5 Common SEO Mistakes and How to Fix Them

November 28, 2011
Common SEO mistakes and how to fix them

Although SEO is built on a simple foundation, it’s easy to get bogged down in meta descriptions and keywords for individual pages and posts and forget to make sure that your website as a whole is optimized. Here’s five easy-to-make SEO mistakes and how to fix them.

#1 - No homepage canonical URL

Do you have URLs like this on your website?

  • yourdomain.com
  • yourdomain.com/index.html
  • yourdomain.com/home.asp

They all take you to your homepage, but they’re actually three separate URLs. This can cause all sorts of problems:

  • You can be penalized for duplicate content.
  • Google will try to choose the URL it thinks is the authority for the website — and it may choose wrong.
  • Your inbound links can be split between the URLs, decreasing your website’s authority.

Canonicalization is a process that allows you to select which URL to present to search engines as your website’s authority page. Clicks and inbound links will then go to a single destination URL, increasing your website’s relevancy in the eyes of the search engines.

There are two main ways to create a canonical URL for your homepage:

  • Redirect all variations of the URL to the one you want to be your canonical URL.
  • Introduced by the bigger search engines in early 2009, the canonical tag allows you to specify the authoritative URLs within your website.

#2 - Illogical menu structure

Not only is it difficult for visitors to navigate your site if your content is disorganized, the search engines have a tough time too.

Think of your website’s main navigation—like “About Us” and “Our Services”—as silos into which to place relevant content. For example, a page called “Company Culture” is most relevant to the “About Us” section, while “Content Creation” would go under “Our Services.”

Your website’s URLs should reflect this organization as well. Once you’ve placed your “Company Culture” page under the “About Us” section, make sure that the page can be found at yourdomain.com/about-us/company-culture. This helps visitors know where they are on your site, and helps search engines index your content easily and by relevance.

#3 - Bad content tagging

Most people are familiar with tag clouds on blogs (like the one on the left side of the Digett site). Authors label their content with “tags” that indicate the subject matter, and the tag cloud lets visitors filter the content they want to see.

Tags are another way for search engines to crawl and index your content. If you are mislabeling things, they’re going to be indexed incorrectly. Make sure to label your content with the most relevant tags, so that search engines file it in the right place.

#4 - No XML sitemap

Although search engine spiders automatically index your site, an XML sitemap is a way to help the spiders more intelligently crawl your pages. You can customize your sitemap to include information on when pages were last updated, how often they change, and how important they are relative to your other content.

Having an XML sitemap on your website does not guarantee that you will rank well in search engines, but it does provide extra hints for web crawlers to do a better job of indexing your content.

#5 - Not installing Google Analytics

Installing Google Analytics (or any other tracking tool) on your website allows you to track your visitors’ behavior. How are they finding you? What pages are most popular, and which could use a boost? Analytics can help you discover why people are abandoning a purchase halfway through the process, or why they’re bouncing off a particular page. These insights can help you adjust and improve your SEO strategy.

Getting started

Search engine optimization is not a one-time process; it requires ongoing research and work to maintain. Avoiding these mistakes—or fixing them if you’ve made them—is the first step in an SEO strategy that will last as long as your website.

More on SEO

[Image: sachyn]