Editors Pick – Excerpts of 6 of the Biggest Website Fails from 100+ SEO Audits Originally Written By Chuck Aikens and published on V9SEO
An “SEO audit,” in spite of its dry-and-boring-sounding name, is one of the most jaw-dropping, eye-popping, mind-blowing experiences that could happen in the life of your business.
Why? Because an SEO audit uncovers dozens of unexpected, under-the-hood, hidden, or nefarious things that could be going on in your website. Without an SEO audit, you’ll never discover these things. With an SEO audit, you’ll find out exactly what’s making your website work…or not work, as the case may be.
What You’re About to Read
The information in this article may shock or disturb you. Regardless, I recommend that every business with a website get an SEO audit.
Based on our experience of conducting hundreds of SEO audits, we’ve assembled a list of what most website do right and what most websites do wrong. In this article, initially I’m going to explain, what most websites do right. The majority of this article, however, is a detailed examination of what most websites do wrong.
What Websites Get Right
Clients that come to us for an SEO Audit have usually done a lot of the SEO basics right. They come to us, because they’re looking for more specialized help.
We see our highest rate of passing marks for on-site optimization. Here are the percentage of websites that earn passing scores in each of these areas:
- Keyword Representation – 92% Passing
- Meta Description – 87% Passing
- H1 Tags – 81% Passing
- Page Titles – 78% Passing
- Image Alt Tags – 75% PassingIn most of our SEO Audits, we find that good target keywords are represented throughout the body text in an appropriate way without keyword stuffing or spammy usage. We also find that most webmasters use a single H1 tag to support a keyword. Most sites also contain and also image alt tags where appropriate.
In spite of the success, there are a few common mistakes we see. One of the big ones is an overuse of H1 tags. We really want to see only one H1 tag per page. In addition, we look for the appropriate use of H2 and maybe H3 tags for really long content. Short headlines in the body copy with a or around them often work just as well as an H3.
When we see a lot of H2 and H3 tags, it’s a signal to us to look for over-optimization of image alt tags and footer copy. We also start examining other SEO spam techniques like thin-content landing pages and exact-match anchors.
What Most Websites Get Wrong
Now that we’ve covered the positives, it’s time to dive into some of the not-so-positives. What follows is the list of areas where most websites fail miserably.
Websites and clients still struggle with Technical SEO and how to configure the website. We see our highest rate of failure in this category.
1. Page Speed – Failed in 61% of SEO Audits
If you can pick between Fast, Faster, or Fastest, I’m sure you would pick Fastest for Page Speed. Google agrees. They want to Make the Web Faster.
Google Insights provides actionable information that will allow your pages to load faster on all devices. They will even host your website and help you make it go faster with their Page Speed Service.
When you run any of the popular page speed tools online, you will get a list of recommendations on how to improve your page speed. No matter how fast or slow your actual web server and website page performs, there a many to improve the actual page speed. Two of the more frequent ones are 1) setting browser caching to cache things like images, and 2) using GZIP Compression to send a smaller set of file sizes to the visitor’s browser.
Why all this fuss over page speed? This is a great question with two simple answers. First, Google’s algorithm favors sites with faster speed. Second, users favor sites with faster speed. From an algorithmic perspective, the faster your site, the higher you rank. From a user perspective, lower bounce rates and higher dwell times also translate into higher rank. Plus, faster load times are positively correlated with higher conversion rates.
I would recommend checking out this blog post by KISSmetrics on How Loading Time Affects Your Bottom Line! A quick review of this article will remind you how much visitors tend to care more about speed than all the bells and whistles we add to our websites.
2. Blog Location – Failed in 62% of SEO Audits
Put simply, here’s the wrong way and the right way:
- Wrong: www.blog.example.com
- Right: www.example.com/blogPlacing the blog on the domain instead of nestled into a subdomain helps the blog benefit from the strength and authority of a domain, plus it allows the blog to build links to the primary domain.
3. Root Domain Configuration – Failed in 62% of SEO Audits
Standard SEO best practice for the root domain ensures that only one version of the root domain exists. You’d think that this would be an obvious quick fix.
Apparently not! I’m shocked at how many websites fail to ensure the following
- Use https://www.yourdomain.com or http://www.yourdomain.com but not both
- Ensure that there aren’t extra versions of the home page competing with the root. There are a lot of websites implementing SSL after Google mentioned that it will strengthen HTTPS as a ranking signal in the future. Of course we agree with this move, and think that marketers and developers should be working to secure their site. But what’s often missed in this discussion is the critical URL change that impacts SEO. Switching from HTTP to HTTPS is technically a URL change, and needs to be managed to preserve the websites index and domain authority.
4. Canonical Tags – Failed in 65% of SEO Audits
Canonical tags are often misunderstood. There are two misguided views on canonical tags. First, some think that the rel=canonical tag should be indiscriminately placed everywhere to protect against possible duplicate content. Wrong. Second, some think that the rel=canonical is totally unnecessary, and they don’t bother with it at all. Wrong again.
The truth on rel=canonical, as with so many other issues, lies between the two extremes. The rel=canonical tag and related link signals to search engines that there is a preferred version of the given page that they should index, thus streamlining the indexation process, strengthening the original version, and preventing duplicate content errors.
5. URL Length – Failed in 66% of SEO Audits
Our SEO Best Practice around URL structure focuses on the overall length of the URL. We find that un-structured URLs use complicated (often dynamic) query strings or try to stuff in a few keywords. This is a bad idea. Well-structured URLs, by contrast, tend to be short and focused.
Shorter URLs are easier to share, remember, link to, and type in. Our evidence informs us that keeping URLs below 74 characters is the best approach. This way, the entire URL displays in the SERPs without truncation.
6. 3rd Party Codes – Failed in 69% of SEO Audits
- Disqus (disqus.com/count.js, disqus.com/embed.js) : doc, blog post – async by default
- Facebook (connect.facebook.net/…/all.js) : doc, blog post – async by default
- Google AdSense (pagead2.googlesyndication.com/pagead/show_ads.js) : doc, blog post
- Google Analytics (google-analytics.com/ga.js) : doc, blog post – async by default
- Google DFP GPT (www.googletagservices.com/tag/js/gpt.js) : doc
- Google Plus (apis.google.com/js/plusone.js) : doc, blog post
- Pinterest (assets.pinterest.com/js/pinit.js) : doc
- Shareaholic : doc – async by default
Blogging success hugely depends on the Search Engines taking up your content and showing it at the top whenever searched for. Just publishing content with the right key words does not help in ranking at the top or even the first 10 search results. Following the best SEO practices along with quality content does the miracle. As with the hundreds of Blogs who make these SEO mistakes, is your Blog following SEO best practices. The best way to know is to run a quick check with list above. To rank higher with Search engines you will also have to Build up Authority while following the above simple steps to maintain a high ranking website.
If you are doing it – Do it Right.
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