You see a lot of articles about what you should be doing for improving your search engine ranking, but what about those things you are already doing that are not helping? I will talk about a few that are particularly prevalent for most site owners.

Missing a <title> tag

Surely nobody is forgetting this? Well, I have worked with a few web application frameworks that treat it as an afterthought. Look at the top of the tab you are looking at. If it does not have a descriptive title (and not the URL you are viewing), then you are in the clear. But not every page may be using a template that has properly declared a <title> tag.

No META description, or the same one for every page

Again, this is where a developer may have forgotten a very important step. Or they simply thought that it did not matter. If every page has the same <meta name="description" content="some description">, you are effectively telling the search engine that they are the same page (or at least, they don’t vary much enough to care about indexing them).

URLs that don’t relate to the content

This one is usually not your fault – the server administrator or CMS you selected does not support “pretty” links. And it affects everyone, even multi-million dollar enterprises like the NHL.

What is this link describing? Is it important or relevant to my search? The CMS they are using should be adding extra context to the page. Because for everyone but the server processing it, the id= is completely useless. Rewrite your URLs to be descriptive. You may notice that the search engine will highlight matching keywords that appear in the URL structure. That is not an accident.

Table-based layouts

It is 2015 – and yet, there are still developers and applications out there that will create <table> based layouts. The reason this is bad for SEO is that the search engines either ignore tabular data or avoid parsing the extra overhead when they encounter it. Use CSS layouts.

Link rot happens. You move stuff around for a site redesign and miss a couple of references to the new content. Then you redesign again, making the problem worse. It is worth the time and effort to go through and update this content or put redirects in place to the correct content.

Images without ALT or TITLE attributes

This is as much for accessibility as it is for SEO. For the sake of folks on low-bandwidth connections or for anyone who uses a screen reader, make sure you have the proper alt and title attributes set for your images.

Bad robots.txt rules

You would be suprised to see how many sites have Disallow * as the first line in their robots.txt file. These files are supposed to help search engines crawl your site more effectively. Having bad rules in them make your site partially or completely un-crawlable.

Complete ignorance of semantic tags

<h1>, <h2>, etc. These are really important for describing the importance and structure of the content below them. Semantic markup helps search engines figure out how to best index your content. Keywords contained within an <h1> tag are often weighed heavier than the body text below it.