There are many different types of SEO mistakes that people make, and today I am going to outline the most common ones. These mistakes result because there are many different types of publishers out there, with greatly differing levels of knowledge and approaches. These fall into 4 different groups:
People who don’t really know what SEO is, so they don’t know that they should do something about it.
People who have bad information about SEO, so they do the wrong thing.
People who engage in SEO and knowingly violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
People who understand SEO and attempt to abide by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
To make matters worse, people in groups 2 & 3 may publish a lot of content about SEO, how they think it should be done, and others read that and believe its good advice. Group 4 tries to correct that information, but someone trying to learn about SEO may be initially getting their information from the other groups. The result is a tremendous amount of confusion and mistakes.
The Top 7 SEO Mistakes
1. Fail to Configure Your Content Management System: There are lots of content management systems (CMS) or e-commerce systems out there that can be made friendly to SEO. However, all of them require some level of configuration, including WordPress, Drupal, Joomla, Magento, ATG, and more. Here is an example of the Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress:
Custom titles and descriptions per page are a common configuration requirement for all of these platforms, but there are often many more elements as well. These can include generating a site maps file, customizing URLs for search engine friendliness, eliminating duplicate content, and much more. Make sure to get information from your CMS provider on what the SEO configuration requirements are for their platform. If there is money being paid, make sure you have that in hand before you pay them. Here are some example guides that are good places to start:
2. Have Duplicate content: This problem has been around forever, and often results from sloppy coding or failing to configure your CMS, or just simply not realizing that dealing with it is important.
Duplicate content can be defined as having the same content, or nearly the same content, appear on two different URLs. For example, if your website returns the same content at http://www.yourdomain.com/page-17 and http://www.yourdomain.com/Page-17 and you have links implemented on your web site to both versions of the URL, that’s duplicate content.
The bottom line is that this type of problem can cause search engines to rank your site lower, and therefore send you less traffic. You will need a technical resource help you deal with the problem, but the sooner you get them working on it the better!
3. Have Thin Content: This is defined as pages that simply don’t have a lot of text on them, or sites with lots of pages that are not that different from one another (even though they are not considered duplicates). Many types of sites can have this problem. This is a fictitious example of what might be considered a thin content page on an e-commerce site.
The complete lack of text is a killer on a page like this. When search engines encounter lots of these types of pages on your site they may conclude that your site is of poor quality. In fact, this is quite likely to happen. How does thin content usually happen? More often than not it is because a publisher has learned enough about SEO to realize that having pages for different topics can help attract more traffic, but they don’t put in enough effort into the pages they add to make them unique and valuable.
4. Act on Rumors: This happens to publishers who read something online that gives them inaccurate information about SEO. For example, you can find articles online that argue that Facebook Likes are used by Google as a ranking signal. This sounds like a great idea, but Google can’t actually detect Facebook Likes.
Sadly, these articles lead to people building out entire SEO strategies around Facebook Likes, and in fact purchasing them from 3rd party web sites that offer services to generate lots of Likes on your content. These people are wasting their money and their time.
How can you avoid this type of mistake? Make sure you figure out who the most credible sources of information are, and then apply your own critical thinking to the problem. Would it make sense for Google or Bing to rank your site more highly just because you bought 500 Likes from a 3rd party service? Of course not.
5. Lose Focus on the End User: This is a common scenario with people who learn some things about SEO, but they go too far with it. Suddenly, everything becomes about SEO. How can we tweak this page for SEO? How can we add 30 more pages to increase our SEO volume? And so forth. Soon, everything these publishers are doing is to try and get more traffic from Google.
It’s like anything else in life when you overdo it, the returns diminish rapidly, and eventually become negative. In addition, search engine algorithms change all the time, so it’s best to focus on what the search engines are really looking for, which is what web sites/pages which are the best results for them to provide users who enter in a given search query.
As a publisher, this is what you should focus on – making sure you provide your visitors with the best possible experience. Focusing on the end user is your best long term strategy.
6. Under Invest in SEO: Obviously, this happens with those who don’t really know what SEO is, or with those who may know about it, but they don’t understand how significant it can be. We still encounter web sites that have done a fantastic job, and may even have millions of visitors per month, but they have never done anything about SEO.
How can they have that much traffic then? It happens when they have addressed the user side of the equation really well. You might think they don’t have a problem given the seemingly large traffic numbers, but of course, if they resolve their SEO issues, their traffic could double.
Sadly, there are also those whose businesses never get off the ground at all because they ignore SEO.
7. Invest in SEO “After the Fact”: This is another ignorance based scenario. I have had people tell me that “we are working on launching our web site, and when we will done we will call you so you can add in some SEO”. A lot of times these are people that still think that SEO involves setting up title tags, keywords meta tags, and meta description tags. While title tags and meta description tags are important, keywords meta tags are not, and there are bigger issues to worry about in SEO.
These are issues like having a crawlable site architecture, eliminating duplicate content, configuring your CMS, and so forth. There is an old saying that applies very well here: “You can do it right, or you can do it over”. Waiting until you launch your site to start doing SEO could result in your having to make major changes to your site that would have been far easier to address if you had received SEO input before you wrote the first line of code.
What Does This Mean For Me?
We can summarize this in 4 points:
Learn Basic SEO Principles: You don’t need to become an expert if you employ one or can contract with one, but you should at least understand what it’s about and how it impacts your business.
Make End User Value Your Top Priority: This is critical. Take care of the end user first, and then make sure your site is implemented in an SEO smart way second.
Apply Critical Thinking and Avoid Gimmicky SEO: SEO fads almost always have their roots in myths. If an idea sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t.
Get Expert SEO Advice When You Need it: High quality SEO does involve a fair amount of technical expertise, and it’s a different type of expertise than that found in your web developer. Make sure you have a trustworthy expert there to help you when you need it.