The biggest SEO fails you must know about

Are you using spammy SEO tactics that could fail your website?

There’s no doubt that SEO is one of the most powerful tools you and your business can use to get your message, or your products, seen by as many people as possible online.  Great visibility in search results with well ranked key phrases will mean your website will reach a wider selection of potential website visitors.  The stronger the website presence, the more likely potential visitors are to click on search results and see what you have to offer.
But, it’s all too easy to weaken your ranking by making simple SEO mistakes.  Some of the basic errors I see are the same over and over again often due to web designers working with out of date methods, individuals who try to save costs by creating sites themselves without enough knowledge, poorly set up CMS systems or unbelievably basic issues have not been addressed after working with a previous SEO consultant or agency.

Here are just some of the most common SEO fails to avoid:

If it sounds too good to be true…

Ok lets get this one out of the way as one of the most common questions we hear when potential customers are searching for SEO services is, ‘how comes Joe Blogs can get me to the top of the search engines for £XXX month and guarantee results’? Lets get this straight, no one can guarantee ranking or traffic results and for a limited budget you can only assume limited effort, no research, competitor analysis and no time to understand your brand and messaging,  So-called SEO firms may promise you the world, telling you they can obtain hundreds of backlinks and a first page ranking for a tiny fee but these links will nearly always be of no value to your business.Most of the quick backlinks these black hat SEO’s come up with are likely to be from spammy disreputable sites that will only hurt, rather than help you. These are usually software generated backlinks with no manual evaluation, effort and research.  Even if they point the spammy links to an intermediary page, it’s likely that Google will catch you out at some time in the near future and you’ll see your ranking drop faster than a politician drops his promises after election day.  Google grows more intelligent every day so don’t be fooled into thinking search engine optimisation is easy or that a plethora of backlinks suddenly pointing to your site will be of any value.  Like the old saying goes ‘if it seems to good to be true it probably is’.

Not including the right search terms

The start of any search campaign should be the keyword research.  Taking the time to create a number of short and long tail key phrases that can be used across a variety of landing pages on your site and build into the content, images and meta data.  Matt Cutts, head of Google’s webspam team, says people often believe they are including words that users are looking for, but they don’t write them within the most-searched for phrases. The example he gives is not writing something like “Mt. Everest Height”, but instead writing “How high is Mt. Everest?” because that is more likely to be how web users search.

Did you know you were cloaking?

This is an age old tactic that actually used to work quite well but will now land you in the sticky stuff.  Cloaking is an old spammy technique that involves showing one version of your website to users and a different one to search spiders.  The purpose really has no other goal than to deceive the search spiders into displaying a page that would not usually rank based on its visible content, this is very much a black hat SEO tactic.  It could be argued that video, flash and documents have required this in the past but times have moved on with the likes of semantic markup.  If you think your online marketing supplier are employing cloaking tactics then it’s time to panic!

Limited quality content

So whilst sitting on the content bandwagon its worth remembering the now popular saying ‘Content is King’.  Rather than thinking about link building, think about making your content compelling for those who are looking at your site. In short, if you concentrate on making your site for users rather than for search engines, then Google will reward you.  Remember to write enough to make the page interesting, informative and on topic.  Create your own unique writing style, mix in images and video and if blogging look to make posts that people will want to socially share or engage with.

Invisible keywords

“Wow look at all my keywords and they are so well hidden” are you sure?  Again this is a tactic plucked from the early days of the web.  Webmasters would add additional keywords only visible to search engines or put keywords on pages they same colour as the background so they could not be seen by the visitor.  Hidden text is clearly a spammy tactic, no matter which part of a page you choose to put them.

Quality over quantity

Long gone are the days when you need a backlink from every man and his dog pointing at your site.  Forget about low quality link directories, blog networks and automated link building software.  If you’re adding your site into a directory for local SEO then be choosy as not everything is equal. Look at the quality of the urls already in the directory, check page rank, domain authority, social shares and estimated web traffic.  Do you want to be associated with the type of outbound links already on the potential site?  If you need to pay a fee for directory inclusion (like Yahoo), it should be because the site is carrying out thorough examinations of the urls it accepts. It’s a bit like making sure you live somewhere where you will have nice neighbours.

Duplicate content

While there’s still a place for article marketing in the world of SEO, times have moved on since the point you could just write one article and then “spin” it so you had lots of pieces which were pretty much the same, except for a few small changes, posted to different websites in return for a backlink. Google now penalises for duplicate content. Guest blogging does, however, still offer one of the best ways to build backlinks but the content you offer up must be useful and completely unique.

Keyword stuffing

Optimising pages no longer relies just on exact match keywords and is more about delivering great content that engages users. It’s no good simply stuffing your pages full of keywords and hoping that helps raise your profile in the rankings. Your content needs to be natural for the reader as well as Google and 1 to 2 keywords targeted sparingly per page.  With the growth Google have of semantic indexing they can identify patterns in the relationships between the terms and concepts contained in an unstructured collection of text.  In other words it will also view words on the page that may not be in the correct keyword order and understand the overall subject concept based on other similar contexts.

Not having a crawlable site

Make sure your site is searchable to the search engine bots. For example, some WordPress installations block search engine spiders by default and you need to physically change your privacy settings so that it is visible to everyone. Your navigation elements should use search engine friendly code and all pages should be easy to find and get to for real people and search engine spiders.  Review your 404 errors, have your sitemap in place and check your robots.txt is not preventing anything you don’t want it to.

Doorway pages

One of the many old tricks used by developers and still people trying it today.  Doorway pages are very much frowned upon by GoogleDoorway pages are in many cases multiple sets of pages written to rank for a key phrase all pointing to a single destination.  This pages can be from external domains or all from within one domain.  The pages in may cases are of a poor quality and often contain lots of scraped low quality content. They are annoying for users to navigate and of no real value to the web.  These types of pages have also been heavily used for affiliate linking and low quality consumer sales. They are easy for search engines to detect these days and run the risk of being penalised.

Unique title tags and meta descriptions

Many people still have their company name or website name as the title for every page. In fact I still see many site with the same meta data duplicated for every page on a site.  If you give every page a different title, it helps not just in your SEO efforts but to raise your profile when your pages are shared or bookmarked.  These are the the pieces of text that usually appear in search results and your chance to have a potential customer click through to your site.

Concentrating on meta keyword tags

At one point search engine algorithms took meta keywords tag into account, but these no longer have any great impact on SEO. In fact, all they do is allow competitors to easily see what keywords you are trying to target, potentially helping them in their own efforts.

Ignoring the tools at your disposal

There are so many useful tools available to you, that to ignore them is foolish. By making sure you have Google Analytics and Google Webmaster Tools configured to your website, you’ll be able to measure your site’s data to see which sections are the most popular. That way, you’ll be able to see more information on how your site is performing technically, find out more about how your visitors use your site and what the most popular pages are, all this and lots more.Take care to avoid potential SEO fails, there are many more not on this list but its a good starting point.  Make sure you stay up to date with SEO changes and algorithm updates, follow Googles’ guidelines and if unsure about a tactic bring in a professional like RAD SEO to manage your website SEO.Remember if something appears to be a spammy tactic, it probably is so stay in Google’s good books and stay clear of these SEO fails.

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