One of the most critical parts of SEO these days is to get your on-page SEO right but yet many websites get it wrong. Let’s take a closer look at the 5 most common optimization mistakes that affect your Google rankings and how to fix them.
#1 – Non optimized titles
The title of a page is a very important SEO signal. This is what search engines and users read first when they try to understand what a page is about. If you fail to provide them with a title that is meaningful to both (search crawlers and users) you will minimize your chances of ranking high on Google (and other search engines) and in addition you drive visitors away from your web page.
Follow these simple rules to make your titles better and also see below a real example for a ‘good’ page title.
- Titles should be max 60 characters.
- They have to be natural and describe what the page is about.
- They need to include keywords but not keyword stuffing.
- They have to be unique for each web page.
- Titles are shown in the SERPS (search engine results pages) so they also need to be attractive to the user in order to receive more clicks.
Here is an example of a good title:
#2 – Bad use of <H1> tag
This is a bit technical but easy to understand. When the Google crawler is reading a web page, it uses several techniques in order to interpret what a page is about. The title as I already mentioned is a great signal, but also is the <H1>.
The mistake that many websites make is that in a given page, they use more than one H1 tag. This may be due to the website theme that is not SEO optimized or to bad programming but the bottom line is that this is confusing for the search engine bots.
Each page should only have one <H1> html tag and this is usually used for the page title. In other words the page title that you set for a page also appears within the page HTML content surrounded by <H1></H1>.
The easiest way to check if your website has this problem, is to visit a page on your site and select VIEW SOURCE from the browser menu. This will show you the HTML code of the page and then you can search for “H1” using the FIND menu. If there are more than 2 occurrences i.e <H1> and </H1> then this means you have a problem.
In case you do have more than H1 tags and don’t know how to fix it, you can ask a programmer to make this change for you.
#3 – Misuse of internal linking
Internal linking is when you link from a page to another page in the same website. Internal links are great for SEO since they allow you to create your own small web by linking your pages together. This helps search engines discover or revisit pages from your website and also gives extra information to users about a particular topic.
The most common mistakes that many webmasters do with internal linking are:
- Not using internal linking at all
- Using too many internal links
- Not using descriptive anchor text when linking to another page
Google has many times mentioned that webmasters should pay attention to internal links because its helps them navigate a website better. The screenshot below is from the Search Engine Optimization Starter Guide published by Google a few years ago.
Best practices for internal links are:
- Make the links descriptive and avoid using anchor text like “click here” “these” or other words that does not help Google and users understand what the linking page is about.
- Use internal links when necessary (as a rule of thumb 4-5 links per page is enough).
- Don’t use tag clouds – this is a bad practice of internal links
- When possible add the internal links within the main text of the page (and not in the sidebar)
Example of a good internal link: “An SEO friendly website has a good internal linking structure”.
#4 – Don’t just throw content on a page
It is very common to see pages that have only text content in the main area without proper headings, paragraphing or any work done on styling. This is not only bad for the user experience but also something that search engines can understand and if this is a repeating phenomenon it leads to the devaluation of a website’s quality.
When you publish text on a webpage don’t just paste the text (even if it is unique and original) on the page but try to make the page look nice by using headings (H2, H3), bold and italics to help users read and interact with the page.
Many people think that this does not matter since Google cannot ‘see’ a page but it is important for them as well. In an article titled “building high quality websites” published in 2011, they mention that styling, quality control and editing is an important factor when trying to differentiate between high and low quality websites.
#5 – Huge images with no proper tagging
Images are nice and have many benefits to offer to both users and website owners. They can help you make your pages more interesting, more shareable and easier to read.
Common mistakes associated with the use of images are:
- Using images that are too big in file size – this makes the website slower to load especially on mobile devices (not to mention the bandwidth needed to download big images on mobile).
- Using too many images – Unless you are a fashion news website, you don’t have to overload a page with images.
- Not using ALT text – ALT tags help search engines understand what an image is about and not using alt text makes their job much more difficult.
Optimize your images before publishing. If you have a large image (i.e 2400×1200) don’t publish it as it is. Use any photo editing software to ‘cut’ the image to a reasonable size i.e. 800×600 and then ‘Export it for Web’ so that the file size is optimized.
Any modern photo editing software like photoshop or pixelmator has many options for minimizing an image file size without losing quality.
If you need to use a lot of images on a page, don’t add them to the full size but use thumbnails to show smaller versions of the images and if users when to see the biggest version they can click on the thumbnail.
This way the page will load faster and the user experience will be better.
Before adding an image to a page make sure that you use a descriptive ALT text. The alt text does not need to be separated by ‘-’ but you can use plain text. To make your ALT text more SEO optimized, make sure that it includes some of your main keywords but without keyword stuffing.
The above list is by no means complete. There are a lot of optimization mistakes that you need to fix if you want to have an SEO optimized website. In the list above I have not talked about the importance of content uniqueness, web site load speed, mobile friendly and many other critical factors.
Read my ultimate SEO checklist for a complete list of all the things you need to examine when optimising your website for both search engines and users.