Search engine optimisation, or SEO, can be a minefield when you run a small business. There’s so much information out there; it can be hard to know where to begin!

Many people think SEO is all about keyword research and ranking for the right words and phrases. While this is a big part of the process, there are several other factors you need to consider too.

We’ve put together five of the most common mistakes when it comes to SEO. By understanding these issues, you’ll be one step closer to ranking at the top of the search engines.

1. A screechingly slow website

Have you ever been on a website that has taken so long to load, you’ve given up and left? You’re not alone. According to Unbounce, 70% of people acknowledge that page speed affects their willingness to buy from an online retailer.

Page speed is a direct ranking factor for SEO, meaning the slower your page, the less likely you are to rank highly in the search engine results.

Google also uses page speed as part of its Core Web Vitals report, which is what the search engine uses to determine the user experience your website provides.

What is the optimal page speed? We recommend that your page takes less than two seconds to load – the faster, the better! You can see how long it takes for your web pages to load using Page Speed Insights.

If your pages aren’t loading as quickly as you like, there are some simple fixes you can make. Optimising your images, eliminating any WordPress extensions you’re no longer using, and removing unnecessary redirects can help. If your website gets a lot of traffic or traffic from other countries, using a content delivery network can reduce the time it takes to load a webpage.

2. No (or the wrong) metadata

Metadata is information that tells the search engines what your web page is about and is what appears when the page is displayed in Google and Bing. While metadata like your page title and description don’t directly affect the SEO of your website, it can encourage people to visit your site from the search results.

If you don’t have metadata in place for your page, search engines will use their own. Saves you a job, right? Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee that the search engines will create a page title or description that accurately represents your page or entices people to click.

Low-quality metadata can be just as bad as no metadata at all. One of the most common mistakes we see is when people use the same title and description for different pages on their site. And, of course, if the search engines think your metadata is not appropriate, they will use their own.

When writing a page title and description, use any relevant keywords, include a call to action, and make sure the copy matches the content on your page. If there is a mismatch, it can result in a high bounce rate.

It’s also essential to keep your metadata short so it doesn’t get cut off in the search engine results. This SERP simulator tool is handy for seeing how your metadata will look.

3. Blocking search engines

We once worked with a customer who had fine-tuned and perfected their SEO, but their website wasn’t ranking in Google at all.

After a bit of investigation, we identified the culprit. Their entire website was marked as ‘noindex’, meaning the search engines couldn’t crawl it and include it in the results.

‘Noindexing’ a page on a website can be useful, for example, for checkout pages or alternative versions of pages you’re using for A/B testing. However, it can be easy to accidentally block search engines from accessing your site.

You can check that your pages are indexed on Google by using Google Search Console – go to the URL inspection section, enter your page URL of choice, and Google will tell you if your page is ranking in the search engines. If your page isn’t indexing, you can change this either in your content management system or by amending and reuploading your robots.txt file.

4. Ignoring internal links

An internal link on your website is one that takes a visitor to another page on your website. These links don’t just encourage people to stay on your site longer; they’re fantastic for SEO.

Internal links help search engines index and understand all the pages on your website. Think of them like signposts, guiding the search engines towards sections of your website they might not have otherwise identified.

Internal linking can also help you build what is known as ‘link equity’. If you have a page that is performing well in the search engines, the pages you link from it will get a boost in the rankings too.

There are a few other things to consider when adding internal links to a page. Make sure the links are relevant, use descriptive and contextual anchor text, and ensure your links are well-spaced out. Links that are bundled up close together can be hard to click on if you’re using a mobile phone!

5. Thinking SEO is a one-time process

You’ve fixed your website speed, tweaked your metadata, added lots of relevant internal links, and you’re now ranking in that coveted number-one spot. What next?

Even if you get on the first page of Google, you need to keep working on your SEO.

The search engine algorithm might change, you might remove old content from your website, or a competitor might up their search engine optimisation efforts. These factors may all mean you lose your footing and fall down the rankings.

SEO is a long-term strategy, and it’s essential to regularly review your website, your keywords, and your processes.

Conclusion

So there you have it, five SEO mistakes to avoid. By taking the time to review your pages, you can take significant steps to improve your search engine rankings, grow organic traffic, and increase the number of conversions you receive!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are common misconceptions about SEO?

Many people think SEO is all about keyword research and ranking for the right words and phrases. While this is a big part of the process, there are several other factors you need to consider too.

How does page speed impact SEO and user experience?

Page speed is a direct ranking factor for SEO, meaning the slower your page, the less likely you are to rank highly in the search engine results. Google also uses page speed as part of its Core Web Vitals report, which is what the search engine uses to determine the user experience your website provides. According to Unbounce, 70% of people acknowledge that page speed affects their willingness to buy from an online retailer.

What is metadata and how does it affect SEO?

Metadata is information that tells the search engines what your web page is about and is what appears when the page is displayed in Google and Bing. While metadata like your page title and description don’t directly affect the SEO of your website, it can encourage people to visit your site from the search results. Low-quality metadata can be just as bad as no metadata at all, and if the search engines think your metadata is not appropriate, they will use their own.

What is the significance of internal links for SEO?

An internal link on your website is one that takes a visitor to another page on your website. These links don’t just encourage people to stay on your site longer; they’re fantastic for SEO. Internal links help search engines index and understand all the pages on your website. They can also help you build what is known as ‘link equity’, and if you have a page that is performing well, the pages you link from it will get a boost in the rankings too.

Can I stop working on SEO once I achieve a top ranking?

Even if you get on the first page of Google, you need to keep working on your SEO. The search engine algorithm might change, you might remove old content from your website, or a competitor might up their search engine optimisation efforts. These factors may all mean you lose your footing and fall down the rankings. SEO is a long-term strategy, and it’s essential to regularly review your website, your keywords, and your processes.

How can I ensure my website is not blocked from search engines?

You can check that your pages are indexed on Google by using Google Search Console – go to the URL inspection section, enter your page URL of choice, and Google will tell you if your page is ranking in the search engines. If your page isn’t indexing, you can change this either in your content management system or by amending and reuploading your robots.txt file.

What are some quick fixes to improve my website's loading speed?

If your pages aren’t loading as quickly as you like, some simple fixes include optimising your images, eliminating any WordPress extensions you’re no longer using, removing unnecessary redirects, and using a content delivery network if your website gets a lot of traffic or traffic from other countries.