Google is very secretive about the core algorithms that power its search engine. That doesn’t mean it’s all guess work when it comes to figuring out best practices for having your site rank properly in Google. Google wants good search results too, so they will tell you directly some of the do’s and don’ts. Here’s a list of the 8 we think are the most important.
Mistake #1: Using images to link to pages on your website. Search engines can’t read images; they can only read text. If Google can’t see the text of a link, the link may not be read properly. Any pages that are linked to exclusively by images (for example in your nav) are not only taking an SEO hit, but they may not get indexed at all. Google recommends that you have at least 1 text link to every page on your website.
Mistake #2: Not letting Google know which page you want to be your homepage. If you know the web address of a site you want visit, you can either type www.thewebsite.com or just thewebsite.com. Either address will take you to the same website. Google doesn’t like this type of ambiguity. They want you to tell them which web address you prefer (www, or no www). If you don’t tell them, then you may be splitting the SEO authority of your website, which will drop your rankings in Google. The solution is to choose which address you prefer (it doesn’t matter if it is the www or the non-www) and tell Google by setting up a 301 redirect. This is something our small business marketing experts can help you with if you need assistance.
Mistake #3: Having a site that takes too long to load. Google wants a good experience for their users and sites that take too long to load hurt that experience. The biggest impact of slow load times is that your visitors may leave before the site loads, but it is also possible that Google will penalize your search results as well. You can test your site, get a score, and get suggestions on exactly how to improve the speed of your site by visiting Google here: https://developers.google.com/speed/pagespeed/insights/.
Mistake #4: Using link building schemes that add little or no value to the world. In general, having links to your site will improve your rankings in Google search results. The problem is that many people try to game the system by building links using dubious techniques. Buying links, or trading links with sites that are considered web spammers is not a recommended technique. Just by linking to sites that are considered web spammers by Google could get your site lowered in search rankings. If there is a legitimate use case for why you should link to someone or why they should link to you, get the link in place. If you are building link relationships that really add no value to the world, stop.
Mistake #5: Hiding links. A very long time ago, one could increase their ranking in search engines by stuffing a bunch of links that were the same color as the background on a page (thereby hiding the links from users, but showing the links to search engines). This doesn’t add value and it hasn’t worked in years, so don’t do it.
Mistake #6: Putting keywords in places where they don’t belong. It is important to include keywords on pages where they belong. Google will penalize you if you put a bunch of keywords on a page that have nothing to do with the rest of the page.
Mistake #7: Duplicating content. Taking the same content and putting it in multiple locations (whether that is all on your own site or spread across multiple sites) is not something that Google likes. A little duplication is OK, but a lot is not. Google’s official line on the matter is to avoid “substantially duplicate” content.
Mistake #8: Not submitting a sitemap to Google. As good as search engines are at finding all of the pages on your website, they aren’t perfect. If you submit a sitemap to Google, you can improve Google’s ability to find all of the pages on your site. For more information on how to submit a sitemap, take a look at Google’s sitemap resources.
Overall, try to keep a mindset of helping Google to display relevant quality content to its users when you are working on your website. Once you have corrected any mistakes that you may have been making, you can submit your site directly to Google to increase the speed at which they will find all of your content. If you want to dig into more details of Google’s guidelines for website creation, you can read their official stance here.
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