June 15, 2011
When compared to its offline marketing counterparts (things like PR, promotions and advertising), SEO has a pretty negative reputation. Many consumers hear “SEO” and think to themselves “Oh yes, that’s when companies flood my inbox with junk mail and pepper my screen in pop-up ads.” Others see SEO as an attempt to game the system and spin the search results.
Even though SEO has been around for long time (pretty much as long as there have been search engines), the industry as a whole still has a bad reputation. This is mainly because of the actions of a few SEO spammers and black hat practitioners. They are the ones who are actively trying to manipulate the search engines and they are the ones that send you e-mails in the middle of the night with subject lines like “A weight loss program that lets you eat cheeseburgers and pizza? It’s true!”
As a site owner, you never want to have your brand lumped in with these SEO con men, even if you didn’t mean to engage in black hat SEO. That is why it is important to avoid the following SEO sins:
1. Low-Quality Content
Unless you’ve had your head in the sand for the last few months, you know that the Google Panda update cracked down hard on numerous “content farms” that churned out thousands of low-quality, spammy articles. The update also took on regular sites with a lot of duplicate, low-quality content. Content marketing is one of the most important elements of online marketing success. Poor content won’t get you anything other than a search engine penalty.
2. Keyword Stuffing
This is one of the cardinal rules of SEO, but many sites are still guilty of stuffing their content with keywords in an attempt to be more appealing to the search engines. Content should be written for the end user, NOT the search engines. Peppering your content with keywords might make it easier for a search spider to index your content, but is that search spider going to be doing business with your company? Not likely. Keyword-heavy content is one of the biggest causes of a high bounce rate.
3. Poor Site Navigation
A good SEO rule of thumb is that it should never be more than 3 clicks from your homepage to any deep internal page. If a user has to click all over your website with no idea where they are or how they got there, they aren’t going to waste their time. Your site structure has to lead them down a predetermined path of information. It needs to be a logical progression through the site. If a user can’t find what they are looking for the moment they arrive on your site, they won’t bother to dig through your pages to find it.
4. Spammy or Duplicate Meta Descriptions
Meta tags are like little advertisements for your website in the search results. Those 150 characters are what convince a searcher that your site is the one they are looking for. They may not be the most important factor for search engines, but they play a huge part in the overall user experience. Each page needs its own Meta description that describes the content of that page! Just like the actual pages themselves, you don’t want to stuff the Meta description full of keywords. Would you want to visit a site where the Meta description looked like, “Caribbean cruises, cruise the Caribbean, Caribbean cruise, Caribbean cruise vacation, vacation cruises to the Caribbean…” Are you going to trust that site?
5. Irrelevant Links
Links are important currency in the online market space. The more quality, one-way links a site has pointing towards it, the better trust factor it has with the search engines. But quality is far more important than quantity. 10,000 links that come from spam blogs, “bad” sites like adult or gambling sites, cloaked text and link exchanges actually devalue your website. A link is not worth your online reputation. Too many shoddy links and the search engines will remove your site from the results entirely.
6. Copying the Competition
Each industry is unique and each site has its own set of challenges to deal with. Studying the competition is important because you need to understand the SEO arena you are about to enter, but copying the SEO strategy of your competitor will get you nowhere. Just because it worked for them, that doesn’t mean it will work for you. Also, what kind of fight are you really putting up if your company just does everything the competition does? It guarantees that you will always be two steps behind.
7. Going for Immediate Results
SEO is a long-term process that builds momentum over time. You are not going to see overnight success. If that is your goal, to rank on page 1 of Google within the week, you are opening yourself up to a lot of black hat SEO techniques that will artificially inflate your ranking. While success might be sweet for a little while, the search engines are going to catch on sooner or later and you’ll fall off the face of the Internet.
These SEO sins and others are the reasons why the SEO industry has a bad reputation. Some black hat SEO practitioners do them intentionally, and sometimes site owners without enough SEO experience accidentally do. The best thing site owners can do is to learn what is and what isn’t acceptable for white hat SEO and consider that their line in the sand.
Nick Stamoulis is the President of Brick Marketing, a full-service SEO services firm that also offers SEO consulting and SEO site audits. With over 12 years of industry experience, Nick Stamoulis shares his knowledge by posting daily SEO articles to his blog, the Search Engine Optimization Journal. Contact Nick Stamoulis as 781-350-4365 or firstname.lastname@example.org