Most managers and company owners think a website is supposed to be beautiful and cool-looking because it represents their company. And while it does that, a website’s main goals should include attracting organic traffic and working well according to good search engine optimization (SEO) practice. Think of it as a truck: do you want it to look great, or to do a great job? What’s the point of a cool truck that doesn’t take you where you want to go?
Whenever someone asks us if their website is good, we don’t ask to see the website - we ask to see its analytics. Just like when someone wants to know if a car is good they ask you about the gas mileage and look under the hood.
Looks are important, yes, and website design falls within the purview of digital marketing because it should represent you and what you stand for - but a website is ultimately a tool for attracting and converting clients, and you want it to be really effective at those jobs.
With all this being said, these are the top 10 SEO Mistakes you should avoid if you want your website to work well rather than just look good.
1. Not thinking about SEO from the start
The biggest SEO mistake is not taking it into account. If you’re just getting started in the world of SEO, make these checks and changes to your website:
If you’re migrating your CMS or moving your website, be sure to check that you’ve redirected all applicable URLs. 301 redirects are really important!
Assign different keywords to each of your pages from the start, and keep from keyword cannibalization. This is when two or more of your pages are trying to rank for the same keyword.
Have copywriters write content from an SEO perspective, including keywords, title tags, and meta descriptions; as well as meeting the appropriate word count so your page is seen as authoritative. Remember to assign a purpose to each page.
Do a comprehensive audit of the existing pages on your site and plan for SEO from the start, so your quality content also covers the bases when it comes to long-tail keywords. This will result in higher rankings.
Even if you’re B2B, without a storefront or physical location, your GMB listing and Bing listing matter, both for link building and to give your website authority and trust. You should claim your listings and set service areas, times, and other relevant info.
You should also have listings on any professional or trade associations you belong to. Industry-specific listings are also particularly helpful, since they help Google recognize your site as a truly professional one.
3. Not thinking about social media
You should be sharing your content on social media, not just for likes and clout, but because it benefits your website directly. Facebook shares are similar to backlinks, and they are stronger than Facebook likes when it comes to Google’s assessment of your website.
It has also been demonstrated that tweets to a page can influence the page’s rank. Don’t underestimate the power of social media, both direct and indirect, to enhance your ranking in search results.
4. Not thinking about your site speed
It has been abundantly proven that load speed makes a difference in how long potential clients stay at your website (if they stay at all), but did you know it also affects your rankings?
Use Google Page Speed Insights to determine your website’s speed for both desktop and mobile. And yes, this means you must have a mobile-friendly website along with a desktop version.
Nowadays it is easy to adapt and specialize websites depending on the device they’re being viewed on.
We’ve done in-house experiments and have seen that search engine results pages show different results based on a few factors including geography and device speed. Slower devices on slower connections showed one set of results than the faster devices on faster connections.
5. Not considering the age of your domain
Sometimes keeping your old domain is better than buying a new one and starting from scratch: most sites that rank higher are at least a few years old.
Moving to a new domain is the same as starting from scratch on algorithmic credibility: Google thinks the website (and the company behind it) are brand new, and so you will need to convince Google that you are serious and trustworthy, as if you were just getting started.
If you really must change your domain for whatever reason, be sure to 301 everything from your old domain - we have found that it helps. According to the experts, “a 301 redirect ... passes between 90-99% of link equity (ranking power) to the redirected page, meaning you get to keep much of your reputation with Google.
6. Not monitoring your backlink profile
Backlinks from toxic domains can quickly tank your rankings, even if your Google Analytics were looking amazing. Use a tool like SEMrush to monitor your backlinks & toxicity score - SEMrush uses more than 40 criteria to determine if a site is toxic, and how bad it is for your reputation.
If you detect any toxic domains, act quickly! The main options are to remove (ask the domain to not link to you) or to directly disavow those links with Google. Then make sure to replace those bad links with good ones.
7. Forgetting about internal linking
The more links point to a page, the more important Google will think it is, and the same applies to internal links. This goes back to mistake #1 a bit, but it’s solid advice: you should have a plan for internal linking.
Blog post tags, linking to related content, and other types of internal links matter. Make sure that the most important pages have the most links pointing at them, and also make sure that your homepage points to your newest or most relevant content, to signal to Google that it is important content.
8. Not taking your unique content seriously
Unique content is easy to define: it is content that is unique to your website and cannot be found anywhere else. The opposite, duplicate content, includes boilerplate or plagiarized text and templatized pages, and it will actively hurt your ranking.
But more than just original content, invest time and effort on the assets that are really unique to you: your “About Us”, team pages, and photos impact your algorithmic credibility. A robust About page, along with team and content photos unique to your brand are all brand signals that increase your algorithmic credibility - in simple terms, it makes you “look legit” as far as Google is concerned.
Making an effort to really craft those unique pages is how you build brand signals for SEO.
9. Not thinking about website accessibility
Accessibility is becoming increasingly important in all fields of business, from shopping malls to digital marketing. Google has even published a set of Accessibility guidelines for websites, in an effort to standardize and make online content accessible to everyone.
If you had never thought about making your site accessible to users with different abilities, here are a few examples of what to look into:
Image alt attributes
Header tags (H1, H2, etc)
Link anchor text
On-site sitemaps, table of contents, and/or breadcrumbs
Size and color contrast of text
Many of those will look familiar… because they already are good SEO practices that every website should apply.
10. Forgetting to unblock search engines from crawling your site
We were once called to consult with a multi-million dollar company because their brand-new website was not performing. We didn’t build the site - we were called in to see if we could find what the issue was.
Within 2 minutes we discovered that the entire website was being blocked by robots.txt - when the site was moved from staging to live, no one checked this. It was an easy fix!
If you apply this advice and avoid these mistakes, you will be in a very good place to start boosting your SEO and showing up on searches. And if you would like to learn even more, or take your SEO further, read our free resources or contact us for a consultation.
Ashley Quintana, M.S., B.A.
Ashley Quintana is a co-founder of Bridges Strategies. In her role, she develops, leads, and executes digital marketing strategies for the company’s growing client base, including a Fortune 500 subsidiary and an NBA basketball team. Ashley’s work can be found in the Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Science, and she is an OKC.biz 40 Under 40 honoree for her leadership in business and community. She frequently speaks at universities, churches, and conferences on marketing, diversity, and business.