It’s natural to assume that your new website will do well in the search engines when hiring a web developer to construct it for you. After all, if your website is great, Google must also adore it, right? Wait a minute. Even if your new website has a lot of innovative bells and whistles that make the price tag seem justified, it doesn’t mean that all the pieces are in place. Imagine if, during the web construction process, SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is not given the appropriate weight. If you don’t plan to buy the majority of the visitors to your website, you might be wasting your money in such a situation.
Your website must be “SEO-friendly” if you want to benefit from the large amount of free organic traffic that appears on the first page of Google and other major search engines that can provide it. Since I’ve been practicing SEO for the past 15 years, I’ve worked on many websites for a wide range of companies, both as a freelancer and for some reputable digital marketing agencies. This post will provide you with a checklist of some typical SEO blunders so you can ensure your developer stays away from them if you’re planning to have a website constructed, whether it’s a brand-new one or a makeover of an existing one.
Common SEO Mistakes To Avoid
1. Not Planning to Fail, but Failing to Plan for Search Ranking
Before any work happens on your website, your developer needs to understand your business goals. Part of this process should involve some keyword research. Essentially, you want to understand the most relevant phrases to your business that people enter into Google search, and their average monthly search volumes based on your geographic markets. There are quite a few keyword research tools available. Almost all of these tools get their keyword data from the Google Ads platform. To access Google Ads, all you need is a Google account. Armed with some keyword research, you have the basis for an SEO plan for your website. You and your developer now know which of your website’s related search terms are most popular and can figure out which pages should include them in the content.
2. Improper Use of Meta Tags
When you load a web page in your browser (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, etc.), a page title appears in the tab. This title is what also shows up in organic search results. This element is created with a line of HTML code called a meta tag. The page title meta tag is an essential element for on-page SEO and should contain your most valuable target keywords. Too often though, developers leave the page title as the default name of the web page. The page title cuts off after 65 characters but should still be more than 30 characters. Another important meta tag for SEO is the page description tag. Google will typically show up to 156 characters of a description tag. This tag should be concise and enticing to encourage searchers to click on your link and visit the page. Description meta tags are not a direct ranking factor for Google, but it does affect click-through rates, which are factored into the search rankings. Not so important for SEO, but for your presence on social networks is social sharing meta tags. These tags specify the page title, description, and image to use when sharing on social sites like Facebook and Twitter. If you want your previews to look good on social media posts, these meta tags should also be defined on your web pages.
3. Poorly Structured Site Navigation
In addition to your website visitors not finding what they’re looking for, Google will also find it challenging to crawl your website and rank all of your pages in search if your menu system is complicated or challenging to utilise. A flat menu is acceptable if your website has a small number of pages. Your website’s navigation menu should be able to dig down correctly with sub-items if your website has a lot of pages and category pages, like an e-commerce website. Your home page should only be 3–4 clicks away from every page on your website. Anything more than that will be deemed unimportant and unlikely to be indexed in search results. This is one of the most common SEO mistakes found in newly launched e-commerce websites.
4. XML Sitemaps Missing
A list of all the URLs of your web pages organised in a way that search engines can readily understand is called an XML sitemap. XML sitemaps are specifically designed to make it simple for search engines to find all of your web pages and other parts of your website that are worthy of being indexed. Many websites have individual XML sitemaps for photos and videos in addition to different XML sitemaps for each type of web page. A sitemap for the important pages, such as the home page, about, contact, shipping information, etc., might be present on an e-commerce website, for instance. Another sitemap has been created for product categories, product pages, photos, and videos.
Image and video sitemaps are useful if you want those elements to show up specifically in image or video search results in Google and other search engines. To get Google to make use of your XML sitemaps, you need to submit them to Google Search Console. You can access it with your Google account, where ownership of the website will need to be verified. If your website is new, submitting sitemaps to Google Search Console is the best way to get Google to crawl it for the first time and get your pages indexed. Otherwise, Google will need to find your website through a link to it from another website, and that is hardly a guarantee. Bing has a similar process to Google for submitting XML sitemaps in its Webmaster Tools. It is a good idea to submit your sitemaps to both Google Search Console and Bing Webmaster Tools.
5. Uses IFrames to Display Content
Code snippets called IFrames are used to display content on a website that is located on a different page. It is possible that the content originated from a totally other website. Google isn’t fooled by this technique of stealing content from other pages, and rather than using the IFrame code, it will give the source page credit and give it a spot in the search results. IFrames are frequently used by websites to incorporate Slideshare or YouTube slideshows as well as PDF files. These are legal usage that won’t harm your search engine rankings. If your developer inserts text and images into iframes when they should be part of the page’s content, this might hurt your SEO and is, to put it bluntly, just bad design.
6. Not Mobile-Friendly
The majority of searches now take place on mobile devices, so if your website isn’t mobile-friendly, your chances of getting good rankings on Google will be limited. This is also one of the most common SEO mistakes that can be avoided by hiring a skilled mobile developer. Back in November 2016, Google announced that they were working towards eventually using the mobile version of a website’s content to rank web pages. In March 2020, Google confirmed that 70% of all websites had shifted over to mobile-first indexing and that all remaining websites will be indexed on a mobile-first basis starting September 2020. So the fix is in; if your developer is stuck in desktop mode for your web design and can’t create a great mobile user experience, it simply won’t fly in Google search. Google has a useful tool to help to make sure the mobile user experience is adequate, appropriately named “Mobile-Friendly Test”.
7. Slow Loading Pages
Time is valuable, and slow-loading web pages create a poor user experience, especially on mobile devices. Google doesn’t like slow-loading websites either and has made page loading time a factor when ranking pages in search results. As mentioned in item 6 above, most people now search on mobile devices, so making sure your pages load fast on mobile devices is particularly essential to today’s SEO. If your website is slow to load on mobile devices, getting on the first page of Google is going to be tough in 2020. The maximum load time you should be aiming for is under 4 seconds from your target geographical areas. Striking the optimal balance between creating a beautiful and impressive website and keeping the load times down is a challenge for developers. Too many bells and whistles, so to speak, come at a cost in load times.
Possibly the biggest culprit for slow loading pages is large image files. There is often the temptation from both designers and website owners to use high-resolution images. To speed things up, you’ll need to keep the image file sizes to under 160kb. The smaller, the better, so it is worthwhile to compromise a bit on the image quality to get the load time down as much as possible. I try to go for around 80-100kb for large images, but in any case, I’d use 160kb as a hard limit. If you are showcasing a large gallery of high-quality photos, make sure they aren’t all being rendered when your page first loads. There are a lot of other ways to speed up your website, from using a CDN service (Content Distribution Network) and leveraging browser caching to making the on-page code as efficient as possible. Google provides a very useful tool for analyzing website speed called Google PageSpeed Insights. It will generate a score for the desktop and mobile versions of your pages as well as list everything that is causing slow-downs and how to fix them.
8. Improper Use of Heading Tags
Heading tags are the visible headings and subheadings represented on the page using HTML tags such as <H1>Your Title</H1> or <H2>Your Sub-Title</H2>. Your on-page text creates a hierarchy of titles from 1 to, usually, 4. There is no limit to how far you can go (h23 if you wanted), but it doesn’t make sense to do that in most circumstances. The H1 title is usually placed at the top of a page, it should be unique from your page title meta tag, and there should only be one per page. The H1 title should contain your most relevant keywords to the topic of the page, describing what it is about in under 70 characters. Web developers that are not SEO-savvy often do things like make all the title tags on a page H1, or use H1 tags in the website template for content that’s replicated on different pages. You can use H2 headings multiple times on pages and they are useful for improving the readability of your text. No one wants to see long slabs of text and the sub-headings help readers the information that’s most important to them. They’re also good opportunities to point search engines towards ranking the page for your keywords. H3 and H4 title tags can be used for breaking down your content even further if necessary. The text under these sub-titles is seen as less important though. They are often being used for widgets and table titles too.
9. Not Using, or Misusing Structured Data
Structured Data, otherwise known as Schema data, is code that is used to tell search engines, or “highlights” specific information related to what a web page is essentially about. Not only that, but structured data can also influence Google to show additional information as “rich snippets” within the search results. These snippets include aggregate ratings of up to 5 stars from customer reviews, images, price information, publishing date, video player thumbnail, and more. Enhancements like these can make your search result stand out and drive higher click-through rates. Below is an example of Google search results that have been enhanced with rich snippets that are made possible with Structured Data. If your website isn’t using structured data, you’re basically at a disadvantage against those that are. It has to be appropriately applied, though. Structured data has only been relatively widely known for about five years, so only a small number of web developers are aware of it, and even less know how to implement it properly. It is even difficult to find CMS (Content Management System) plugins that do the job of implementing structured data properly or offer all the options that would make it work best for every kind of business. Google has a useful tool for validating your website’s structured data and will report any errors or warnings about the implementation.
10. CMS still blocks Search Engine bots from crawling the website after it goes live
I’ve come across this problem several times and it has devastated search rankings for websites that had been redesigned and severely held back new websites from getting organic search traffic. It’s such a simple oversight, but the consequences to a business are huge. While a new website is built on a staging server, a setting is used to block search engine bots from crawling the website. This makes sense because the staging server won’t be on your live domain name yet and you don’t want search engines indexing an unfinished website on a server that isn’t meant to be public. Then the website goes live…it’s showtime. However, days and even weeks pass, and Google hasn’t indexed anything. The reason might be the setting that blocks the search bots is still active on the live website. On website platforms like WordPress, all that needs to be done to unblock your website from being crawled is to untick a single box and then click “save”. All that lost traffic over a single tick-box!
Websites Should Be Built To Be Search-Friendly
The SEO foundations are sometimes neglected when spending money to have a website designed. You may benefit from what is effectively free online traffic by making sure your website is search engine friendly. Paying for continuous professional guidance from SEO specialists is a smart investment that can improve your online visibility even more. Instead of going back over it after launch, choosing which search terms to target, and addressing all the faults, preparing for success in organic search before and during the website design and build process would pay off much more rapidly. By reading this post, you can hopefully avoid the ten SEO blunders that web developers frequently make, allowing your new website to start generating consistent, growing organic search traffic right away.