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Common SEO Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

This is the study of 105 Super-Popular Sites That Our Audiences Follow Weekly.

It’s interesting to see common SEO mistakes they make. Even though they’re popular, they could be getting more search traffic than they currently do. And you can see how easy it would be to fix such mistakes.

Throughout this year, we analyzed 105 sites to reveal common SEO issues that impact a site’s performance in Google Search results.

The sites we chose for this analysis are popular, top-performing sites that have significant marketing budgets. They are all sites that people perceive as being successful and whose performance is well above the average.

Still, through this study, we were able to identify SEO mistakes for each one of the 105 sites and discover which are the issues that are most common among these sites.

We were curious to see just how many of the issues we uncovered for these sites are actually covered by Squirrly SEO.

More specifically, we were interested to know how many of those issues can be prevented and fixed by using Squirrly SEO features.

This article includes our key findings.

Study SET-UP

  • How many sites did we analyze?

For this study, we analyzed 105 sites.

  • How did we choose those sites?

We picked sites that are popular among the people in our community (the first 25 sites that made it into our study were chosen based on who our users are following on Twitter).

The rest of the sites which we included in this analysis are a mix of popular sites in the digital marketing field and sites from Alexa lists.

Therefore, all 105 sites are popular sites that people view as being successful and trustworthy.

  • What tools did we use to extract the data? 

We mostly used ContentLook and Squirrly SPY to analyze the websites and acquire the data we were interested in.

  • How will this study help YOU?

For each SEO issue that we’ve identified as part of our study, we’ll provide an explanation to help you better understand what that issue refers to – and why it’s a problem.

Then, we’ll show how Squirrly SEO helps with each particular SEO error and issue included in this study.

You’ll walk away with a better understanding of common SEO issues, and you’ll know exactly how to fix or prevent them for your site.

  • What are the main conclusions from this study?

Every site we analyzed had at least one SEO error. The majority of sites we looked at had over 8 issues each.

More specifically, out of the 105 sites analyzed:

  • 4 sites had 1 error
  • 3 sites had 2 errors
  • 4 sites had 3 errors
  • 1 site had 4 errors
  • 4 sites had 5 errors
  • 5 sites had 6 errors
  • 11 sites had 7 errors
  • 17 sites had 8 errors
  • 21 sites 9 errors
  • 20 sites had 10 errors
  • 11 sites had 11 errors
  • 3 sites had 12 errors
  • 1 site had 13 errors

All of the issues we identified are issues that impact a site’s performance and can influence rankings in a negative way.

All of the issues identified are issues that you can easily avoid and fix by using Squirrly SEO features.

Now, let’s go into every one of the issues that we discovered.

Let’s see what they are all about, how exactly they impact performance – and what you can do to fix or prevent such issues for your site.

Issue #1: URL is Poorly formatted for SEO

  • What does it mean to have a poorly formatted URL for SEO?

URLs that have symbols like: -,!, @, #, $, %, ^, &, *, (, ), [, ], ?, {, }, ;, :, “ are not SEO-friendly.

94 out of 105 sites that we analyzed have this error.

The average number of pages this error is on is 13.94.

How to fix this issue?

You should only use words, numbers, and dashes in your URLs so that Google can easily read them.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

You can see if you have this issue for pages that you are trying to rank on Google via the Focus Pages panel.

Issue #2: The tag is too long

  • What does it mean to have a < title > tag that is too long?

Google’s display titles max out (currently) at 600 pixels.

That is the equivalent of about 80 characters, depending on what characters you use.

Neil Patel recommends that you keep your title tag under 65 characters so it will be visible.

In one lesson by MOZ, we see that they recommend that you keep your title tag between 50-60 characters.

According to Orbit Media, the title length should be 55 characters.

Out of the 105 sites that we included in our study, 89 sites have titles that are longer than the recommended length.

The average number of pages that have this issue/site is 28.7.

How to fix this issue?

Having very long titles won’t necessarily impact your SEO performance.

We saw that the best title length can mean different things from one site to the next.

For example, we’ve had a client for which long titles worked best.

However, as a best practice, you should try to keep your titles in the 10 to 75 characters range.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

You will be advised in real-time to keep your titles under 75 characters when optimizing your articles using the Live Assistant feature.

Issue # 3: The tag is too short

  • What does it mean to have a < title > tag that is too short?

When you have a title that is shorter than 10 characters, it will be hard for Google and other search engines to understand what your page is about.

89 of 105 sites included in our study have this issue.

The average number of pages that have this issue (across all sites) is 12.

That means that about 12 pages /site have a <title> tag length that is too short.

How to fix this issue?

We recommend that you keep your title length within the 10 to 75 characters range.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

You’ll be notified if your pages have this issue via the SEO Audit.

Plus, you will also be advised in real-time to make your titles longer than 10 characters when optimizing your articles using the Live Assistant feature.

Issue #4: Low word count

  • What does it mean when you have a low word count issue on your site?

According to impactbnd.com, the average content length of the top position Google article contains 2,416 words.

In order for Google or any other search engine to understand what is on your page/article, you need content.

If you have just a few words written on that page/article, then there is a big chance that Google will NOT understand exactly what you want to say or how your particular page can help others.

This is what we call thin content.

There is a purpose for it as well (meaning: there are times when you might choose to publish Thin Content), but NOT if you want to rank your pages and outrank your competition.

How to fix this issue?

There is an eternal debate about how many words an article/page you want to get on the 1st page of Google should have.

Some say it should be around 1,500 words long, while others recommend a word count of over 2,200 words.

In 2016, Brian Dean and Eric Van Buskirk analyzed 1 million websites to find out how long an article should be to rank high on Google.

This is what the study revealed:

“We found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”

And in 2019, Dean and BuzzSumo reviewed 912 million blog posts to discover that long-form content gets more backlinks.

“Long-form content gets an average of 77.2% more links than short articles. Therefore, long-form content appears to be ideal for backlink acquisition.”

Neil Patel also recommends you write more than 2,200 words in your articles.

Our own study showed that the average number of words the articles have for all sites is: 2,159.

If we are to take a look at the SEO score and the number of words per article, we can see that the sites that have an SEO score between 40 and 49 write an average of 2,998 words.

  • Sites that have an SEO score between 50 to 59 write an average of 2,335 words/post.
  • Sites that have an SEO score between 60 and 69 write an average of 1,828 words/post.
  • Sites that have an SEO score between 70 and 79 write an average of 1,709 words/post.

80 sites out of the 105 we analyzed have an issue with low word count on their pages.

The average number of pages that have this issue per site is 14.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

If you are not new to Squirrly, then you already know that we recommend you write at least 1,500 words on an article/page you want to rank on Google.

We help you keep track of this aspect for the pages you want to rank via our Focus Pages feature.

Issue #5: No meta description

  • What does the no meta description issue mean?

According to Google:

“Good meta descriptions are short blurbs that describe accurately the content of the page. They are like a pitch that convinces the user that the page is exactly what they’re looking for.”

If you don’t customize your meta description, Google will usually display the first sentence of the post/page as your meta description.

82 out of 105 analyzed sites have pages that don’t have a meta description.

The average number of such pages is 32.6.

How to fix this issue?

It’s simple, go through the pages you want to rank and customize your meta descriptions to get more clicks.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

You will always be up to date with all the errors your site has with Squirrly’s SEO Audit.

You can also see if you have this issue on a page you are working on in the Focus Pages panel.

Issue#6: URLs are too long

  • How does this issue impact your site’s performance?

URLs that are too long may affect your chances of ranking.

How come?

Google will start to think that your page targets a specific long-tail phrase instead of a broad phrase.

According to a study made by Quicksprout:

“In regards to URL length, there’s no better place to look than Google itself.

The average URL length for Gmail is 59 characters.

The average URL length for Webmaster Tools is 90 characters.

The average URL length for the Google blog is 76 characters.”

They also analyzed the length of the URLs according to the results on each page and found some interesting results.

“URLs ranked in the top 10 results on average contained 37 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 20 results on average contained 35 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 30 results on average contained 39 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 40 results on average contained 41 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 50 results on average contained 36 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 60 results on average contained 32 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 70 results on average contained 48 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 80 results on average contained 45 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 90 results on average contained 41 characters.

URLs ranked in the top 100 results on average contained 38 characters.”

In our study, we found out that 58 out of 105 sites have this error across an average number of 4 pages.

How to fix this issue?

Try to keep your URLs between 37 to 76 characters.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

Squirrly will let you know how to make your Links SEO-friendly for pages you are trying to rank via Focus Pages.

No need to worry about this; with Squirrly, you’ll know if your pages have this issue – and how to fix it.

Issue #7: Duplicate meta descriptions

  • What does it mean to have duplicate meta descriptions? 

Meta descriptions are short snippets meant to describe the content on the page.

Meta descriptions are featured on search engine results and influence whether a user will click on a listing or not.

Google doesn’t like it when it sees the same description on multiple pages that you own, so you shouldn’t have the same meta description on more than one page if you expect great SEO results.

In our study, 41 out of 105 sites have this issue across an average of 5.7 number of pages.

How to fix this issue?

Make sure that every page has a unique meta description.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

Squirrly SEO makes it easy to ensure that every page has a unique meta description with its Bulk SEO feature.

Plus, Squirrly will always let you know about all the errors your site has, including duplicate descriptions, via the SEO audit.

You can also see if you have this issue on the page you are working on in the Focus Pages panel.

Issue #8: Duplicate tags

  •  What does it mean to have duplicate < title > tags?

When you have the duplicate < title > tags error, it means that two or more pages in your site have the SAME < title > tag.

About 50% of the sites we analyzed have this issue with an average of 3 pages that have the same tags.

How to fix this issue?

< Title > tags should be unique for each and every page on your site.

If you have the same < title >tag on more than one page, Google will only index one of them. That’s because it is difficult for the search engine to understand which is more important than the other.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

Squirrly PRO helps you with this in a number of ways:

  • warns you about it in the SEO Audit;
  • uses sophisticated Automation features to avoid these problems;
  • provides guidance on how to fix such issues via the site Audit and the Focus Pages feature.

Issue #9: More than one tag per page

  • What does having more than one < title > tag per page mean?

Having more than one < title > tag on a page makes it difficult for Google or any other search engine to know what the content is about, or if it’s a good match for what their users are searching for.

10% of the sites we analyzed have this issue with an average of 5.4 pages that have this error.

How to fix this issue?

Make sure you only have one <title> tag per page.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

You can always count on Squirrly to let you know what is wrong with your site and how to fix it via the site Audit and the Focus Pages feature.

Issue #10: Page takes too Long to Load

  • What does this issue refer to?

Loading time refers to the time it takes a site to fully render in your browser.

According to a study made by Hosting Tribunal:

“1 second delay reduces page views by 11%.

1 second delay decreases customer satisfaction by 16%.

1 second delay eats away 7% of the coveted conversion rate.

1-3 seconds in loading time see a very low bounce rate probability – only 32%.

Add 1 second more to that and the chance for users to bounce triples, reaching 90%.

On annual basis, 1 second delay can lead to $2.5 million in missed revenue if your shop generates $100,000 per day.”

And according to Neil Patel:

“47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less.”

Here’s another stat from Unbounce:

“Pages that load within two seconds have an average bounce rate of 9%, while pages that take five seconds to load have a bounce rate of 38%”

Our study revealed that 20 out of 105 analyzed sites take a lot of time to load.

How to fix this issue?

Remove any plugin that you are not using, clean your HTML code, compress your images and caching, and consider upgrading your server if that’s the reason why your site loads slowly.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

You can see if you have this error yourself via the SEO Audit.

What’s more, if pages you are trying to rank take too long to load, you will also receive a task to take care of fixing this issue within the Focus Pages panel.

Issue #11: No sitemap.xml to optimize interaction with bots

  • What does the No sitemap.xml error mean?

Having a sitemap.xml helps Google crawl your site more easily and more accurately, as it gives the search engine crawlers a list of all your content in a machine-readable format.

According to a study made by MOZ:

“When a Sitemap was submitted the average time it took for the bot to visit the new post was 14 minutes for Google and 245 minutes for Yahoo.

When no Sitemap was submitted and the bot had to crawl to the post, it took 1375 minutes for Google and 1773 for Yahoo.

The averages were calculated on 12 different posts, 6 with Sitemaps being submitted, and 6 with the Sitemaps not being submitted.”

According to our study, 20 sites out of 105 we analyzed have this error.

How to fix this issue?

Build a sitemap in an XML format and make it available to Google.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

To fix this issue, activate the sitemap.xml setting in the Squirrly SEO plugin.

You can always check if your site has this issue in our Focus Pages feature, as well as in our SEO Audit feature.

Issue #12: No tag

  • What does the no < title > tag issue refer to?

The < title > tag is an HTML tag that provides useful information about the context or the subject of the page, as it is the title of that page.

It’s a critical element that significantly impacts a page’s success, as the title appears in search engine results where relevant and descriptive results have more chances of being clicked on.

If you don’t have a <title> tag, then Google will think twice about ranking your page, as search engines make a priority out of offering content that is relevant to the search made by their users.

Taking all that into consideration, it’s no surprise that:

The no <title> tag issue is not as common as some of the other issues mentioned in this study, but it can still occur.

5 out of 105 sites analyzed have this issue across an average number of pages of 4.6.

That means that each site of those 5 has about 4 pages with no <title> tag.

How to fix this issue?

All you have to do is make sure that you created a <title> tag for your articles/pages.

How can Squirrly help you avoid/fix this issue?

You can easily make sure that you created a <title> tag for your articles/pages using the All Snippets feature.

Go to METAs –> Title to find this option.

If you are using the Squirrly SEO plugin, then the probability of having this issue is minimal.

With the help of meta automation, you can rest assured knowing that all your pages have titles.

You can also check to see if everything is ok in the Audit section. Squirrly is always analyzing your site to help reveal possible issues and help you rank.

Furthermore, you can see if you have a <title> tag for the page you are working hard to rank using the Focus Pages feature (more specifically, the snippet tasks).

Squirrly’s Got You Covered!

As you can see, Squirrly SEO provides tremendous oversight and guidance to help you prevent and overcome common SEO issues that impact your performance.

No need to worry about overlooking critical SEO aspects that ruin your chances of ranking.

Simply use the incredible features from Squirrly SEO and ensure your site will NEVER make it into a study on common SEO errors like this one.

It’s the easiest way to have an SEO error-free website that is healthy and ready to rank.

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