Insights

4th January 2019

The Biggest SEO fails we saw in 2018 that we all need to avoid in 2019

SEO fails of 2018

Over the past 12 months, we’ve seen a number of SEO fails negatively impacting websites around the globe. Today, we’re going to reflect on some of the fails we witnessed in 2018, in order to help you avoid making the same mistakes in 2019. Here goes…
 

Fail #1: Having an optimised site which performs exceedingly well… on desktop

What happened? This past year we have been approached by a number of new clients with optimised, well structured websites containing fantastic content, which always performed well in organic search. All of a sudden, they’re sitting and scratching their heads, watching traffic volumes drop with no apparent reason. So, what’s changed? Whilst this can happen for a number of reasons, we spotted a pattern amongst potential clients experiencing a similar issue. Their sites performed well on desktop but were very much under-optimised on mobile. This caused an overall drop in organic rankings and traffic.

Why did it happen? Back in March of 2018, Google announced that they were finally rolling out Mobile-First Indexing after a year and half of testing. Whereas Google historically analysed the desktop version of a page when crawling, indexing and ranking site content, they were instead starting to use the mobile version of a page when carrying out these processes. Therefore, as the rollout of this indexing progressed, sites which didn’t perform as well or which were under-optimised on mobile started noticing a drop in organic traffic.

How to avoid it? One way to ensure your site is optimised for mobile is to use Google’s Mobile-Friendly Test. Simply enter your website address and let Google analyse your site for you. You’ll then be presented with information on whether or not your site is mobile friendly as well as advice on how to make it mobile friendly if it fails the Google test. It’s also important to ensure that you don’t remove content on mobile versions of pages, just to improve loading speeds. Removing or hiding quality content can also have an impact on how optimised your site appears to Google. If you think your website has been impacted by mobile first indexing if you’re looking for more information, give us a call. We’d love to hear from you.
 

Fail #2: Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS… mostly

What happened? Another common mistake we’ve seen in the past year has occurred during the move from HTTP to HTTPS. Google first discussed using HTTPS as a ranking signal back in 2014 and since then, development and SEO experts alike have been working on migrating sites and making them more secure. Whilst this was first mentioned more than four years ago, we’ve definitely seen an increase in enquiries from businesses and individuals asking for assistance following an HTTPS migration, over the past year (likely related to browsers such as Google Chrome starting to mark pages on HTTP as ‘not secure’ in July of 2018). A large percentage of these enquiries came from those who had moved their website over to HTTPS and, whilst the site looked fine and all page URLs were on HTTPS, they were being presented with a security error.

Why did it happen? Whilst having your site on HTTPS is beneficial for a number of different reasons, SEO included, it’s crucial that the migration is carried out properly. Whilst you may have implemented an SSL certificate and redirected your pages to their HTTPS counterpart, you can’t forget about additional elements within the website. If you have resources placed within a page that load over an insecure HTTP connection then your page will still show as being unsecure, regardless of the page URL being on HTTPS.

How to avoid it?In order to avoid these issues, you need to ensure that all of your website resources (images, videos, scripts, iframes, stylesheets etc.) are also on HTTPS. Most of the time, internal site resources will have already been moved to HTTPS as part of the SSL certificate integration. However, the side code is still pulling in the HTTP version – you can rectify this by updating your code to reflect the HTTPS counterpart for each of these elements. As for external resources, it’s important to have these on HTTPS as well, in order to avoid any error issues showing for website visitors. If you need help doing so or would like more information about the benefits of using HTTPS, do get in touch with our SEO experts here at Varn.
 

Fail #3: Launching a new, fully optimised website before sitting back and watching the traffic roll in… but visits drop to zero

What happened? The third fail in this blog is something we’ve seen happen time and time again over the past decade. Whilst it isn’t necessarily specific to 2018, it’s something which can have a massively negative impact on your website and yet is so easily rectified in a matter of seconds. SEO is ever-changing and evolving and so it’s important to stay ahead of the competition and on top of the latest algorithm updates – in 2019 we shouldn’t be spending crucial time correcting issues which are covered in the most basic of SEO guides. So, if you’ve recently launched a new site and have seen a drastic drop in traffic, keep reading… our tips below might just help.

Why did it happen? There are a number of reasons traffic can drop to zero when launching a new site – we’ll take a look at the most common. One issue we see frequently when looking at a potential client’s website is the lack of any kind of tracking code. If your Analytics account is pulling in no visitor data, it’s likely that the tracking code from your old website was never added to your newly launched site – whether it’s the Google Analytics tracking code or Google Tag Manager container. Another issue we’ve seen more often than you’d imagine lies in a website’s robots.txt file. A lot of development companies will disallow a site from being indexed within search whilst under development, which is completely understandable. However, people have then forgotten to go in and remove the disallow rule they placed in the robots.txt file. Despite your new site now being live and accessible, it will have disappeared from Google completely.

How to avoid it? Whilst these examples aren’t the only reasons your traffic could have drastically dropped, they’re certainly a good place to start looking. The Real Time section of Google Analytics will help you test tracking on a new site (as long as your IP address hasn’t been filtered out) and Google Search Console allows you to test your robots.txt file with ease. If neither of these solutions help and your site is still experiencing reduced levels of traffic, let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

If you’ve witnessed any other big SEO fails in the past year (or even in 2019), do let us know!