As a ten year old digital marketing agency we’ve worked with developers at all levels – from big shot design and development teams in NYC to offshore dev teams – and for the most part it’s been a privilege to learn from and work with all of them.
That said, there are some common SEO mistakes that developers make, that unwittingly impact our clients, so we’ve decided to call them out.
Incorrect or Missing SEO Elements
Although there is less emphasis on technical SEO than in the past and more focus on long content, there is still plenty of value in leveraging all the SEO opportunities available to us. Some developers claim to have “optimized” their client’s website by simply adding a title tag and meta description to the client’s home page. Worse still, and a practice I still see commonly used, is adding the exact same title tag and meta description to every single page of the site. Not only does this transgress every possible best SEO practice, it can detrimentally impact your site.
A good on page SEO strategy starts with keyword research using Google’s Keyword Planner or a paid tool like SEMRush, and the proper use of meta tags, including title tags, H1 tags (and all header tags), alt text, robots meta tags, canonical tags, xml sitemaps and optimized urls. Some basic guides can be found on SEO resource sites like Moz and Search Engine Watch.
Heavy Media Files
Images and video will make your website come alive and will motivate users to spend more time on site and more time clicking – but if your file size is too large, your pages will take too long to load and negatively impact SEO.
“If your site looks pretty but doesn’t load in the first five seconds, you can kiss those precious conversions goodbye” says digital marketing guru Neil Patel. Patel goes on to say that “Speed is a huge factor in driving traffic and conversions and producing general success”. And according to Patel, the biggest culprit in slow page loading are images.
In this helpful video about improving page speed, Neil Patel shares this telling statistic. In a study that Amazon ran, they found that for every second sot due to poor loading time, there was a delay to their website due to loads they lost 1% in revenue.
Building a Custom Coded Site That No One Else Can Edit
I am still astonished by the volume of custom coded websites out there that no one but the original website developer can edit. If the developer is your brother then great because you know where he lives, otherwise what happens when the developer in question goes on an extended honeymoon, doesn’t feel like working with you anymore or worse still, charges you extortion rates for the smallest edits to your website?
You might be asking why this is being associated as an SEO mistake. There are literally thousands of superbly designed, SEO friendly website templates available on the market (think WordPress, Magento, Shopify, WooCommerce) that are built to meet SEO requirements (i.e valid coding, responsive design, website structure, fast loading pages). As a website owner, it’s your responsibility to ask the developer what kind of website they are planning on building and why. Unless they have a super compelling reason for coding your site from scratch, you may want to run the other way.
Forgetting about 301 Redirects
Every few years website owners recognize the need to update their website to make it more relevant, keep it fresh, or to ensure that the site is following Google best practices. This might mean removing old pages and moving others to a different URL. Sometimes developers forget to implement a 301 redirect when they make these changes (the process of forwarding one URL to another so that users and search engines have a relevant page to land on) and then unfortunately, a user will get an error message (404) which often leads to a user leaving the website completely. SEO Resource site MOZ has a great article that describes the most effective ways to redirect old URLS.
There are a number of site audit tools available to audit your website’s technical and on-page SEO (including broken links, missing meta data, identifying temporary and permanent redirects, finding duplicate content etc.), the best tool being Screaming Frog. However if you can’t afford the price tag or just need to fix broken links, there are a bunch of free broken link checker tools out there – my favorite being LinkTiger.com.
Five years ago Google announced that an HTTPS site ( Hypertext Transport Protocol Security) aka – a secure site, was a positive ranking factor in SEO and a top priority for Google. In October of 2017, Google released a further update, warning webmasters that using the HTTP protocol where users are required to enter data, would actually be marked as “not secure”. In a study conducted by Brian Dean of https://backlinko.com/, he found that “HTTPS had a reasonably strong correlation with first page Google rankings.”. According to MOZ half of Google’s page one organic search results are now HTTPS.
With all these stats supporting HTTPS, why on earth would we even see an HTTP website in 2019? And yet we do. Sigh.
As I write this my employees have already crowd sourced part 2 of this article including developers who forget to/don’t set up:
- Google Analytics or Search Console
- Facebook Pixels
- Thank you pages for tracking conversions