Top SEO Issues – Why isn’t your website highly ranked in Google?

July 13th, 2017 by Cameron Collins

search-engine-optimisation-tips

In the digital marketing department of Contactpoint, I work with a diverse range of businesses and organisations to enable their website to rank higher for relevant Google searches. Those whose websites rank high on the first page of results reap the rewards of increased website traffic from their target market, an increase in sales or enquiry, and the ability to decrease spending in other areas of marketing such as paid advertising.

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), the practice of optimising a website for higher search engine rankings, takes time to learn and implement, and at times requires technical skills. Without any prior knowledge of SEO many business owners or marketing managers are under the impression that if they build a website and write a few pages of content, Google will automatically rank it on the first page of results and traffic will flow. In our experience, it’s rare for a website that hasn’t had optimization applied to achieve good ranks.

In the majority of searches, Google has to sort through thousands, sometimes millions of search results to select the best results for a visitors query. This is important for Google – if they frequently display unhelpful results, people would have no reason to use their search engine.

These are the two factors which all top-ranking websites are successful at doing:

  1. Providing a great user experience
  2. Making it easy for Google to interpret and understand the content on their website

I will now elaborate on 6 of the most common SEO issues which I frequently identify and rectify for clients, enabling them to reach the first page of search results.

1. Search Terms
Many businesses pursue SEO as they operate in a competitive industry, therefore having relevant search terms which allow you to stand a realistic chance of ranking highly in Google is crucial. For example, let’s pretend you are a builder. If we type ‘Builder’ into Google 331,000,000 search results are displayed:
selecting the best search terms for your search engine optimisation

‘Builder’ is a word that could apply to many situations, and is what we call a ‘broad term’ in SEO parlance. If we try something a little more specific, such as ‘Builder Melbourne’ 952,000 results are listed. We can search even more specifically and try ‘Extension Builder Melbourne’ we find that 536,000 results are displayed.

As much as possible, we look for search terms for our client’s websites in which less than 500,000 search results are displayed. Of course, that’s not always possible, but we have enabled many of our clients to push through the crowd and emerge on the first page of results by swapping broad search terms for something more specific.

Another consideration is the type of websites you are competing against. Do searches on the search terms you are targeting return many .gov or .edu websites? Google deems these websites to be highly trustworthy and authoritative in a specific category, so if your domain name ends in .com.au or .com, you will likely be better of pursuing different search terms.

2. H1 Headings
What is a H1 Heading? For most websites it is the first and largest heading on each page in their website. For example on the Contactpoint Search Engine Optimisation page, the heading is, of course, ‘Search Engine Optimisation (‘SEO’)':
using headings to support search engine optimisation
Google uses the H1 Heading as a key determinate of what your web page is about, therefore we recommend inserting 1-2 search terms inside this heading. Common mistakes we see regarding the use of H1 Headings in websites include:

  • No search terms
    This is especially common on the homepage of a business, with headings such as ‘Welcome to *insert business name here*’.
  • Multiple H1 Headings on the same page
    using headings for optimising for SEO
    This often arises as the website owner prefers the style of the H1 Heading and wants to use it throughout the page. The downside of this is that your headings lose their effectiveness.

3. Thin Content
Thin Content – that is, only a small amount of content, including little use of the target search terms and perhaps just in bullet point form – is a common and easy mistake to make when launching a new website or redesigning an existing one. Weeks, even months are spent focusing on achieving the right style and functionality, and the text is sometimes given a lower priority or left to the last minute.

Thin content can hurt your search engine rankings in two ways. Firstly, Google deems pages which are lacking text to provide a poor user experience, therefore they are unlikely to be ranked highly. Secondly, Google relies upon text to interpret the contents of your page, and therefore for which searches your page should be suggested. We find that clients who have approximately 500 words of relevant text, written in natural language, on each main page see significant improvements in their search engine ranks.

4. No Redirects & Broken Links
Allowing previously functioning hyperlinks to become detached from a live web page is another common mistake which can occur if a new website launch isn’t properly managed, or when changes to pages and products are made over time without considering what may have been linking to that page. What happens to those who stumble across your old page through Google, links from other websites and social media, or previous visitors who are returning? Instead of seeing the appropriate page, they will be presented with an error page, which is basically a dead end. Most people who stumble across an error page will simply return to Google and visit one of your competitors.

The correct practice is to add a 301 redirect which ensures that anyone who uses an old URL ends up on the replacement page, or whichever page you allocate as being the best alternative. This type of linking also passes on the ranking power of the old page to the new page and removes the impact on your standing with Google that can occur if you have many broken links.

Keeping track of all the dead end links which have been created over the years can be difficult – we help website owners to identify these links and redirect them to appropriate areas of your website.

We also recommend a custom error page, in the event that you miss implementing a re-direct on an obscure barely visited page. The custom error page will include a general message about your services pointing the visitor to the main navigation of your website, which will also be included. This way they are much more likely to keep browsing around to find what they were looking for rather than to return straight back to Google.

5. Demonstrate Authority & Trustworthiness
As part of Google’s commitment to displaying the best quality search results and providing a great experience for their users, Google seeks to display websites which can clearly demonstrate authority and trustworthiness in their chosen field.

One way that a website can demonstrate this is through high-quality backlinks. A backlink is when another website incorporates a link directing traffic to your website. Google judges a websites backlinks in a very similar way to how humans judge each other – if you associate with intelligent, honest, and trustworthy individuals, it is often assumed that you also possess these characteristics. If you associate with liars, criminals and other untrustworthy individuals, then it is often assumed that you also possess these traits.

We help clients to create a backlink strategy and gain recognition from the best sources in their area of expertise.

Trustworthiness can also be demonstrated through an SSL Certificate – meaning that all of the content of your website is transmitted encrypted between the web server and the person viewing or submitting information to your website. You may notice that some websites will have a padlock and the word ‘Secure’ displayed to the left of their URL. Google is starting to show preference for websites which serve all content over SSL (“secure socket layer”), and like many other ranking factors, we expect the importance this will increase over time.

We routinely arrange the purchase and implementation of SSL certificates into our client’s websites which are attached to the website domain. Generally SSL certificates are renewed on a yearly basis.

6. Duplicate Content
One of the most common SEO issues is duplicate content. ‘Duplicate content’ refers to the situation where the same content is available from multiple URL’s. Common instances of duplicate content include:

Faceted Navigation
This is particularly common in e-commerce websites where products are placed in categories to enable visitors to navigate a large product range with ease. For example a shirt may be found in the multiple categories such as:

  • men’s shirts
  • business shirts
  • on sale

Ideally, the product page of a particular shirt would have the same URL no matter what category it is located in. However, some websites fail to do this and will show the same product page under different URL’s such as:

  • www.fancyclothing.com.au/mens/mensshirts/red-shirt
  • www.fancyclothing.com.au/mens/businessshirts/red-shirt
  • www.fancyclothing.com.au/mens/onsale/red-shirt

The Same Text on Multiple Pages

You may want to ensure that whatever page your visitors enter your website from; they can always find out about the core product/services your business offers, or the key reasons why you’re the best at what you do. Even though the pages contain different URL’s this can still cause problems. For example, if you’re trying to rank for the term ‘business consulting’ but you have the same text describing business consulting on 10 pages, which page is Google supposed to display in their results?

www, no www, https / http

It’s not entirely necessary to enter the exact URL of a website for it to be displayed. For example the Contactpoint website can be accessed by typing different combinations such as:

  • https://www.contactpoint.com.au
  • http://www.contactpoint.com.au
  • www.contactpoint.com.au
  • contactpoint.com.au

You will notice that whichever URL is used, it will always direct to https://www.contactpoint.com.au. This has been implemented as our preferred URL, and it is easy for Google to identify.
We find that some websites do not direct to a preferred URL, simply retaining the URL which was entered. Website visitors won’t notice a difference, however Google sees this as four duplicate websites instead of one unique website.

When performing an SEO review, we search for any possible duplicate content issues which may be harming your search engine ranks, and implement solutions which improve the ranks without harming your visitor’s ability to navigate the website with ease.

By now you can probably gather that search engine ranks are influenced by a vast number of factors. By helping clients to overcome these factors and implement strategies to reach their target market, we create what is in many cases a business’ number one marketing channel. Contact us now for an obligation-free discussion about how we can assist your website to rank higher in Google searches.

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