The Top 11 SEO Mistakes - and How to Find (and Fix) Them for Free

The Top 11 SEO Mistakes – and How to Find (and Fix) Them for Free

From the most well-versed SEO professional with a slew of SEO tools under their belt, to the novice SEO writer in search of guidance, everyone can use some reminders and tips to avoid typical SEO mistakes that can wind up costing your business customers and money. As content accumulates on websites, issues tend to arise; the biggest SEO mistakes are often not glaring issues, but small concerns involving keywords, link building, and not being optimized for mobile devices. 

Addressing these 11 mistakes can help both professionals new to SEO best practices and those with years of experience under their belt improve their search volume, treat target keywords appropriately, and reduce bounce rates on their site. 

Let’s take a look at each of the nagging issues that I often see arising together with my recommendations for fixing them.

1. 404 page

When you delete a page and fail to create a 301 redirect for it to a new page, the dreaded “404 error” appears. This happens because once a URL is created, it is indexed by Google and is expected to be a live page, regardless of the actual direction of your site.

Having a 404 page on your site sends a bad signal to search engines that your site has many erroneous pages and is not a reliable source of information.

How to fix: Apply a redirect to the page using a plugin such as Redirection. Redirect people to a similar and relevant page using a 301 redirect or send a signal to Google and other search engines that you no longer have such content on your site with a 410 redirect.

Once you have a 404 page, it can set up a negative chain of events. One likely scenario is that you linked to the deleted page somewhere in your website, and now that page has links to a broken page.

How to fix: Either delete the link or replace it with a link that is relevant to the original anchor text. Combing through existing pages on a regular basis as a form of upkeep can help minimize this particular issue in digital marketing and is one of the basics of SEO practices. 

3. Redirect loop

Another consequence of having a broken page is what happens after you create a redirect to another page. Over time, as your business and website evolve, you might find the need to delete more pages and create more redirects.

What might happen as a result is that you have a redirect which leads to another redirect which leads to yet another redirect. This is called a redirect loop, and the longer a redirect loop is, the worse it is for users–as well as for search engines.

How to fix: If you use the Redirection plugin, do a search for the redirecting links. Now replace where they redirect to to the final page in the redirect loop.

Link Whisper screenshot showing posts with no internal links

Internal links are a vital aspect of SEO and google analytics, because they help Google locate, index, and recognize all of the pages of your website. When there are links to your site’s pages, it aids in search engine optimization because Google essentially “recognizes” those pages, and makes it far more likely to come up when relevant keywords are being searched. It may seem small, but this is one of the biggest mistakes made with SEO. Orphaned pages can significantly detract from the hits you receive from potential customers and should be avoided as much as possible to lower bounce rates and maintain visitor interest. 

How to fix: Make it a habit to not only include internal links in every blog post, but to also add new internal links pointing to every new page or post you publish. I also highly recommend you use Link Whisper, a WordPress plugin that can help automate some of this. I run Link Whisper on my site regularly as part of my monthly tasks.

External links essentially function as references for Google analytics. Without external links, the pages on your site may be seen as less-than, or unable to be trusted. Search engine rankings take reliability into account, so external links should be a part of any company’s SEO strategy. SEO efforts without external links will suffer. When placing external links, be sure to avoid broken links and use reliable sources. A reputable website is going to do more for your SEO strategy than a random website used to boost your search engine ranking. 

How to fix: Get into a habit of placing external links from authoritative sites into every blog post that you publish. While you don’t need to (nor should you) place outgoing links in landing pages or strategic product pages, blog posts should point to other resources that confirm the data and perspective that you bring to help along conversion rates and establish you as an authority.

Further Reading: The 11 Best SEO Ranking Factors to Focus On in 2024

6. Meta title too long

Example of SEO titles being too long and cut off in Google search engine results pages

When a result appears in Google’s search engine result page (SERP), you will notice that there is a title in large bold, blue characters. This is the meta title. You might also notice that for some results it ends in a “…”. When a meta title is too long, Google will shorten it, and thus all of the time you spent in creating the perfect meta title might have gone to waste. Pay close attention to title tags. 

How to fix: While there is no one official standard of length, if you want your entire meta title to display in Google SERPs, make sure the title is no longer than 60 characters.

Further Reading: The 4 SEO Meta Tags That Will Improve Your SEO

7. Meta description tag missing or empty

Meta descriptions can help search engines and searchers determine the type of content on your site, and whether or not it is high-quality content, based on your meta descriptions. Although keyword stuffing is frowned upon, good meta descriptions with adequate numbers of keywords can help search engines more effectively identify and direct others toward your site. A meta description is not the place for long-tail keywords, but is the right spot for focus keywords that will essentially advertise the original content on the page. 

How to fix: Add a meta description making sure that it both includes strategic keywords as well as entices people who read it to want to click on the title above it and navigate to your article.

Further Reading: The 6 Meta Tags That Can Help Improve Your SEO

8. Low word count

average content word count of the top 10 results in search engines is 1,447 words
Source

If you were a search engine and found content that had few words, you might decide not to serve it up in SERPs or maybe not even index it.

While there will be some pages on your website with lower content than others, if you want your content to be indexed by Google, it is widely believed that you should adhere to a minimum word count.

While some say your content should be a minimum of 250 words and others might say 300 or 350, you want to make sure that you adhere to a minimum word count in that range to ensure as many pages of your content as possible get indexed. Do not use generic keywords or keyword stuff to get there; instead, make sure you are delivering as much information as is necessary to capture your audience and deliver information.

While a greater word count doesn’t necessarily mean better SEO, you should know that data suggests that the average word count for an article on the first page of Google search results, as depicted in the image above, is 1,447 words.

How to fix: Add more content to your content!

Further Reading: What is SEO Content? 8 Tips for Creating Content That Ranks for 2024

9. Image broken

Once you upload an image, how could it become a broken image? I have had this happen to me in the following ways:

  1. I copied an image from a Google Document. Once that document was erased from my Google Drive, the image breaks.
  2. An external site removed the image. If you have ever linked to an image on an external site to display it using an image URL, and the webmaster deleted the image, the image will now break on your website.
  3. I have used image compression plugins that try to serve up .webp versions of my images. Unfortunately, this has led to broken images. I currently use Cloudflare Polish to serve up web-optimized images in the cloud.

How to fix: While it is tedious, you will literally have to replace broken images by uploading new ones during regular site audits.

Further Reading: 16 Image SEO Tips for 2024

10. Image file size too large

as page load time goes up the probability that your visitor bounces from your website increases data from Think With Google
Source

I have also fallen victim to this. Sometimes you go to another site, see a cool animated GIF, and want to include one on your site.

Or perhaps it is an infographic that you want to publish.

It could be a screenshot or an image that you took from your smartphone.

The problem is that speed is extremely important for both the user experience as well as a major factor in how Google ranks websites. One of the main culprits of slow websites are large images. While some say the maximum image size for the web is 1MB, others say 300K. I try my best to limit image sizes to 100K maximum when possible to ensure SEO success.

How to fix: The best fix is to optimize images for file size before uploading. If they have already been uploaded, you can use image optimization plugins which compress images such as Smush or a paid option such as Imagify or ShortPixel. Each of these can compress images as well as serve up .webp alternatives. You can also use the Cloudflare Polish option mentioned above if you use Cloudflare for your CDN.

11. Slow page

While you might think that slow pages are caused solely by images, there are a host of other reasons why your page and website are slow. Using too many WordPress plugins, having outdated software architecture, or using a slow website hosting service can all contribute to these particular mistakes in SEO.

When it comes down to specific pages that are slow,  having too many images on one page, or as mentioned previously, having one or multiple images with large file sizes can cause this issue.

How to fix: If only a select few pages are slow, check and make sure that embedded images have optimized file sizes and replace those that don’t. If most of your pages are slow, it’s time to check and see if you need all of those WordPress plugins or consider upgrading your current web hosting service to increase click-through rates.

How to Find Issues Caused by These Common SEO Mistakes?

Ahrefs Webmaster Tools screenshot for site audit for nealschaffer.com

Up until now, I’ve described how to fix the various common mistakes that you might encounter over time, but how can you go about finding them?

The Ahrefs Webmaster Tools is a free version of Ahrefs that is available to any webmaster with a main focus on site audits. This free tool can help solidify your marketing efforts to make sure that as many elements of SEO are being adhered to as possible. It covers the mobile version of your site and functions as something of an SEO guide for your content. It achieves this through:

  • Evaluating for an overall SEO “health” score
  • Crawling pages to create easy-to-read graphs to optimize your sites
  • Flagging all SEO issues it finds for easy improvement

Combing through each and every nook and cranny of your site can be time-consuming and difficult. Tools like Ahrefs make the process easy and straightforward, and help you identify the areas most in need of attention. And, yes, checking all of the 11 issues mentioned above are included in the free report, which includes checking your website for 140+ pre-defined SEO issues.

I have been using this free tool on a monthly basis for more than a year, and it has now taken the place of the Broken Link Checker plugin and other SEO audit tools as my number one choice.

Further Reading: How to Perform Your Own 9 Step SEO Audit

Conclusion

From using the wrong keywords to leaving out important keyword phrases, SEO strategy means avoiding poor user experience and making it easier for search engine bots to locate and understand the pages of your site. SEO rankings can be daunting at first, but using the right type of keywords and the most important list of keywords will help drive organic traffic and maintain the ranking of your site. Search terms largely focus on the types of content being searched for, so making sure that a search query can easily find your pages is paramount. Using the tips and tricks above, you can help ensure that your search rankings remain at ideal levels.

This is a sponsored post from one of my marketing partner but all content was written by me and represents 100% of my personal opinions on the subject matter.

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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