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Top 4 on-page SEO mistakes & how to fix them

Gone are the days (ie, the 90s and the 2000s) when the search engine Gods accepted offerings such as keyword stuffing, hidden content and spun copy in return for high rankings

To understand modern-day SEO, think of Google as a mighty but benevolent presence whose mantra is “if my searchers are happy, I’m happy”.

User experience and SEO ‘tactics’ are no longer mutually exclusive. That means when you optimise your website for visitors, you’re improving the chances of ranking well in search engine results (otherwise known as your organic search performance).

While no single factor guarantees top rankings or success, there are various aspects of your website that can be fine-tuned to please both man and machine.

Here we examine some common on-page mistakes seen by Click’s SEOs and some suggested fixes.

4. The need for speed

It’s not just humans that hate it/that lose interest/have no patience when a website takes ages to load. With site speed an important ranking factor, Google takes site page loading speed into consideration when it comes to search rankings

Loading time is a major contributing factor to page abandonment. According to KissMetrics, half of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less and 40% of people will abandon a website that takes more than 3 seconds to load.

The magic number: ideally, each page should load in under a second.

KissMetrics graph showing web page abandonment increases with loading time

Source: KissMetrics

Go faster:

  • Type your URL into Google’s PageSpeed Insights tool, which evaluates the speed of your site both for desktop and mobile and provides a list of issues and suggestions of how to fix them.
  • Keep images as small as possible, as oversized images take longer to load. If you have a WordPress site, consider adding the WP Smush.it plugin to ensure your images load quickly.
  • Declutter. Get rid of any non-essential bells-and-whistles that are bogging down your speed, such as flash graphics, and unnecessary plugins.
  • Got lots of rich, high-quality content? Good for you! Enable compression, which speeds up page load time by making your content less bulky, a bit like when you create a zip file for storing and sharing documents.

3. Rubbish content

Why does Google care about the quality of your content? Because it aims to return the most relevant and useful results to answer users’ queries and it’s clever enough to know the difference between content that’s been created for search engines and content written with humans in mind.

A common mistake is to concentrate all your content efforts on your website’s homepage, neglecting other areas of the site. While the homepage is important, it’s not necessarily your site’s main entry point any more – think about how often you access a site via search engine or by clicking on a link in another source.

Get it write:

  • Length is strength. Write thorough articles instead of short blog posts – a widely cited study by SERPIQ.com found that longer content ranks significantly higher on Google. Aim for 600+ words.
  • Make every page compelling, with unique, relevant content. Google can spot duplicate content (whether from within your site or elsewhere) and not only frowns upon it, but actively penalise sites for it, potentially causing a significant drop in your search ranking.
  • A page title should give the user and the search engine a quick understanding of the context of a webpage. For example, if your page title is ‘Healthy snacks for rabbits’, the content on that page should be about healthy snacks for rabbits.
  • If you outsource your content, choose a quality source (we offer this as part of our content, outreach and social engagement service, in case you were wondering).
  • Include clear calls to action, such as ‘download this guide now’, ‘sign up for our newsletter’ or prominent social share buttons. This helps to boost click-through rates which is great on its own, but also an SEO ranking signal as it indicates to search engines that the webpage is useful to users.
screenshot of calls to action on Click Consult's blog

Calls to action on Click’s blog pages

See one of our earlier blog posts on producing great copy by Laura Taylor for more content tips.

2. Badly written meta titles and meta descriptions

diagram showing meta titles and meta descriptions in search results

The meta title can be the most critical on-page ranking factor for search engines, while the meta description helps the searcher to decide which of the results returned best suits their needs.

Do meta better:

  • Each page needs a unique page title and meta description. These should concisely describe what the content on the page is about.
  • Keep them short. Search engines only display around 70 characters for a page title and 160 characters for a meta description. Any characters after the 70 and 160 aren’t displayed in their search results.
  • Strip out stop words from the title, like ‘and’ ‘the’ and ‘of’ (platforms such as WordPress will automatically do this for you). They waste valuable space.
  • Include relevant keywords in your titles and descriptions, but in a natural, user friendly way – see point 2 about creating content aimed at humans.
  • Imagine you’re creating an advertisement when creating your meta title and meta description, after all, you want to tempt searchers to click on your listing in the search results. They should include the keywords you’re targeting for that page, but in an appropriate descriptive and interesting manner.

Here’s a good example of a well written title and description I found when I searched for ‘homemade dog treats’. It provides a concise and enticing summary of what’s on the page and how it’s relevant to my search:

example of a well written meta title and description from search engine results
1. Lack of keyword research

Keyword strategy remains the biggest make-or-break factor in SEO, yet it’s still widely misunderstood and the number one on-page problem identified by Click’s SEOs.

Keyword research is one of the most worthwhile exercises in search marketing – and marketing in general. As well as helping your site to rank, it will give you a much greater insight into what your customers want.

There’s no point in guessing what people search for to find your business and optimising your site for the wrong keywords; even if you managed to rank for keywords with a high search volume, it’s pretty pointless if the people using those search terms aren’t looking for what you offer. Search marketing is about quality as well as quantity: ‘how many’ isn’t the only focus, but also ‘how many of the right kind’.

Unlocking keywords:

  • Google offers some terrific free tools for keyword research. Try Google AdWords Keyword Planner Tool and Google Trends. Our Simple Guide to SEO also contains in-depth guidance on researching and selecting keywords, as well as lots of other useful info.
  • Put yourself in a searcher’s shoes. Don’t assume your audience will search for the same terms or jargon you use to refer to your product or services internally. For example, you may refer to your business offering as ‘bespoke HR solutions’, whereas as someone who needs your service might be more likely to type ‘reducing employee absence rate’ into a search engine.
  • Don’t just focus on single keywords in your site content. 2013’s Hummingbird update and a shift to semantic search means Google is now adept at understanding people’s intent when they search, so include relevant related terms. Our blog Think topics, not keywords, provides more detail on this point.
  • Consider the value of long tail keywords (phrases of 3 or more words) that have less volume, but may bring more targeted visitors to your site.

For example, a search for ‘cake’ returns 500,000,000 results on Google, whereas the long tail search ‘buy birthday cake online delivery’ only returns 4,060,000 results – but shows a much greater intent to buy!

example of search results for buy birthday cake delivery
  • Don’t shoehorn them in. This goes back to the point about producing quality content and writing informative copy that’s primarily tailored to the needs of the reader; peppering it with a few naturally-placed keywords should be a secondary objective.

Key takeaways for better on-page SEO

  • Make sure your website runs as quickly as possible
  • Concentrate on creating high quality content
  • Put thought into your meta titles and descriptions
  • Spend time and effort on thoroughly researching keywords

Making some of the improvements above will not just help SEO performance – faster, more user friendly pages also lead to higher visitor engagement, retention and conversions.

For more about common digital marketing errors and how to avoid or fix them, read our blog on How to lose traffic and alienate search engines.

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