When it comes to search engine optimization, your success is commonly affected not by things you did right but by the things you did wrong. Common SEO mistakes can completely ruin your website, preventing you from making any progress in the first place.
In this article, we will analyze all the minor (and major) issues plaguing your site. In theory, if you manage to address all these problems, your website should have a good basis for ranking in just about any industry or niche.
How do SEO issues affect my website?
To reach the top of Google search results, you should avoid various mistakes that occur along the way. Some of these problems can be very insidious, and it might take months for website owners to notice them.
The majority of SEO issues affect one of two things: indexability and user experience.
Indexability is a problem where Google’s crawlers are unable to reach pages and interpret them. Although visitors might still reach your pages by browsing the site, these pages won’t appear in the search engine rankings.
Almost everything on the site can affect user experience. One of Google’s priorities is promoting pages and sites that provide valuable information and enhance visitors’ experience. In that regard, things such as broken links, unoptimized meta tags, slow loading speed, and mobile unfriendliness can completely ruin their browsing.
Some of these errors are so egregious, forcing Google to act immediately and penalize your site for bad practices. So, whether we’re talking about on-page SEO or off-page SEO, there are numerous things you should pay attention to.
Table of content
Here’s a breakdown of all the potential problems:
- Issues during website creation
- Server issues and problems with HTTP status
- Problems with meta tags
- Issues with duplicate content
- Internal link optimization
- External link optimization
- Website crawling problems
- Indexability issues
- Various site performance problems
Issues during website creation
Optimization starts from day one.
When making a website’s design, you have to pay attention to its structure, use of keywords, and complexity. Each one of these things can hinder your progress in one way or another.
The worst thing yet is that most business owners are unaware of these things when they order the creation of their first website. They either overdo it or underdo it with the design, neither of which is ideal for optimization.
Here are a few common mistakes you might encounter during website creation:
1. Bad architecture
A person should reach any page on your site in three clicks. Sometimes, website owners use intricate architecture thinking it would be fantastic for their conversion. As it turns out, this is something that can have a major negative effect on your visitors, forcing them to leave the site before taking any action.
2. Too much multimedia
Having too much stuff on your homepage is usually a problem. Every high-res image and other fancy solutions can significantly slow the loading of your pages, so you should be careful as to what you’re adding. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should leave the page blank, as you still need some imagery to attract the readers. Just make sure you don’t overdo it.
3. Mobile unfriendliness
Nowadays, most website visitors come from mobile devices. Since September 2020, Google has started using mobile-friendliness as a ranking factor for desktops and mobiles. Search for invalid AMP pages to make sure there aren’t any problems caused by layout or style. These things can have a major impact on the indexability of a website and, thus, its future rankings.
Server issues and problems with HTTP status
When performing technical audits, SEO experts usually start by checking HTTP status. One of the more common issues websites are facing is error 404. This particular problem pertains to missing pages on your site, and it can have a major negative impact on user experience.
When a visitor clicks on a specific link and they subsequently land on a non-existent page, they perceive it as a bad sign. Not only are 404s esthetically unappealing, but they can also affect the trust that a person has in your brand.
This type of problem can severely reduce your traffic. Even worse, it can interrupt the browsing process, reduce conversion, and thus profitability. If you don’t address the issue quickly, it can even affect your rankings.
Here are the most common problems with HTTP status:
4. Pages not crawled
One of the biggest issues is your pages not being crawled in the first place. In this case, it’s not even about missing content or broken links. It’s about not having the option of reaching them. This can happen because the server is blocking access to the page or due to a long response time (more than 5 seconds).
5. 4xx errors
When you receive these error messages, it means that you can’t reach a specific page. We also refer to this as “broken pages.” In many cases, this happens because a particular page is missing. It can also occur because something is preventing crawlers from reaching them.
6. Broken internal links
You should interlink your pages to get the most out of your content and thus optimization. This approach is especially important when trying to increase the authority of one specific page. Unfortunately, visitors will be greeted with error messages instead of valuable content if you move or delete some of these linking articles.
7. Broken internal images
The same as with articles, you need to ensure there aren’t any missing or misspelled images on your site.
8. Broken external links
Similarly to internal links, you should audit external ones. If you’re linking out to many non-existing pages, this can send a negative signal to Google. As a result, the search engine’s algorithm will downrank the page from which you’re linking out.
Problems with meta tags
Back in the day, optimizing meta tags was the best way to reach the top spots in the search engines. Although they’re not as important as they once were, they still hold value for Google.
Basically, meta tags help search engines determine the subject matter of your pages. Most importantly, you must add relevant keywords to your title tags and meta descriptions. That way, Google can connect them with particular queries, helping you rank for specific searches.
Like any other piece of content on your site, these tags should be unique. If you don’t create tags yourself, Google will use page excerpts instead. This can lead to mismatching of search engine results and search terms. This can cause issues for users affecting pages’ overall performance.
The best way of profiting from meta descriptions and title tags is by inserting focus keywords. Aside from that, you should also keep them at a specific length. Meta tags that are too long won’t be fully shown on search engine result pages, adversely affecting user experience. Lastly, make sure to avoid tag duplication.
Here are the most common SEO issues pertaining to meta tags:
9. Duplicate metas
If you have several pages with the same meta descriptions and title tags, it’s tough for Google to determine priorities. In such cases, the search engine might give an advantage to unimportant articles instead of pushing lucrative product pages.
10. Not using H1 tags
When analyzing the content of a page, search engines are heavily reliant on H1 tags. If you don’t have one, it will be hard for algorithms to determine the meaning behind your content. The article might be shown to the wrong audience, completely ruining the article’s potential.
11. Duplicate title tags and H1 tags
H1 and title tags are crucial for optimization as they provide Google with more information than any other page element. However, you shouldn’t make the mistake of using the same title tag and H1. This practice leads to overoptimization, negatively affecting the article’s overall performance.
12. Lacking meta descriptions
Similar to H1, you need to have a meta description to rank in Google. They are another crucial element that helps the search engine understand the meaning behind a page. Among other things, well-written meta descriptions can increase click-through rates, sending a strong quality signal to Google.
13. Lacking ALT attributes
Unlike human beings, Google can’t understand visual imagery, and thus, it can’t allocate rankings to them. That being said, missing alt tags can be very troublesome. By adding ALT attributes to photos on your site, you can increase their potential of ranking within Google image search.
Issues with duplicate content
Duplicate content is a mistake that usually affects online stores. Although this is something that can happen to anyone, it still has a major impact on the rankings.
As you can presume, Google doesn’t want to have too many duplicate pages online. Every piece of content that you publish should be unique and provide some value. This is why you need to be very careful when posting new articles and other pages.
We can separate duplicate content into two categories: internal and external. Internal duplicates are commonly created when you have several versions of a page or website.
External duplicate is a term that refers to the existence of the same pages on different sites. This is especially common for online stores that use other retailers to advertise their merchandise. It can also occur when content writers directly copy another page from the web and present it as their own.
This is why it’s so important to analyze the existing web content before posting a new article. Focus on duplicate paragraphs, descriptions, and tags. Duplicate content can’t rank in Google, and it might also lead to a search engine penalty.
14. Duplicate content
Find duplicate content by using site audit tools. If there are several versions of the same page on your website, you can resolve the issue by assigning rel=”canonical” to the one that you don’t want to rank. Alternatively, you can also use 301 redirect to tackle this issue.
Internal links issues
Internal links are important for several reasons.
First and foremost, they allow visitors to jump from one page to another. As such, they’re an important ingredient of a customer’s journey, leading users from less important articles to product and service pages.
On the other hand, these links are crucial for building topic clusters. They can help increase the authority of specific pages on your site by interlinking them with lots of related articles.
Lastly, we also have to consider how interlinking affects the overall user experience.
The truth is one article can’t cover all important information on a particular topic. So, you need to connect this piece with other posts on the site so you can answer all the questions visitors might have. As user jumps from one page to another, they send a strong signal to Google that they like your site and the content on it.
Here are some of the common problems related to internal linking:
15. Not using internal links
The biggest SEO issue with internal hyperlinks is not using them in the first place. Given their importance to websites, you should at least link to your most important pages.
16. URLs with underscores
Google usually has trouble interpreting underscores. This can lead to improper documentation of the site index. Using hyphens is the best solution to the problem.
17. Complicating crawling
An important SEO rule states that a person should reach any page on the site in just three clicks. Overdoing it with internal links can create intricate architecture that works against you.
External links issues
When talking about optimization, most people think of link building.
Backlinks are an important ranking factor that comes as a cherry on the cake. Even if you properly optimize your site, there’s still a chance you will suffer due to bad external linking practices. In fact, the quality and relevancy of incoming links are usually the reason why certain pages rank higher in Google than the rest.
When it comes to external link optimization, you should consider inbound and outbound practices. Although you can try to fix these problems yourself, it’s much better to hire a link building agency.
Here are a few things you should zero in on:
18. Linking to HTTP pages
In the last few years, most websites have switched to more secure HTTPS encryption. Unfortunately, there are still some sites that haven’t changed their practices. If you’re linking out to many HTTP pages, you will create an unsafe dialog between visitors and a server. The best way to fix the issue is by changing the destination of your hyperlinks.
19. Broken links
Whether we’re talking about broken internal or external links, this is something that can completely ruin users’ experience. You can use SEO tools to analyze your link profile and address any issues you might notice.
20. Suspicious links to your site
Sites that receive many incoming hyperlinks from suspicious domains can easily get in trouble with Google. In fact, many scrupulous companies use this strategy to ruin their competition. Ideally, you should only get links from high-quality, relevant pages.
21. Suspicious link profile
Aside from individual links, you might also be struggling with your link profile. For example, even if you have a few links from high-quality sites, you could still be penalized if you have too many inbound links from forums, social media, and other sources. When building links, avoid practices that Google could perceive as non-organic.
Website crawling problems
For a page to be shown in Google, it should be previously crawled and indexed by robots. Unfortunately, certain technical SEO issues might prevent crawlers from reaching your pages. And if a web page can’t be reached by search bots, it’s as if it doesn’t exist for the search engine.
Although visitors might still get to these pages through the website’s internal links, crawling issues can have a negative effect on your traffic. Good crawling practices are important not only for indexing your pages but helping the algorithm understand their content.
These are the most common SEO issues within this category:
22. Sitemap issues
The biggest issue regarding crawling is not having sitemap.xml or not linking to it. For example, your robotx.txt file might lack a link to sitemap.xml. If you don’t have a sitemap or if it’s not properly connected, you’re making the crawler’s job that much harder.
23. Nofollow internal and external links
For external and internal links to work as intended, they need to have the dofollow attribute. Using nofollow indicates that crawlers shouldn’t follow the link, a strategy that is commonly used when you don’t want to give link juice.
24. Incorrect pages
Your sitemap.xml file should have proper pagination. In other words, the file shouldn’t include any broken pages. Analyze non-canonical pages and redirect chains, ensuring they all return a 200 status code.
Indexation is crucial for search engine optimization. If your pages can’t be detected by Google’s search engine bots, it’s as if they don’t exist.
Unfortunately, there are many things that can disrupt it. What’s even worse, it might take a lot of time for website owners to realize there’s something amiss. According to collected data, every second site in the world is suffering from an indexability issue.
As mentioned in previous sections, you might struggle with the sitemap or your links. The issue might also be caused by duplicate content and meta data, forcing the search engine to choose between several pages.
When it comes to indexing pages, these are a few things you might encounter:
25. Hreflang conflicts
Creating multilingual sites can be a real hassle as you have to create several versions of the same pages. The main problem you might encounter has to do with the hreflang attribute. If it comes into conflict with a page’s source code, it can lead to a massive indexability problem.
26. Hreflang linking
Besides potential conflicts, you should also pay attention to hreflang linking. Any broken links can cause trouble for crawlers. One of the more usual issues is using relative instead of absolute URLs.
27. Page wordcounts
Some websites also struggle with pages’ word counts. Having short articles or product pages can also cause issues by preventing indexation. This isn’t a particularly big problem as you can simply increase their size. Alternatively, you can simply create larger posts.
28. Issues with tags
As previously mentioned, you should also pay attention to your tags. Title tags that are longer than 60 characters will be cut in Google as they’re breaking the format. Similarly, you should keep meta descriptions below 140 characters.
29. AMP HTML
It’s very important for HTML code to adhere to AMP standards. Otherwise, mobile users might have trouble browsing your pages.
Various site performance problems
Previously, we’ve mentioned how important it is to avoid large multimedia files. A simple page design is the best way to go, as it won’t interfere with the pages’ loading speed. It’s crucial for visitors to access your site as soon as possible. According to all the data, having a slow loading speed will force people to bounce at an extremely high rate.
Nowadays, there are numerous tools you can use to check site speed. Among others, Google Search Console can also provides directions and suggestions as to how to improve response times for desktop and mobile devices.
Here are a few most common SEO issues from this category:
30. Slow loading speed
Website owners should try to hasten loading speed whenever they can. The best way to do so is by going with simple code and avoiding large multimedia files. However, you should also try to find some balance as you shouldn’t have excessively simplistic and, thus, ugly web pages. Having an unappealing website might also have a negative impact on users’ experience.
In this particular case, the problem occurs when you don’t specify browser caching within the response header.
If you’re struggling with some of these problems, contact MiroMind, a professional SEO agency that can tackle any website issue!