I will raise my hand and admit to either committing some of these schoolboy errors (in my early SEO days), or the lesser but more shameful offensive of being involved in letting them happen.
Almost all can be avoided. Some can have drastic Google consequences and others when avoided mean you are simply playing ball will Google and your visitors. And doesn’t it feel good when you get to shoot hoops with the ‘G’ man and he pours a little Google love your way?
School boy error. Making the most basic of simple mistakes, worthy of ridicule, particularly when you should know better. School boy error!! I just made a school boy error! He school boyed!Urban Dictionary
#1 – Linking to the same page you are optimising in the main content copy (usually with keyword rich anchor text).
This doesn’t make sense to the user and will likely start a bad vibe with Google. Google’s ‘over optimisation’ radar will be alerted, and you may receive your first ‘grey mark’ from the big ‘G’ man. Too many grey marks can result in lowered Google trust and rankings.
#2 – Linking to a page more than once in your main copy (again usually with keyword rich anchor text).
This is ok in moderation when usability prevails or an important call to action needs reinforcing but repeat offenders may lower their trust and look like a spammer if it is done solely for SEO. Potential for another grey mark from the big ‘G’ man.
— the same applies for repeated bold highlighting of text for your most important keywords. Don’t try so hard!
#3 – The bulldozer approach in ‘outbound’ link building where little variation is given to anchor text.
And where you chase the highest searched, most commercial and generic search term in your industry. This trick used to work a few years back but a more natural approach is now required.
#4 – You link to your homepage inconsistently…
If your homepage URL is http://www.seotraining.org.uk, stick to it! Don’t link to http://www.seotraining.org.uk/index.php, or http://www.seotraining.org.uk/default.aspx. Otherwise you are opening yourself up to duplicate content issues and not passing your link juice efficiently.
I am a fan of conventions. Many external sites will link to you with http://www.seotraining.org.uk especially if it resolves. So why not just stick to that instead of http://www.seotraining.org.uk/default.aspx, or http://seotraining.org.uk [web 2.0 sites are cool enough to do this]. That way, you can be sure that every time you get an external link you are getting the maximum benefit from it.
#5 – After a new website design or content management system, you (or your web developer) disallow all search engines access!
Schoolboy error 101! And Yes this happens far more often than you think… When your site goes into a testing environment [like when a new design is being developed], it’s good practice to block search engines from accessing it. The cool kids always remember to unblock this. But about 5% of the time, people aren’t that cool and forget.
Sometimes they forget for a few hours [me included here], a few days – heck, a few months! Maybe even years… Don’t be in the 5%. Always check robots control through the robots.txt file and meta tags when your gorgeous new design is ready to be unveiled. Failure to do so could result in a whole world of unimaginable SEO pain!
#6 – You only create commercial content to target the money making keywords.
Money making content is great for converting sales but they generally suck big time in attracting links and attention to your site. Links build your site’s reputation in Google which makes your money making content more powerful. So think about creating some awesome content that your industry will want to share, talk about and ultimately link to.
Stuck for ideas? How about a blog? And try not to mention your money making content too much! You intention here is to be sociable and useful.
#7 – Believing that you should write for users first and search engines second but still insisting on using a keyword density checker tool.
Put the keyword density checker down and step away from the car. That’s what the Google SEO police will say. Consideration of keyword repetition and synonyms are imporatnt but there really isn’t a keyword density sweet spot like 5% that Google looks for! Contrary to popular belief.
#8 – You nofollow all your outbound links. You’re a PageRank horder…
You may be saving some PageRank for your own site, a wincy amount but you may also alienate yourself from your online community and then miss out on the abundance of link Karma that will come back from well written content. Especially if you are nofollowing links from your blog to other bloggers. Share the love! And they will follow and love you too.
#9 – GEO targeting the wrong country…
GEO targeting with SEO in mind can be a fairly complex topic and there isn’t a ‘one shoe’ fits all approach. But if you have a country neutral domain like a .com be sure to check where your website’s IP is hosted. As search engines often use this to understand your locality. If you have a used a cheap web host in India, Google will likely pick up on the Indian scent. If so, you can override this in Google Webmaster Tools settings.
As much as you will want to “take over the world” – plan to do this in your own backyard first.
#10 – Not making the best use of your trump SEO card – the HOMEPAGE.
Why is your homepage your trump card? Well, it’s nearly always the most authoritative page on your site. It’s the page with the most external links to it, so it’s the page Google pays closest attention to and so should you!
Obviously it’s very important that you target the right keywords which are within your reach. But it’s also the PageRank Mecca, so think about how you can use that link juice to flow effectively round your site in promoting your most important pages and articles.
#11 – Duplicate content – internally is not so drastic. But external duplicate content can be a shot in the foot.
Think about your product range. Do you get it in an XML feed from your suppliers? Do you put them on an XML feed and distribute it to your resellers? If so, you might get a big Google Panda slap… This is just one example of how it’s easy to have duplicate content without ‘copying’ or having the wrong intetion. There are of course many more ways.
Why not copy a snippet sentence or two from sample pages and paste it into Google to help check for duplication. You should hopefully see your site rank #1 for the snippet. If not, you may see someone else has the same content, and is out ranking you. Not a good sign, and you should research if this is a one off or sitewide problem.
#12 – Compromising Usability with SEO.
Usability and SEO really should go hand-in-hand, like a happy couple that doesn’t argue too much. Little compromising should be the norm, just common sense of what best practices to use for both. If your users feel you have ‘sold out’ by forcing in SEO best practices, you have probably ‘over cooked’ your optimisation which is unlikely to get you any extra Google love. Just a poor user experience. The magic blend nearly always exists, and it’s easy to find once you get the hang of it.
Ok, so there are a dozen school boy errors which may result in ridicule when made by and reviewed by experienced SEO professionals. The list doesn’t stop there though. Can you help me with a few more to add to the list?