With so many opinions, guidelines, rules, standards and always-changing “best practices,” the SEO game is a tough one to learn, especially if you’re learning it yourself. Following industry blogs like Search Engine Watch and Search Engine Land are one of the easiest ways to learn, but if you’re a novice, it can be a full-time job just navigating through the jargon. So, in plain and simple English, here are the top 5 common SEO mistakes business make too often and how to avoid them.
Out of touch TITLE tags
Your TITLE tag, the text that appears in a search engine results page and at the top of your browser, is the most important HTML element for SEO. Search engines will read it in order of importance, so the first thing will carry the most weight.
Don’t have your company name first in your TITLE tag. Why? You should always rank No. 1 for yourself, so it’s a waste of prime keyword real estate. Instead, put your top 2 keyword phases first and end it with your company name.
Missing or wrong header elements
You wouldn’t write an article without a title right? The same should go for your website. Header elements, noted in the HTML as <H1>, <H2>, <H3> and so on, give search engines a blueprint for reading your site. Tips:
- Go in order. You shouldn’t have an <H3> unless there is an <H2> preceding it.
- The header number is a good guideline for how many you could have, IE one <H1>, two <H2>, three <H3>, etc.
- You don’t need to have all headers, but always have an <H1>.
Not updating your website
If you’re only updating your website when you do a full redesign, you’re doing it wrong. Search engines, and users, like fresh content. No one wants to go to a website that hasn’t been updated since 2009. Make sure you’re adding a new page, IE a blog post or news article, at least once a week. Once a month, go through your static pages and see what can be improved. A good way to do this is having an FAQ section that you add to every week.
No internal links
Inbound links are arguably the most important factor of a website. The more relevant, quality websites that link to you, the easier it is for search engines to find your site and the more you’ll move up in rankings. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore your own linking structure.
How you link on your own website is a heavy signal for search engines. Be sure to have each of your pages link to other pages of your website, in effect creating a web for all of your pages. Whenever you add a new page, think about what other pages you have that are relevant you could link to. Also, your home page will be the most important page, so the fewer clicks away your inner pages are from your home page, the more prominence they will have.
No dynamically updated sitemap
Just as your internal links will help search engines find your deeper inner pages, sitemaps are critical in ensuring Google knows how many pages you have and what those pages are about. Without a sitemap, you probably won’t get indexed. This sitemap needs to be in XML format. This allows it to be dynamically updated as you add new pages to your website. It’s also the preferred format for search engines. There are a number of tools that will pull an XML sitemap for you, such as XML-Sitemaps.com, or you could manually create one yourself.
Once you have the proper sitemap in place, make sure that your actually submit it to Google and Bing through the respective Webmaster Tools.
About the Author
This is a guest post by Erin Everhart. She is the director of web marketing at the digital marketing and web development company, 352 Media Group. Serving clients nationwide, they specialize in web design and strategy, web and mobile applications, web marketing, and Atlanta web design.