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Top 10 SEO Errors

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Following are a list of mistakes businesses make when designing their website.  The list contains some very basic search engine optimisation mistakes, but all are still common in the SME market.

1.     Keyword stuffing

In the early 1990’s keyword stuffing (Figure 1) your metadata would help you achieve your all important number one spot in Google. 

Keyword stuffing not only goes against Google’s Guidelines, but it will also increase non-relevant traffic to your website.  When deciding your keyword targets you should ensure they are relevant to the content on that page.

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ARABIC 1 – Example of Keyword Stuffing

Content for websites should be written for the users that are reading the website and not the search engines.  Over optimising your website will lead you to being penalised.

2.     Splash pages

A splash page is the first page a user sees when they log onto your website.  Splash pages are usually a Flash object with a “click here to skip” button or a large static graphic that consumes most of the screen with a “continue” button.  The reason splash pages do not work is that they are not usually optimised for search engines to crawl. The splash page contains little readable content for the search engines to index and therefore will consider this page of little interest so it will not rank highly.

If your website requires you to have a splash page, ensure that the page is optimised correctly and that there is plain text as well as graphics for the search engine spiders to read and index.

3.     Alternative text to images – ALT tag

If your website has a lot of product images or contains many images as part of the design, it is important to let the search engines know what your images are.  The ALT tag was designed to be a text alternative to an image, to help with usability for the visually impaired.  The ALT tag can also be used to allow your pictures to be indexed correctly.

Many search engines offer an “image” search facility which is seen as an increasingly prominent source of traffic to your website.  Many users when searching for specific products will “image search” until they see the product they want.  If your product has been tagged and indexed correctly image searches could act as another source of revenue for your website.     

4.     Flash only websites

Flash websites do look great, with moving images, sliding navigation and sleek designs but search engines do not like them.  Search engines currently cannot see the text that is within a Flash object and therefore cannot index your content.

Adobe, Google and Yahoo have recently stepped up their attempts to make Flash objects more search engine friendly with their introduction of “SEO Technology Center for Flash” and there have been some improvements to search engine rankings for Flash based websites, but there is still no competition when it comes to Flash based websites versus HTML websites.

Adobe still recommends having a HTML version of your website.

5.     Duplicate data

Google penalises heavily for duplicate content on your website.  Duplicate content often occurs on ecommerce websites when you have a store selling the same products as many other websites. 

Websites will have access to product feeds from the manufacturers which they will just upload to their website, or copy and paste content from other websites; this will also be done by hundreds of other websites.  Although some duplicate data is unavoidable e.g. product specific names/serial numbers, it is worth writing unique content for the description of products, unique reviews and unique metadata, so that the search engines have fresh and unique content to index.

6.     Purchase of online search engine optimisation programmes

As with most things in life if it sounds too good to be true – it is!  The same applies to the thousands of websites (figure 2) offering you number 1 position in Google within a short space of time.  All they want you to do is give them your URL and a small amount of money.  This is not possible and could actually have a negative impact on your website as many of the techniques that they would use could be ‘Black Hat’. Using such products/services could lead to your website being blacklisted by Google.  Search engine optimisation is a long term strategy – you have been warned.

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ARABIC 2 – Example of advert

7.     Linking to competitors

With the many price comparison websites around and having to prove to your customer that you have the best product at the most competitive price, it may be tempting for you to link to your competitor’s products or website in order for you to make it obvious to your user that you are the most competitively priced.  By linking to their website you are actually giving them a “vote” which Google views as a recommendation. In search engine optimisation the more external, high quality, relevant links you have pointing to your website, the more of a trusted source you become and therefore improve your search engine rankings.

8.     Link Farming/Link Spamming

While researching search engine optimisation improvements to your website you may have seen adverts offering submission to hundreds of directories for a one-off fee (figure 3).  As mentioned in the previous post, having links pointing to your website is a positive move for search engine rankings. The danger of link farm websites is that they are usually of low quality content and considered as spam by Google.  Therefore if you have many low quality websites pointing to yours Google will assume that you have been spamming your website to the internet and penalise you for such actions.

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ARABIC 3 – Link Farming

9.     Non-utilisation of Meta information

With every page on your website you have the chance to notify in brief what each page contains.  There are three main areas to each page that you can supply content to, these are known as the TITLE tag, DESCRIPTION tag and the KEYWORDS tag, you can view these tags by having a look at the ‘source’ of your web page. 

Each tag needs to be written correctly to ensure that your website is search engine friendly.  Each tag needs to be an honest representation of what is contained on that web page.  If you try to fool the search engines or stuff the tags with keywords that are not relevant to the page content then your website will be penalized.

10.  Do not avoid Google guidelines

Last on my list would be to take note and keep up-to-date with any changes to Google Webmaster Guidelines which can be found at  http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=35769.  Google is constantly developing its search engine algorithm and failure to adhere to their guidelines will affect your search engine rankings.  There are always good web design tips to be found here too.

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