The guidelines about what you should and shouldn’t do to improve search engine optimisation (SEO) change all the time. Search engines are constantly improving and tweaking their algorithms to improve results for users and to weed out websites that are insecure, malicious or which try to rank higher through unfair means. In this post, we’ll look at some of the key mistakes you should avoid when trying to improve your website’s SEO.
- Avoid dodgy links
While the top ranking factor for websites is content quality, search engine algorithms are not advanced enough to judge quality just by scanning the pages. Instead, they rely on backlinks, believing that people link to a site because its quality is good. Thus, the more backlinks you have from other quality sites, the higher search engines believe your quality to be.
The repercussions of this mean that getting backlinks has become a priority for many websites. The correct way to do this is to write useful content that people genuinely want to link to. However, some take a different approach, paying for or swapping backlinks and even setting up multiple websites of their own that all link to each other.
In the past, this approach seemed to pay dividends until the search engines caught wind of it. Now, it is firmly against the webmaster guidelines and, if you are suspected of doing it, your entire site could be penalised. In other words, it could disappear completely from Google and Bing and would be unlikely allowed back on. As a result, instead of increasing your organic traffic, you’ll end up with none.
- Do not link to bad sites
Just as it’s a mistake to receive links from low-quality sites that are irrelevant to the nature of your own, search engines also take a dim view when you link to these kinds of sites from your web pages.
When search engine bots scan your site, they can follow all the links that you have created. If these take users to websites that have low-quality content, or even worse, can infect their devices or steal their data, then it is not in the search engine’s best interests to promote your site to its users. As a result, your site will rank less well. So, make sure that when you do include links, they are to reputable websites that offer value to your readers.
- Not having an SSL certificate
Search engines want to send their users to websites that are safe places to visit, not somewhere where they may be scammed, have their data stolen or get a malware infection. For this reason, the security of your website is an essential SEO ranking factor.
SSL certificates do two important things. Firstly, they vet the domain owner’s credentials to make sure they are who they say they are. Some SSL certificates carry out much more detailed verification to authenticate not just the domain owner but their organisation as well. This way, the SSL certificate is seen as proof that your business and website are genuine and that your site is not malicious. Secondly, an SSL certificate encrypts data sent from a user’s browser to your website. This protects personal information and financial details from being stolen as it travels across the internet.
Having an SSL certificate, therefore, brings two important benefits: it provides your website with the secure padlock icon in the browser’s address bar, increasing user confidence, and it tells search engines that your site is secure, helping it rank higher. Today, over 80% of websites use SSL, and as they are now available for free from organisations like Let’s Encrypt, there really isn’t an excuse not to have one.
- Letting your website run slow
In the age of megabit broadband and 5G networks, users expect websites to load almost instantly regardless of the device or the connection. When it doesn’t, they will abandon the site, giving you high bounce rates. Search engines will also monitor your site’s loading times and, if too slow, they will downrank you. Over time, your website might naturally run slower. This can be due to increased traffic or because your growing website has begun sending out more data than your server can happily handle. While you can take measures to speed up your site, such as caching, image optimisation, script minification and using content delivery networks, it is also important to check out your hosting. If you are using a shared server, for example, you might not have enough server resources for your needs, or your site might be impacted by another website on the server that is very busy. Upgrading to a solution like VPS, which for little additional cost provides you with acres more storage and far more processing power, and which removes the prospect of being affected by other websites, is the obvious way to improve site speed and ensure your site doesn’t get downranked for being slow.
SEO is important if you want to help your site rank better in search engine results. Avoiding the mistakes made here can help prevent issues such as downranking and penalisation. However, as the goalposts are constantly changing, keeping up with SEO requires a long-term commitment. Thankfully, today, there are SEO tools, like marketgoo, that can help even those with limited SEO experience do the job to a professional standard and with less effort. For more information about marketgoo, visit our SEO Tools page.