June 16, 2011
When you’re starting off in SEO there’s a lot of conflicting information about what to do and what not to do. There’s a constant battle between White Hat and Black Hat and which is more effective.
It’s pretty easy to get frustrated at how long it actually takes to achieve a decent ranking. This can lead to taking the wrong advice. I learned by trial and error the SEO mistakes listed below.
Here are some rules to follow if you DO NOT want your site to rank in search engines.
1. Build a Flash Only Website
The days of Flash only websites are probably behind us (thank God). Having said this, as a web developer it’s amazing how often I’m asked, ‘Does that include Flash?’
Search engines cannot read content embedded in Flash files so you shouldn’t use Flash to build websites. It’s perfectly all right to have a flash feature box or slideshow or something like that so long as the rest of your site is built with HTML.
2. Hide all Your Content in Images
This is another sin of the past, although you do still see it occasionally. If you embed your navigation and page copy in images, search engines will not be able to identify this content. Use text-based navigation and semantic mark-up instead.
4. Copy Someone Else’s Content
You’re not much of a writer and no one will ever know right? I’m afraid not. Duplicate content is one of the biggest sins you can commit as far as search engines are concerned. Not only do you prevent your own site from ranking, but you also impact the site you copied the material from.
You should either write all content yourself or hire somebody else to do it for you.
Editor’s Note: For an alternative view read Jill Whalen’s article “There Is No Duplicate Content Penalty”
5. Stuff Your Content with Keywords
Including the same keyword phrase in the Page Title, the Heading, three times in the copy, bolded, in a link and in an image alt tag is an example of keyword stuffing.
This is like telling the search engine, ‘I’m trying to manipulate you into ranking me higher’. They won’t rank you higher, they’ll penalize you instead.
Include your keyword phrase, but do it naturally. Write primarily for humans then worry about search engines.
Editor’s Note: For an alternative view read Ben Kemp’s article “Website Redesign Best Practices – Part 2”
6. Use Automated Directory Submission Software
There are loads of software programs to automate the directory submission process. Don’t use them.
First of all directory submissions are not that valuable in terms of PageRank anymore. Secondly you’ll end up with thousands of similar Titles and Descriptions that will mark you as a cheater as far as search engines are concerned.
Submit manually to well-established directories, write unique Titles and Descriptions and try to focus on local and niche directories.
7. Participate in Link Exchange Programs
Often you see websites with a ‘Links’ or ‘Resources’ page with a list of links a mile long. Often these have no relevance to the content of the site and have been reciprocated on an identical page on the corresponding site.
There are a number of problems with this:
* Reciprocal links are less valuable than one way links.
* Links from pages containing hundreds have no value.
* It looks like you are trying to cheat the search engines.
* It looks unprofessional to users.
Reciprocal links are fine in moderation. Try to only swap links with relevant organizations and try to link from, and get links from inside paragraphs of related text in articles or blogposts.
8. Use the same Page Title and Meta Description Across Your Site
If you do this, you are basically saying that all your webpages are the same. Search engines index webpages and not websites; this is why you should have a unique, accurate Page Title and Meta Description for every page. Include your keywords in the Page Title in particular but don’t go crazy with the Meta Description.
9. Focus on the Wrong Keywords
Often when companies hire an SEO they’ll tell them they want to rank number one in Google for a ‘short-tail’, high competition keyword phrase. For instance an accountant might want to rank for the term ‘accountant.’
I’m afraid it doesn’t really work like that. It takes a while for any site to get off the ground and this is why it is important to focus on ‘long-tail’ keyword phrases. This is achieved by adding modifiers to the original phrase like ‘tax accountant’ or ‘tax accountant manchester.’
By focusing on less competitive phrases you can get instant traffic while setting yourself up to compete for more competitive phrases in the future.
10. Don’t Use SEF URLs
A SEF (Search Engine Friendly) URL is really a human friendly URL. What I mean by this is one that contains actual words and not a list of numbers and symbols.
SEF URL: http://spartix.com/web-design-and-development/cms/wordpress-websites/
Non SEF URL: http://spartix.com/?page_id=330
The first example contains words that relate to the content of the page as well as what category the page is in. The next example contains the article id which is of little use to anyone.
David Dungan works as a web consultant for the Irish online marketing and SEO company Predict Insight.
His has experience in a range of different areas including web development, search engine optimization and online marketing.