There’s a common misconception among those unfamiliar with SEO that to successfully optimize your website, you simply fill in some blanks and you’ll instantly see results. But that is definitely not the case. For truly successful optimizations to occur, they need to be centered around a foundation of relevant research. While SEO is comprised of small changes that add up to substantial benefits, all of these adjustments need to be done thoughtfully.
For example, the value of metadata is typically underestimated and disregarded. In addition, page layout and content are often implemented haphazardly even though they are imperative to how web crawlers view a page. Lastly, many know that images can be a snake in the weeds when it comes to page speed yet extra-large images are still common across the web. These elements may get glossed over, as many people look for “smoking gun” issues that will provide quick resolutions to their SEO woes. Unfortunately, that’s not always how SEO works.
If you’re new to SEO or just need a refresher on best practices, I’d like to go over five major SEO mistakes you should avoid. Keep reading to learn more!
1. Simply Having A Title Tag Is Good, Not Great
Title tags are likely the primary piece of copy that the average user first takes note of, so it is important to be intentional about what is included in this bit of copy. It is also well known that title tags and meta descriptions are central contributing factors to click-through rates. Although a component as small as a title tag may seem trivial it is important to be aware that this could be the first interaction users have with your site.
There are a few key tricks to creating an effective title tag:
- Ensure the intent of the included keywords aligns with the content on the page by reviewing the existing search results for those terms.
- Place your primary keyword towards the front of the phrase to be most impactful.
- Keep your character count at or below 65 characters to avoid truncation in the SERPs.
2. Take Advantage Of Your Meta Description
We can’t forget about the importance of meta descriptions when it comes to metadata. This is your chance to really draw users in, but it is often overlooked since it likely isn’t a formal ranking signal in search algorithms. It is important to be clear and concise here as users tend to scan SERPs very briefly before making a decision about which link will get their click.
Here are some things to keep in mind when developing a meta description.
- Include a persuasive call to action that entices a click.
- If possible, naturally incorporate eye-catching words like “get,” “free,” “best,” “easy,” etc.
- Keep the character count at or below 156 characters to avoid truncation in the SERPs.
3. Don’t Mix Up Header Hierarchy
While working on a variety of websites and on-page optimizations, I’ll sometimes come across page headers that are all over the place. This is often due to the fact that the headers have been used stylistically instead of strategically. In many website templates, setting a piece of text as a heading element (H2, etc.) can make the copy larger and more pronounced, but that is not its only purpose. The heading elements of a web page work to guide search crawlers and outline content hierarchy. For instances where you want your piece of text to look like a header but it falls outside the natural hierarchy of proper heading element structure, consider using CSS to mimic the visual appearance of a header without adding an HTML tag to the code.
With all of this in mind, I would recommend these tips for headers:
- Ensure the H1 is the first header on the page.
- There should only be one unique H1 per page.
- Be logical about the order of your headers, strategically nest content together and use headers in numerical order.
- Avoid using header tags (<h1>, <h2>, etc.) in any type of templated or navigational elements.
- Heading elements should only be used in the body of a web page and not in sitewide elements like the header or footer
4. Content Quality Versus Quantity
When it comes to content, more is not always better. As search engines evolve, improvements in machine learning are becoming more focused on language understanding. In short, this means you will be less likely to get away with content that is not meaningful, no matter how much of it there is. Furthermore, Google’s E-A-T initiative highly stresses the importance of quality in terms of expertise and accuracy.
A few things to consider when it comes to content:
- A web page does not have to be overly long to be effective, length does not define performance.
- Including an author’s biographical information and sources can signify to search engines and users alike that a site or piece of content is authoritative and trustworthy.
- Content should be structured so that it is easily digestible on both desktop and mobile screens.
5. Double-Check Images To Save Time
Extra-large images can slow your page down substantially, which can reduce SEO value and overall success. Images are common culprits that contribute to low site speed scores and poor user experience. Plugins are a great way to resolve these issues in a snap. Although they aren’t always a perfect fix in every situation, WP Smush and WP Rocket are two favorites I often test out.
Image do’s include:
- Resize large images to the actual size you are hoping to render on a page.
- Compress your resized image even further, try to stay below 100 KB, some great free tools include https://tinyjpg.com/ and https://imagecompressor.com/.
- Include descriptive alt text that explains what is happening in the image and how that relates to the page.
- Use a lazy loading configuration when possible to defer loading requests until they are needed.
All too frequently, people are under the impression that merely checking SEO boxes is enough to create real results. As with most things in life, the easy way is not the best way. Every aspect of SEO requires diligence and this is true for even the most basic items. Although optimizing metadata, content, and images may not be the most groundbreaking tactic, it is one that is proven to work.
Are you curious about any other facets of SEO? Read all about our data-based approach to SEO or drop us a comment below!