If you’re not sure why your website is getting very little organic traffic, look at your website and see if you’re suffering from any of these 8 SEO No-Nos.
Every business wants their piece of the over 3.5 billion search queries that take place on Google ever day. But some companies are better positioned to take advantage of that massive amount of search volume.
There is often one thing that stands between a business and the customers who are searching for them. And that is that they have fallen victim to some simple but powerful SEO No-Nos that are hurting their organic rankings.
Unfortunately, even today – after years of training and publications about search marketing best practices – there are still web development firms who will launch a website that looks pretty, but is not SEO optimized, or even SEO friendly.
Luckily, it doesn’t take much to identify your website’s hit or miss factor on several key SEO principles.
Here are 8 basic SEO no-nos that I often find on today’s websites, even though there is really no excuse for them anymore.
Your Website Does Not Have an SSL Certificate Installed
Website security continues to be a pressing concern for users and for Google. But this no longer exclusively applies to sites where checkouts are completed and payments are captured. Every site, from a massive E-commerce enterprise to a WAHM blog, needs to think about website security.
You may not realize it, but your website does capture information about your visitors. Even if it’s only their email address when they subscribe to your newsletter or fill out a lead gen form.
Nobody wants to browse an insecure sight where they don’t know what could happen to their personal information, and Google knows this.
That’s why Google has started using security as a ranking factor. The relatively minimal annual cost of an SSL certificate is worth the investment. Especially if you actually want visitors to use your website.
If you don’t have an SSL installed on your site, you could be losing traffic, leads, and potential customers. The cost of an SSL certificate is relatively small compared to the potential revenue you might be losing.
Your Homepage Meta Title Uses the Words Home or Welcome
One of the first signs that there are going to be widespread SEO issues on a website is when I see the words “Home” or “Welcome” inside the homepage meta title.
What this says to me is that the developers used a very basic, and very not SEO-optimized, template to fill in the SEO data.
Usually it ends up looking something like this:
Company Name – Home
Welcome to Company Name
This is important because you can only properly fit 50 – 60 characters in your meta title. To use 5 to 8 of those characters on a word that is so generic & meaningless to your brand is an absolute waste. It’s like
Of course, it’s possible that our business is actually a “Welcome” or “Home” based type company. If that is the case, you have very good reasons to include those words in your page title, and it can be forgiven. If not, it is a definite SEO no-no that should be corrected ASAP.
Your website’s homepage meta title should be thought of a mini elevator pitch for the shortest elevator ride ever.
A well-formatted SEO title should include:
Key Product or Service Type | Location if Appropriate | Company Name
For example, the default SEO title for clmbmarketing.com could easy have been
Welcome to CLMB Marketing
But, instead, because I have experience in Digital Marketing & Ecommerce, my homepage title is
Digital Marketing & Ecommerce Strategy | CLMB Marketing
Take a look at your home page’s meta title. It’s what shows up in the top at the top of your browser window. Does it include Welcome, or Home, or some other generic word that is not relevant to your company? If so, then your web development team has failed one of the most basic SEO practices.
Your Website is NOT Mobile Friendly
Another basic SEO no-no is to focus your web development on desktop devices. Mobile searching has become a massive part of the digital marketing ecosystem. Mobile devices now make up more than 50% of all web traffic. Google and other search engines realized this fact pretty quickly, and have started transitioning to mobile-first indexing.
What this means to your business is that, very soon, Google will use your website’s mobile version to create the site index and ranking. If the website is not mobile friendly, you will likely see some very negative results in Google.
Today’s internet world is mostly mobile, and your website needs to be prepared for that or the Search Engines will penalize you.
How can you tell if your website is mobile friendly? That’s relatively easy. Simply launch your website on a few different mobile devices. Does it load quickly? Does it render properly? Can you read the text? Are the buttons big enough to click on them? Can you complete the check out process?
If not, you have a mobile problem. And if you have a mobile problem, you have a big SEO no-no on your hands.
Images File Names Are Irrelevant
Every aspect of a website’s design and coding adds to the story you are trying to tell search engines about your company. Keep in mind that Google can’t actually SEE your pictures. Therefore, they rely on other signals – such as the image file name – to determine what that image is about. This also tells the search engines how relevant the content on your page is to the keyword being searched.
Unfortunately, I all-too-often see beautifully designed websites that make the mistake of not putting in the effort to properly name an image. They are sometimes named by where they are going (homepage-hero-image-1.jpg). Sometimes it’s based on the navigational or design purpose of the image (divider-image-2.png). Sometimes it’s just the product sku (ABS-544.jpg). Or, worst case, it’s just randomly generated characters (image-78b4dswu.png).
Random image names give search engines absolutely no indication of what that image is, why it’s relevant to the page, and why it would be relevant to potential visitors.
If you’re selling jewellery, and you show a beautiful set of diamond earrings on a specific product page, include the words diamond earrings in the image file name. Having a gorgeous necklace use an image name such as e image72944wcpk.jpg is a complete waste of one possible signal to the search engines.
And the only time you should include the SKU in the image name is if it’s a popular enough product that people would actually be searching for it by SKU. This does happen in electronics and other areas where customers have already decided what they want to buy, and are just deciding where to buy it.
To check out some of your image names without having to try to decipher the web coding, simply right click on an image on your website and select “Save Image As…”. Once you do this, your system will try to save the file using the name it was given. That way, you can see – plain as day – if the website is suffering from bad image naming SEO no-nos.
Image Alt Tags Are Missing
Keeping on the topic of images, image alt tags are another way to tell the search engines what an image is about. Combined with the image fine name mentioned above, alt tags can fully describe the image in a way that shows relevance to your content.
Alt tags should accurately describe the image and why it’s on the page, for anyone – including the search engines – who can’t actually see the image.
However, do NOT use this space to try to stuff keywords into your page. Too many alt tags with the same keywords sends off a spam signal to Google. And nobody wants their website flagged as being spam.
Thin Website Content
Writing is hard. Believe me, I know.
But unique content is critical in the world of SEO, so the lack of it is a huge SEO No-No.
Think of your website content serving two purposes. The first and foremost purpose is to let your potential customers know everything they need to know about your company.
Whether that’s a product, a blog post, a service offering, or a bunch of really cute pictures of cats doing silly, silly things, they need to understand what they are reading and why.
Use your content to sell your products or services to your potential customers. And use your content to tell the search engines that you are the best place to find information on that particular product or service.
I was working with a company a while ago that sold sweaters. One of their product descriptions was precisely one word.
That’s it. Nothing about the material, fit, care instructions. Not even any kind of romance text that would make a customer want to drop $75.00 on that sweater.
We worked on bigger, better, more interesting product descriptions and not only did their conversion rates skyrocket, but they also saw significant increases in organic traffic.
Which brings us to the second purpose, which is to establish a certain level of authority in the eyes of the search engines. With ALL of the billions of web pages out there, why should Google believe that yours is one of the best when it comes to that specific search term?
Pages rarely rank with thin content. Sites with too many pages of thin content rarely rank at all.
Take a look at the critical pages on your site. If they only have a paragraph or two of text (or – worst case scenario, only a word or two) on them, you’ve perpetrated another SEO No-No.
Your Keyword Targets Are Too Long
Over 60% of Google’s 3.5 billion daily search queries are tracked and 3 words or less. Some people will add more keywords to get more specific, particularly if they can’t find what they are looking for initially. But all users tend to go for the fewest possible words to type in order to find what they want.
If you’re targeting a key phrase that is 4, 5, or even 6 words long, you’re fishing for minnows.
Long-tail keywords are great for generating highly focused search results. But they should not make up the majority of your search focus. If they do, that’s definitely one of the SEO No-Nos.
SEO teams, whether they be internal or outside agencies, often highlight the success of having achieved high rankings for long-tail keywords that have 4 or 5 words in them. That’s because these are the easiest to achieve, so they can call it a win. However, these are also very rarely searched for and will end up driving very little traffic.
Try to simplify how you refer to your products and think about how someone would search for them. The good thing is, if you can gain rankings for the shorter versions, you are much, much, more likely to automatically gain rankings for the longer variations.
Key Content Repeats Across the Site
One of the key SEO No-Nos is what I call the Copy and Paste problem. Others call it duplicate content and/or duplicate meta data. This usually occurs because the web development team needs to fill a particular spot with text, but they are not writers so they don’t know what to put there.
Instead, they find one place where that text is referenced and they copy and paste the same text over and over and over again across the entire site.
Nobody likes it when someone repeats themselves over and over and over again. Search engines feel that same way about websites.
One of the worst offenders in this particular copy and paste SEO no-no is inside the Meta Descriptions. Meta descriptions are those 150 – 160 character descriptions that should be on every page on your website. Because they are meant for the search engines eyes, they are quite commonly copied and pasted across the entire site.
Another common area for repeat content is in product descriptions. Because items can have similarities, product descriptions tend to get very repetitive, very quickly. After all, how many different ways can you say Jacquard woven wall tapestry.
Having that kind of repetitive content, particularly in the meta descriptions, really confuses Google and makes it almost impossible for the search engine algorithm to figure out what each page on your website is about. When you confuse Google, it’s a problem.
And if the search engines don’t know what your website, or your web page, is about, it is not going to recommend it to its users.
How Many SEO No-Nos Should You Fix Now-Now?
If your website is completely free of these 8 SEO no-nos, congratulations… that means you don’t have these basic SEO issues. It does not necessarily mean that your website is fully optimized, but it’s a good start.
If you want to know if your website is as SEO optimized as it can be, that’s a deeper conversation that is better had one-on-one.
If you’ve found yourself falling victim to any of the 8 SEO No-Nos, seek professional help… immediately. (aka – call me).
And for those skeptics who believe that these kinds of basic SEO No-Nos don’t happen anymore… over the past 3 days, I have come across 6 otherwise well-designed websites that had a big, wasteful “Home” in their homepage title tag.