each page for relevant keywords. Going back to our ethical makeup brand, related keywords would include phrases like "sustainability", "lipgloss" or "vegan mascara". If a page contains a lot of relevant keywords, Google will determine that the page does in fact relate to the keyword "ethical makeup".
When your page does not have much content, you don't give Google much to crawl. Without the content, Google cannot determine whether your page is relevant to the search engine results page (SERP) you are trying to rank on. This makes it difficult for your page to rank on the first page.
Add more content! Creating high-quality content improves your user experience and improves your SEO score. Make sure that the content you post is relevant to your brand and you will see a gradual increase in site traffic. Avoid keyword cramming and instead focus on producing content that fits in with your brand. Content marketing is the most effective way to increase your site traffic and improve SEO.
WEAK CALL TO ACTION
A call-to-action (CTA) is the part of your content that tells visitors how to followup. If they are interested in your brand, should they head to your shop or make a call? If you don't tell visitors what to do next, they won't do anything.
Having a weak CTA can have a hugely negative effect on your conversion rates. It also means that when people land on your website, they are unlikely to make it past the page they landed on. If you don't tell people what action they should take, you leave them guessing.
How it Affects SEO
Having a weak CTA has an impact on your SEO score as well as your conversion rates. If people come to your page hoping to buy ethical makeup, love your brand, but can't figure out how to buy your products, they will return to the Google search results to find something they can buy. This harms your bounce rate and of course, a high bounce rate damages your SEO.
Finish each landing page with a strong CTA. Make sure that your CTA is impossible to miss by putting it in a color that contrasts from the rest of your page. Also, make sure it is big enough to read. If you are presenting your CTA as a button, write the copy in the first person i.e. "I want to sign up!"
Most importantly, make sure that your CTA offers clear instructions on how visitors can follow-up on the content they have just consumed.
10 QUICK TIPS TO IMPROVE WEBSITE SEO
Make sure your keyword is included in your title and meta description.
Link your site up to Google Analytics and Google Search Console to monitor where your traffic is coming from.
Make sure each page of your site is optimized for mobile devices.
Check your site for broken links. Broken links are detrimental to your site map.
Research what your competitors are ranking for and include their keywords in your content.
Improve your SEO by attaining backlinks from websites with high authority domains.
Incorporate social media into your SEO strategy.
Determine whether your marketing budget would be better spent on search engine optimization or social media strategy.
Use Google Search Console to request indexing to start ranking on Google immediately.
Write niche content that answers specific questions your target audience are already searching for.