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6 Things (Possibly) Hurting Your Website's SEO — and How to Fix Them

By Cyan Solutions on Oct 16, 2018 10:07:31 AM

We all know that Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a critical part of any online marketing strategy. But we can get lost in the fight for keyword glory and ranking dominance while producing and evolving content.  The reason is that it's easy to let things slide off the rails when we're too focused on content marketing and not enough on what's under the hood.

There are dozens of reasons why your website's SEO may be suffering, but here are six of the more common ones and some tips for making changes that help ensure you're keeping up with SEO best practices. 

6. Using and not using www in your URLs at once

Many site owners don't think much about it, but the www domain prefix matters and if you're both using it and not as part of your canonical domain, you can run into some nasty SEO issues.

What's the big deal?

When your site is configured and promoted with and without the www, you can end up with two versions of your website being indexed by search engines. Google no like that.

How to fix it

Ultimately, which version to use is a branding decision and it's a decision you need to make. Google has no preference which one you use but choose one and commit to it. Once you've decided which way to go, make sure you do the following:

  • Ensure your domain is configured for both www and no www through your host.
  • Modify any URLs on your website and other collateral to reflect your chosen format.
  • Inform those linking to you using the wrong format to change their links, if possible.
  • Update your Google Analytics and Search Console settings to reflect www or no www for tracking and indexing.
  • Clean up all links to pages and media on your site so they're consistent.
  • Use a 301 redirect for the version of your domain you're not using to the one you are.

Personally, I recommend not using www as part of your official URL because it looks cleaner on marketing materials, it uses fewer characters, and since the domain name works without it, it's pretty much useless. At the end of the day, pick what you wish to use and don't change it.

hide-the-pain-harold-meme-seo

5. Slow website performance

It may be relatively old news that Google factors in performance when ranking sites, but the importance of performance can't be understated.

What's the big deal?

How quickly your pages load impacts your bounce rate, which impacts your ranking.

Google's data shows that "as page load time goes from one second to 10 seconds, the probability of a mobile site visitor bouncing increases 123%". Now we see why 'mobile first' isn't merely a web agency buzzword!

So, yeah, performance matters.

How to fix it

  • Use Google PageSpeed Insights and Pingdom Tools to run a test on your site and identify areas for improvement.
  • Ensure your hosting plan is using a Content Delivery Network (CDN).
  • Implement Google AMP to give your site a little boost.
  • Leverage browser caching.
  • Compress your stylesheets and JavaScript files.
  • Optimize your images.
  • Install a performance plugin on your CMS.
  • Minimize use of third-party scripts and add-ons, including ads. 

Also validate your HTML and/or CMS theme. It may be a dog's breakfast, which can slow down your site as well.

4. O, brother, where art thou SSL certificate?

You may have heard about site security and SEO in recent months and with good reason. SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) creates an encrypted connection to your site, adding a necessary layer of safety and security.  It's what puts the 'S' in HTTPS.  We've blogged about HTTPS in the past, so read our old post about it if you want to learn more. 

What's the big deal?

In the past, securing a website with a SSL certificate was typically a must-do for eCommerce or gated web applications, but optional for everything else. Today, HTTPS security is also necessary for the user experience, including service workers, which are scripts that run in the background of your site and allow for features like push notifications and web APIs like background syncs.

Browsers now display warnings to HTTP-only sites, like this example in Chrome:

google-chrome-ssl-security-warning-screenshot

The big question is: does HTTPS make a difference in your search engine rankings versus HTTP? According to research included in an article by Neil Patel, the answer is...a little bit. While HTTPS don't necessarily get a bigger SEO boost than HTTP sites, it certainly doesn't hurt. 

How to fix it

Contact your site administrator or web host to purchase and install an SSL certificate for your site. Some hosting providers will include a free certificate as part of your package, or you may be able to save a few dollars by obtaining a free one. If you're building a new site from the ground floor up, include SSL from the get-go.

3. Focusing on search engines and not users

If you're a data dork like me, you enjoy reviewing your site analytics and digging into things to see what the numbers say. Seeing traffic and rankings improve is a pretty good feeling. One thing that can happen when you're so focused on data and have your eyes glued to those ranking results is you lose the human element in the equation. When it comes down to it, SEO isn't about search engines, it's about users.

What's the big deal?

Search engines tell you what pages are popular and valuable. Your analytics data tells you why, which is also the whoLook at it as more of a shift in focus. When narrowing in what your users are actually doing on your site and not just how many or for how long, you're getting insight into what's resonating with them in terms of both content and their experience.

How to fix it

In addition to reviewing your analytics reports, you can dig deeper by doing as many of the following as possible: 

  • Make use of a robust heat mapping tool to see where users are interacting with your pages. 
  • Don't ignore entrance and exit points in your analytics data.
  • Ensure your ranking issues aren't related to poor site performance or Accessibility.
  • Do A/B testing with landing or product pages.
  • Conduct usability testing with a focus group. 
  • Re-post older articles that are popular.

2. Your content quality is low

Your search engine value is ultimately only as valuable and reliable as your content. Sure, page speed influences bounce rates but if your visitors aren't returning or sticking around at all, all signs could very well be pointing to your content quality.

What's the big deal?

Google has provided some insight into what they consider 'quality content', which focuses on credibility, security, and reliability. Here we're talking user impact which is more than just your authority on what you offer or write about.

How to fix it

As detailed in Google's Webmaster Guidelines, Ensuring your content quality is high includes the following: 

  • Don't snow users with calls to action that say one thing and do something else
  • Avoiding tricks to increase your search engine rankings
  • Avoid auto-generated content
  • Don't create pages with little to no content at all
  • Don't use redirects like a shell game
  • Don't create pages solely for the purpose of ranking high with specific search queries (doorway pages)

And, of course, create content that is unique, original, and engaging.

1. You feel overwhelmed with it all 

This last item is probably the most important on the list. It's easy for novices to become overwhelmed and frustrated with how complex SEO is. I would argue that of all the pieces of the puzzle that goes into managing an online presence, SEO may very well be one of the most difficult to master not only because of its complexity and in some cases, subjectivity, but also because of how quickly it continues to evolve. 

What's the big deal?

The first and most obvious issue is that hesitation or frustration can create a sense of dread over even getting started with making any changes. It's understandable. SEO is a part of design, development, architecture, content planning and writing, user experience, Accessibility, the list goes on. No one is an expert in all these areas so building your own expertise in SEO adds some learning curves.

lord-of-the-rings-meme-seo

How to fix it

First of all, take a deep breath and don't look at every single task or aspect of managing SEO as one big thing. Select one thing you can work on for a day or two, then move to the next thing. Break things down into individual goals and focus only on one at a time.

Second, wait for changes you make to affect the change you want to see. You can improve your site performance in fairly short order (in most cases), but seeing that reflect in improved rankings won't be instantaneous. A lot of SEO issues can also be a combination of things, which means more time and patience. Don't sweat it!

Lastly, don't feel like you have to do it alone. SEO is best tackled by team effort.  That's why we're here to lend a hand if you need.  Book your free consultation today.

Contact Us Today!

Topics: Content Development, SEO Implementation, Website Optimization, SEO Management, content marketing agency, User Experience

Cyan Solutions

Cyan Solutions

Cyan Solutions is one of Ottawa’s most comprehensive marketing and communications firms. Whether you’re looking to create awareness, change a perception or downright sell, we have the people and the tools to deliver.