Of the billions of searches that occur on any given day, Google accounts for about 15% of them. In 2019 alone, Google handled about 2.4 trillion searches. On a global level, Google accounts for 76% of desktop and 86% of mobile search traffic, respectively.
With such a dominant presence in search, you can see why it’s so important to rank well on Google. That means you need to be familiar with Google ranking factors if you want to get the desired results.
Unfortunately, some folks are still dabbling in SEO tactics that aren’t Google-Friendly. In this article, we’ll discuss 9 common practices websites owners use that can negatively impact their Google rankings:
1. Keyword Stuffing
According to BigCommerce, there’s a common myth that keyword density is the major determinant of a webpage’s search ranking on Google. But keywords are only part of the ranking equation—rankings are also concerned with the quality of information.
If you’re one of the website owners/operators who persists in the use of excessive keywords, you need to be aware of the perils this practice presents:
- Being bumped down in Google’s search rankings, resulting in fewer potential customers being able to find your business.
- Increasing the bounce rate for your business’ website because users see that your page is simply spamming keywords, not providing engaging, informative and readable content.
- Damaging your business’ credibility by making your website appear to be little better than another email spammer in the Internet food chain.
“Keyword stuffing is a strategy that shouldn’t be used by any modern business looking to improve their search ranking,” says BigCommerce. “Rather, businesses should focus on using keywords in a smarter, more focused way that helps them craft engaging content that will inspire readers and customers.”
2. Duplicate or Irrelevant Content
When people search on Google, they don’t want to see the same exact information, times ten. They want different opinions, details, and comparisons to help them make informed decisions.
That being said, the issue of duplicate content affects millions of websites, as well as about 30% of the entire internet!
As Cognitive SEO points out:
“Google wants to avoid SPAM and useless overload of its index and servers. It wants to serve its users the best content.”
So how does Google define duplicate content? Search Engine Land share’s Google’s own words:
“Duplicate content generally refers to substantive blocks of content within or across domains that either completely match other content or are appreciably similar. Mostly, this is not deceptive in origin.”
While duplicate content will not cause your website to be penalized, it can affect your rankings because Google knows that users want diversity in the search results, so they choose to filter and show only one version. In other words, this filtering can result in a less desirable version of your page being shown in search results.
A good rule of thumb is to create content with your readers in mind. If it’s unique, informative, and relevant it will, by default, offer value to readers…and that’s something Google will recognize and reward you for.
3. Poor Website Speed
Website speed is an important factor in determining Google ranking because it’s an indicator of quality user experience. A fast site speed will result in longer dwell times, lower bounce rates, and better conversions.
According to Power Digital Marketing, you should aim for a three to four second load time (this may vary slightly based on the type of site and industry). But once you exceed that load time, you’ll start to notice lower rankings, along with a poorer user experience.
Check your website for unclean code, unoptimized images, unnecessary redirects, over use of flash content, too many ads, etc. to ensure that your website speed isn’t harming iyour Google rankings.
4. Broken Links
While a broken link may not seem like a big deal on the surface, 123 Reg points out that, “It can do some serious damage to your website, your reputation and your business.” The company goes on to say that broken links can also harm your search engine rankings and your website’s user experience, resulting in lost customers and revenue.
If your website is riddled with broken links that prevent users from accessing the information they need or from completing a task, they’ll very likely move on to a site that actually works.
“By spending less time on your site, search engine algorithms will assume it’s because you aren’t providing visitors with high-quality content or information that’s relevant to their search. This, of course, results in lower rankings.”
~ 123 Reg
Fortunately, there are lots of tools you can use to find broken links—many of which are free. Whichever tool you decide to use, make sure you’re regularly monitoring your website for these errors and try to fix them as soon as possible.
5. Ignoring Google webmaster tools
Google Webmaster Tools is an important component of any marketer’s SEO strategy because of its broad applications.
Also known as Google Search Console, GWT is a suite of free web utilities that help website owners maintain a Google-friendly site.
From providing data about incoming search traffic to crawling and indexing your website, etc., there are plenty of invaluable tools here to help nudge your website into a better ranking position.
6. Paid Links and/or Spammy Back Links
“Any link that is created or purchased with the intention of manipulating the PageRank that directly impacts a site’s ranking in the search results is referred to as a low-quality link,” says SEMrush.
Examples of low-quality links include:
- links from low-quality web directories
- low-quality article directories
- questionable guest posts
- spam comments
- links to your site created by automated programs or services
- unnatural links (not editorially placed or vouched for by the site’s owner on a page)
If you need more information on unnatural links, check out Google’s list of link schemes here.
7. Not Mobile or Voice Search Friendly
If your website is not mobile-friendly, it could be pushed down in the rankings. That’s because Google always wants to improve the user experience and a responsive website is the first step in improving it.
“Mobile site and voice search go hand in hand,” says SEMrush. “If you still don’t have a mobile-friendly responsive website, then chances are your website will continue to lose its current rankings in the search results.”
Google can help you determine the mobile-friendliness of your website with the mobile-friendly test. It will then automatically suggest the changes you need to make on your website to ensure that it’s optimized for mobile, so users can appropriately access and view your site irrespective of the device they are using.
8. Low-Quality Traffic
While low-quality traffic may not hurt your site rankings directly, it can hurt them indirectly. If it seems like your site has started receiving an unnatural number of low-quality traffic, it might be getting links from low-quality directories or irrelevant sites through paid links or negative SEO, resulting in reduced conversions and dwell time, as well as higher bounce rates, etc.
“All these factors combined will tell Google that users are not liking your website meaning the rankings could be pushed down,” warns SEMrush.
After you have determined which sites are referring low-quality traffic, make sure to remove your links/ads (or nofollow them) from those sites.
9. Safety Issues
Having your site hacked or infected with malware will result in Google immediately pushing you down in the rankings. If your site has been affected, Google might display a warning in the search results.
That’s not something you want your customers to see, because it can negatively affect your credibility and the user’s trust in your brand.
If your website has been deemed “Unsafe”, immediately go to Search Console and check for messages from Google (typically, you will receive a message from Google specifying that your site is compromised).
You can also enter your website in the Safe Browsing tool to check for issues of concern. Google will suggest the steps you need to take to make your site safe again. If you’re not able to solve the issue, you can upload a backup of your site and request a review.
“Every website has faced or will face a drop in rankings in the future,” says SEMrush. “You can’t avoid it, but you can certainly minimize the impacts of it.”
A drop in rankings can occur due to a variety of reasons, nine of which are discussed in this article. A single mistake, obvious or not, can cause your site to lose its it’s place in the rankings.
Keeping an eye on these factors, as well as others that can harm your website, is imperative if you don’t want all of your SEO efforts to be wasted.
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