Search engine optimisation (SEO) is one of the most important disciplines in online marketing and it’s generally a guarantee for free organic traffic. But to make it relevant, you have to pay attention to some important aspects in the optimisation process. In this article, Eva Wagner, guest author from the Online Marketing Team of OnPage.org, gives valuable tips for the perfect foundation for a solid website, based on five easily avoidable SEO mistakes.
Error no. 1 - meta tags are not optimised
Meta tags continue to play an important role in the search engine optimisation of a website and should therefore not be neglected. They enable you to transmit information to users via your own website and to describe it in more detail.
The easiest element to optimise in a website is probably the title tag or, in other words, the title of the website. This is one of the central features which a user perceives during a research, as it appears in the Google search results in the form of a link above your snippet.
The title tag appears in the header of the HTML document as follows:
<meta name=”title” content=”OnPage.org: The Leading Technical SEO Software”>
The optimisation of the title tag is also known in technical jargon as "low hanging fruit" because this measure offers high potential although little effort is required for its implementation.
Figure 1: Example of a relevant title for OnPage.org’s snippet
How to optimise your title:
Use a formulation as click-generating as possible, preferably with a call-to-action (eg. “Start now with OnPage.org, for free!”). The title tag should reflect the content of the target site. If possible, also add your main keyword in the title.
The title tag should not, however, contain more than 70 characters. If it is longer, it may automatically be shortened by the Google search snippet.
The second most important element which a user notices in a snippet is the description tag. This allows an accurate description of the website’s content and can be equipped with a "call-to-action", which significantly increases the click rate in search results. If no meta description is entered, excerpts from other available text content will be displayed instead.
Website administrators should use an individual description here in order to give the user the most accurate description of the website content as possible. The description tag, among other things, can influence the click-through rate, or traffic, if the description is informatively and attractively formulated. With this tag, you can arouse the user’s curiosity. Such user signals can be taken into account as important factors in the evaluation of websites by search engines, it is therefore important that your search snippet is as relevant as possible.
Error no. 2 - website content provides no added value
Informative and high quality content, such as texts, images or videos, is very important to increase the average time on site and improve the number of returning visitors to your website. If your visitors are not convinced by your website’s content, it is very unlikely that they will return.
For search engines, qualitative content is an important criterion for the correct assessment of a website’s relevance. If a website only has "thin" content (e.g. little text, too many advertising banners, large link blocks), this may potentially lead to a poorer ranking.
The Google search machine repeatedly confirms this fact in its guidelines. Google considers that thin content does not fulfil the requirements of the webmaster guidelines and does not offer the visitor added content value.
Another element to avoid is duplicate content, which occurs when exactly the same content is accessible via different URLs. This is even the case when your website is accessible both with and without "www".
Duplicate content may cause confusion not only for users, but also for search engines which cannot recognise which of your URLs is most relevant, thus causing unnecessary use of their resources.
In order for a website audits content to be found by users, it must be comprehensively recognised and indexed by Googlebot. For this reason, all resources should be accessible for Googlebot.
How to optimise your content:
Consider which questions and search intentions users who visit your site have, and try to optimally answer them in your content.
Plan in advance an optimal page hierarchy in order to avoid duplicate content. By doing so, you can identify possible sources of duplicate content more easily.
Take the time to create your own unique content with added value for your users, thus making your website something special. Your visitors will more likely return to your website if they receive helpful results to their search queries.
Error no. 3 - images are not optimised
Your website should include both text and images, and these should not be forgotten during optimisation. Optimised images will not only generally increase the usability of your website and thus positively influence the user experience on your pages, they also contribute towards better rankings in search engines.
Some of the most common mistakes concerning image optimisation are forgetting to adapt the file sizes or failing to distinguish the image files with appropriate meta data.
How to optimise your images:
Give your image files descriptive names which, whenever possible, contain the key search term but no special characters, vowel mutations or numbers (This also applies in principle for file names.) In this way, you fulfil the prerequisite for good ranking in the image search.
In order to avoid long loading times, you should compress the file size of your images - a slow loading speed can lead to dissatisfied users who quickly leave your site. Useful tools for compressing data are compressor.io or TinyPNG.
Use so-called ALT attributes for the integration of images. These help search engines in the interpretation of your image files and are shown when the browser is not able to load or display your images. ALT attributes assist in web accessibility and can help visually impaired users to recognise image content with the aid of reading programs.
The integration of high quality and informative images helps to make your website content more attractive and diverse. With high quality content on your site, you increase the average time on site of your visitors and simultaneously lower the risk of a high bounce rate.
Tip: Also make sure that your image files and graphics can be optimally displayed on mobile devices.
Error no. 4 - website is not mobile-friendly
Website operators can no longer afford to ignore mobile optimisation. Market researchers predict that mobile usage will continue to increase.
Website administrators should therefore actively look at how they can optimise their websites for mobile usage. There are various possible approaches:
Responsive web design: With RWD, the way a website is displayed is adapted to the size of the screen and/or device in order to ensure user-friendliness. For this, the same content is made available in a slightly adjusted design for various devices.
Dynamic serving: With dynamic serving, different source code variations (HTML and CSS) are supplied for the various user agents, such as desktop PCs or mobile devices. For this, only one URL is necessary.
Mobile-optimised subdomain: Here, a separate URL for the mobile-optimised site is created. A second version of the website exists, designed specifically for mobile content.
Tips for mobile optimisation:
Always integrate text and images with relative size information. This way, text and images will always be adapted to the display of the respective output device and will be easily visible and legible (for text, Google recommends 16 pixels as a basis.)
Offer your mobile users sufficient space between the individual tap targets so that they can also be easily used on devices with touchscreens.
Make sure that the mobile user of your website does not have to scroll horizontally and do not use tricky hover menus for navigation.
In the Google Search Console, you can check your website for problems in the usability for mobile devices (Menu option > search query > user-friendliness on mobile devices). Also, you can test whether your website is mobile-friendly with the free tool from Google.
Figure 2: View of the Google Search Console site.
Error no. 5 - inadequate internal linking of the website
The visitors to your website should be able to access all relevant information within 3 to 4 clicks. If your website is inadequately interconnected with links, you will not only lose users, but the search engine crawler will also lose unnecessary time when checking your website.
Characteristics of poor internal linking include, among other things, "abandoned pages" and "dead links". These factors can provoke dissatisfaction for the users and be the cause of poor results in the evaluation of your website by search engines. Abandoned pages contain no detailed internal links, are isolated from the other pages and cannot be crawled by the search engine bots. Dead links are links which refer to a page which no longer exists and return the HTTP status code 404 Not Found, the server error 500 or other timeouts.
How to optimise your internal linking:
Make sure to use thematically meaningful links to your various sub-pages.
Use relevant anchor texts for your internal links which suit the respective link target. Avoid using identical keywords as anchor text for different link target pages.
Don’t overcharge your website’s structure and make sure that your user arrive at the desired target page in no more than 4 clicks.
Make use of so-called "breadcrumb navigation": This strengthens the internal linking structure and helps the user with the orientation. Thus, the user can access higher level pages, for example, with just one click.
Figure 3: Example of breadcrumb navigation by Zalando
Even internal linking shows that your website is regularly maintained and kept up-to-date. Remember, therefore, when creating new sub-pages, to meaningfully link them so that users and search engines can easily find their way around your website.
High quality, unique content, relevant internal links, mobile optimisation - there are many important factors to remember for website optimisation. Mistakes can happen quickly and the correction thereof can cost a lot of time and effort.
When optimizing your website, you should always remember that positive user signals through attractive, high quality content and a user-friendly website create a good impression for the search engines when they evaluate your website. If you avoid the aforementioned five SEO errors, you will lay a solid foundation for a successful website optimisation and will thus always be a step ahead of the competition.
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