By Cort Tafoya, SEO Expert
Every day, people are ruining their chances of ranking on page 1 of Google. And the people who are ruining their chances of ranking on page 1 of Google don’t even know it. #FirstWorldProblems? Sure, but this is a real business problem. Something like 90% of all online experiences begin with a search engine, and I’m yet to see a referral channel in Google Analytics that produces a higher conversion rate than Google, branded search traffic be damned.
These mistakes mostly occur because the founders, designers etc. have no SEO experience or didn’t know enough about SEO to consult an expert beforehand. When they finally do talk to a search marketer, they realize how big of a mistake they’ve made and are forced to confront serious costs to fix it. These costs can come in the form of a web redesign, or lots additional developer hours. But they also come in the form of opportunity cost – since they’ll never know how much more revenue they could have generated had they just done their SEO correctly the first time.
Below are the 8 most common and costly SEO mistakes.
This is like a form of SEO theft. The penalty for you is Page 2. PageRank is a part of Google’s algorithm – named after Larry Page. It is a complex calculation of backlinks and links to web pages as a way of determining each web pages importance. You can nerd out on it more here via Wikipedia.
Having a conceptual understanding is important – basically, the more you link to a web page on your site, the more important Google thinks that web page is. A common thing companies do is create too many pages in their top level navigation. Do you have a contact page, submit a form page, ask a question page, terms of service page, legal page and a privacy page?
Chill out with all the pages because you’re diluting valuable PageRank from places that need it. Like your product or services pages.
Another thing companies do is add outbound links to all their social media profiles on the home page. This also sucks PageRank away from the places on your site that could generate revenue if they just ranked a little higher. The solution here comes from Rand Fishkin at Moz (sidenote: Moz is a leader in SEO studies and expertise. They will be referenced heavily in this article.). Check out this image below and use it as a template to do away with non revenue generating web pages and links.
2.Using subdomains for the blog:
The problem here also has to do with link metrics. A subdomain is viewed by Google as an entirely different site from your main site. So any backlinks it gets are not backlinks that benefit your primary domain in a direct way. Also, your main domain is where most people link back to, so the blog content isn’t getting any benefit if you’ve built up your main sites domain authority.
Rand Fishkin at Moz explained in a great example how his company benefitted by moving content off their sub domain:
“I would still strongly urge folks to keep all content on a single subdomain. We recently were able to test this using a subdomain on Moz itself (when moving our beginner’s guide to SEO from guides.moz.com to the current URL http://moz.com/beginners-guide-to-seo). The results were astounding – rankings rose dramatically across the board for every keyword we tracked to the pages.”
Check out the difference in link metrics for FitBit.com and their blog, which is on a subdomain. I have emailed them to correct this but they don’t respond.
The web traffic that could be generated from higher rankings, and the revenue and brand awareness that comes with those higher rankings, is probably quite costly to FitBit because of this SEO blunder.
3.Having a 1 Page Site:
It’s what all the cool kids are doing now, right? The parallax scrolling, or the one page scrolling sites where every place you click shoots you down to some random portion of the home page. Well, cool kids grow up to make less money than nerds.
So here’s what you need to know – 1 web page cannot encompass, target, and subsequently rank for all the keywords your potential customers are typing to find your product. You need to correct this by having a blog or many additional sub pages where you can target your most profitable keywords. If you want more search traffic, be a web design hipster and stay away from this trend.
4.Not Using the Google Search Console:
Google Analytics is amazing but can it tell you how many impressions you received for a single search phrase, the click thru rate of that phrase, the page that was ranking for that phrase and the exact query?
No it can’t, and all of that data is how you gain real insights into your SEO performance. Not only can you identify new keywords with the search console, you can solve click thru rate problems, track rankings, fix crawl errors and add structured data to your web pages.
All of this leads to more profit from SEO. For real search insights, you need to use Google Search Console each week.
5.Not Leveraging Current Marketing Assets for SEO:
Here are some important search variables – backlinks, web traffic / page views, web page interaction, brand mentions. Now here’s how PR, partnerships and email marketing can help.
If you’re paying for a PR campaign, make sure they understand best SEO practices. They may be able to get keyword rich text in an article, and at the very least they should be trying to get backlinks to your website when your company is mentioned in the press.
Do you have partnerships in place, customers who can link to you, people in your network with their own websites that don’t mind doing you a favor? If so, send in a guest blog or ask that they create a partnership page on their website and link to. These backlinks can help build your domain authority and pass more PageRank throughout your site.
When it comes to driving web traffic and getting more engagement (i.e comments, clicks) on your articles, use that big email list. Those people subscribed because they like you and want to hear what you have to say. Those folks are your target audience and more likely than most to engagement, comment on or link to your articles and web pages.
It is a mistake to not use other marketing assets or see their relationship to SEO and getting more search traffic.
6.Having Your Social Media Marketer Do Your SEO:
I love when I hear this. Small businesses, especially, seem to think they can kill two birds with one stone by having their social media “rockstar” also do their SEO.
There is practically zero relation between what this person posts on Twitter or LinkedIn and your search rankings. SEO is about content, keyword research, web architecture, backlinks, on-page and off-page SEO best practices. It takes a real expert to do SEO.
This is like asking an accountant at Google to be your CTO. Yes they work at a tech company but the jobs require completely different skill sets.
7.Excessive Tags / Category Pages:
I once worked on a website that was in the legal space and they had over 800 tags.They used 6-7 for every blog post. My favorite tag they used was Buzz Aldrin. I’m guessing they probably didn’t need to give him a whole category since he was mentioned in one sentence in one article out of 200.
So what’s the problem with tag pages? Tag pages, especially on WordPress or similar sites, have the same, duplicate content as the non tag page. This is not a huge problem when tagging is done at a normal amount. But when it gets out of hand you’ve created pages that are all the same and Google doesn’t know which one to rank.
If you have linked text in these articles, you have now duplicated that anchor rich text, and that’s a no-no in the eyes of Google. Keyword rich text is like Red Bull – it’s ok in moderation but you can be penalized for having the same rich text over and over again.
All of these tags on a blog post link to the tag page, which mean you’re running into PageRank dilution again. While you should be using your blog pages to link back to primary web pages that can generate revenue, you’re instead linking to a bunch of tag pages that add no real value.
8. Not Consulting a SEO Specialist When Doing a Redesign or Migration:
Here’s a sure fire way for all your hard SEO work to go in the tank. Believe me, migrations and redesigns ALWAYS amount to lost rankings, but the difference between a standard 20% drop that recovers in 4-6 weeks vs a 50% drop that takes months to recover from is a few hours talking to a SEO expert.
If you change any URLs, list them in Excel and remember to run a 301 redirect to the new location. Prior to your redesign, go into Google Analytics and export your top organic search landing pages. Change these as little as possible during the revamping of the site. When your new site is live, fetch your home page with Google Search console and all the other important URLs on your website. Submit a new, up to date site map to get the Google crawlers to start indexing anything new on your domain.
Also, redesigns sometimes result in the disappearance of title tags – one of the most important on-page SEO variables. The new site should not go live without proper, keyword rich title tags.
Short of penalization, the most critical SEO mistake a person can make is during a redesign or site migration, so talk to a SEO person about the best practices during this process.