Everyone knows SEO is important to grow website traffic and brand awareness. But with so many factors influencing search engine rankings, it’s tough to know specifically which areas to focus on.
As many are still not getting the results they want from SEO, I thought I’d look at some key issues that could be hurting your search rankings and offer tips on how to turn it around.
I’ve broken this post down into two sections: common content issues and common optimization issues.
Content Issues That Hurt Your SEO
Most experts will tell you that targeting your content’s keywords is essential to increase your search engine rankings. However, creating a successful SEO strategy takes much more than just relevant keywords. While it is necessary to understand your target audience and the search phrases they use, it’s equally important to create quality, informative content that provides relevant answers to a user’s query. Poor quality content, alternatively, can lead to higher bounce rates, which can reduce your search engine rank.
1. Bad Spelling and Grammar
You wouldn’t distribute a business card with a glaring typo on it, right? Well, an untidy or grammatically incorrect website can send a similarly wrong impression. A small spelling error might seem simple to you, but it shows poor attention to detail to potential customers and partners.
Be sure to give all your website content the same careful review as you would any business card, flyer or brochure. As an additional incentive to have quality content, poorly written content can also trip Google’s quality algorithms and further harm your ranking.
Solution: Use tools to make sure your content’s spelling and grammar is perfect. Consider even hiring a freelance editor.
2. Duplicate Content
Google’s goal is to give fresh and engaging content to users. Consequently, it will lower the rank of pages that have duplicate content, which makes original content not only essential for attracting more visitors but also vital for your search engines rankings. The web has plenty of rehashed, dull content so get ahead of the game with new custom content for your readers.
Solution: Create unique, engaging, high-quality content. Simple as that.
3. Tired Content
Have you ever searched for information in Google only to find several reworded Wikipedia articles? Evergreen content, content that never becomes dated due to changing information, is useful, but creating content that rehashes well-known resources brings no added value to readers.
If you’re hoping to attract readers and customers by positioning yourself as an expert in your field, you need content that outshines competitors and scrapers. To be unique, find new ways to approach a problem and provide content tailored to your readers. This type of approach is much more valuable, will get more clicks and should improve your rankings.
Solution: Consider how you can update old content to breathe new life into it.
4. Uninformative Content
One way to stay ahead of competitors is to better understand the needs and pain points of your prospective audience. When readers type queries into Google, your site should answer those questions in the most engaging and direct way possible. If users find the information they searched for on your site and they engage with it, they are much more likely to eventually turn into leads and paying customers.
Solution: create content with specific audience in mind. Depending on the situation this might be a demographic segment or segmenting based on the buyer journey.
5. Shallow Content
Most SEO experts agree that Google favors in-depth content that offers value to readers. Brian Dean’s study of one million Google search results found a strong connection between the number of words on a page and its position in the SERPs – the average Google first page result contained 1,890 words. If you can deliver this kind of content, it will boost your credibility and you’re likely to be rewarded with higher rankings. Littering shallow content with keywords will no longer cut it.
Solution: Take the time to produce in-depth content or consider hiring a professional writer to do it for you.
Common Optimization Issues
Once you’re happy with the quality and depth of your content, the next thing to focus on is ticking all the optimization boxes. While there is a lot that goes in to the technical optimization side, let’s focus on some of the common mistakes.
6. Not Optimizing for Snippets
Believe it or not, SEO isn’t only about ranking #1 anymore. Google has recently started prioritizing and adding new types of SERP snippets which display prominently above the organic search results. Sometimes called “ranking #0“, featured snippets represent a great opportunity for companies to outrank competitors by providing succinct answers to common questions. If you aren’t creating content for SERP snippets then we may have just found what’s killing your traffic.
Solution: Start creating content for snippets. Answer, definitions, lists, tables and chart are some of the most common types of snippets, so look to include those in your content if possible.
7. Title Tags Issues
Search engines use title tags – or page titles – to gather information about your website. They also appear in the clickable link in search engine results pages (SERPs). Duplicate or missing title tags will harm your rankings because they don’t provide users or search engines with the relevant information about your content.
Solution: Write title tags for every web page using keywords relevant to the page’s content. According to Moz, Google typically displays the first 50 to 60 characters of a title tag, so keep them within these parameters to ensure they display correctly, achieve maximum impact and encourage click-throughs to your site.
8. No Structured Data
Related to featured snippets and title tags, is structured data. Structured data is essentially a way of helping Google understand a piece of content by including certain markups in the content which are then displayed on the search engine results page. While structured data itself isn’t a ranking signal, it does provide a way for you to enrich your search snippets and increase CTR (similar to featured snippets). That means if your competitors are using structured markup and you aren’t, it could be killing your traffic.
Solution: Make sure your most important content has the appropriate structured markup. There are a variety of markup types depending on the type of content, so be sure to pick the most relevant markup available.
9. Broken Links
As your site expands, multiple broken links can become a problem and 404-page errors will reduce web traffic and damage your reputation. They will also obstruct search engine crawlers from indexing other valuable pages on your site, which will devalue your search rankings.
Solution: Use Google Search Console or another site audit tool to find any dead links. Then remove the link or set up a 301 redirect to automatically send visitors to a new page.
10. Unnatural Anchor Text
Anchor text – the clickable text in a hyperlink – is an often ignored element of SEO. However, many websites have been penalized for using too many unnatural anchor texts on a web page, in an attempt to “trick” search engines.
Solution: Keep anchor texts relevant to the content you place them in and use different types of anchors. For example, include your brand name in the text, use long-tail keyphrases, post naked URL links and use variations of your main keywords in each anchor text. Also, remember to only link to quality sites that are relevant to your niche.
11. Speed Issues
In 2010, Google officially included page loading times as a ranking factor, penalizing websites with slow-loading web pages. There are various factors influencing page speed, but large images are a common weak spot.
Solution: Use Google’s Page Speed Insights tool to measure the performance of your site. It also offers tips to improve your site speed. For example, optimize your images to keep them under 100kb and use the jpeg format. Check out this Moz article about page speed best practices for some additional tips.
Fix These SEO Issues to Get Results
These common SEO issues are damaging the search rankings of many web pages. Do you recognize any of these problems with your own site? If so, don’t worry. Although they may be affecting your traffic now, there are simple fixes you can perform to improve your rankings.
SEO is an ongoing process and it’s unrealistic to think you can eliminate every SEO problem right away. Just tackle each issue one at a time and you’ll soon be delivering more powerful content that achieves higher search engine rankings and reaches more of your target audience.
Do you need unique, quality content to support your SEO goals? Constant Content connects you with thousands of professional writers able to create articles, ebooks, product descriptions and other assets that engage readers while increasing search rank.
Editor’s note: This post was updated March and May 2018 for accuracy and relevance.