[guest post by Igor Kholkin]
Google pushes out more than 500 updates annually that affect how sites rank in its search results. Despite an abundance of widely-available literature online about best SEO practices, the vast majority of website owners continue to make key mistakes that prevent their sites from reaching their potential.
It is easy to understand the dilemma: even if a business owner knew everything about SEO, they still could not afford to spend time on it given all of their other business-related responsibilities. So instead of educating you on all of the 200+ factors that go into ranking your site, here is a list of top common SEO mistakes you should avoid in 2016:
SEO Mistake #1: Poor Keyword Selection
Even SEO beginners are aware of the importance of keyword research. It is one of the pillars of organic search optimization efforts. If you chose the wrong keywords for your pages then you have handicapped yourself from the very beginning.
The process of identifying the best keywords for your pages is an art in of itself. MOZ recently launched their keyword explorer tool which does a great job of helping with keyword research. It provides competition and opportunity metrics for all your keyword ideas which is convenient if you do not know how to evaluate potential keyword value yourself.
SEO Mistake #2: Poor Keyword Focus
Taking care of the on-page basics is crucial for search optimization. Even if you did great keyword research, it will be wasted if you do not use the keywords consistently in all the right places. Leaving basic attributes unoptimized is a reckless SEO mistake.
Make sure you use the targeted keyword in all the important areas of a page: title tag, meta description, main heading (H1), ALT tag of the primary image, and the URL address itself. These elements help Google understand what your page is about. Properly focusing the page content could mean the difference between ranking #5 and #1 for a long-tail keyword.
SEO Mistake #3: Poor Internal Linking
The internal link architecture of a website is another important factor for organic optimization. It helps your visitors and search engine spiders reach your important pages and it distributes SEO value from the homepage to the rest of the site. If you do a poor job of linking internally then you are missing an easy win.
Google offers their own guide on proper link architecture. Make sure you use the top-down approach when configuring the link architecture on your site. Your home page should link to your category pages, your category pages should link to subcategory pages, and so forth. Use descriptive anchor text to help identify what the linked-to page is about (think of it as the label on a door – it should tell people what room they are about to enter).
SEO Mistake #4: Server Errors & Redirects
You might not know it, but your website may be plagued with broken links leading to non-existing pages (404 Error – Page Not Found). Google hates having its time wasted with broken links and temporary (302) redirects. Both issues contribute to one major SEO mistake: the value from the linking page is wasted since it is not properly passed to a real page.
Use tools like Google’s Search Console or ScreamingFrog to find out crawl issues. Set up 301 redirects from the broken URL addresses to appropriate existing pages in order to preserve the value from internal and external links. You should periodically check your site for these crawl issues to avoid poor user experience and help search bots crawl it more efficiently.
SEO Mistake #5: Lack of Content
Any SEO professional will vigorously nod in agreement when they hear the phrase “content is king”. No matter what your site offers, whether it’s products, services, or entertainment, the key to standing out amongst the competition is unique content. If your site has thin content you are missing out on your chance to convince the visitor why you deserve their time and business.
Creating content can be difficult and you can mitigate that by outsourcing your content creation. If you are bootstrapping a startup, share your expertise and insights to bring unique value to your blog. Remember that great content gets more attention from visitors and Google alike.
SEO Mistake #6: Slow Load Speed
The importance of site load speed as a ranking factor has skyrocketed over the last couple of years. More searches are performed on mobile devices than on computers according to Google. Mobile data limits and a consumer base that expects immediacy means clunky websites will be devalued in favor of their faster counterparts.
Run your website through Google’s page speed insights tool. It will give you a rating for what it thinks of your site’s load time and recommend how to fix specific delay-causing issues. Fixing load speeds may require the help of a developer but it is a worthwhile investment for SEO.
SEO Mistake #7: Lack of Mobile Site
Remember how I just mentioned that more than half of searches are done on a mobile device? Those users expect a website that is easy to use on their cell phone or tablet. Google launched a separate index for mobile-friendly sites, which gives preference to sites that pass its mobile friendliness standards.
See if your site is mobile-friendly by using Google’s test tool, which looks for common mobile usability accommodations like large text size and ample spacing between links. Creating a responsive site or a dedicated mobile version of your desktop site may be costly for small business owners, but at this point there is no choice. No one can afford to ignore more than half of the search audience.
Avoiding the SEO mistakes listed above will provide you with a solid foundation for a strong organic search presence in 2016.
** About the author: Igor Kholkin is a digital marketing expert in Los Angeles. His passion is tying together SEO, PPC, and social media into a cohesive strategy that drives companies’ growth online. You can follow him on Twitter or add him on LinkedIn.