There is no excuse for bad SEO practices. Not anymore. Maybe in the early days of web development, when people didn’t know better. But today, there are enough tools - and enough qualified professionals - available for your company to have an SEO optimized website.
And with over 40,000 search queries taking place on Google EVERY. SINGLE. SECOND. That’s 3.5 billion searches ever day. This is not an area where any company can afford to fail.
If you’re not sure how well your web team executed on the SEO strategy, here are 7 simple things that you can look for that are tell-tale signs that there are bigger and worse problems across your entire SEO strategy. They may even indicate that there was no SEO strategy at all.
Here are the 7 Most Obvious Signs That Your Website Has Bad SEO Coding
Your homepage Meta Title has the words Home or Welcome in it
I often find myself shocked and saddened when I see websites today still waste the limited number of characters available in the Meta Title on such random words as “Home” and “Welcome”. This is often a template default that is used purely to identify which page you’re on in the overall sitemap, but most users do not care.
Exceptions may apply for businesses who have a logical reason to include either of those words in their SEO title. The Welcome Wagon, for example, is allowed to use Welcome in their title. A home goods store is another case where I would be willing to forgive the use of the word Home in their title tag. And, of course, if your company name has the word “home” in it (like PerfectSense Home or Art & Home), then that is allowed.
For anyone else, there is no excuse. Take a look at your home page’s meta title. If it says something like - Company Name - Home - Some More Text – your website team has failed one of the most basic SEO practices.
Google usually only shows the first 50 to 60 characters of a title tag on the search engine results page. And those results are critical to capture a searcher’s attention and intrigue them enough to click on your company’s link.
Who are you? What are you about? Why should they care? You only have a maximum of 60 characters to get all of that across.
Wasting even 5 characters on Home or 8 characters on Welcome (including the necessary space) is a tremendous loss of potential. It would be like setting aside 12% of your business’ available retail space and putting a huge sign that says “This is a Store” in that space or taking out an ad in the local papers that simply says “We are a store.”
Your site is not secure
Not too long ago, website security was only really important if you were completing transactions online. But those days are gone. In today’s competitive online world, a secure website is a critical factor for any website, even a random blog about funny-looking cats.
Not only do these websites often capture personally identifiable information (aka PII) such as name and email address, but Google and other search engines use security as one of the signals to determine a site’s position in the rankings.
If you don’t have an SSL installed on your site, you could be losing traffic, leads, and potential customers. The cost of an SSL certificate is relatively small compared to the potential revenue you could be losing.
Your images were all named by a coder
Every element of a web page is a piece of the puzzle that search engines use to determine what your site is all about, and if it your site is relevant for someone searching for a particular keyword.
This includes images; however, I often see beautifully designed websites use an image naming system that looks like someone was afraid that the outside world could accidentally guess the image name. As if that’s a bad thing.
If you’re selling tennis shoes, and you show a pair of tennis shoes on the product page, include the phrase “tennis-shoes” in the image file name. Having a gorgeous piece of furniture use an image name like image72944wcpk.jpg is a complete waste of one possible signal to the search engines.
Not sure how to tell what the image fine name is? Right click on the image and select “Save Image As…” the name will populate in the filename and you can read exactly how you web development team named your images.
And – for the love of all things SEO – make sure you include image alt tags.
Your site is not Mobile Friendly
When was the last time you opened up your website on a mobile device? Did it load quickly? Did it render properly? Can you read it? Can you click on the buttons? Can you successfully check out? If not, you have a mobile problem. And if you have a mobile problem, Google will likely punish you for it.
Mobile devices now make up more than ½ of all internet traffic, and search engines like Google understand this. In fact, they announced that they would be transitioning to mobile-first indexing by September 2020.
What this means is that Google will use your website’s mobile version to create its site index and inform Google’s ranking algorithm. If you’re not mobile friendly, Google will not be friendly in return.
Your keyword targets are too long
Nearly two thirds of all Google search queries are 3 words or under. That’s it. That’s all the space you have to figure out how people will try to find your company and/or your product. If you’re targeting a key phrase that is 4, 5, or even 6 words long, you’re doing it all wrong.
Web design teams, and SEO teams, will often hail success for having achieved high rankings for long-tail keywords that have 4 or 5 words in them, because these are usually the easiest to achieve. They are also very rarely searched for.
Rather than trying to squeeze every possible word into one target page and keyword structure, the important thing is to craft your website so that different pages target different, important keywords with deep, relevant content.
Your content is too thin
Speaking of deep, relevant content, thin content is another common SEO fail. Thin content basically means just a little bit of text on a page, often put there just to fill the space. Or, another issue that is quite common, is where the designers convert the text into an image because it looks prettier and it’s easier to code. However, search engines cannot read the text that is built into an image, so – to them – it looks like you’ve got a bunch of photos with a dozen or so words beside them. If that image’s name is image72944wcpk.jpg, the search engines will have no idea what to even do with that page of your website.
Pages rarely rank with thin content. Sites with too many pages of thin content rarely rank at all.
Take a look at the critical pages on your site. If they only have a paragraph or two of text on them, your web team has failed yet another basic concept of SEO.
You have the same Meta Description on Every Page
The problem with a lot of website developers is that they start with one version of a page design, create a template out of it, and then duplicate it for the rest of the site. When they copy a page, they quite often copy some of the important meta data, such as page title and meta description. Although you will rarely find a company that doesn’t – at least – update the title tag, you’d be surprised how often they leave one generic company-wide meta description on every single page.
Similar to the meta title, but longer in length, the meta description is a chance to tell potential visitors what they can expect to find on that page of your website. The ideal length of that description is 155 – 160 characters, which is far longer (by about 100 characters) than the title tag, but is still limited.
And it is usually considered a better practice to be under the character limited rather than over, as a long meta description could be truncated in an unfortunate spot.
Did You Pass the Simple SEO Test?
If you’ve managed to pass the test on all of these 7 tell-tale signs, congratulations… it means you don’t have really bad SEO. It may not mean that you have great SEO, but you won’t qualify for the “Do you even SEO, bro?” award. And that’s a good thing.
If you want to know if you have good SEO, or even great SEO, that’s a deeper conversation that is better had one-on-one.
If you’ve failed even one of these 7 tell-tale signs, seek help… immediately.
And to those skeptics out there who may think “Nobody would make such silly SEO mistakes these days!” - just today I came across a recently built website with – Home – in the title tag.