How you Could be Damaging your Search Rankings without Realizing it
We work with small and medium business owners often who are doing a lot of things right. They’ve designed a great looking website, hired good web developers and are killing it on social media. Unfortunately these things don’t always equate to exceptional search rankings which truly mean the difference between whether a customer finds your business for consideration in their search or not. And since over 80% of purchase decisions start with a Google search, you have to be getting your SEO right in order to maintain and grow your business, especially in these difficult times where businesses have no other means to connect with potential customers other than online.
For the sake of supporting well meaning business owners who may lack knowledge and expertise in this area, we aren’t going to get into black hat SEO practices. Most black hat practices require extensive technical knowledge and rarely happen by accident. If you are choosing or working with an SEO company, you may want to learn more about black hat practices to watch out for them. You will also know if these are happening on your site based on unexplained dramatic ranking drops or notification of a manual penalty sent directly from Google.
Without understanding SEO best practices, or working with qualified SEO experts, a business can inadvertently damage their rankings. Sometimes it’s poor advice from well meaning contractors, colleagues or friends, sometimes it’s just a pure lack of understanding that these things really make a huge difference. Either way, there are many ways you can damage your Google rankings and devalue your SEO efforts without realizing it.
If your business is not ranking where you feel it deserves to be for important keywords and phrases, consider if any of these common issues are happening for your business and fix them ASAP!
One of the most important things to remember with your SEO is that it requires regular, consistent effort. We recommend posting fresh content weekly and making regular updates to your existing content, service pages and information as changes happen. Outdated websites are not only a turn off for potential customers, but they signify to Google that you are less relevant, so be sure to make updates regularly and add new content consistently, preferably weekly. While it may seem like a time saver to publish a ton of content all at once, strategically, it is best to drip the content so Google sees you as a reliable contributor.
PRO TIP: If you are making changes to key info on your website, don’t forget to adjust your Google My Business profile, which also makes a huge impact on your Local SEO results. Check out our blog on SEO tips for more information on GMB and other SEO tips.
The content on your website is the ultimate defining factor on how well you rank. It needs to be up to date, relevant and to satisfy the query the searcher had. Quality content keeps users on your website longer, which helps Google to determine that your site should be delivered more often in search results. It also helps customers to see your brand as one they can trust and should invest in.
From an SEO perspective, there are some very important rules to follow with your content to ensure the Google crawlers can read it as worth returning in a search:
-DO NOT publish duplicate content, ever. Always create fresh content for your site including your copy, blogs, videos and images. Be sure to credit others if you use their content and only use it with permission
-Provide high quality content that answers the search query or question a user comes to your site to find. Edit your copy before publishing as well – Google doesn’t like a lot of grammatical or spelling issues or low word count content
-On a similar note, avoid keyword stuffing. You should use the keywords you want a page or blog to rank for no more than 2-5 times in 500-800 words. Anymore than that can devalue the content and it sends red flags to the Google algorithm
Using high quality images on your website is critical. It helps you to bring your brand to life and can convey certain concepts and images that a thousand words cannot, but be careful not to rely on images solely, since both your customers and the algorithm need words to determine how and when to rank your pages or if you are the right option for their need.
Also, be sure to optimize your images with Alt text to ensure the images can be used as a positive to your SEO strategy and be careful around copyright infringement. Only use images that are open for use or with permission. The Google penalty for copyright infringement can be quite hefty, so avoid getting in to this situation at all costs
Probably the number one SEO issue that gets businesses penalized are bad links, pointing in and pointing out. Be sure to check your link profile regularly and remove spammy links that are trying to hitch a ride on your authority. Also, when linking to external sites, ensure they are high authority sites and that the information can be trusted. Linking to low quality sites or to a site that is penalized by Google can add the same negative outcomes to your site as well.
And we shouldn’t have to tell you this, but just to be safe, NEVER, EVER buy links or engage in suspicious link building practices, link farms or anything else of that nature. If you are unsure about these practices, read up on them and be sure that any developer or SEO company you are working with is not using these techniques to rank your site. It may yield short term results, but Google will catch up to it eventually and your site will suffer (you could also get blacklisted).
There are tons of technical tips to improve your SEO results, and many that will confuse the algorithms and cause penalties. One of the most important is the load speed of your page. Overusing graphics, images and other elements that slow your page down can cause major issues, so be sure to test this often and keep your site as light as possible.
Ensuring your website is mobile friendly is not only good for your customers, it is an expectation for Google to share your website in rankings. Check with your developer if you are unsure and test your site regularly on your phone to make sure that everything loads well and functions how customers need it to work.
Another important tip is to get ready now for voice search. It is becoming more and more popular and Google has started to shape it’s search algorithm to be more and more compatible with voice search, so using language that fits how we speak and as much video as your resources can handle is the way to go on this one.
Adding pages and changing title or meta tags, on page content or your internal linking structure can also result in dips in your rankings. Be sure to make these changes only when necessary and to make them incrementally so you see less impact to your rankings. If you are releasing a new site, you’ll need to make these changes all at once, so just be prepared that you will see a drop for a while until you reaffirm your authority and reliability.
Lastly, if you have incorrectly used any of these technical elements in the backend of your website, you’ll need to fix them ASAP – Noindex tag, Robots.txt File and Nofollow Attribute.
Often webmasters ignore some important technical issues that can have a major impact on your existing rankings. Three of these issues are the incorrect usage of noindex tag, robots.txt file and nofollow attribute, so be sure to specifically ask about these.
A secure site that is difficult to hack and protects the integrity of any information your visitors share with you is critical to online success. Ensure that your website host, platform builder or web developer are managing your website security and that you feel sure the right things are happening in the background to protect your business and your customers.
When Google makes major changes to it’s algorithm, you can get hit with penalties without even knowing it. We recommend either setting Google alerts for change announcements, or working with a reputable SEO company that has a team on top of the changes well in advance so their clients are compliant and you can avoid any issues cropping up on you.
Lastly, you can get hit with a penalty through no fault of your own. If a competitor uses negative SEO against you, you can see dramatic drops in your rankings and the reason for it will not seem obvious.
Keep an eye on which competitors rank with you on your important keywords and if you notice a major drop in your own rankings, check to see who has replaced you. If it is a legitimate competitor who has been climbing for awhile, or is new to the market, but displays high quality content and authority, it’s simply a case of someone getting ahead of you. But if the new site seems to have popped up out of nowhere, uses misleading links or anything else that seems suspicious, you may want to dig a little further, and potentially report a concern to Google for review.
If you get hit with a Google penalty, either within the algorithm (your rankings drop sharply) or a manual action (direct notification from Google), you may want to consult an SEO company that you trust to diagnose and root out the issue for you. The same goes if you suspect you may be the target of negative SEO. It’s no different than hiring a plumber or electrician when things in your house are not working properly. Unless you have the knowledge to fix the issue, you could end up making it worse, or wasting your valuable time stumbling through something that would take an expert with the right tools a much shorter amount of time.