When it comes to optimizing your web site for the search engines, search engine optimization, there are a lot of things that you can do that will hurt your search engine rankings. Many of these items are easily corrected, and some are not.
In fact, there are literally hundreds of different factors that come into play when it comes to search engine optimization. And add in new technologies and web sites such as social media web sites and there are even more search engine optimization factors. That said, let’s focus on some of the bigger search engine optimization mistakes that I run across every day when I am reviewing and auditing web sites for search engine optimization.
It only took a few minutes of brainstorming for me to come up with this list of search engine optimization mistakes. There are quite a bit more SEO mistakes on my search engine optimization audit list. Of course your web site may not suffer some of these search engine optimization maladies. But it is good to go through this SEO checklist of mistakes just to make sure.
Your website was entirely built in Flash.
One way to tell is to go to your web site’s home page. When you click a link or visit a web page on your web site, does the URL change? If you click a link and it goes to another page, such as domain.com/page.html then most likely your web site is not totally built in Flash. Flash can be embedded into html pages, so you may be okay–just make sure that you have other content on your web pages (lots of text) so that the search engines can read what your web page is about: search engines generally do not index and read Flash.
Having the same text or content on more than one web page is not recommended. The search engines only like to index one version: and they will typically not index multiple copies of the same text. So, if you have all sorts of duplicate content on your web site, it’s not likely going to be indexed and therefore your website is not going to rank as well as it could in the search engines. Duplicate content could be on your web site, but you could also be using content (text) from other web sites. In ecommerce situations, frequently web sites will use the default product descriptions from the manufacturers. That is not recommended, as several different web sites may be using the same content. Your content must be unique. In the hotel industry, it is common for a hotel description to be used more than once. Again, that is not recommended. Your best bet is to hire a writer to write unique content (or rewrite the content).
Not linking to your real home page
One common mistake I see over and over again is that a web site will not link to its real home page. Your web site’s real home page is at http://www.domain.com/ and not at http://www.domain.com/index.html. Index.html is actually a duplicate copy: and other web sites don’t link to http://www.domain.com/index.html they will link to http://www.domain.com/ (without the index.html). So, you need to be consistent–always link to the main version of your home page.
Splash Page as your home page
Splash pages are not recommended, in any situation. Splash pages don’t generally contain text content. Your web site is not a movie, and it does not need “opening credits”. Make your home page the best most important page on your web site. After all, other web sites link to it.
Not having Unique Title Tags
Every web page on your web site is unique. Make it that way. Your title tag describes what is on your web page and what people will find when they visit that web page. The title tag is used as part of the actual search result, so make sure that people will find the information they need and want to click from the search result to your web page.
Not having unique Meta Description tags
Just like the meta description tag, it must uniquely describe the content on the web page. Just like the title tag, the meta description is often used in the actual search result. Make it good enough for people to want to click on into your web site from a search result.
Not properly adding alt tags to images
Alt tags describe the content of images. Not only for accessibility purposes, the search engines use these as part of the search engine ranking factors. Make sure that every image on your web site has a proper alt tag.
No Robots.txt file
The robots.txt file will keep the search engines (most of them) out of certain parts of your web site. There is no reason for certain directories on your web site to be crawled. This is also helpful to keep the search engines from indexing certain duplicate copies of your web pages, such as the “print version” of a web page that may be a duplicate. The robots.txt file should also contain other information, like the location of the sitemap.xml file.
No sitemap file
If you particularly have a large web site or your web site frequently adds content then you should have a sitemap.xml file. It’s not required, but is helpful.
Not updating your website
Web sites, just like a loaf of bread, get stale if they aren’t updated on a regular basis. Your business is fluid, something is always happening, so your web site should reflect that. Even if you decide not to have a blog or other fluid content on your web site, you should at least publish a press release once a month. This will add content to your web site, and keeping it fresh (link to your latest press releases on the home page of your web site) will ultimately help search engine rankings.
Not getting new links to your website
Your web site should be getting at least a few new links every month. Even if you don’t actively seek these out, you should be getting more links, and even distributing a press release will help.
Improper use of internal anchor text
No breadcrumb trail
A breadcrumb trail can add more links to your web site, especially if you are in a situation where your navigation is in images (they are image links).
Linking out to too many websites
Don’t make your web site what is called a “link farm”. Be careful who you link to, you are the “company you keep”. Link out to spam web sites and your web site could be considered to be spam. Too many outgoing links is tougher to maintain over time, as many web sites go down, are bought, or just don’t exist anymore. The should be more incoming links to your web pages than outgoing links on pages.
Not linking to trusted, authority websites
Your web site should link out to trusted, authority-type web sites in your niche or topic.
If a keyword is not on your web page in the body copy, it should not appear in your title tag, meta description tag, or meta keywords tags. Don’t put keywords anywhere on your web page just to get search engine rankings. Create web pages for the website vistors, many people will not like your web page if you mention a keyword over and over and over again. It just doesn’t “read right”.
When linking to other pages on your website, some links redirect to other URLs.
You have control over all the internal links on your web site. If you move a page or remove a web page, you also need to fix the links on your web site that linked to that page.
No proper 404 errors on your website
If someone (or a search engine) requests a page that does not exist, your web site should deliver a proper 404 error.
Changing the entire site structure and not redirecting pages
If you update or redesign your web site, it is preferable to use the same URLs on pages. Sometimes that is not the case, especially when you switch to another content management system. If a page changes, then you need to set up a 301 Permanent Redirect to the new location.
Not viewing your 404 errors in your website stats
Not viewing your redirect errors in your website stats
Just like I mentioned with the 404 errors, your log files will give you information about your redirects. Analyze your log files and you’ll get a lot of good information that you can use to view redirects. Make sure they are set up properly and redirecting properly.
Not promoting your blog posts
Every blog post should be promoted on the social media web sites soon after they are posted. Getting links to your blog posts is a critical part of search engine optimization.
Not optimizing your blog properly
WordPress, for example, usually generates a lot of duplicate content out-of-the-box when it is installed. It’s important to optimize your blog posts (title tag, URLs, meta tags, etc.) and even the overall blog template (or theme) to make sure that each blog post can rank well in the search engines.
Not having search engine friendly URLs
Owning multiple domain names and they all are mirrors of your main website.
You have one main web site. Pick one domain name and set up a 301 Permanent Redirect from ALL the others to your main web site’s home page.
These are only a few of the hundreds of common search engine optimization mistakes that I see every day over and over again. I perform a lot of search engine optimization audits on a regular basis, and I typically find myself cleaning up after poor web design, poor internal linking structures, and what I would call “typical” search engine optimization mistakes. Hopefully by viewing this list you have been able to find at least a few SEO mistakes that you can fix.