Every webmaster and Internet marketer has made their fair share of mistakes in the attempt to make their site rank higher in the search engines.
Frequently, they have gone against their gut instinct and listened to hearsay (or simply gone with what “seemed right” rather than using tried and proven techniques) or they have simply jumped on the latest bandwagon or followed the newest hot SEO tip making the rounds of the forums.
The danger is that they can end up making changes that will hurt their search engine rankings without knowing what the exact cause of their drop was in the first place.
Drops can occur for many reasons, some within your control and others not: competing marketers moving into your territory and Google changing its algorithms fall into the latter category. But there are many things that are in your control but you may not even be aware of.
One mistake is to give your site a complete overhaul or redesign without taking the SEO implications into consideration. Such changes can include the alteration of page titles or the renaming of some important directories.
How can you avoid such mistakes? Ignorance is no excuse as far as Google and Bing are concerned.
While no one is perfect, and it’s probably impossible to avoid every conceivable SEO mistake, here are some classic blunders seen again and again:
1. Design, Structure and Usability — Using Images for Navigational Links
Redesigning your website to make it more sleek and stylish is great, but going overboard with fancy layouts and graphics can reduce amount of indexable text for the search engines.
Generally every webpage on your site should contain a minimum of 200 to 300 words with an appropriate sprinkling of your target keywords. Navigation should consist primarily of text links containing focused keywords.
2. Nondescriptive Website Navigation
Your website visitors will understand links labeled with “Click Here” but will the search engines? Rather than using such redundant and monotonous text for your links to other pages, it is better to label your links with descriptive, keyword-rich phrases.
If you want to link to a page of iPod accessories, for example, simply label your link “iPod accessories”. After all, ranking number 1 for “Click Here” will not do you much good!
3. SEO and Usability — “Welcome To Our Site”
Naming every page using the same text, or leaving each page with a default name is one of the most common SEO mistakes.
Check every page on your site to make sure it has a descriptive, keyword-rich title. While you’re examining the head section of your pages, it is a good idea to take a look at the meta description as well.
Although the meta description no longer plays the role in search engine rankings that it once did, most still use it to describe your site on their search results pages. It’s therefore an essential element in differentiating your page from your competitors and enticing the click.
4. Linking and PageRank/Popularity — Cross-linking Your Own Websites
If you own multiple domains, you may be tempted to cross-link them to gain some instant backlinks, especially if some are more well-established than others (I should know; I’ve done the same thing).
There are a couple of problems with this strategy, however. Since you probably host all the sites on the same server (in other words, use the same web hosting company) they are probably on the same C IP class. This will tell search engines that your sites all reside on the same server, which isn’t a natural linking profile. Add in a few more tell-tale clues such as whois data and Google is likely to conclude all the sites belong to a single entity.
Secondly, since your sites may focus on diverse topics, the thematically unrelated sites may diminish the effectiveness of your inbound linking, diluting rather than reinforcing page relevance.
A bigger problem is having a large number of inbound links with identical anchor text. This seems unnatural, since the web is an unstructured ecosystem that normally contains links with a great variety of anchor text wordings.
This is a problem with paid links, link exchanges and similar sources: they can result in keywords that are repeated in the anchor text with an unnaturally high fequency, which can lead to lnk devaluation and over-optimisation penalities from Google.
5. Usability Design and Structure — Leaving Orphaned Pages Indexed On the Engines After Changing Directory and Page Names
You should change directory and webpage names with the utmost care. This is especially true the longer webpages have been up in their current state.
Search engines are constantly indexing and assigning the location of webpages with semi-permanent places in their indexes. These will remain in place indefinitely as long as you avoid renaming or deleting pages.
If you rename or remove a webpage, a search engine will eventually delete the page from its index after several unsuccessful attempts by its spider to visit it. This also means the removal of its PagerRank and other link data, the loss of which will negatively impact the rankings across the entire site, as they will lose the link juice that flowed from the page around the rest of the site.
If you must remove a page, you should use a 301 Permanent Redirect to the new URL, or leave the page where it is and simply create new content for it.
Avoid these common SEO mistakes and you will be several steps ahead of most webmasters, including many who profess to know SEO.
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