Your Web site is your window to the world. It’s always on, always open and available virtually anywhere. And it’s a crucial part of your business. That’s why you always want it working optimally. For many, however, it’s not.
In an audit evaluating data from 100,000 Web sites (totaling 450 million pages), SEMrush found half of those Web sites had duplicate content and nearly as many (45%) had image optimization issues.
While neither of these issues will individually harm search results much, they can, over time and in great numbers, damage the way search engines view your site. “By having duplicate content on your Web site, you will lose your capability to choose which page you want to rank for,” writes SEMrush product marketing manager Elena Terenteva in a post explaining the results. “Search engines won’t know which pages you want to be considered landing pages in [their results], and those pages can even start to compete with one another.”
Similarly, image optimization issues, such as missing alt tags (which provide descriptions of images on a page) or broken internal links, can affect how a search engine might view the site’s overall user experience. Alt-tags, for instance, also help visually impaired users, and the absence of them can be a red flag for a less-than-optimal Web site. The same goes for broken links.
Broken Links Add Up
Broken images links, just like broken hyperlinks, might not be a deal-breaker on their own, but too many of them can affect how the search engines interact with your site, and thus how your page ranks, Terenteva writes.
“Each time search engine bots visit your Web site, they crawl a certain number of pages, but not your entire site,” she writes. “If you have a lot of broken links, you risk diverting the bots’ attention from your pages, which actually matters — your pages won’t be crawled and indexed.”
Of the 100,000 sites SEMrush evaluated, 35% had broken internal links (the vast majority of which returned a “page not found” code) and 25% had broken external links.
Elsewhere, many sites had title tag issues, including: duplicate title tags (found on 35% of the Web sites), title tags that were too long (15%), and/or missing title tags (8%). Missing or duplicate tags don’t accurately communicate a page’s value, while overly long tags affect how much is visible within search results. “Title tags are also one of the most important SEO elements on your page — correctly optimized title tags can really impact your rankings in a positive way,” Terenteva writes.
Other issues included duplicate or missing meta descriptions (30% and 25%, respectively), low text-to-html ratios (28%) and low word counts (18%), none of which are in themselves crucial to search performance but can affect results in the long run.
The upshot of all these findings points to a need to be constantly aware of your Web site and any potential issues that may affect search rankings in order to fix them before they become a real problem. “There is always the chance you could get to a critical point where a lot of small mistakes can accumulate and snowball into a litany of problems that can destroy your Web site’s rankings,” Terenteva concludes.