11 MORE Common SEO Mistakes (part 2)

by Paul Wilson

 

With the birth of the new year comes the renewed determination to push out content that sits in my drafts folder being perpetually worked on. This post has been one of my perpetual projects since I wrote part one waaaaaay back in September on common SEO mistakes.

Originally with this post there were 16 total mistakes, but the last five were the main road blocks in the post being published. However, with just the below 11 tips this article is already almost 2000 words long. So I don’t think the omitted five mistakes will be missed too much. ~Paul W.

1. Assuming rankings mean traffic

Often I get emails from alleged SEO companies informing me that I am not ranking on some keyword like “I am looking for an Internet Marketing Firm in Methow Valley Washington.” Not only does the town of Methow Valley in Washington state only have 1,300 residents the SEO for this local keyword has zero organic traffic. Yes, I could easily spend a little effort to be #1 for this keyword (and this post probably will do that for me), but why? Instead, the best strategy is to find targeted keywords that drive a decent traffic. The longtail strategy of targeting a large amount of obscure keywords does work, but be sure that if you are going to rank on these keywords that they do have some traffic.

2. Assuming traffic means conversions

I actually feel this mistake is bigger than #1. In fact, I think most people starting out in SEO tend to believe that large volume means high conversions. This possibly could be the case, but most often it isn’t. To use the analogy from mistake #1, if you are wanting people from Methow Valley Washington to find your website, targeting the keyword “Washington” is probably not going to help. No doubt, if you rank #1 for this keyword you will have a lot of traffic to your website. Yet, it won’t really matter if the demographic for this keyword are elementary children doing a report on George Washington.

3. Forgetting about conversion

Do you see a pattern with these last three mistakes? In the end it all funnels down to your conversions. If you use Google Analytics (GA)  you can set things up to track your conversions, whatever this may mean to you. Yet, conversion tracking isn’t something that is automatic in GA, which is why a lot of people don’t track their conversions. When I say track I am not talking about knowing when you get a conversion, that’s obviously done with your commerce solution. Rather it is know from beginning to end exactly what keywords your conversion came from; how long were they on different pages; where they are from; and what they had for dinner. Okay, not the last one, but it is plain to see that knowing all the other information is helpful in fine tuning your SEO to target the demographic that converts.

4. Optimizing only for search engines

Often I catch myself falling into the mindset that I need to optimize for search engines. I mean, SEO is an acronym for Search Engine Optimization. However, no matter how popular this frame of mind is, ultimately it is wrong. We are not optimizing for the search engines, we are optimizing for the user. Search engines are transportation, not the final destination. A user may use a search engine to find a website, but if the site isn’t customized to the user’s needs, than sayonara! A site built for a search bot intrinsically has no value and little purpose. It may beat the search algorithms for a season, but it will never weather the turbulent changes of search evolution. The death of this type of site is inevitable, and usually sooner than later. All optimization, at the very core, should be user centric.

5. Keyword stuffing

This is really, really, really bad SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO, SEO((highlight the space before this sentence with your cursor to see keyword stuffing in action)! Don’t do it! Enough said!

6. Ignoring local search

The Internet offers a dynamic that the world has never seen—large scale invisible business. For millenniums humankind has done face-to-face business. The invention of postal mail and telephones broaden the reach of an average business, but for the large part business was done in person and locally. With the internet taking over the business world there are numerous corporate identities that have not nor ever will meet their customers. Obviously, this has some great advantages, but don’t over look the local search. Websites often want the entire world, when their local community can keep them quite busy. Bing even offers Geo-meta tags that help its search bots determine the local area of the website. Every visitor counts whether they are on the other side of the world or your next door neighbor.

7. Not staying current

SEO is ever evolving. Not actively staying current on the changes can (and most likely will) do damage. In the MyMarketer “Friends & Guru” sidebar widget are the top people in the web marketing industry that I follow on almost a daily basis. Doing so helps me filter the firehouse of information. I have a friend who uses her Google Reader to follow 25 blogs in her industry. She doesn’t read all 25 each day, rather she chooses 5 each day to glean useful information to keep her current. I strongly believe that any self-claimed Internet marketer who is not an advantageous reader of his/her industry is a hack and should be avoided!

8. Using splash pages

I admit I love splash pages. They usually are elegant and provide a doorway into your website. Over the years I have even been guilty of creating them. Yet, when it comes to SEO they are terrible—for a number of reasons. (1) By design, splash pages are the first thing someone sees when visiting your website. This means the splash page is stealing the most valuable real estate of your website—your root domain. Search engines give your root domain more authority (usually) than your other pages. Therefore, you are giving the most valuable area on your site to design. (2) Feeding off the first criticism, if you are giving up your home page to design than you are letting go of 99% of on page optimization. Yes, you can optimize design and should, but without content its value is seriously crippled. (3) Finally, the biggest issue with a splash page is not as much as SEO as it is usability (which in my book is part of SEO). Think of a user who visits your site often. Even if this is weekly, it will get old—and quick—if he or she has to click into the main area of your site upon each visit. Studies show, the more time a user has to click to get to what he or she wants the more you increase the chances of losing them. Eliminate a splash page and you automatically eliminate one extra click!

9. Overuse of AJAX

In short, AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) is based on JavaScript which can allow segments of a page to communicate and pull data from the server. Having this functionality allows for AJAX to behave much more like a desktop software than a web based system. In moderation this is a very good thing. However, the draw back is that when AJAX is heavily utilized on a page it is making it so a lot of information is not being crawled by the search bots. This is due to the fact that ajax does not refresh the entire page when pulling data. In some cases, a friendly SEO alternative to AJAX can be JQuery.

10. Not Posting Regularly

In the past when I spoke of posting often it mainly referred to a blog. However, after Google’s recent Freshness Update there is no doubt that a plain-non-blog-website needs to figure out how to keep its content fresh. When a site allows its content to go stale it now has a much bigger impact on losing out on visitors from search. This is particularly true if the site is in an evolving industry. One thing made clear in Google’s update was that just changing some wording on a page does not classify it as fresh. Google (and I am sure Bing is not far behind) is looking for fresh content that has a pulse on the here and now. Even if you are not in an industry that is constantly changing, it is wise to post often. A recent Hubspot study shows that more frequent posts brought greater traffic and leads. How frequent? According to the graph below: “”Multiple Times a Day.” Hubspot posts at least three times a day. Now, more than ever, posting as much quality content as possible is a significant benefit.

11. Poor Website Upkeep

This is similar to not posting regularly, but instead of dealing with content it focuses on development. The nature of software is that overtime it deteriorates. Either the code ecosystem becomes too advanced for the software or security flaws of the software become hacker knowledge. Either scenario is not ideal. This is the case with most Content Managing Systems (CMS). WordPress is what I use for most of my site development, and is a great example of how bad things can become if regular upkeep does not happen. Case in point, my friend Janet last year was running in old version of WordPress on her professional blog. Unbeknownst to her, some slimy spammer took advantage of a security hole in her old WordPress version and embedded thousands of invisible spammy links into her blog footer. She couldn’t see the links and therefore was unaware of them for quite some time. Unfortunately, the Google bot could see them, and her site was flagged as dangerous. Overnight her rankings plummeted. Google put a warning page as people went to her site informing them that her site was potentially dangerous. On top of the warning page her rankings slowly disappeared. The last thing Google wants is a dangerous site ranking in its index. It took months to root out the murky software which had implanted itself in her code. Had the most recent WordPress software been installed the likelihood of running into this issue would have been marginalized.

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