SEO Mistakes can Cost You

Whether you work diligently at improving your search engine optimization or have neglected it, your search ranking can be going backwards from common mistakes that Google will actually penalize you for.   A website audit can easily identify many of these SEO mistakes.

Broken Links

Broken Links can appear on your website for a variety of reasons.  These are links that point to URL’s that do not exist such as:

  1. External websites you might have linked to as a reference, citation, or “useful link” for your customer.
  2. Pages on your website.

Broken links can occur for a variety of reasons including a change of address (URL) for one of your pages, or for the external website you linked to.  It can also easily happen from a simple typo when the link was created (and not tested).

Whatever the cause, periodic website audits are a good SEO habit to uphold.

Broken Links

If you have a WordPress website, it should be setup to create unique Title Tags for each page.  These are what Google uses on the SERP (search engine results page) for the title of your listing.

You should be creating well-constructed, relevant titles and descriptions for your main pages to ensure proper indexing of you pages, and to catch a visitor’s eye on the SERP so they’re more likely to click thru to your website.  In the process of doing this though, you might run out of ideas and start using similar or identical titles and/or descriptions.  Don’t do this.  Duplicate titles on your website can cost you, and to a lesser extent, so can descriptions.

Think of it this way.  If you were analyzing a website and saw identical titles on the pages such as company name and city, what would you think? Personally, I would think the person building the website got tired or lazy or both.  If you don’t take your website seriously, then why should I?

Google’s job is to delight its users.  When you look on the SERP (Search Engine Results Page), those page titles are at the top of each snippet, and underneath is the description you wrote (or that Google tried to fill in). Which ones do you click on?  The ones that clearly took no thought and are not relevant or descriptive, or the ones that have a title and description that indicates that page has the content you’re looking for?

Try this.  Perform a search – say website design – and then start clicking past page one.  Do the titles  and descriptions get worse?  Sure, there will be good ones deeper in the results because there are many other ranking factors, but as a rule, page one listings all have titles that are well matched to your search and usually descriptions that also help talk you into clicking.

Now, you might think that only the important pages on your website will show up in the search results, so why bother?  Well, your overall ranking is tied to all of your content and to the structure of the entire websites.  Poor habits anywhere on your website start to add up.  You’re sending the wrong message to Google – that you don’t care.  And worse, that all of those pages with duplicate titles might also be duplicate or spammy, low-quality content.

Take the time to create unique, relevant titles and descriptions that will get the most clicks to your website, and make Google’s job easier.  At the very least, use an SEO plugin like Yoast and make sure it is set up to do so automatically.

Copying Content

There’s a saying: “we’re not in college anymore, so plagiarism is legal.” Part of the process of creating your website is doing competitive research. What are similar businesses saying?  As you do so, you’ll pick up good ideas.  You might think that if you’re a local business, the content you find at a competitive website in a distant town will never be viewed by your audience, so you won’t get caught.  You won’t end up looking bad.Well, to some extent, that might be true, but Google’s job is to bring its customers

You’re right.  Most of your customers are not going to perform the same business search in another town, or Google a particularly well-written sentence or two to see how many other business said the exact same thing. They might not care if they see that phrase show up at dozens of other sites and they won’t know who wrote it first anyway.

Well, Google knows, and Google cares.  They will penalize for duplicate content and they will know who wrote it first – thus, who’s copyright you’re infringing on.

Do not copy, but use the content you like from other websites for creative inspiration to write your own.  Remember though, users (thus Google) like fresh content, new ways of expressing an idea, and personalized content or stories.

Poor or Thin Content

In earlier days, it was all about keyword density.  So to fool Google, people would keyword stuff.  When Google started figuring that out and penalizing for it, people started hiring cheap ghostwriters to write content.  It might have been unique, but it had very little to say.  It was only being written for SEO purposes, not users.

Write for your users.  Do NOT write for Google.  Do not stuff your copy with your target keyword to the point of sounding ridiculous, obvious or annoying. Do not create content that isn’t worth the time to read.

Not only will it have little to no impact on your ranking, but it might have a negative impact.  Google started handing out demerits for bad content for a couple of reasons.  It doesn’t create a positive user experience, and it is demonstrating intent to trick them.

Content is your most important website asset.  Creating content – copywriting – is a subject in itself and will be explored in future posts.