SEO Audit: 14 SEO Mistakes to Avoid and How to Fix Them
How is your website’s traffic doing? If you’re wondering how to fix a sudden drop in traffic or you simply want to increase your visitors, you’re not alone. These are major concerns for all business owners who rely on their websites to generate revenue.
If you want to improve your traffic, it’s a good idea to start with an SEO audit of your website and check for on-site issues which you can easily fix.
Effective SEO strategies should align with the users’ search intent and be tailored to the specific needs and goals of your website and target audience. What works for one website may not work for another.
At Hop Online, we offer SEO Audit services for all types of online businesses as part of our comprehensive digital marketing packages. In this post, I’d like to share our experience and talk about the most common SEO issues we find and how you can fix them.
List of 14 Most Common SEO Mistakes
What are the most common SEO issues? Here they are in a nutshell:
- Crawl Budget – if spiders exhaust their crawl budget on irrelevant pages, they might miss out on crawling and indexing important ones
- User Experience – a site that’s hard to navigate or frustrating for users will likely suffer in search engine rankings
- Harmful Backlinks – links from spammy or untrusted sources can harm your site’s reputation and rankings
- H1 Title – H1 titles should be above the fold and clearly indicate the page’s topic, helping search engines understand your content better
- Metadata — duplicate titles and meta descriptions, no clear indication which keyword is targeted on a particular page
- Duplicate Content — content duplication and thin content (especially relevant for e-commerce sites)
- Site Speed — long loading time (this is a major ranking factor and it can explain a high bounce rate)
- Text-HTML Ratio – the amount of actual text on a web page compared to the amount of HTML code
- Responsiveness — mobile friendly versions of websites are now a must
- SSL Certificate (https://) — a necessary element for sites collecting personal data
- Poor Crawlability and Error Pages — make sure Google can crawl all your pages; strategically direct link juice to important pages
- International SEO – if targeting multiple countries or languages, your SEO strategy must account for different languages and search habits
- Local SEO – for businesses with a local presence, optimizing for local search results is crucial
Now let’s dive into these headfirst, so you can learn how to fix them.
1. Ignoring Crawl Budget
Many website owners, especially of larger sites, often overlook the importance of crawl budget. Smaller sites with fewer than 500 pages don’t need to worry about their crawl budget. But bigger platforms like e-commerce, news, or travel sites must prioritize this aspect.
A crawl budget ensures Google efficiently indexes your site’s pages. Common challenges with crawl budget come from e-commerce filters, which, if not handled adeptly, generate numerous URLs that deplete the budget.
Similarly, calendar features on travel sites and paginated pages on news platforms can create additional URLs.
SaaS platforms, especially those with user dashboards or account settings, can sometimes generate dynamic URLs for user-specific content or settings. If these URLs are crawlable, they can quickly eat up the crawl budget. Additionally, SaaS companies might use multiple subdomains for different purposes (e.g., blog., help., app.). If these subdomains are not managed correctly, they might cause unnecessary crawls, depleting the budget.
Just like e-commerce and news websites, if a SaaS website has a blog or a news section with infinite scroll without proper pagination implementation, it might pose challenges for crawlers.
We have written an extensive guide for SaaS SEO to help you start seeing results from your investment.
Solution: To optimize the crawl budget, you need to strategize which pages should be indexed and which shouldn’t.
However, also keep in mind that as your domain authority grows through increased trustworthiness and link-building, Google expands your crawl budget, allowing for more indexed pages.
2. Overlooking User Experience
While technical optimization is important, prioritizing and optimizing for user experience (UX) is equally crucial. Your website’s primary goal is to cater to users, helping them easily find what they seek.
Common UX pitfalls include poor design, messy navigation, and especially intrusive interstitials. These large pop-ups, often seen on mobile screens, can dominate the viewing space, hindering users from accessing primary content. Not only do they frustrate users, but they also negatively impact conversions. Google penalizes sites using excessive interstitials.
Solution: So ensure pop-ups are not too large, avoid dimming content behind them, and always prioritize the user experience. Clicks on forceful pop-ups don’t equate to user satisfaction, and irritated users may not return to your website.
3. Neglecting Harmful Backlinks
Bad links signal to Google that you’re using un-sportsman-like strategies to boost your rankings, and that means you’ll probably get penalized.
Despite some SEO experts suggesting that Google will naturally ignore malicious links, it’s risky to neglect harmful backlinks. Such links, particularly from PBNs or competitor-backed tactics, can damage your domain authority and search ranking.
Solution: Using Google’s disavow tool you can help protect your site by informing Google that you’d like specific questionable links to be ignored.
It’s important to always stay vigilant about your backlink profile. You can easily monitor toxic backlinks with tools like Google Search Console, SEMrush, Ahrefs, etc.
Google Search Console allows you to view a list of websites linking to your site. While it doesn’t explicitly point out “harmful” links, you can use the data to identify unusual or unexpected linking patterns (such as websites ending in “.xyz”).
SEMrush’s Backlink Audit tool can help you evaluate your backlink profile’s health. It classifies your backlinks as toxic, potentially toxic, or non-toxic, allowing you to easily pinpoint and disavow harmful links.
Known for its extensive link database, Ahrefs allows you to conduct a thorough backlink check. The tool provides a “Domain Rating” to see the quality of the sites linking to you and identifies potentially harmful backlinks. Ahrefs also has a free backlink checker.
Check out our Google Penalty recovery guide, and learn more about how to identify bad links.
4. H1 Title Not Positioned Above the Fold
A commonly overlooked error is placing the H1 title below the fold, particularly noticeable on mobile views where the initial screen is often dominated by a banner or image. Google prioritizes content visible above the fold during its crawl.
Solution: Tests like the rich snippet tool further emphasize the importance of this placement. Within the SEO community, there’s debate about its impact; however, having the H1 title prominently displayed above the fold allows Google to immediately grasp the page’s topic, and increase its rank potential.
Additionally, there’s a risk when raw HTML differs from rendered HTML.
Solution: Make sure that both versions align in content, meta tags, H1s, and canonicals to ensure proper site interpretation and ranking by search engines.
This approach can highlight differences such as canonical only rendered in HTML, non-indexable canonicals, different page titles, and missing H1 tags. Such insights can help you identify and address potential issues with indexation and content rendering.
6. On-Page SEO Mistakes: Duplicate Page Titles and Meta Descriptions
Many websites use the same Page Title and Meta Description for a whole set of pages. This is a big rookie mistake.
Since these two pieces of metadata tell search engine bots what a given page is about, it’s crucial that the title and description are unique for each page. If you have the same metadata on your homepage and all your service pages, you decrease your chances of ranking well in search results for any of them.
Solution: Make sure you have a clear website structure and you know which your most important pages are. Also know your target keywords (and related keywords), so that you can incorporate them into major pages and their metadata.
Read our on-page SEO checklist for more optimization tips.
Use Screaming Frog to crawl your website pages and see which title tags/meta descriptions are duplicated.
Once you have the main structure right, make sure your keywords are integrated into your page titles, meta descriptions, and in the headings of your content. E.g.:
<title>SEO Audit: Most Common Issues and How to Fix Them</title>
<meta name="description" content="Page titles, meta descriptions, site speed, backlink audit, mobile friendly web design">
<h1>SEO Audit: Most Common Issues</h1>
You can also explore our selection of 12 SEO tools and Chrome extensions to help you improve your on-page SEO:
7. Duplicate Content and Thin Content
Content is important because (1) this is what users are ultimately searching for on the web, and (2) this is what search engines are basing their rankings on. Let’s take a look at three big ways your website could be using content the wrong way, and how you can be using it to its full potential.
We all know that Google looks for (and values) original content. That is often a problem for websites in two ways:
- Same content under multiple URLs
A very common mistake on e-commerce sites, in particular, is to put one product under 2 or 3 different categories. That usually leads to content duplication, as the product listing is accessible through two or three unique URLs, which Google bots crawl as separate pages.
Solution: To fix this, you need to use a canonical URL to tell Google which one of these pages you’d like to get ranked. Simply include this code on all the pages to point out your chosen page:
<link rel="canonical" href="http://example.com/category1/product1/">
- Copy-pasted content from other sources
Apart from duplicating their own content, many e-commerce sites shoot themselves in the foot by copy-pasting the original product description from the producer’s site, completely cutting off their own chances of ranking.
Solution: Create original product descriptions, include user reviews on the page, and review the product with video or written content — this is what counts as “original content” for search engine bots. Be unique; otherwise, you won’t rank.
Another common mistake is having just a few lines of text on most of your pages, which Google might consider as low-quality content. If the content on the page is short, Google can’t figure out what your page is about, and it’s very unlikely that it will rank high in SERPs.
Solution: Crawling your site with Screaming Frog lets you know which pages have thin content. Write well, give valuable information, and share your knowledge — this will boost your rank and will drive traffic to your site.
Pain-Point SEO and Content
It is very common that website content gets either too industry-specific or too generic, and, at the end, doesn’t provide solutions/answers to user pain points/questions. In order to get ranked and show up in search results for a particular search query, you need to integrate that query into your site content.
Solution: Come up with a list of keywords that describe your services. Expand this list with synonyms and related terms. Create a clear structure that designates which pages will target which major keyword (plus related keywords) and incorporate these into your content.
One of the old tactics that still finds its way sometimes into modern SEO strategies is keyword stuffing. It involves overloading a web page with specific keywords in an unnatural manner, hoping to trick search engines into ranking the page higher.
However, search engines have become sophisticated and can easily detect such practices. Not only does keyword stuffing lead to a poor user experience, but it can also result in penalties from search engines, reducing the page’s ranking or even delisting it altogether. Authentic content that provides value to readers, using keywords organically, is the way to do SEO right.
8. Теchnical SEO Issues: Slow Site Speed
Make sure your site is fast — use Google PageSpeed Insights or GTMetrix to see how quickly it loads. Users will often bounce out if a page takes more than a few seconds to appear. And since Google doesn’t want to frustrate their users, slow sites (especially with low mobile speed) naturally don’t show up high in the results.
- Choose a better hosting solution — e.g., upgrade your shared hosting account to a dedicated server.
- Lower the size of the files that load on your site — e.g., huge image files is one of the most common reasons for slow site speed.
Core Web Vitals
Core Web Vitals are a set of specific factors that Google considers important in a webpage’s overall user experience. They center around three key aspects of user experience: loading performance, interactivity, and visual stability of a page.
The relevance of these metrics has grown significantly, especially since Google made it clear that these factors are part of its search ranking criteria.
- Largest Contentful Paint (LCP): This metric measures the loading performance. Specifically, how long it takes for the largest image or text block to become visible within the viewport. The LCP should occur within the first 2.5 seconds of the page starting to load.
- First Input Delay (FID): FID evaluates a page’s interactivity by quantifying the time it takes for the browser to respond to the user’s first interaction, like clicking a link or tapping a button. For an optimal user experience, pages should have an FID of less than 100 milliseconds.
- Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS): This metric assesses visual stability – how often users experience unexpected layout shifts (moments when content suddenly moves due to late-loading images, ads, or other elements). A good CLS score means the page is stable as it loads, with minimal unexpected layout changes.
Focusing on page speed and ensuring fast loading times can significantly improve your Core Web Vitals score. Websites that prioritize both speed and user experience will likely see improved search visibility and better user engagement.
9. Low Text-HTML Ratio Issue
A low text-to-HTML ratio indicates that a webpage has more code than actual readable text. This is a red flag for search engines, suggesting that you have cluttered the page with excessive code, hidden texts, or potentially irrelevant content, leading to decreased crawl efficiency. Such pages often result in slower load times and bad user experience.
Solution: Streamline your website’s code, remove unnecessary scripts or redundant elements, and focus on providing valuable, readable content. Regularly auditing your website’s text-to-HTML ratio ensures a cleaner site structure, faster loading times, and improved SEO performance.
10. Not Having Mobile-Friendly SEO
The share of mobile internet usage is rapidly growing and you definitely don’t want to lose out on this traffic.
Google has implemented mobile-first indexing, emphasizing the importance of mobile-optimized sites. Websites that aren’t mobile-responsive risk decreased search visibility, bad user experience, and a potential drop in traffic. Ensuring a seamless mobile experience is no longer optional.
Solution: Test whether your site is mobile-friendly with Google’s Mobile-Friendly test. You can also invest in a responsive (and UX) redesign if your website is important to your business. Understand more about the connection between UX and SEO.
11. Lack of a Secure Connection (SSL)
If you collect user data through your website, make sure you transfer this data via a secured connection. Secure connections protect this data from being stolen and used without explicit authorization. Do all you can to ensure user confidence in your website, and you’ll also gain Google’s trust (their algorithm is already using HTTPS as a ranking signal).
Solution: Install an SSL certificate on your website.
12. Poor Crawlability and Error Pages
We’ve seen a lot of sites lose traffic and rankings because their major pages were not easily accessible via the homepage, or because they were sending link juice to non-existing pages. Read below to see how you can check and fix similar issues.
Are all your important pages accessible to Google? They should be. You simply can’t rank for a specific search term, if Google cannot index your targeted page(s).
Solution: Check out Google Search Console to see which pages on your site are indexed. Make sure your most important pages are 1-click away from your home page. Use Sitemaps and internal linking to send link juice to your top pages, and when your structure is complete, submit the sitemaps to Google and Bing.
If there are pages with 400 errors on your site (e.g., old page URLs which you’ve forgotton to redirect to the new URL) you may be losing page rank.
Solution: Check error pages (400 and 500 error codes) and broken links using Google Search Console or Screaming Frog. See if there are links to them from internal or external pages, and either correct the URLs or redirect the old pages to the new ones.
13. International SEO Mistakes
A common oversight in international SEO is the failure to properly localize content and adapt to regional search nuances. Many companies use automated translations without considering cultural contexts or local idioms (which Google now penalizes for after its Spam Update).
Additionally, neglecting hreflang tags can lead to the wrong regional site being displayed in search results, confusing users and decreasing conversions. Furthermore, a one-size-fits-all approach, without region-specific domain strategies or server locations, can hinder site performance and search ranking in target countries.
Solution: Prioritize genuine content localization, implement appropriate technical tags (such as hreflang tags), and strategize based on regional SEO best practices.
14. Local SEO Mistakes & Google My Business
One of the common local SEO mistakes is not optimizing your site for local-specific keywords and failing to claim or update business listings on platforms like Google My Business. Businesses often overlook the importance of consistent NAP (Name, Address, Phone Number) information across online directories, leading to confusion and mistrust among potential customers.
If you have inaccurate or incomplete local business reviews, you are not utilizing localized content, or neglecting to engage with the local community online, this also diminishes your visibility and credibility.
Solution: Engage in regular audits of local listings, encourage authentic customer reviews, and produce content that resonates with your local audience.
For Best Results, Track SEO Implementation Results
It’s a common best practice to track results after making changes to your website based on SEO Audit findings. If you don’t track the results, it’s hard to tell (with confidence) whether your efforts have had a positive effect. Use Google Analytics annotations to indicate when an important issue was fixed in order to see its impact later on.
We’ll help you figure out what’s working and what’s not, and we’ll provide you with a full list of recommended actions which will regain or boost your traffic.