As a business owner, it’s likely you’ve received an email (or several) from self-proclaimed marketing experts claiming you have serious problems with your website and SEO. Although some of the issues might be worth looking into, more often than not, these emails are just spammy sales pitches from unreliable, deceitful companies.
When you receive spammy sales pitches, it’s best to arm yourself with as much knowledge as possible so you don’t fall into any traps. To help you keep your business safe from spammers, we’ve gathered five of the most common and misleading SEO issues we see presented on free website audits.
Missing h1 Header Tags
“Missing h1 header tag” is one of the most common issues we see in unsolicited sales pitches. We always recommend remaining skeptical about these claims, as many automated audit tools falsely report missing header tags on websites. Luckily, it’s quite easy for you to verify the presence of header tags on your own, right from your internet browser.
To check for header tags, start by navigating to any optimized page on your website (ie. the home page, service pages, and product pages are usually optimized.) Press CTRL + U to view the page’s source code on Windows, or Command + Option + U on Mac.
Next, press CTRL + F (or Command + F on Mac) to open the “Find” prompt in your browser. In the search box, type in “h1” and press Enter. There’s a good chance you’ll find the page does have an h1 tag, even if the website audit is claiming otherwise.
At this point, you might be wondering what is a header tag, and why is it important for SEO? Header tags are used to tell search engines what the content of a webpage is about. As you can imagine, it’s very important to have optimized header tags on all pages that are relevant to the SEO campaign, so search engines can easily tell what the page is about. However, it’s also worth noting, header tags are not always necessary on every single page of a website. For example, if a page isn’t being optimized for SEO, such as a “Contact” or “Financing” page, header tags are usually not necessary. John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trends Analyst, spoke about the relative importance of h1 header tags and had this to say:
“Some SEO tools flag this as an issue and say like, ‘Oh you don’t have any h1 tag or you have two h1 tags.’ From our point of view that’s not a critical issue … Your site is going to rank perfectly fine with no h1 tags or with five h1 tags.”
Long Meta Descriptions
Meta descriptions are small snippets of text, directly below the link in the search engine results page (SERP,) that gives users a quick preview of what they will find on that page. Some SEO analysts believe the optimal length for meta descriptions is around 160 characters, but through our own independent research, we have found strong evidence that longer meta descriptions can actually be beneficial, especially for companies targeting several different services or locations.
All of that said, while meta descriptions are still important, any knowledgeable SEO analyst should know that meta descriptions have little to no actual value in Google rankings. Back in 2009, Google announced they would no longer use meta tags as ranking factors, as they began pushing back on search engine manipulation from the abuse of meta tags.
Long Title Tags
Many automated website audit tools will pull title tags, see they’re longer than 50-60 characters, and flag it as a major issue. While it’s true that Google only displays around 50-60 characters in the SERP, it’s also true that Google’s bots still crawl the entire title tag. We have extensively researched this topic, and have proven that longer title tags are definitely not bad for SEO, and can actually be beneficial if used properly.
It’s important to make sure title tags make sense to users and potential clients, but you should also include longer, keyword-rich title tags on your site to get the most out of your SEO campaign.
We won’t deny that a fast website is extremely important from a user experience and SEO standpoint. However, the relationship between site speed and SEO performance is complex and can be largely misunderstood, making it the perfect bait for spammy SEO companies to use.
It’s a known fact that Google takes site speed into account in its ranking algorithms, but sometimes changes intended to improve load times can actually have a negative impact on SEO performance. For example, a common recommendation is to implement server caching, which can improve load times for repeat visitors by storing pre-assembled files locally on a server. This ensures users won’t have to re-load these files every time they visit a website, as they will instead receive a cached version of the website. However, Google’s crawler bots will take much longer to notice changes on a heavily-cached website, which can have a detrimental effect on SEO in the long run.
There are several SEO-friendly changes that can be done on your website to improve load times, such as image and video compression, but it’s always important to consider your overall SEO campaign before making any major changes to improve site speed.
(Some) NAP Audit Issues
Many SEO companies perform regular NAP (Name, Address, Phone) audits to ensure your local listing and business information is consistent across the web. Having conflicting information on local platforms, such as Google My Business, Yelp, or Angie’s List, can make it more difficult for search engines to effectively index your business in local search, not to mention cause confusion for prospective customers. All reputable SEO companies recommend periodic NAP audits for local businesses.
That said, it’s important to remember that not all NAP audits are created equal. Automated NAP audits can flag errors in listing information, even if the information is correct and up to date, because the software often uses exact-match searches to find “inaccurate” information. However, we know that Google’s search algorithms know the difference between “Street” and “St.” A listing is not incorrect if it uses abbreviations, but automated NAP audit tools are usually not refined enough to make the distinction and will flag these as errors.
If you receive an NAP audit from an SEO company and you notice a bunch of flagged errors, it’s simple to verify their claims with a quick search on a variety of popular local listing platforms, such as Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Bing. We recommend focusing on these platforms first, as they carry the most authority in local search. Many smaller directories can be irrelevant, and may even try to charge you to make changes. If you don’t find any errors in your own search on the major platforms, it’s likely the company was using an automated NAP audit tool that erroneously flagged the listings.
While these are just five of the most common issues we see in SEO solicitations, there are a variety of other issues that can come up as well. If you ever have questions about an email you received from another company, our team of experts are happy to review and provide our own unbiased feedback.