SEO clinics are always one of my favorite panels to speak on. Not just because I don’t have to write a powerpoint presentation, but because site clinics are a great way for site owners to get specific help with their current problems.
If you’re not familiar or have never been to an SEO Clinic — it’s basically a big Q&A where audience members get to ask the panelists for specific advice on their websites. Panelists review and give recommendations to site owners live in front of everyone.
Site clinics are great because attendees are able to go home with real to-do’s and advice from professionals on how to improve their site. The problem is, every time I’m on a site clinic I see the same problems over and over. It’s especially counter-productive when multiple sites in a row have the same problems in the same session!
Rather than sounding like a broken record, I’ve come up with a checklist of the most common problems seen in SEO clinics. So before you submit your site for review make sure you fix these 5 common mistakes!
While this is definitely the most difficult problem to pronounce, it’s an easy one to fix.
Domain canonicalization is a fancy way of saying that both http://www.yoursite.com and http://yoursite.com resolve. They shouldn’t. Redirect your favorite one to the other if you have this problem.
This is a pretty common problem especially among framework sites that rely on plugins, such as wordpress.
Lack of XML Sitemap
This seems to be the most common problem. If you have a website, an XML Sitemap is a must.
Don’t worry, they sound more complicated than they are! In fact there are many tools out there that will automate the entire process. (check out the tool I use)
XML sitemaps are used by search engines to discover pages on your website. You can also use them to tell search engines which pages on your site are more and less important. If you’re having trouble getting pages indexed in search, make sure you have an XML sitemap first.
Poorly Formatted Title Tags
Although it seems more and more sites are getting their title tag game together, you would be surprised how many people are still doing it wrong!
Title tags appear between the <title></title> elements in the header of your page. In a browser they are the text that appears at the top of the browser, or on the tabs depending on which browser you use.
What a lot of people don’t realize is, the title tag is also the clickable text that appears in organic search. Title tags are important for several reasons. First, they are a known ranking factor for organic search. Meaning: what you put in your title tags has an affect on where you rank for search terms. Also, because they are the clickable text in search they can affect your click through rates.
Rules of Thumb:
- Keep title tags under 70 characters, including spaces
- Don’t “stuff” or use too many keywords
- Include important keywords for the page at the beginning of your title tag
Lacking or Duplicate Description Tags
Description tags in my experience are hit and miss. It seems to me that most sites either don’t have any problems with their description tags, or they have every problem. Don’t be the latter.
Description tags, like title tags, also show up in search results. They are the snippet you see for a listing under the clickable text. When you don’t have description tags all together — search engines will create them for you, taking snippets of text from the page that they deem relevant. My philosophy is: I’d rather decide what potential visitors see about my site than let Google decide.
Another common mistake among description tags is for site owners to copy and paste the same text across multiple, sometimes even hundreds of pages. DON’T DO THIS! This is especially common among newly launched sites. While it may be easier to copy and paste descriptions for pages, it’s better to leave them blank.
Rules of Thumb:
- Keep description tags under 150 characters, including spaces
- Write unique tags for pages
- Support the keywords from title tags in description tags