What was the last thing you searched for online? When people have questions, they turn to search engines to find answers. In order for your website to make it onto the first page of the search results, you have to show that your product or service provides the answer they’re looking for.
Sounds simple, but ask any business owner and they will tell you: achieving this can be a challenge. The algorithms that search engines use to index your website are constantly changing. What got you to the top of the SERPS yesterday may not work today... and your website traffic may be suffering for it.
The internet is full of new websites and content daily, so search engines constantly have to find new ways to crawl and rank those pages.
So, how do you stay relevant when the ways that Google, Yahoo, and Bing index your site are in constant flux? By making sure you’re not making one of these ten mistakes- they can make you invisible to the readers you want to convert to customers.
Top 10 Reasons Your Website Traffic is Lagging
We can’t tell you what algorithm changes are coming tomorrow, but we can help you stay relevant today. Here are some of the biggest reasons you may be falling behind the competition on the SERPs.
#1: A Lack of High-Quality Content
If you’ve ever done a quick search for Search Engine Optimization (SEO) practices, you’ve probably run across the phrase “content is king” several times. It’s so important, that we’ll say it again here. Producing good content is one of the best ways to get your site in search engines’ good graces.
Read through your website or blog, and ask yourself these questions:
- Is my content entertaining?
- Is it easy to understand?
- Is each post relevant to the topic/keyword phrase I’m writing on?
You want to make sure you’re producing the best content you can on the topic the searcher is looking for. By producing high-quality content, you can make your website more appealing to readers. The more visitors you have, the more page views you earn, which improves the odds that people link back to your content. This makes your site look better in the eyes of search engines.
#2: You’re Not Using Canonical Tags
Duplicate content can really hurt your search result ranking. Google loves original content- original content means new information to show search engine users. Because of this, duplicate content looks like a desperate attempt to grab a higher ranking to Google’s algorithm.
Avoiding duplicate content is a priority. However, sometimes it’s unavoidable.
What do you do if you need to display information in several different ways?
Enter the canonical tag.
A canonical tag tells a search engine which pages to index and which to leave alone. That way, your duplicate content doesn’t hurt your ranking. Pick the page that you want to be indexed. Then, go to the duplicate pages and insert a canonical tag into the HTML that redirects Google and other search engines to the original page, not the duplicate.
#3: You Don’t Use Internal Linking
Internal links are links that lead to other pages of your website. You can use these links to emphasize the importance of those pages to search engines, thus bettering the chances that the linked-to pages will appear in search results.
Search engines use crawlers to navigate your website. These crawlers use the links you put on your site to find your content and evaluate how important it is.
If all of the pages on your website link to one other page (like your homepage), the crawlers will conclude that that one page must be very important to you. That impacts the page’s ranking.
Link relevant blog posts together, link back to important pages such as your homepage or product page. Just make sure that all of your links are designed to make your website easier to navigate and more appealing- if your site is too link-heavy it may have the opposite impact and seem like spam to search engines.
#4: No One Else Links To Your Content
Search engine crawlers don’t only rely solely on internal links to rank your website. Inbound links, or links from other websites, also have a big impact on whether or not you show up in search results.
Search engines assume that if a bunch of other websites link back to one of your pages, that page must be a good source of information.
When you’re looking to get more inbound links, make sure you do it the honest way. Google is always watching for spam, and if sites that seem spammy link to yours, it can hurt your ranking. This means that buying links, excessive guest blogging, and other outdated or shady practices will hurt your search engine ranking in the long run.
There are two steps you can follow to rustle up quality inbound links:
- Make sure you’re producing excellent content. By writing great content, you’re producing the kind of accurate, engaging information that people want to refer their readers to.
- Promote that content well. You can do this via social media channels, email newsletters, and influencer marketing. If people know about your great content, so that they can find it, read it, and link others to it.
#5: Your Website Design Isn’t Responsive
Over half of all digital media is consumed on smartphones and tablets. It’s vital that your site looks just as good on a smartphone as it does on a desktop.
A young woman comes back from a hike with blisters on her feet and decides she needs a good pair of boots. You sell hiking boots, and she finds your website when she searches for “comfortable women's hiking boots”.
When she clicks a link to your site, she finds out that the font is too small for her phone. The links are too close together for her to view. Perhaps a pop-up ad blocks her view. She hits the back arrow, opens up your competitor's site, and in just a few clicks buys her boots from them.
Optimizing your site for mobile users can land you more customers. To do this, you’ll want a responsive website design. By a responsive design, we mean a site that’s programmed to conform to the screen it’s displayed on. This type of design uses CSS coding to tell your site how it should appear on different devices. This helps you avoid needing to use different URLs or separate HTML depending on the device the reader is using.
If you’re not sure whether or not sure how your site looks on a mobile device, both Google and Bing have tools that will tell you whether or not you have a solid, responsive website design that shows up well on mobile.
#6: You’re Keyword Stuffing
In the days of yore, the more time you used a certain keyword in a post or on a page, the higher it ranked. After all, an article using the term “boat insurance” five times must be more relevant than one that uses it just once, right? Well, that’s simply not true anymore.
Keyword stuffing is the process of over-inserting a key phrase into an article deliberately to make it look better to search engines. Search engines have caught on to this practice, and now using it runs the risk of making your site look like spam to their algorithms.
In order to avoid keyword stuffing, use your terms strategically.
Inserting the right keyword in a few key places, like the header and title, is much more effective than using that term ten times in the body of the text.
Of course, you want key terms and tags to show up in your article, but make sure they do so naturally. It’s all about balance.
#7: You Aren’t Using Specific Alt Tags
When someone searches for a particular term, content isn’t the only thing a search engine will offer them. If the search engine has indexed any images it thinks are relevant to the term, it will provide those on the results page as well.
Say you’re an artist or an architect. If someone googles a statue you created, or a bridge you built, Google won’t just bring up a link to your website- it may very well bring up images of the work as well.
This opens up the possibility of capturing readers attention visually. But Google’s crawlers don’t view images, only text. This is where the alt tag comes into play. An alt tag describes the images for search engine crawlers.
An alt tag is inserted into your page’s HTML after the image source, and should appear like so: alt= “Description of Image Here”.
Your alt tags should give the crawlers an accurate idea of what the image features, so it comes up for relevant search results. For example, don’t just write “statue” to describe your image. Describe the statue: it’s subject matter, material, and where it’s located.
Neil Patel offers a wonderful tutorial on how to code an alt tag. And remember, when you’re writing your alt tags, more is more. Fully describe what is happening in the image, and your ranking will be rewarded for it.
#8: Slow Site Speeds
Keeping your website up to speed is one of 2016’s best SEO practices.
If you want more website traffic, your site needs to load fast. How fast? If your site doesn’t load in about 2 seconds, you’ll lose people.
Think of it this way:
Why would a user wait 5 seconds for your blog post to load, when they could go back to the search results and pull open a new post on the same subject in half the time?
So, what’s slowing your website down?
- Too many ads
- Needlessly long pages
- A large archive of old, outdated blog posts
- Too many redirects
Check out Google’s PageSpeed Insights to make sure your site is up to snuff.
#9: You Don’t Have a Sitemap
You want a search engine’s crawlers to have easy access to every page on your site so that all of your content is indexed and available. The best way to do this is to create a sitemap.
A sitemap is a list of URLs for your website. You can additional information to this map, such as the priority of the pages associated with the URL and when they were last modified. You can use one of many different formats to do this, such as RSS or XML.
Don’t forget to submit your sitemap to Google for the bots to crawl, and resubmit if you make any big changes to your site. And don’t forget the other guys; submit your sitemap to Bing and Yahoo as well. Keep in mind that different search engines may have different submission guidelines.
Once your sitemap is created, you’ll want to revisit it every once and a while to make sure it’s still up-to-date and that all the links are working.
#10: You’re Trying Too Hard
Search engines are getting wise to little tactics used to try to manipulate the system. As we mentioned above, buying links, stuffing posts with key terms, and other shortcuts are all becoming less and less effective.
The best way to make sure your site ranks well with search engines is to create the type of website that readers will love. Create good content, then make sure search engines can find and navigate your website.
Impress your readers and the rest will follow.
You put a lot of work into creating your website. You chose a design you loved, created page content, and blog posts. After all of that, it can be frustrating to check your analytics and discover that you don’t have any viewers.
By making sure you aren’t making these ten mistakes, you can help your site show up in search results, increase your website traffic, and attract new readers. Remember, search engines have the same reasons to want to display your website that you do: to connect viewers with quality content and great products.