That is a great question and is probably the most common question that I get asked by friends, family and clients. First off, search engine optimization isn’t brain surgery or quantum mechanics, it’s hundreds of little details that align to make a bigger picture. Many people spend tons of time and money into building a beautiful website that is responsive and useful to visitors but then quit fine tuning the details.
Here are some common On-Page SEO Mistakes to avoid
1. Not Having Unique Title Tags
Your title tag is the title of the page that shows up in the search results pages as well at the top of your browser. If your website has the same title for every single page, you’re missing out on some valuable SEO real estate. The title tag should explain to the visitor what the page will be about. And your title tag should have your keyword phrase in it. (If your webpage was a filing cabinet, your title tag would be on the outside explaining what’s on the inside.)
2. Having Title Tags that are too long…
On the search engine results page, there is a limit to how long your title should be. If you have ever seen how Google truncates or cuts off titles that are too long with a simple “…” Many people say to keep it below 70 characters but search engines use pixel width to determine when to cut off words. If your title tag is too long, its useless since the visitor won’t even be able to see it. Best practice is to try to keep your title tag to about 65 characters so it won’t get cut off.
3. Not Having Unique Meta Descriptions
Far too often I see clients websites that use the exact same meta description for every single page. The meta description is not a ranking factor but rather a quick sentence or two about what information the visitor will find on a page. You might look at it as a quick sales pitch to get visitors to click on your site. The meta description should be written in readable form with your keywords as close to beginning as possible.
4. Having Meta Descriptions that are too long
Just as the length of you title tag is important, the length of your meta description is also important. Try to keep your meta description to about 156 characters to keep it from getting cut off. Many websites that I work on have meta descriptions that are longer than the page content. It does no good since the visitor will never see the part that gets cut off.
5. Not having H1 tags or having too many H1 tags
Your h1 tag is your page header tag that helps define what your page is about. A page without an h1 tag is just like a filing cabinet without files in it. A properly written h1 tag is one of the most important page elements to help with search optimization. The h1 tells the visitor and search engines what the page is about. It should support and be relevant to your title tag without saying the exact same thing. (If your webpage was a filing cabinet, your h1 tag would be the green dividing folder that helps you find what you’re looking for.)
6. Not using h2-h6 header tags
Why should I use h2 tags? Well, h2 tags not only help break up your page content to help a visitor skim your page to find the information they need, it also helps search engines define what your page is about. Best practice is to use no more than six, h2 tags per page. (If your webpage was a filing cabinet, your h2-h6 tags would be the manila folders that help you find what you’re looking for.)
7. Having links to pages that don’t exist (404 errors)
When we run our free SEO audit for clients, we crawl each page looking for broken links and 404 errors (page not found) When a search engine spider crawls your site, hitting these dead ends causes them to turn around. Having too many 404 errors sends a signal that this site may not give visitors a good experience. Why would these errors even exist? Well, usually it’s because there is a link that points to a page that has been moved or deleted. Fixing the links to point at the proper (or new) page is the first step. Then taking the URL that no longer exists and 301 redirecting it to the proper page is ultimately what needs to be done.
8. Having poor content on your site
You’ve spent time and money building your site, making it user friendly and optimized for search engines then put up poor content that doesn’t give the visitor anything valuable. It would be like opening a filing cabinet, finding the right folder you were looking for and there isn’t much inside. Great content provides the visitor with a better experience.
9. Not having a XML sitemap
Of course, search engines can crawl your site link by link without the need for a sitemap, but having an XML sitemap makes it much easier for them. Creating and submitting an XML sitemap for search engines helps them easily discover every page of your site. There are plenty of programs to help you do this but here is an easy free XML sitemap generator to use. www.xml-sitemaps.com
10. Not having social sharing buttons
Your site is awesome and people want to tell others about it but not having social sharing buttons makes sharing your site more difficult. Adding social sharing buttons allows people to spread the word about your awesome site.
While there are quite a bit of other details that go into a perfectly optimized page, fixing these 10 common on-page mistakes will certainly give you a head start.