Why Is Your SEO Falling Flat?

Ever feel like your SEO efforts aren’t making a difference? As you’ve probably already discovered, search engine optimization is an incredibly detail-oriented process. You may feel like you’re doing everything right: implementing carefully chosen long-tail and short-tail keywords, ensuring you have an adequate amount of backlinks, double-checking your metadata, etc. 

So what’s not clicking? 

There could be some things you’re doing that you don’t even realize are teetering on the line of possible black hat SEO tactics. Or maybe you don’t realize there are some errors that are affecting the user experience. 

Optimize your time as well as your SEO by steering clear of the four most prevalent SEO problems websites face on a daily basis: keyword stuffing, duplicate content, 404 Errors, and bad backlinks.

Keyword Stuffing

After performing keyword research, you’ll find keywords related to your page’s topic that will let users and search engines know what the content is about. It’s helpful to sprinkle your target keywords and related search terms throughout a piece of content because it proves relevancy and can increase your rank on search engine results pages (SERPs). 

While adding keywords to a page is generally a best practice, overdoing it quickly becomes a black hat SEO technique. Black hat SEO refers to tactics that are seen as unethical and don’t comply with Google’s guidelines. 

A very common black hat tactic is keyword stuffing or adding the keyword so many times that it begins to feel unnatural. So you may think you’re doing yourself a favor and making your page hyper-relevant, but you could actually be hurting your chances of ranking well. If your SEO isn’t working like you expected it to, take another look at your pages and make sure you haven’t been keyword stuffing. 

Meta descriptions (or general page synopses located below the title tag) are an SEO variable that is constantly victimized by keyword stuffing. For Google, best practices suggest keeping meta descriptions between 145 and 155 characters and placing keywords towards the beginning of the text. This way search engines won’t cut your meta descriptions short and your keywords will be front and center allowing search engines to focus on your presented content.

As far as the body of the content goes, we recommend using a keyword density checker to make sure the keyword hasn’t been stuffed. The keyword density refers to how much a word has been placed within the content, so it will alert you if you need to add or remove some. Also try reading it out loud and asking yourself if it sounds natural. If you’re saying the word too many times, you’ll be able to notice the keyword has been stuffed. 

Duplicate Content

You’ve heard it time and time again: search engines reward great content! Producing high-quality content is one of the most important things you can to drive traffic to your site and establish yourself as a voice in your industry.

Duplicate content refers to using the exact same content multiple times throughout a website. For example, if your website sells two similar chairs and you use the same product description for both chairs, you have duplicate content on your website.

Falling into the trap of duplicate content is easy when you focus on providing text for hundreds or even thousands of pages; however, it can hurt the health of your site. Search engine crawlers may overlook one-of-a-kind content because they are overwhelmed sifting through duplicate data. Furthermore, a search engine may recognize the duplicate content as the primary page. Search engines may determine duplicate content as original content, confusing the engine and dropping your site in SEO rankings. If you’re producing quality original content, you want it to be recognized as such!

The problem stems from the way search engines consider content. Search engines view every URL entered as a separate entity. If two of your pages contain the same content, you may view them as the same page, but the search engine will discern them as two separate, distinct pages. This becomes an issue because you start to have multiple pages that are competing against each other in search engine rankings instead of working together. 

The solution? Start using canonical tags and change the content. If you have duplicate content the canonical tag lets the search engine know the duplicate page is a copy of the primary, original page. Changing the content will diversify your pages and eliminate the problem of having duplicate content, so striving to have different information on each page of your site will stop you from failing in the SERPs.  

404 Error

A 404 Error is an error that you will receive if the page you’re trying to access has been deleted or moved without a redirect. 

Apart from being tiresome, a 404 error detracts from prime SEO. Search engines crawl website pages, figuring out how to classify and systemize your content. If your website leads the search engine to a 404 error, it essentially stops the search engine from doing its job. This can be punishable in search engines like Google, who will push your site further into the abyss of lowly ranked pages.

Additionally, it negatively impacts the user experience. When a user clicks on your website hoping for an answer to their query, a 404 error stops them in their tracks. This will most likely result in them immediately clicking away from the page, increasing your bounce rate. The bounce rate is the rate at which someone goes to your site and then leaves it without spending any time there. Search engines like Google take into account the amount of time people spend on a page so if they’re clicking away without navigating through your site, they’ll assume your page isn’t relevant to the search. 

The solution? Regularly audit your site with systems like www.moz.com and keep an eye out for those pesky 404 errors. Once you’ve identified which pages are broken links, review all possible issues from incorrect URLs to outdated pages. Then, forward the old URL to the new pages using a 301 (permanent) redirect. This will make it so that users trying to access those pages will be led to the right place. 

Keeping your website functioning well without any annoying 404 errors should be a high priority for you as a host as well as a user.

Bad Backlinks

Backlinks, or links one website gets from another, is a variable in SEO ranking. While the actual value it earns from search engine rankings is unknown, Backlinks lend validity and trustworthiness to your site and increase rankings accordingly. When another site links to yours, it’s letting search engines know that you are a reputable source and you’ll be rewarded for it!

For example, if a well-known art gallery’s website backlinks to a local artist’s website, the artist’s site may increase in SEO rankings. Because the artist’s website is now endorsed by a site of value (the well-known art gallery), it, in turn, places value on the artist’s site.

This kind of endorsement can be beneficial for both websites and becomes a sought after association to appreciate your site in the eyes of search engines. It’s normal for site developers or owners to chase after as many backlinks as possible, putting their energy towards a quantifiable end game as opposed to a qualitative goal.

But what if your website has backlinks that are irrelevant or do not promote the validity of your own website? What if your site is linked to a low-quality site or worse, a site that’s been penalized by a search engine? Essentially, how do you recognize bad backlinks?

It’s not hard to analyze a site and decide if a backlink is valuable to you or not. If the site is illogical with irrelevant and incomprehensible posts, chances are it’s a bad backlink. These kinds of sites are created simply to link websites together, without any other offered value, ultimately being realized as insignificant by the search engine. Furthermore, if the site is using specific, calculated keywords as anchor text, (or the link within site content), chances are it is not legitimate.

We recommend utilizing SEMrush’s Backlink Audit tool to analyze your site’s backlinks and determine which ones are beneficial and which ones are harmful. It will help you determine if a backlink is trustworthy or toxic, and once you’ve identified the potentially toxic links, you can get in touch with the owners of the site and ask them to remove the backlink. 

As a last resort option, you can also disavow toxic links. This means to contact the search engine directly as ask them to take it down, instead of contacting the owner of the link. 

From Google’s own website they state that: 

“You should disavow backlinks only if:

  • You believe you have a considerable number of spammy, artificial, or low-quality links pointing to your site, and
  • The links have caused a manual action, or likely will cause a manual action, on your site.” 

You should be very careful in deciding which links to disavow because if you remove too many at once, it can negatively impact your SEO. 

Improving Your SEO

Hopefully this blog gave you a little insight as to why your SEO efforts may not be working the way you had hoped. Addressing these issues can save you time in the long run and improve your rankings. To learn more about best practices, check out our free downloadable SEO Guidebook for information on how to outrank your competitors and give your users the best experience possible.