Search engine optimization is essentially a cat and mouse game between Google and website owners. SEO tricks that worked in the past may no longer bring in the same kind of results. One thing that has never changed through all these years is the value that useful and well-researched content brings. But sometimes, even writing very well researched content or building high quality backlinks may not help. There are a number of lesser known SEO mistakes that each one of us has committed that could be messing with your search rankings. In this article, we will pick a few such mistakes that are not only lesser known, but could also be impacting your search rankings and conversions.
Opening Links In A New Page Using Target=”_blank”
This is by far the most common mistake that even the most experienced of SEOs commit. As a matter of fact, the parameter target=”_blank” is used to open links in a new window by almost every blog and website out there online. But according to Google, this can make your website extremely vulnerable to security breaches. This is why - when you use target=”_blank”, the new page that the visitor clicked through from your website can have access to your window object through the window.opener property. Because of this, your new page will be able to redirect your page to a different location using the window.opener.location command.
Given that almost all websites today carry crowd-sourced content in the form of forum posts and blog comments, there is a very good chance for one of the external links on your website to be infected with these malicious commands. This may not seem like a big problem from an SEO perspective. But there are two points to note here: Firstly, Google has already declared target=”_blank” as a known vulnerability. Secondly, although the usage of target=”_blank” is extremely common, removing that from your website adds an extra point to the security of your website that contributes towards higher rankings.
Google recommends using rel=”noopener” in place of target=”_blank” for opening links in a new window.
Using Photos And Videos That Infringe Copyright
It is true that visually appealing content can provide a ranking boost for your website. It is therefore not surprising that bloggers routinely embed images and videos in each of their articles. The objective is to increase engagement and appeal among their visitors. Making use of visual content that infringes on the copyright of a third party however is mostly viewed as a legal issue that has nothing to do with SEO or your website’s rankings. You could always take down these photos or videos later in case the copyright owner threatens you with a lawsuit, right?
Unfortunately, that is not how it plays out. Making use of copyrighted photos and videos on your website could be impacting your search engine rankings as well. The Emanuel update that Google released a few years ago made news mostly because it targeted entertainment websites that hosted copyrighted audio or videos of music videos. But caught in the finer details is the fact that Google essentially makes use of the number of DMCA takedown requests that a website receives to work out the impact on search results. In other words, it does not matter whether the DMCA takedown requests come for your photos, videos, audio or text, more takedown requests equates to a higher chance for a penalty.
Shopify has a fantastic directory of copyright free stock photos called Burst that you could use. Besides this, there are also a number of other popular options like Unsplash, Pixabay and Pexels.
Using End-Heavy Titles And Tags
Google has been changing the title of webpages in its search results for at least a few years now. If you’re not in the loop, the short explanation here is that the title you provide for your webpage is not necessarily what shows up on Google search results. This is critical given that the title on the search result plays a major part in a search user deciding whether or not to visit a webpage. Not only this, Google truncates lengthy titles and the level of truncation depends on what device you access your page from. It is not uncommon to find titles abruptly cut in the desktop results while the same title is word-wrapped into two lines on a device with smaller form factor like a smartphone. For a regular blogger or website owner, there is no real way to ‘game’ this system.
Conventional English speakers tend to frame sentences that are ‘end heavy’ - that is the main essence of a statement is communicated towards the latter part of the sentence. That is why it is recommended to frame titles, headings and meta descriptions that are front-heavy. However, this may not prove useful when Google does editorialize the page title to frame their own title in their results. But in cases when they don’t editorialize, a front-heavy title helps place the core essence of your page in the non-truncated part of the search result title. This helps with higher clicks, which in turn helps with improved rankings down the line as well.
What other lesser known SEO mistakes do you routinely notice bloggers committing? Share with all of us here in the comments below.