Common SEO Problems
By Haley Kuehl
There are many factors that can impact your visibility in search engines, from the technical setup of your website to the ways other people reference your brand online. But while search engine optimization (SEO) can be complicated, some issues are easier to deal with than others – and sometimes small fixes can make the biggest difference.
Here are a few common problems we see when helping clients with their SEO – plus some tips on getting your site in good shape for Google.
1. Ignoring title tags and meta descriptions
Take a look at the top of your browser window and the text that shows up in the browser tab. It should say “Common SEO Problems.” That’s the title tag I chose for this blog post.
Title tags are an important place to put keywords, which is the number one reason you shouldn’t ignore them. Google and other search engines will look at the title tag for clues as to what your page is about. Figure out what you want your page to rank for and put that keyword at the beginning of your title tag. Just make sure it fits the content on your page – and that it’s not the same as another page on your site!
Another reason not to ignore title tags is that they, along with meta descriptions, play a crucial role in how your pages show up on search engine results pages (SERPs). Here’s an example of what you’ll see when you search for Willow Marketing:
By adjusting your title tags and meta descriptions, you can make your search result more appealing and increase the number of people who click through to your page.
Insider tips: Title tags should be 50-60 characters, while meta descriptions can be 160 characters or less. By default, many website platforms turn the page title into the title tag. This isn’t always a bad idea, but often your page or post titles are designed to grab a reader’s attention and aren’t focused on keywords. If your platform won’t let you specify a title tag and meta description, there’s most likely a plugin you can download to make it easy (like the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress).
2. Hiding text in images
Images are crucial in building engaging content. However, it’s important to remember that Google – or, to be more precise, the Google Bot that crawls the web – cannot see the content of your images. (They’re completely missing out on all the internet’s cat gifs!)
For that reason, it’s best to avoid putting a lot of text in an image, especially if it includes relevant keywords. Instead of putting text in an image, use HTML to put text over an image background to create the same visual effect. This way, you’re taking advantage of the content you have and not missing out on opportunities to provide Google with more insight into the context of your page. Google loves quality content – don’t hide yours!
Insider tips: There are other ways to make sure your images help your SEO. When naming your jpg or png files, make sure the file names describe the image. While Google can’t see the content of your image, it can see file names, so “funny-cat-eating-pizza.jpg” is going to provide more context than “image382.jpg.” You can also include descriptive image alt text for each image, which will not only display if a browser error causes your images not to load, but will also help visually-impaired users looking at your pages with a screen reader. Most website platforms include easy ways to set alternative text for images.
3. Using 302 redirects – or not using redirects at all
Often when our clients redesign their sites or launch new content, they find they no longer need old pages or URLs. In these situations, it’s important to redirect old pages to the appropriate new page using a 301 “permanent” redirect – not a 302 “temporary” redirect. Both types of redirect will send a visitor to the new page instead of the old, but 301 redirects also transfer most of the SEO value of the old page to the new page. 302 redirects do not transfer any SEO value, meaning you have to start from scratch in building up your search engine rankings and visits for that piece of content.
Not setting up redirects at all means you could be missing out on visitors who click on links to the old page – plus any SEO value you had for that older page disappears.
Insider tips: There are several WordPress plugins that make setting up redirects easy, including Simple 301 Redirects and Redirection. Other platforms have this functionality built in. If you’re deleting an old page and do not have an appropriate page to redirect it to, you can always redirect it to the homepage.
Integrating these SEO strategies into your process when you create new website content can help you ensure your content is working for you, not hindering your search visibility – and adding some simple steps now keeps SEO problems from turning into larger issues down the road.
If you’re worried about SEO for your site or want to better understand how you can increase search engine traffic, get in touch! We’re happy to help.