Where in The World Is My Website on Google’s Search Results?
If you remember the 90’s, (or have been unable to forget those years), you might also remember a kids’ game show called Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? Basically, three 5th-graders would compete with each other to find this mysterious criminal mastermind; and in order to track her down, they had to jump through hoops (mostly mental and geographical, but there was physical activity involved too). Fast forward to the end of 2018 and the start of 2019, and you may be able to empathize with those harried children; because you too have to jump through hoops to find your website on Google’s search results! What has gone wrong? What do you need to do to improve your website’s visibility? Where in the world… is your website? Here are 10 of the most common SEO mistakes that may be affecting your website’s visibility in Google’s search results:
The Scene of the Crime | Poor SEO Stealing Your SERP Rank?
When it comes to Google’s SERP (Search Engine Results Page), the basic factor that determines your website’s visibility is SEO or Search Engine Optimization. SEO has many facets, and if one or more of these facets is misapplied, unused, or otherwise broken, it can negatively impact your website’s position on the SERP. Here are ten examples of SEO mistakes we often see:
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #1: Not Using or Misusing Alt Text, Meta Titles and Meta Descriptions
Alt text offers search engines and screen readers (used by the visually impaired) text-descriptions of each image featured on a webpage.
Meta titles and meta descriptions also tell search engines and screen readers what the content of your page is all about. They help search engines discern whether the information contained on your page matches up with each searcher’s query.
When any of these factors are missing or poorly used, Google and potential visitors will likely give preference to other websites that use these elements well.
What to do:
While the jury is still out on whether or not Google penalizes meta descriptions that are too long, too short, irrelevant or duplications of meta descriptions used on other web pages, there is a reason to invest some time in writing clear, and relevant meta descriptions. Well-written meta descriptions tell searchers what your page is about and will determine whether a searcher clicks on the link to your page in Google’s search results or scrolls past it in favour of another.
When creating your alt text, meta titles and meta descriptions:
- Include a relevant keyword—the one you want your page to rank for—early on (within the first few words of text).
- Make alt text on image clearly and concisely describe what the image is all about.
- Consider what people are searching for and what search queries they are using when looking for what your website offers. Create meta titles—and write content—based on common search queries.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #2: Pogosticking
Pogosticking sounds like fun, but when it comes to your website, Pogosticking is the worst kind of bounce. Pogosticking is when a visitor clicks a link to your page from Google’s search results, quickly realizes that your page isn’t relevant to what they’re searching for, returns to Google’s search results and clicks another site from the same search query.
If Pogosticking becomes frequent enough, Google will realize that your page isn’t relevant or useful to searchers of a particular search query and your SERP rank will suffer.
What to do:
- Make sure you have a valid reason for each keyword you use.
- Write with the user in mind first and foremost: consider what someone who uses the keyword in a search query may be looking for and write content that’s useful to them.
- Write meta titles and meta descriptions that accurately describe what your page is about.
- Use the keyword you want to rank for in the first 1/3rd of your meta title and meta description and within the first 100 words on your page.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #3: Broken, Missing or Spammy Links in Your Content
Not only are they frustrating to your website’s users, but too many broken, spammy or low-quality outbound links can also negatively affect your SEO and placement in the SERP.
What to do:
Make sure the outbound links you feature in your content lead to quality and relevant sources. Link to sources that are considered reliable, reputable and, ideally, have good site-authority. Consider that Google wants to offer each search engine user the most quality, up to date and relevant options in search results. High-quality content infused with high-quality outbound links can help build Google’s, as well as your visitors’, confidence in your content.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #4: Slow Loading
In our hyper-connected society, we’ve come to expect fast and easy access to information. It’s not a good era for patience when you consider that the average internet user expects a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. Slow load times will cause many users to abandon your site, which in turn will signal to Google or other search engines that your website shouldn’t be given priority in search results.
What to do:
Optimize all imagery on your website. Ditch Flash or any goliath-sized graphics files that may be slowing your site down. Unclean code, too many ads and server-related issues can all affect page loading speed. A good start is checking your website’s current loading speed with Google’s Free PageSpeed Insights tool.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #5: Missing Web Pages
Also known as the 404 status code, this is when a user can’t find a requested web page, and then immediately goes back to the search engine to look for another site. The search engine records this data, and over time this will hurt your website’s SEO scores. 404s can happen when the structure or layout of your site has changed, or when a page is moved or deleted without redirecting visitors to a new page on your site.
What to do:
- Routinely check your site for broken links and 404s on your site with a free tool like this Online Broken Link Checker.
- Redirect any broken URLs or missing pages to new pages using one of the redirect methods outlined by Yoast.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #6: No Keywords, Too Many Keywords, Hyper–Competitive Keywords, Irrelevant Keywords
If you’ve been attempting SEO yourself, you probably already know that keywords are essential. Moreover, the ongoing evolution of Google’s algorithm means you need to stay abreast of best practices when it comes to using keywords correctly. Underusing keywords, overusing keywords—such as dropping them into your content in an overly-obvious and non-relevant way—as well as using too many keywords per page can cost your website SERP rank. Also, if you’re keywords are hyper-competitive, it will take you much time and consistent effort to outrank pages with better page authority.
What to do:
- First and foremost, choose your keywords carefully.
- When a specific keyword is super competitive, consider using long-tail forms of it instead (e.g., Instead of “SEO,” try “SEO Tips for Beginners”).
- Only use keywords that are super relevant to what your content is about.
- Choose 1 –3 keywords per page, depending on the length of your content: No one but Google knows for sure what the ideal formula is, but a good start is to focus on one well-chosen keyword per page and go from there.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #7: Not Enough Content or Duplicate Content
Google favours websites that frequently produce fresh, quality content. Consistent updates and activity on your site signals search engines that your website is current and operational versus being an abandoned site.
Don’t try taking a shortcut by just posting thin content, or worse yet, scraping content from another source through an RSS feed. While Google may not penalize you for thin or duplicate content, there’s a good chance a site with richer, original content will get a superior SERP position.
What to do:
- Create keyword-infused content with a plan in mind: Adding keyword-optimized content organically increases your SEO and eventually your page authority, which, in turn, boosts your site’s SERP rank. Adding a blog to your site is an excellent start.
- Aim to post fresh content once a week or more or at least twice a month: The key is to keep it up and make your content as useful as possible for your readers.
- Give each blog post or webpage its own unique meta description.
- Duplicated content can happen when you have numerous product pages with similar product descriptions or landing pages with similar content. In cases like these, here’s how you can use a 301 redirect or a canonical attribute to tell Google which version of the duplicated content should get ranked.
- Not all of your content has to be long, but the occasional 3000-word, well-written, in-depth piece can give your SEO and SERP rank a boost.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #8: Misuse or No Use of Inbound and Outbound Links
When high-quality online resources (trusted industry resources, established brands, sites with high-authority) link to your content from their content, Google uses these inbound links as signals that your content is high-quality too. The more inbound links your website acquires over time, the more your website’s authority and SERP rank will grow.
What to do:
Quality over quantity is key, so don’t even think about gaming the system: Forget about hiring a shady link building service; Garbage links or several links from spammy or irrelevant sources will hurt your site’s SERP rank.
Outbound links won’t boost your SERP rank the way quality inbound links will, but linking to quality, relevant sources from your own content tells Google, and more importantly—your visitors, that your content is likely to be good quality and useful information.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #9: Mobile Friendliness
Google penalizes websites that aren’t mobile-friendly, negatively affecting your website’s position in Google’s search results.
What to do:
By now your website should be mobile-friendly. If it’s not, it’s time to invest in a website redesign. Making your website content easy to peruse from a smartphone screen can benefit your customer conversions as well as your SERP rank.
SEO Mistakes That Affect SERP Rank #10: Domain Things
Having a .ca domain can certainly help your SERP rank within Canada, but it can also decrease your website’s visibility in Google’s search results when someone uses Google Search outside of Canada.
What do to:
If you’re marketing your products or services to an International audience, a .com domain is the way to go.
Oh, and There’s More
For an even more complete breakdown of SEO mistakes that can affect your website’s SERP rank, check out Google’s 200 ranking factors.
So then, what else can be done to improve your website’s SEO and visibility in Google’s search results?
On the Case | Resolving Your SEO Shortcomings
The first thing to do is to determine whether your website suffers from any of the above shortcomings. If so, you’ll need to implement some solutions that can be generally divided into two departments:
If your problems stem from poorly optimized content, lack of readability, ineffective messaging, thin content, infrequent content, missing CTAs (calls to action), unappealing imagery, outdated design or a failure to understand your target customers’ online journey, then you’ll need to put forth a concerted effort to give your content, imagery and messaging a face-lift.
Remember, even though you need a good SEO score for visibility in Google’s search results, you also need clear and delightful content for customer conversion.
You’ll likely need an experienced developer’s (aka: ‘website mechanic’) help with this part. You need to make sure your links are complete and functional, your server is providing the fast load times required, and your scripts are properly validated. These are essential to good website functionality and visibility.
Expert SEO Help is Within Easy Reach
If you’re not familiar with the intricate-workings of SEO, all of this might feel like unfamiliar geography to you. Here at McAllister Marketing, we have years of professional experience in improving our clients’ SEO scores, and our full-service team means we can help you with your website content, design and functionality as well.