Firstly it should be noted that Search Engine Optimization is not something performed with a blanket approach it is an individual set of actions performed page by page to suit that page's particular goals.
Here at Kanga Internet we break up a clients website into specific and important pages based on the keyword terms we have identified through research and then write the first few pages to suit those terms. We associate page titles, page file names (buy-blue-widgets.html), H1 tags, description and keyword Meta tags and in page content to tell the story that match those identified keywords. It is also important to ensure your pages are W3 compliant and have no errors.
The following are the top ten mistakes that I have seen made over and over again by people trying to self-optimize their websites.
1. Bad Titles
Titles are the most important thing about a webpage. Search engine spiders see the title on your page first and they make a general assessment about it based upon this. They scan the page and make sure the content of the page matches the title and then assign rankings based upon these matches and how they best fit. The title tag is the best way to inform the search engine what your page is about, and it plays an important part in ranking if used properly. Placing your main identified keywords in the title and ensuring to obey the rule of leftward and stemming is vital - leftward rule, the closer the word to the left of the sentence the more important it is; stemming is where words can be associated but with words in-between i.e.: Great Blue Widgets when stemmed would allow Great Widgets. It is important to ensure your title matches your page content, description and Meta keywords and is unique for your website. Every page title and content should be unique otherwise it will be ranked supplemental.
2. Filename of the Page
It is important if you are using dynamic websites like Joomla or other content management systems that a search engine friendly URL translator is installed. Because I use Joomla every day I will describe what I mean relating to Joomla. In Joomla (and most other dynamic websites) URL's like the normal Joomla URL "index.php?option=com_mtree&task=listcats&cat_id=1766&Itemid=35" drive the website.
The problem with these URL's is that they are unintelligible by humans and also by search engines.
Installing a search engine friendly URL component will change these pages to something more meaningful and also including your keywords in these page names can help with SEO. The newly transformed search engine friendly URL would look like this "buy-blue-widgets.html". If you do not have a dynamic website, then ensure your page name is short, to the point and contains your main keywords for that page maybe with a call to action like "buy" and "blue widgets".
3. Duplicate or Bad Content
Ensuring your content is unique and relevant is vital in SEO success. Often websites just duplicate content or bring in plagiarized content from other websites. It is my experience that these websites fail dismally in search engine rankings. Write some decent and unique content or maybe search online and find someone who can actually write you decent unique content for a fee. Make it good, friendly and unique content that people will want to link to. If you are listed in the supplemental index of Google, then making sure your titles, descriptions, Meta keywords and on page content is unique, is the only way to drag them out of the supplemental index.
4. No Links
Having covered off a few of the on page most important SEO tips we now look at links, which are an off page SEO concept. For each person or website that links to your website it is a vote for your site. If the website that links to yours has a high pagerank itself then it carries more weight. Simply having good keywords, titles and text on your page is only part of SEO. Just because you created a unique and perfectly optimized webpage does not mean you will automatically gain a decent pagerank for that page.
In order to ensure SEO success you have to create incoming links - this is probably the hardest part of search engine optimization because you are effectively selling your pages all over the Internet. One way to gain instant (within a few weeks) links is to pay for text advertising - A search on Google will uncover some of the best text linking services. Link exchanges are bad because for every vote you get you are giving one away and, if you happen to link to a "black listed" site, then Google will penalize you significantly. One way links are the ultimate in SEO link campaigns so seek out directories (either paid or free, you need to evaluate), post in forums, write articles and submit them and ask other friendly webmasters if they can help you out with a link. The best way to gain links is to have unique content that other people actually want to link to.
5. Incoming Link Anchor Text
Having pointed out how important it is to gain incoming links, it is now important to also point out that the text those links are anchored to is important also. The text should be targeted at your main keywords and the page they point to should have those keywords as relevant and prominent also. The website you link from should be relevant to your website. So, as an example I own a web design company in Melbourne, Australia so I gain links from web hosting providers and/or open source Joomla sites in or around my region. Getting 1000 links from a casino related website will serve no benefit to my website and will not make it rank higher for "web design" keyword search terms. Use professional common sense when gaining links.
6. Bad Internal Page Links
We return to on page factors that you can work on within your website. It is important to make sure that the anchor text linking to pages within your own website is relevant to the target page. Make sure the title tag is filled in also for each link. You have the greatest control over links from within your own web site so make sure they are relevant and that the link title and the on page copy match the main keywords of the target page.
7. Live Links
Using some external tools like the link checker that W3 Org offers is good. I suggest harnessing as many tools as you can to ensure all of the links on your website are live, working and not sending people to 404 error pages. It is also important to ensure your page markup (html, xhtml) is valid. W3 also provides a tool for this. Make use of both of these freely available tools.
Search Engine Optimization is not a short term task. It is one of an ongoing refinement after refinement and hour after hour of working on your website. Producing unique content, checking it, validating, listing and checking the search engines and making sure they have it listed correctly. Do not think for one second that you can optimize your site thoroughly ever and do not ever think that just because you are number one for a search term that it will indefinitely stay that way. Search Engine Companies are always changing their ranking and rating systems and coupled with this there are always other people out there gunning for your top spot. Keep looking to improve and learn more and don't sit back and wait for others to take your top spot. Be proactive, seek out new content, links and keep ahead of the curve.
9. Keyword Selection
This is proving to be a very common mistake among beginners to SEO. Often people base their own keyword selection on what they *think* is right but is this what people actually search for when they are looking for your product or service? Often the answer to this questions is no. It is an important step to do the correct keyword research and ensure you have the right keyword list before you optimize any pages with them. Using Overture, Google Adwords and some other paid keyword tools like WordTracker (the default standard in Keyword Finding) are vital to success in finding good keywords. It is important to localize your target market and figure out what they are actually searching on when they are looking for products or services that you offer. Do the research and be as specific as possible while still being broad enough to capture some high keyword traffic.
10. Keyword Spamming and Stuffing
If you sell "Blue Widgets", then every page of your site does not need to have "Blue Widgets" in the title, description and Meta tags. Try and be objective and analyze your website. Focus pages on a specific group of keywords you have identified from the keyword list. Sometimes finding niche markets locally first can be best. So, as an example, "Buy Blue Widgets Australia" or "Buy Blue Widgets Melbourne". These would be examples of good second or even third tier search keyword phrases, but you can make some good sales with these niche terms because the searcher is targeting buying these items.
These are not the be-all and end-all of Search Engine Optimization mistakes, but I have found these to be the main mistakes made by my clients prior to Kanga Internet being involved. Good luck and I wish you all the best with your SEO efforts.
About The Author
Chris Diprose is the Manager of Search Engine Optimization Australia firm Kanga Internet. As part of this organization his main goals are the improvement of SEO for websites and dynamic content management systems. SEO is not to be feared but embraced. If you are in doubt then contact a reputable SEO firm to help you with generating more web traffic.