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10 Biggest SEO Mistakes

Each year companies spend billions of dollars building websites and promoting their website. I titled this post “10 Biggest SEO Mistakes” but really they are mistakes companies make when building a site and not realizing they are shooting their search engine optimization efforts in the proverbial foot.

1. Thinking SEO is a one-time endeavor

Saying “we did SEO” is analogous to saying “we did marketing.” If you aren’t actively “doing” SEO or even better paying a professional firm to do it for your business, you are likely missing out on rankings and traffic.

2. Not canonicalizing their site

Did you know that search engines view

  • www.yourdomain.com
  • www.yourdomain.com/
  • yourdomain.com
  • yourdomain.com/

All as separate websites? Many companies are promoting four separate websites without even knowing it. The concept behind canonicalization is that all content has only 1 url to access it. Go check your site right now. Then come back and read the other 8 mistakes.

3. Not specifying unique and targeted title tags for each page.

I have a favorite made up statistic that 90% of what you can do to optimize a page on a site is in the title tag. The reason the stat is made up is because nobody knows the fullness of the search engine algorithms to make a statement like that. But what I do know is that based on experience, the title tag is the single most important element on a page. Make it unique and targeted to a search phrase.

4. Building a website in Flash

This past summer we rebuilt a website for a nice size company here locally. When we were first called in to review their current situation we thought we had jumped back to 2002. In web years that is a long time. The website was built completely in Flash so that every page on the site had the same url. And it was impossible to link to any page besides the home page. Google had 1 page for the site indexed because that was all it could see. Flash is great for small portions of a site or even web applications but a site should never be built entirely in Flash if you want to receive visitors from search.

5. Not targeting the right keywords

You can build a great site and nobody will ever find it if you don’t target phrases people are actively searching for. (I hate to end a sentence in a preposition but the phrase “searching for” ends a sentence so naturally.) Anyhow, getting back on track here, countless hours of effort are wasted in creating site content because the work wasn’t done in the beginning to discover what is actually being searched for.

6. Poor URL structure

If the title tag on a page is 90% of the on-page optimization the URL makes up 99% of the remaining 10%. The two used together are a powerful combination. But not understanding how search engines see your URL can also destroy a site in the search index. Websites should stay away from dynamic urls with session IDs or any other variable that changes based on who is visiting the site. This feeds into canonicalization also. What ends up happening is your 100 page website will end up with 300 pages indexed in Google. Sounds good, right? Well actually Google is going to be confused about how to display those pages in search results since they each contain the same content. In the end, your site misses out on search traffic.

7. Ignoring the Meta Description tag

I almost took this one out of the list because of the way that Google is constantly changing the way it displays snippets in search results. However the majority of times in the search results some portion of the Meta Description is shown if it is a quality Meta Description. The Meta Description should be unique for that page, it should reinforce the targeted phrases and display facts about the product, service or information on the page. The Meta Description does not affect rank but it does improve click through. If search phrases are used in the Meta Description, Google will bold these phrases when displaying the snippet improving click-through.

8. Hiring the guaranteed placement SEO firm

The Internet is full of firms claiming guaranteed search engine results for $59.99 or $99.99 or whatever the current rate. Thinking that a $200B search engine (GOOG) can be gamed for $59.99 is quite the concept. When you search online do you want the best result or to see a listing from a website that paid $59.99 to some company in China. The truth is that the guaranteed results don’t work. And if a company can guarantee 1st place results, it is for a phrase that has such low competition and volume that 1st place won’t drive any traffic.

9. Submitting your site to 300 search engines and 1,000 directories

We also see these ads all over the place. There is no reason to submit your site to 300 search engines or to submit your site to any search engine. Search engines crawl the web and find sites based on links. Higher a quality SEO firm and your sites authority will increase and the search engines will come back looking for your new content. A good SEO firm is also going to automate XML sitemaps and RSS feeds from your site so new content is broadcast to the search engines that actually drive visitors and links.
The 1,000 directory submission is a waste of time and money also because 1 in 20-50 will actually accept your submission. And that one directory that accepts your site sees little to no traffic each month and passes little to no authority to your site.

10. Not holding someone accountable

The quickest way to get nothing done is to make no one responsible for doing it. If you want results, hold someone accountable. Define the goals. In the end there is a lot of misinformation on the web regarding search engine optimization, what works, what falls within the guidelines and what flat out doesn’t work.

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About Marc
Marc Ohmann is president of Digital Solutions, Inc in Minneapolis. Digital Solutions is the company behind the MDWebPro blog and tool set. Marc was a computer science and engineering student at the University of Minnesota in 1999 when he started Digital Solutions. Marc, now a husband and father of 3, greatly enjoys the clients and creativity he is involved in each day through Digital Solutions. Follow Marc on Twitter @marcohmann and @MDWebPro and also on Google Plus

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