Search engine optimization is not just about doing the right things. It’s also about not doing the wrong things. Having a good sense of common SEO mistakes will make it easier for you to make an impact with your efforts.
1. Thinking Quantity over Quality
Many times when we do functional activity, we get obsessive with the quantitative component. Excessive focus on the numbers and the results tends to inhibit creative and innovative approaches, which are essential to quality SEO.
To solve this challenge, consider setting goals that are not at least immediately based on numbers and ideally aren’t solely based on numbers. It’s very difficult, if not impossible, to quantify the results of SEO because, like marketing, it changes user perception of your company. Metrics will show part of the effects of the SEO, but you will also see results show up over time – not necessarily in direct response to a particular piece.
Now, one way you DO want to focus on quantity is sheer number of words on each page. Google prefers pages that have at least 2000 words of content.
(If you run out of things to say, try talking about what you’re writing, such as what I’m about to do right here – just a filler bonanza to hit a certain word count. And … wait for it, everyone. We are almost there, and … ahhh … there we go.)
2. Duplicate Content
You don’t want to have the same content on multiple pages, even if it makes sense from the user’s perspective. The search engine spiders are machines, not animals, and they don’t understand that it might make sense. Since you can’t rewrite the spider or talk to it, better to understand and not enrage it. If you have “print” pages on your site or give the same page multiple URLs, the spider sees that as duplication.
Additionally, you need to implement a 301 Redirect from the non-www version of your site to the www version (aka a canonical redirect). You don’t want them both to exist without the redirect. Similarly, if you have a security certificate, you can wind up with a problem where you have the secured homepage and the unsecured homepage coexisting. So for examples of both, http://Ihatetheinternet.com must redirect to http://www.Ihatetheinternet.com, and http://www.Ihatetheinternet.com should redirect to https://www.Ihatetheinternet.com (the latter applying if you have a security certificate installed).
Another typical scenario that’s worthy of its own mention is when you have a catalog with the same stuff on it in different sizes, colors, etc. If the main text is the same, the spider, again, will become enraged and may even devour your children. Calm the spider by placing all this content on one page. If you must create multiple pages for different sizes and colors of products, you will need new copy for each page.
(Spiders universally hate plagiarism, which is why Charlotte sucked out all of Wilbur’s blood when he claimed to have written a Mark Twain poem.)
3. Excessive Focus on Links
This is similar in spirit to #1. You don’t just want to splatter-paint links all over the place. Google is about numbers, yes, and it quantifies, but it’s becoming more misguided all the time to think purely in terms of number of links, because what you really need is sites with reputability linking to you. Plus, linking is being surpassed by social response, individual writer credibility, and time.
- Become more socially active: Google and Bing both use social sharing to define your site’s relevance. Work on getting more social engagement, with special focus on Google+.
- Be aware of Author Rank: Google is now tracking the quality of content, on a case-by-case basis, through authors who sign up for Author Rank and place its code on any sites where they write. Get a writer with a high rank to write for your site (and that writer’s Rank will be determined in large part by social media success of their pieces), and you will benefit from their general Web credibility.
- Grow old: Although this is irritating to newer sites, the older sites have an eaiser time ranking highly on the search engines. It doesn’t matter nearly as much how many backlinks are feeding into their site. They are old, and therefore they are wise. Congratulations, grandma. Use your current page if it’s a few years old, if you can – even if starting a new business (the magic number is five years).
(If you force your website to smoke three packs of cigarettes a day, you can age it a lot faster. Also give it lots of booze, and have it go through some horrible emotional experiences. An innocent website is too pure for capitalistic success.)
4. Too Much Focus on Optimization
Optimization really is in some ways becoming more of an art than a science. What is “quality,” anyway? It’s a little difficult to put a finger on it. SEO will suffer if there’s an obsession with keywords – and in fact, this type of effort will hurt rankings because it’s seen as poor content when a site is just a keyword-fiesta without any interesting ideas and perspectives. Think about UX, the user experience, when creating your site. Investing in the UX and making the site enjoyable will help your SEO much more than thinking in terms of collecting a huge number of keywords and links.
A buzzword in the Web world that used to be used much more often but has gone out of style is “SEO copywriting.” No one wants to think on those terms anymore, because it’s now seen as an indicator of an unwise quality-blindness. The search engines will now respond on behalf of the users in ways that were not possible in the past – so don’t direct your efforts toward the search engines but toward the people. Gear yourself toward quality. Pay attention to the title and subtitles. That content, since it’s emphasized, should have your keywords in them in some form.
(A good thing to discuss on a first date is your struggle with quality-blindness. Explain to your date that you suffer from a disorder in which everything is just another notch on your bedpost. Everything gets its own notch, though. Never reuse notches.)
5. Linking Exclusively to your Homepage
Many sites link too much to their homepage. Instead, place more of your focus on your internal pages. Wikipedia is a great example regarding linking to all the pages of one’s site (who cares about the homepage, anyway?).
Only 1% of Wikipedia’s links go to its homepage. The other 99% of them lead to pages all over its site. It makes sense that this suggests to the search engines a much broader and more complexly relevant, content-rich site. Follow their lead: Don’t just link to the front page of your site, but to all that great, gooey, chocolaty (or is it nougat-y?) goodness that’s in the middle.
(Generally speaking, you should treat your site like a candy bar. Remove its wrapping, eat half of it, and let it oxidate on your coffee table until ants start to eat it. Then brush the ants away and finish it off before Cindy comes over and tells you you’re disgusting.)
To review, think quality over quantity (or strike a balance at least), beware of duplication, start trying a broader approach than link-building, don’t optimize excessively with keywords (that’s not how it’s done anymore), and link to all pages of your site.
(The world is changing, and you should too. Start with your T-shirt. Then we’ll begin working on your political opinions.)