There are way too many SEO tactics to cover in a single article. Instead, we’ll focus on aspects of search engine optimization that could be devastating to your blog’s search ranking. This article will explain how to correct these problems, avoiding undue headache.
Some of these are simple oversights, but a couple are issues that the more savvy webmasters have noted. Online communication went from wired to wireless internet access in the proverbial blink of an eye, and SEO tactics change just as swiftly to keep up with the search engine algorithms.
Here are 10 mistakes that have made blogs crash and burn, and how to avoid disaster in case your site is flirting with, or using, any of these.
1. Blank Title Tags
Never leave the <title> tag blank, because the keyword in the title tag displays as the page title in search engine results. This is a critical part of an effective SEO strategy. Meta tags are becoming obsolete, but title tags are not, so do not neglect using title tags with great keywords.
2. Flash-Based Site
Search engine spiders cannot read Flash pages, which means they cannot index such pages. If you must have a Flash-based blog theme, then create a spider-friendly parallel HTML page. That way visitors can enjoy your flashy content (no pun intended), and the spiders are appeased. Also, Flash-based navigation cannot be indexed either, so it is better to use text navigation instead.
3. Dynamic URLs
It is bad practice to have a page whose URL ends with a string of nonsensical characters; use terms that are at least relevant to the page’s content. Better still, use known keywords. This satisfies search engine spiders, and site visitors can more easily recall the URL. Having clearly defined pages also aids site management.
Luckily for us, most popular free blogging services (such as WordPress) automatically adjust a page’s URL to a user and search engine-friendly format.
4. Disallow Instead of Noindex
Say you set up your blog’s robots.txt file to tell Googlebot to not visit a certain URL. According to author Stephan Spencer, if existing links point to the URL in question, the URL will show up in Google search results anyway, without a title, a snippet or similar identifying information. Disallowing a URL in robots.txt does not stop it from being indexed – it just tells the spider to not crawl its content.
5. Minimal Keyword Research
Example: A blog sells an eBook on camping. After learning the latest search phrases related to camping, the webmaster finds “camping locations” used the most often. The webmaster can then set up pages about camping locations across the country, or the world. This will help generate more traffic, and quite possibly lead to more sales.
6. Lofty Expectations from Free Hosts
The most popular free hosts out there are Blogger and WordPress. Their services are not very scalable, so if you desire growth and understand the importance of a strong SEO strategy, it is advisable to pay for their premium services. This allows you to use AdSense effectively, and gives you overall better control over your site.
7. Bad Linking Strategy
Not all backlinks are good links, and quality trumps quantity across the board as far as search engines are concerned. To gain and maintain a lead in the search rankings, a site must have unique content that people want to share.
You need reputable sites to link to your content (and you link back to them), not a ring of sites that could be engaged in the distribution of malware, or known for otherwise shady business practices. The Link Builder Tool from Wordtracker helps with setting up a proper linking scheme. If your content contains relevant keywords, generating inbound links is easier.
8. Poor Site Structure
Imagine putting in hours and hours of effort to get a blog up and running, but it turns out that visitors can navigate only a few pages, and search engines cannot index each page you want them to. Journalist and SEO expert Rachelle Money says accurate site navigation is a must. Ensure the pages link to each other coherently, and that different articles are categorized correctly.
9. Shared Hosting
Editors Note: Google has stated that this isn’t an issue unless the host has misconfigured their servers and IP addresses, according to this article from 2007. Thanks to Adam Singer for the heads up in the comments!
As with real estate, it is about location, location, location. In the real world you would not move your business into a neighborhood full of criminals, and you should not move into a cyber-neighborhood full of them either. There are tools available that help you see which sites are behind the IP addresses in a shared pool. SEO suffers when your site is surrounded with swindlers and other ne’er-do-wells. Secured FTP storage is always the most preferable.
10. Keyword Stuffing
This normally is a block of keyword text in the space underneath the page footer, near the bottom. That practice is frowned upon. An older black hat tactic used to involve making keywords the same color as the page background, in tiny font, all over the page. Adding such a block of text distracts visitors, and search engine spiders do not favor such keyword blocks. According to Net Magazine, your webpage should utilize no more than 2-8% keyword density.
How to Fix the Above Mistakes
So how do you fix the above problems? Here’s your guide in one simple paragraph!
Using title tags appropriately is an integral aspect of SEO best practices. Create a mirror HTML site for a Flash one. Use descriptive URLs. “Disallow” does not prevent a page from being indexed; “Noindex” does that. Brainstorm for keywords and use tools to aid in keyword research. Good scalability must be purchased. Watch who you link to, who links to you, and have unique content. Keep your site easy to navigate, for humans and bots alike. If using a shared host, learn who your neighbors are. Be tactful with keyword placement and avoid gaudy tricks like blocks of keyword-laden text.
Putting these 10 tips into practice will not merely keep your blog(s) from crashing and burning in the search rankings, but will increase your rank.
What are some other website design and SEO mistakes can you think of that might get a blog into big trouble? Share your problems and solutions in the comments below!