Get Onsite SEO Working!

SEMrush provides competitive analytics across a broad range of digital marketing strategies from SEO and PPC to social media and video advertising. It was recently rated the top keyword research tool by 58 online marketing experts and has been described by one marketer as “the swiss army knife of online competitor research”!

We were therefore very interested to read the results of recent research by SEMrush about how effectively SEO is being used out in the real world. The research collected anonymous data on 100,000 websites and 450 million pages to determine what the top SEO issues are and how many sites these issues affect.

The results are startling! An overview can be seen in the infographic below:


A brief description of each of the 11 Most Common SEO issues shown in the above infographic is as follows:

1. Duplicate Content

This is the most common issue, affecting around 50% of websites. If there are identical or similar blocks of content either within or across domains this can jeopardise your search rankings. Search engines won’t know which pages to priorities as landing pages, and pages with duplicate content can start to compete with each other. But relevant and unique content is not only important for search engine rankings but also more interesting for users!

2. Missing Alt Tags and Broken Images

The research found that 45% of sites have images with missing alt tags and another 10% have broken internal images. Alt tags provide textual descriptions of images, which enables search engines to categorise them, so the alt tags also need to contain your SEO keyword phrases. Search engines also prioritise websites that provide a good user experience, and if images have alt tags this can be a positive sign that that a website aims to provides value to the user.

3. Title Tag Issues

Think of title tags as page titles. Both search engines and users expect title tags to provide guidance as to what pages are about. They are also one of the most important SEO elements on your page and can make a huge impact on your rankings in either a positive or negative way. So do review your title tags because if they are missing or duplicated, or too long or too short, then they are not providing users or search engines with relevant information about a page’s content or value.

4. Meta Descriptions

Meta Descriptions show up in search results and help web users decide whether to visit your site or not. But the research found that 30% of sites have duplicate meta descriptions and 25% of sites have no meta descriptions at all. Adding meta descriptions is quick and easy to do and there is really no excuse for not getting into the habit!

5. Broken Internal and External Links

Broken links are often a fact of life as sites expand and evolve. So if there are one or two on your site, and if you have a 404 page properly set up then this is just about acceptable. But if you have a lot of broken links that lead to dead ends for users and search engines this can cause search engines to downgrade your website for poor user experience. The research showed that 35% of sites had broken internal links that return bad HTTP status codes, and 25% had broken external links. Not only can this give a bad impression of your website but can also lead to search engines starting to reduce the number of pages that will appear in its results. Make sure to the best of your ability that links are working and have a well set up 404 page for the ones that slip through your net!

6. Low Text-to-HTML Ratio

The research found a low text-to-HTML ratio on 28% of the sites analysed. This means that these sites contain too high a proportion of HTML code to text that people can read. This can be indicative of other issues such as a poorly coded website, hidden text (as used by spammers) or a slow site. All these issues can mean that your site is sidelined by search engines, so you need to fix these if they apply to your website.

7. H1 Tag Issues

H1 – or header – tags are different from title tags. H1 tags are what your reader sees on your page whereas the information contained in your title tag appears in search results. There should be just one H1 tag on any page (unless you are using HTML5 markup in which case you can have more than one). However, the research showed that 20% of sites we analysed had multiple H1 tags, 20% were missing H1 tags, and 15% had duplicate information in their title tag and H1. So check your H1 tag situation and remedy where needed!

8. Low Word Count

Word count is a somewhat complicated SEO factor. On the one hand, there is no minimum word count for a web page, but on the other Google is known to give higher ranking to content with more depth. Length can be an indicator of depth – depending of course on the quality and relevance of the content – but 18% of the websites analysed had a low word count on some pages. Ensure that your word count is sufficiently substantial to provide relevant and valuable content for your readers and to satisfy search ranking criteria.

9. Too Many On-page Links

The number and quality of your page links need to be well-balanced. Good SEO leads to a natural link profile that includes relevant and high-quality links. But having too many links can potentially dilute the value of your page and direct traffic away. 15% of the sites researched had too many links on some pages. It is well worth performing a link audit and making sure that all links on your pages really add value. If not then get rid of the ones that don’t as this will improve both your SEO and your user experience.

10. Incorrect Language Declaration

We often forget that our web audience is global. It is therefore important to declare the default language of the text in the page to inform browsers of the content’s language, to ensure accuracy for those using text-to-speech converters and to help with geolocation and international SEO. In the research, 12% of websites got this wrong so now is a good time to remedy this if you are one of that number!

11. Temporary Redirects

Redirection is an excellent way to let search engines know when a page has moved. But SEO makes a big differentiation between permanent (301) and temporary (302) redirects. If a change becomes permanent, it’s worth remembering to implement a permanent redirect. If you keep it as a temporary redirect this can cause search engines to continue to index an outdated page and ignore the new page you are redirecting it to. However, the research showed that 10% of sites analysed contained temporary redirects. If your website contains temporary redirects you could be losing out in search rankings because of this.

As we can see from the above, the issues outlined by the research are damaging the search rankings of many thousands of websites! Whilst any one or more of the above factors can slip in as a mistake or an oversight, a combination of them can accumulate and begin to destroy your rankings. The answer is to make a renewed effort to take proper care of your website and your users and build this firmly into your company’s digital marketing strategy starting as from now!