It’s hard enough to move up in organic rankings even when you’re doing everything right. But, if your website has internal SEO problems, you’re unlikely to get anywhere, no matter how much you spend, how much content you write, or how many links you acquire. Here are five common problems that kill websites for SEO — if you avoid or correct them, you’re on your way to a successful SEO effort.
Bad Titles Tags
Title tags tell Google crawlers what your website page is about. Title tags must incorporate the exact primary keyword for that page, ideally placed at the beginning of it. If Google gets confused here, it won’t be confident in serving that page to their search engine users.
Along these lines, it’s important that the content of each page is relevant to that keyword. Simply composing a title with your target keyword won’t get you anywhere if the content associated with it is irrelevant or marginally relevant.
Adequate Word Count
Google assumes search engine users want information, so if a web page has a handful of crawler-readable words, Google is likely to overlook or discount it. Content that appears in images, Java and other non-textual content is hard or impossible for Google to read. Many companies go crazy packing content into design elements, which may grab reader attention … but will definitely hamper SEO. At a minimum, image content should be re-written into associated alt tags, and video should include a text transcript at the bottom of the page.
What’s the adequate word count? There is no universal answer, but here’s a good rule of thumb: See what pages rank highly for keywords you’re targeting; however many words those pages have, make yours at least a few words longer.
Overuse of Keywords
When it comes to inviting keywords into web page content, some companies use a “more the merrier” philosophy, repeating keywords at every conceivable opportunity.
Unfortunately, over-repetition of keywords in body text can send a signal to Google you are trying to game the system (“keyword stuffing” as it is sometimes called). If Google feels you are trying to manipulate rankings, it will ignore or discount your page. On a 500-word page, a few repetitions of each targeted keyword is enough, and you can use variations rather than always the exact phrase.
Sloppy or Missing Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are snippets of text that don’t appear on the web page but appear under the link on search engine results pages. While meta descriptions no longer have any direct SEO impact with Google, their indirect impact is huge.
A well-written meta description tells the search engine user what the content is about, and provides a good reason to click through and visit the page. Adding keywords to meta descriptions is not necessary, but improves its relevance and persuasive power.
This is an important issue because it highlights the crucial point — SEO is about conversions, not rankings. You can be on the first page of Google for every page on your website, but if nobody clicks through, nobody buys anything — and you gain nothing from your SEO investment.
Slow Page Loading
Few things frustrate website visitors as much as slow loading pages. For this reason, Google has made page-loading speed a ranking factor, and one likely to grow in importance. Beyond the direct impact on SEO, loading speed strongly affects conversions, which again is the core purpose of SEO.
Many issues affect speed, including a wide range of design, development and hosting problems. Page loading is an element of site functionality that should be monitored regularly.
Brad Shorr is Director of Content Strategy at Straight North, an Internet marketing agency in Chicago that provides SEO, PPC and web design services. With more than 25 years of sales and marketing experience, Brad has been featured in leading online publications including Moz, Entrepreneur, and Forbes.