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.
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.
What are the most common SEO issues? Here they are in a nutshell:
- Metadata — duplicate titles and meta descriptions, no clear indication which keyword is targeted on a particular page
- 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)
- Responsiveness — mobile friendly versions of websites are now a must
- Backlinks — bad quality links can bring on a Google penalty and/or decrease your rankings
- 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
Now let’s dive into these headfirst, so you can learn how to fix them.
1. 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. Use Screaming Frog to crawl your website pages and see which titles/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>
2. 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
On e-commerce sites in particular, it is very common 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. 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 (link above) 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.
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.
3. Slow Site Speed
Make sure your site is fast — use Google Site Speed check 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 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.
4. Not Mobile-Friendly
The share of mobile internet usage is rapidly growing and you definitely don’t want to lose out on this traffic.
Google recently introduced the “mobile-friendly” tag to inform users if a site is optimized for browsing via mobile devices. Plus, when it comes to the mobile search algorithm, mobile-friendliness will be a major factor starting this April.
Solution: Invest in a responsive (and UX) redesign if your website is important to your business.
5. Low Quality Backlinks
Whether accidental or not, if you have bad links pointing to your site, you’re going to have to clean them up. 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. So if bad links account for a significant share of your link profile, take care of them asap.
Solution: Check out our Google Penalty recovery guide, and learn more about how to identify bad links.
6. 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.
7. 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 Webmaster Tools (GWT) 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) using GWT 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.
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.
Of course, if you’d like a professional SEO audit of your website, simply get in touch with us today.
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.
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