When you read most lists of common SEO mistakes to avoid you will find that they generally consist of a list of what you should do rather than errors to avoid. Avoiding SEO mistakes involves more than just following a list of SEO. This post involves a bit of each to be honest: what you should do and what you should avoid doing.
In order to use search engine optimization properly it is first essential to understand the meaning of the term, and then understanding the consequences, if any, of ignoring its implications. So first, let’s define SEO.
What is SEO?
SEO, or search engine optimization, refers to the process of taking the steps necessary to maximize the potential for your individual web pages or blog posts being made visible to people using a search engine to find information. It is more about meeting the needs of search engine algorithms than about designing a good website or blog. In fact, to be realistic, SEO is about meeting the needs of Google.
Google is by far the most used search tool on the planet. Although it takes just over 60% of all search traffic, many other search facilities use Google’s results in their own listings. While there are other search engines, we are being pedantic by not accepting Google as being the largest and the best known.
In the past few years, website/blog design and readability have become increasingly more important to your rankings. Google has steadily introduced user experience into search and ranking algorithms so that good, natural writing has superseded most of the techniques used to game Google and its algorithmic calculations. That said and understood, here are the most common SEO mistakes to avoid.
Being Unaware of your Meta Data
Many people are unaware of what the term Meta data actually means. The term ‘Meta’ has a number of meanings, but in ‘Meta data’ it means ‘about’ in the sense of it being data about data. In other words, Meta data offers information about what is contained on the page, or in the body of the web content or blog post.
Title tag and description Meta data
Most Meta data is provided in the ‘Head’ section of the HTML source code for the page. Like all information provided in this part of the source code, it is visible to algorithms but not to human readers. Examples include your Meta description, Meta keyword statement and your Title tag.
Many people fail to provide these in the Head section of the HTML of each web page and blog post. There is no excuse for this, since most web hosting services that provide web design and content facilities also offer a means of entering the correct information into these Meta data fields. You must do this on every page and blog post.
Blogging SEO plugins
If you run a blog, and are using an SEO plugin such as All-In-One or SEO, then you will be provided with the relevant boxes to provide this information. Google looks for it, so by failing to provide the correct Meta data for each web page or post you will have less chance of being awarded a high ranking position for any search related to your content.
Google uses this information in its search results listings. The Title tag is the title at the top of your Google listing, while the contents of the Meta description tag appear beneath the title – usually the first 160 characters or so of your Meta description.
Image Alt tag
Also make sure you use the Alt tag in your images. Although they relate to the visible body section of the HTML, the Alt tags are technically Meta data because they inform readers about the image – but only when that image cannot be resolved. This is one of the many SEO factors involved in Google’s ranking algorithm.
Avoid Duplicate Content
It stands to reason that if Google wants to offer its users the best possible search experience (which it does) then it makes no sense to provide a search engine results page containing more than one site with the same information. This type of duplicate content is anathema to Google, and not always easy for you to overcome – even if you write honestly.
It would be a severe SEO mistake to copy content from another blog and publish it on your own. Google will weed out duplicate content and publish only the one version it believes to offer most information to the reader. That might not be the original version, incidentally, and the entire relevance of the page will be taken into consideration along with many other ranking factors.
Never try to rewrite content simply by changing a few words – In fact you should never rewrite original content at all! Many make the mistake of believing that changing a term such as ‘making money with’ with ‘making money using’ constitutes a change – not in Google’s eyes it doesn’t! Google now assesses the sense of what you write rather than the exact semantics used. That is one of the main purposes of the Hummingbird algorithm.
Excessive Use of Keywords
Now we are getting into the real SEO mistakes to avoid rather than just omissions. Commonly known as keyword stuffing, you would be better off using no keywords at all than using them excessively. Your page or post will be listed by Google if it deserves to be, not because you tried to influence the search engines with multiple repetitions of a keyword.
Forget 5% keyword density – forget even 3%, and in some cases even 1% is too high for a long tail keyword. Use keywords naturally, when it seems logical to do so. Write for readers, not for machines. The days are long gone where search engines would reward you for finding dozens of keywords. Hummingbird is the latest nail in the keyword coffin.
Buying Links and Link Spam
Matt Cutts is Google’s webspam guru, and he has a standing invitation to anyone who experiences it to report link spam to him. Google is continually working on algorithms to detect this, and severely punishes any website or blog responsible. Examples Matt gives include: paid links that pass on PageRank, blog spammers, guestbook spammers, comment spam and so on which are associated with links back to the originating web pages and blogs.
Using software to post comments with your links into multiple blogs and guestbooks is one of the worst SEO mistakes you can make. Once caught, your Google listing is likely to disappear overnight – and forever. The same is true of buying links. Avoid paid links at all costs. Link wheels are also anathema to search engines. In fact, forget about counting your links but instead focus on writing good, relevant content and great posts.
Another issue regarding links is that of broken links – where the link does not lead anywhere when clicked. The target page might have been closed down, or the link wrongly constructed. Use Google Webmaster Tools to check that all your links work correctly. Broken links can lead to your page being downgraded in the rankings.
Ignoring Google+ and Authorship
It would be a critical error to ignore Google’s new developments. It is almost unbelievable how many people are failing to create a Google+ profile and business page and link these to their website or blog. Google authorship is another relatively recent innovation that will help boost your rankings. At least set up a good Google+ profile and:
- Link it to your content
- Link your user names to it where permitted on blog comments and forum posts.
- From your name in the author’s resource section if you use article marketing
By naming yourself as author of all your work, including each web page and blog post, you can achieve higher search engine rankings. Do this by linking your site to your Google+ account, and adding ‘author = your name’ to each page/post. The visibility of your content is more likely to be increased in Google if you embrace Google+ an authorship in your SEO strategies.
SEO Mistakes to Avoid: Conclusions
These are just a few of the more common SEO mistakes to avoid. They are a combination of genuine errors, and errors by omission. If you work on each of these then you will have gone a long way towards maximizing the potential of your blog or website – without even starting on the content. There are other SEO issues you should consider (Google considers over 200 factors in your search engine results position), but these are five of the more important SEO factors that may affect your search engine ranking.