August 23, 2017

16 Actionable SEO Tips You Can Implement Today To Avoid The Most Common SEO Mistakes

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One of the most common problems we hear:

We are doing everything right but still don’t rank on Google.

If this applies to your website, we're going to help you fix it today.

Here are 16 of the most common SEO mistakes and 16 easy, actionable tips you can implement TODAY to fix the mistakes and improve your site.

Let's go!

1

Increase your search rankings by deleting under-performing pages

Mistake: More pages are better

Believe it or not:

Having more pages does not help your site rankings or visibility at all.

All Google cares about is showing the absolute best results for their users.

This is why focusing on your content that is achieving results is significantly more important than simply having lots of content.

In fact:

By removing pages that don’t perform, pages that do perform are more likely to receive targeted traffic.

Here's how to do it:

First head over to your analytics tool. We like to use Google Analytics.

On your Google Analytics Dashboard, open up the Behavior Tab:

Screenshot of Behavior Tab in Google Analytics
Behavior tab in Google Analytics

From the behavior tab we are specifically looking for Content Drilldown.

Content Drilldown gives you a variety of ways to measure the performance of the content on your site including pageviews, unique pageviews, time on page, bounce rate, and exit percentage.

Screenshot of top performing pages in Content Drilldown in Google Analytics
top pages in content drilldown on Google Analytics

Once you have seen your top performing pages, you will want to scroll down to the bottom of the page where your under-performing content is located:

Screenshot of least performing pages in Content Drilldown in Google Analytics
least performing pages in content drilldown on Google Analytics

After you have found the pages of your site which are not performing well you have two options:

  1. Update the content in order to improve the page
  2. Delete the pages outright
When should you choose each option?

If you are sure your content is high-quality, you can simply re-purpose it. We talk much more about this in Tip #14 so jump there if you are ready to re-purpose!

You will want to delete pages that under-perform if the content is:

  1. Similar to other content on the site
  2. Bad
  3. No longer relevant or accurate

Ultimately the goal with deleting the content is to have Google index only the best of your work and avoid indexing your lower-quality pages.

The quality content are the only pages they'll show in search results anyway delete your under-pefroming content and avoid diluting your SEO juice and domain authority on bad content.

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2

Have better performing content by creating significantly less content

Mistake: Publishing as frequently as possible

Time and time again I hear people say:

The more you publish, the more Google will reward you with good rankings.

The truth?

Google does not care how often you publish content.

All they care about is the quality of the content.

This is great news! Think of the time you’ll save by not having to publish unsuccessful blog posts every day?

Here are three things you should focus on with your content instead of frequency:

1. Depth of your content

The more detailed, applicable information you can share about your topic the better.

Why?

Search engines want to give users the best possible results for their users. If you are capable of definitively answering a searchers questions all in one place, Google will send them there.

This is why publishing more content does not matter. Having many broad pieces of information that lack specific information is not helpful.

You know a lot about your industry, services, and products. Don't hold back! Share as many of the great details as possible.

2. Length of your content

As you are adding more depth, you will naturally add more length. This is a good thing because most top 10 search results feature long, in depth content:

avg. content length of top 10 search results
longer content performs better
3. Choose Winning Topics

Depth and length certainly go hand in hand, but the most important thing for your long in depth content is the subject of the content.

Here is an easy way to find topics you know are winners:

First, head over to BuzzSumo.com.

Enter a keyword or phrase that pertains to your topic. In this example we'll use "web design tips", one of our favorite things to talk about.

screen shot of buzz sumo searching for web design tips
Buzzsumo search page

The results will give you ideas on topics that people have been writing about.

More importantly they will give you ideas on topics people have been sharing and linking to!

buzz sumo web design tips results page
Buzzsumo results giving us great content ideas based on what we know people share

If we were planning to write about web design tips, we would know people like to share things on web design trends, colors, user-interfaces, typography, etc.

Mixing up the search terms, time frames, and social networks gives us great ideas on how to take winning topics, write in depth content on it, and most importantly avoid having to publish something everyday!

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3

Know exactly what is happening on your site

Mistake: Not using any analytics

Understanding how your website performs, and learning what content performs best is crucial to both SEO and website performance in general.

There are tons of options for analytics, many of which are free.

The most common, and most people's preferred analytics are Google Analytics.

If you don't already have a Google Analytics account, it is extremely easy to set up.

Here's how:

First, head to google.com/analytics and click sign in, and select Analytics.

Google Analytics Sign In or Sign Up
Google Analytics Sign In or Sign Up
Google Analytics Sign In or Sign Up

If you already have an account, you can sign in here.

If you do not have an account, click on more options and select Create Account.

Once you are into your account, simply head over to Account Settings.

In Account settings you're looking for your tracking info:

Google Analytics Admin Dashboard
Google Analytics Admin Dashboard

Inside the tracking info tab you will see your Google Universal Analytics Tracking ID, which will look something like: UA-12345678-1.

Most web platforms will allow you to insert this directly into the code of every page of your site and from there begin tracking.

Now that you have the site installed, the fastest way to get some relevant information is to set up some dashboards which you can customize to your exact needs.

Here are 7 Google Analytics Dashboard examples to get you started today.

Now that you have your Analytics set up, head to tip #4 to learn some great ways to put it to work!

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4

Increase website conversions by creating goals

Mistake: The more users on my website the better

Having lots of traffic is great. Everyone loves big traffic numbers.

What is better?

Having traffic that converts and accomplishes your goals. Ultimately that is the whole point of having the website.

Unsure if your website is accomplishing your goals? 

Setting up goals in Google Analytics is easy and super effective.

Here is how you do it step by step:

First:

Log into your Google Analytics account.

Next click on the Admin Tab:

Google Analytics Menu Screenshot highlighting Admin
Google Analytics sidebar menu: select Admin
From here you will select Goals:
Google Analytics Menu Screenshot highlighting Goals
Google Analytics Admin Menu: Select Goals
Google analytics New Goal screenshot
Goals Menu: Select New Goal

Google is kind enough to provide us with a few templates, but we like to do everything custom:

Custom Goal setup screenshot in Google Analytics
Custom: the only way to go.
Here you will have four options:
  1. Destination goal
  2. Duration goal
  3. Pages/Screens per session goal
  4. Event goal
Custom Goal setup screenshot in Google Analytics

Destination goals are successful when a user heads to a specific page. This is great for thank you pages after filling out a form, PDF downloads, confirmation pages, etc.

Duration goals are successful when a user stays on a page for a pre-determined amount of time. This is useful if you are trying to optimize a customer service page, blog-posts, or large information pages. Duration on a page is also one of Google's many ranking factors: the longer a user is on the page the better.

Pages/Screens per session simply tracks how many pages a user views before exiting your site. Setting up a goal is as easy as determining an ideal number of page views.

Event goals are the most complex of the bunch. They allow you to track anything from downloads, social media buttons, external links, or any other action a user may take on your site. Event goals require adding some additional JavaScript to the element you want to track. Google's Event Tracking guide provides more details on this process.

If you are interested in event goals, Another really option is Heap Analytics.

Once you have your goals set up, they will begin tracking immediately and you can view your reports in the conversion tab:

goal tracking in google analytics
goal tracking in Goolge Analytics
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Mistake: If I publish lots of content, Google will reward me with better search rankings and people will link to my content

What do you do after you finish a great piece of content?

If you are like most people, you hit the publish button and then wait for the results to pour in.

Spoiler: nothing is going to happen.

The 'publish and pray' method makes it nearly impossible for anyone with the ability to link back to your page to find it.

With nearly two million blog posts being published every day, having a high quality promotion strategy is absolutely imperative.

Here is exactly what to do:

First, you need great content.

Make sure you followed everything from Tip #2 in creating your new content. This will allow you to focus on creating less content, and more great content that people will want to link to.

Content is great?

Ok, on to Step 2:

The overall goal is to gain new links to your content.

To link to your content, you need to find people with the ability to do so, meaning they are bloggers, journalists, writers, etc.

The easiest way to do this is to simply check the first 3-4 pages of Google.

google search for blogs
(my keyword) + best blogs search

Here are a few search queries to try:

  • (my keyword) + best blogs
  • (my keyword) + “helpful resources”
  • (my keyword) + inurl:links

Put together a list of 10-15 bloggers, journalists, and writers that you can reach out to.

Time to reach out.

Once you have your list together here is exactly what to send to them:

Subject: Quick question
Hey NAME,
I know you get lots of emails, so I’ll keep this short.
I’ve just published a post about TOPIC and I think you’d be interested in seeing it.
I would really appreciate it if you would give your quick feedback on it. Would it be alright if I send you the link?
NAME

Because you are not asking them directly to link to your work, and instead for feedback they are much more likely to actually read your stuff.

And, because we know it is super quality content they will be more likely to in turn to like, share, and post your content.

Step 3 is simple: Start building relationships.

As you publish more and more content, it will be easier to promote to your newly formed network.

Remember, it is in the blogger's, journalist's, and writer's best interest to link to and share the best content they can find. It benefits both of you.

So the next time you are ready to publish something, they will be eagerly awaiting your emails.

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6

Boost SEO Juice with DoFollow Links

Mistake: Links are links; get as many as you can

There are two types of links:

DoFollow links and NoFollow links.

DoFollow Links are what we are after. These count toward your SEO link profile, pass SEO juice to your domain and pages, and help boost your search rankings and web traffic.

NoFollow links are just the opposite. 

While they do help with targeted traffic depending on where the link comes from, they do not count toward your domain authority and SEO link profile. 

Therefore they do not help you get higher search rankings.

Here is how to find out if a link is DoFollow or NoFollow:

First go to a webpage with links you are interested in.

Using Google Chrome, right click on the web page and select "View page source"

view page source

On the page source page, select the Ctrl+F keys to open the find window.

Search for: rel="nofollow"

search for rel="nofollow" on page source

This will reveal whether a site is using NoFollow or DoFollow links. If they are only using NoFollow links, they may not be the best choice for linking to your content.

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7

Quality Web Design is Really Important

Mistake: My old website design is good enough

A lot has changed in web design over the last 10 years and Google is well aware of it.

Mobile friendly, quality user experience, and quality design are all among Google’s top ranking factors.

Beyond that, people simply prefer better design to old and outdated design.

Here is what you can do to start moving into a modern web design approach today.

Test your site

Having objective information about your website is extremely valuable, and easy to obtain.

website grader screenshot

Head over to www.website.grader.com and enter your website.

This will give you a score out of 100 based on performance, Mobile, SEO, & Security.

If something isn't quite right, it will give you information on what to fix, and how to fix it.

performance score on Website.Grader.com
performance score on Website.Grader.com
Optimize for Mobile Performance

With upwards of 60% of internet access occurring on mobile devices, it is a huge understatement to say if you are not scoring top marks on mobile you are missing out.

mobile vs desktop internet users graph
mobile is flying past desktop
Test on Multiple Screens

Here at Sweor, we are constantly testing our sites in the real world to make sure they work on the wide variety of mobile devices available.

We test on a minimum of 6 desktop browsers, 5 mobile browsers, and a variety of screen sizes.

Don't have access to all these devices? 

A great tool to use to test is www.browserstack.com. This is one of the quickest ways to make sure your site is up to par across the device and browser spectrum.

Simply open up their app and select the devices you want to test for:

browserstack.com screenshot for broswer testing
browserstack.com device selection

From here you can see how your website functions live on actual devices, as well as receive information on areas that need to be fixed or improved.

Sweor.com test on Iphone6
Sweor.com on Iphone6
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8

Increase Search Visibility with Alt-Text

Mistake: Not using Alt Text on Images

You just launched a new site.

Your graphic designer put together some awesome images that people all love.

The problem?

Google has no idea what the images are.

We’ll show you exactly how to fix this problem today and your images will all become search friendly!

Add Alt Text to all Images

Alt Text, Alternative Text, alt descriptions, or alt attributes are the terms used to describe image appearance and purpose within your HTML code.

You will want to be sure every image on your site has an alt text.

So first thing you'll want to do is find every image on your site.

Check each one to be sure they have an alt text.

If they don't have an alt text, be sure to add one; if they do, use this guideline to be sure they are the best they can be:

Get Specific, but don't drag on.

You want to describe the image the best you can, using appropriate keywords.

You don't want to go over 125 characters.

Simple enough? Let's do an example:

Bald Eagle in a tree screaming

Good Alt Text: Eagle">

Better Alt Text: Eagle screaming">

Best Alt Text: Bald Eagle in a tree screaming">

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9

Increase your site speed today

Mistake: Not caring about site speed

Google has confirmed that site speed is a ranking factor for websites.

With so many options on building and hosting sites, it’s easy to get lost in the fray.

There is hope:

We are going to show you exactly how you can improve your site speed today.

Test your site speed

First we'll want to know exactly how your site speed is performing.

Head on over to our favorite speed test www.gtmetrix.com and type in your website:

gtmetrix.com speed test screenshot
gtmetrix site speed test
GTmetrix performance report screenshot
Our recent scores

GTmetrix gives a ton of info, all of which is very helpful for finding out exactly where you can improve your speed. As you scroll through your results, they will break down what needs to be fixed and how to do it.

Image Optimization

The most common thing we see negatively affecting website speed is forgetting to optimize images before adding them to your site.

As a general rule of thumb, we try and keep images under 200kb.

Here are two great options optimizing your images for the web:

Optimizilla is a website which allows you to optimize up to 20 images at once. This is a great place to start if you have lots of images that need optimizing.

Optimizilla.com screenshot

Simply head over to optimizilla.com. Select upload, choose your files, and the compression begins immediately.

Now you can download the newly optimized images to use on your site in place of the large files slowing you down.

A second option is to use Photoshop. Photoshop gives you a lot more control over the size, quality, and image file type for your optimization.

Open up the image you want to optimize. Then select the file menu, export, and export as:

Photoshop export image as menu

This will open the export as window giving you complete control of the final exported image:

photoshop export as screenshot

From here you can head back to GTmetrix and run your speed test again and see how much faster your site is!

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10

Rank for more keywords by avoiding long tail keywords

Mistake: Chasing longtail keywords

Once upon a time:

You could create one webpage to target one keyword, and another webpage for another keyword.

This leads to tons of pages, and tons of ranking right?

You already know the answer is no.

With Google’s Panda update and LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing), when you search for Mortgage for first time home buyers, you see the same results as when you search First time home buyer mortgage.

Here’s what to do instead of targeting Long Tail keywords.

First head over to Google Keyword Planner. You will need a Google Adwords account to sign in.

Googley Adwords Dashboard screenshot
Google Adwords Dashboard

Once you are in, select tools, then Keyword Planner:

Google Keyword Planner Menu
Tools Menu

Now enter a head term, a broad keyword in your industry that you know will receive a lot of search volume. We used both Web Design and Search Engine Optimization:

Keyword Planner for Web Design and Search Engine Optimization

Here is the results page where you can see the high volume of search, and begin to look at some additional keyword ideas broken down by search volume:

Keyword planner search results

Knowing that it will be extremely difficult to organically rank for any of the head terms, reverse the Average Monthly Searches.

Keyword planner search results

This gives us keyword ideas that still have a high search volume, but are not as actively competed for. 

We know based on search volume these keywords are still valuable to rank for. Now we now have great targets for our content.

None of these are Long Tail Keywords with very small search volume; instead they are medium length with medium traffic.

And when someone searches for "seo outsourcing" or "search engine promotion" or even "how to seo" you'll have an excellent chance of appearing in the results pages for all three.

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Mistake: Over / Under using internal linking

Linking to your own content is a great opportunity for your visitors to see more of your content.

You don’t want to miss this opportunity, however you also don’t want to overdo it since this will make your post feel spammy.

We’re going to break down exactly how to perfect your internal linking strategy today.

There are three main goals with internal linking strategy:

One: To make it easy for users to get to many pages throughout your site and increase the time they spend reading content they find relevant.

Two: To allow for Google to crawl more pages of your site more easily. If you don't have a link to a site, it is likely search engines will be unaware it exists. So having solid internal linking will allow crawlers to access your entire site.

Three: Internal linking allows you to pass page authority to other pages on your site.

Anchor Text

As you set up your internal links, you'll want to follow two rules.

The first is to use anchor text.

This means you'll want to link the words naturally in a sentence.

If I am writing about UX tips on websites, I can add the link in the most natural place with anchor text.

If I am writing about UX tips on websites, www.sweor.com/post/whatisux, is far less natural and therefor less likely to get clicks.

Relevancy

You'll also want to make sure what you are linking to is relevant to the topic.

As you set up your internal links, don't link to your service page if it is not natural and relevant to the reader. This will provide bad UX to the user and they will be less likely to stay on your page.

Avoid Orphan Pages

Every page on your site needs to be accessible to both users and search crawlers. As you set up your internal links, be sure every page you want to drive traffic to is accessible.

If you follow each of these rules, you won't have to worry about having too many or too few internal links. Each will serve its purpose and guide people naturally through your site.

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Mistake: Not addressing broken links

Broken links are not at all uncommon.

If you are creating and linking to great content, sometimes links change.

As long as you are monitoring your links, both internally and externally, you will keep all your SEO juice right where it should be.

We’ll show you exactly how to monitor, and what to do when you find a broken link.

Choose a monitoring tool.

You will need a tool which monitors your site for any broken links. Our tool of choice for this is Moz.

Using the Moz site crawl you are able to see at any given time if there are any broken links on your site.

pages with 404 error list from Moz
There are two types of 404 errors:

One is when you have links to a page on your site that no longer exists. This is common if you followed our first tip and deleted your under-performing pages, or if you have re-designed your site recently and updated your page structure.

When these errors occur you have two choices:

You can set up a 301 redirect to content that fulfills the same purpose. For example if on your old site you had the URL: 

www.oursite.com/contact-us

And on the new site you update to:

www.oursite.com/contact

Setting up a 301 redirect will keep any 404 errors form occurring from both internal and external links.

It will also tell search engines the new URL is the one you want visitors to see.

Sometimes you'll delete a page because it is no longer relevant to your site. In this case, it would be acceptable to leave the 404 error live and guide users to other pages on your site that are relevant.

The other 404 error happens when you have a link on your page to someone else's content that no longer exists.

This is a great opportunity to make sure your content is still relevant and linking to the best possible content. A quick Google search should be enough to find a new quality link to replace any outbound broken links.

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13

Find and remove duplicate content from your site

Mistake: Having duplicate content on your site

If you have been working on your site for a while, you can probably relate to this problem:

What else should I write about on the blog?

Because of this, some content gets duplicated and re-purposed.

Some meta titles or meta descriptions accidentally get copied.

Unfortunately Google doesn’t like this.

Fortunately this provides an opportunity to have your best content shine through to your target audience.

Find your Duplicate Content

The first thing you'll want to do is run a Moz site crawl. This will tell you if you have any duplicate content, titles, or descriptions:

Moz Duplicate content menu
Moz duplicate content menu

Duplicate titles are easy to fix. All you have to do is update the Meta Titles, keeping them around 55 characters, and be sure they describe only one page. The same goes for Meta Descriptions keeping them around 155 characters.

If you have duplicate content issues, the best thing to do is choose the better of the content and remove the lesser of the two.

Be sure to set up a 301 redirect from the page you are deleting to the better page you are keeping.

Canonical Tags

One of the best ways to ensure you avoid duplicate content is to add the “rel=canonical” HTML tag.

Sweor canonical HTML tag example
the “rel=canonical” HTML tag for the post your are currently reading

This tells Google that this page is the definitive version of this content.

For example, if you re-publish a blog post on Medium or LinkedIn, or your content appears anywhere else on the web, you'll want to be sure that your original post is the one that appears in search.

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14

Gain a new and larger audience by repurposing old content

Mistake: Having old (successful) content sit unused on your site

Now that we have nothing but great content on your site, what do we do with the best post from 2014?

Repurpose.

If I were writing about SEO tips from 2014, some may remain, but most would need to be updated, and new context and information added.

This is a great way to avoid having to write tons of new content and still see big boosts in SEO and marketing efforts.

Find your best past content

First we'll want to head over to our Google Analytics dashboard.

We are going to use the Content Drilldown tool with a date filter to find content that performed well in the past.

google analytics content drilldown

Inside the Content Drilldown set the date for last year. If your blog has been around long enough, try a few years back.

content drill down date range screen shot

After you have your date filter set up, find a piece of content that performed well. Here we choose a blog post with solid traffic and low bounce and exit rates.

content drill down with date filter
Now that you know what you are going to re-purpose, here's how:

First, determine what has changed since you last published and update the actual content of the post.

After you have updated all the content to be modern and accurate, be sure to update the date of the post.

Next:

Add "Updated for 2017" to the title. 

When someone sees the post on the search results page, they'll know right away it contains the most relevant information and choose it over outdated posts on other sites.

Finally, be sure to include a new introductory paragraph explaining briefly what has changed that warranted the update in the first place.

That's it!

You now have a top performing piece of content that is ready for a second life. Be sure to jump back up to tip #5 and learn how to gain new inbound links with a promotion strategy!

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15

Increase search visibility with an improved URL Structure

Mistake: Having poor URL Structure

When it comes to URL structure, there is a definitive right way and wrong way to get a SEO boost.

This becomes a challenge on large sites with many pages, however as we have learned from Tip 1, we can easily manage that too.

Simply put:

Shorter URLs with proper keywords are better than long URLs with random numbers and letters.

Upgrade your URL structure.

First go to your sitemap. Most websites offer their sitemap as an xml file by going to: www.yoursite.com/sitemap.xml.

Sweor Sitemap xml file
A section of the Sweor.com Sitemap
3 URL Rules

While analyzing your sitemap keep an eye out for a few things to update:

  • ‍Any URLs longer than 75 characters
  • Any URLs with no keywords in them, or URLs which are simply non-nonsensical
  • Any URLs with underscores, spaces, or any other characters separating words

Following these three rules of URLs will give you better User Experience for anyone who comes across your links and an SEO boost since search engines will know right away what a page is about.

Rewrite your URLs

Next you'll want to rewrite your URL structure for anything that violates our new rules. Be sure to set up 301 redirects to your new site structure.

From now on:

www.yoursite.com/index.php?section=blog&id=373648

Becomes:

www.yoursite.com/post/greatcontent

Which would you rather click on?

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16

Bottom line: Get better at content creation

Mistake: Having bad content

Unfortunately there is no easy way out on this one.

When it comes to Search Rankings in 2017 quality of content is the most important factor.

When choosing topics for content, make sure to choose winning topics.

When writing, remember publishing lots of shallow content does not help; the more depth and quality the better.

Finally make a commitment today to put out quality content and don't worry about frequency. If you are only able to publish 7 times per year, but they are great posts, you are way ahead of someone who is publishing 7 times a month with bad content.

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Now Get Started!

There are no shortcuts to SEO.

The best way to start seeing results is to get started today.

So pick just one tip today and take action on your website.

And let us know how it's going in the comment section!

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225 S. 6th Street Suite 3900
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612-562-9193
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