It’s amazing to me how many websites I see everyday that continue to make the same SEO mistakes that they’ve been making for years.  Since Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, paying attention to “the basics” is now more important than ever.  I (we) have been telling people about these things for years, but it seems that not everyone has heard or paid attention.

Surely by now most people who are vaguely interested in SEO or the search engine giant, Google, have heard of Google Penguin. This is Google’s attempt to deal with the problems that resulted from people trying to game its search ranking system. Now that the playing field has been leveled, many websites either have to regain some ground or have a chance to establish themselves like never before. To make sure your site is one that benefits, avoid these common mistakes that are being made by amateur SEO practitioners.

Keyword Cannibalization and Stuffing

It happens all the time. Take some insurance websites for example, an agent can list: “car insurance,” “life insurance,” “insurance expert,” “insurance agent,” “home insurance”… you get the idea. Penguin sees it as “Insurance and … things?” Instead of keyword stuffing, try focusing on one to two keywords per page.  Are you an experienced, experiencer, experiencing  experience? It’s not as far fetched as it sounds. With Google has been paying attention to keyword stuffing for quite some time and this technique is a thing of the past. Google recognizes this, and it does not like it!

While we are on the subject, Google likes to know who you are and will reward you for telling it. “Services” can be “Company Name Services, “Contact Us” can be “Contact Company Name”. Get the idea?

Never Ending Meta Descriptions

Be descriptive, be direct and be concise in your meta descriptions.  Assume that Google and your website’s potential visitors have the attention span of a child in a candy store full of toys, staffed by cartoon characters.

Meta descriptions are no longer a ranking factor.  Neither are meta keywords, in case you didn’t get the memo.  But, a meta description will help your potential visitors decide if they want to click on your site or not.  Guess what?!?  Google tracks that too.

Your description should be compelling and make people want to click on your search engine result.  If you’re trying to write your descriptions for search engines, instead of people, you lose.  Every time.

Bad Back links

External links to your website are also important to your site’s SEO. If your business revolves around selling gardening hoses, and you have a backlink tfrom a professional bodybuilding association website, Penguin isn’t going to let that slide. Many business owners have been surprised to learn their covenanted page rankings have slid down to near an invisible ranking overnight due to irrelevant back links.

If you’ve purchased links, participated in link schemes or had an SEO company that helped you “build links”, you’re probably in trouble and should come have a talk with us.

Fortunately, there are free (or paid) tools out there, such as Open Site Explorer by SEOMoz, to get those links off your page and back into the good graces of Penguin.

Not Using Alt Tags

Don’t underestimate the importance of image “Alt” tags. When you don’t use them, the images are not crawled by Google because there is no description. And while your site’s images may look pretty on the screen, they don’t serve any purpose but an aesthetic one if you’re not including “Alt” tags.

Again, don’t keyword pack.  Describe the image for the user and move on.

Having Outdated Sitemaps and Page Crawling Errors

A sitemap is what Google and other search engines use to navigate your website as they crawl it. It’s what contains your site’s basic information and it’s important that you keep it as up-to-date as possible. When you add new pages, update the sitemap as well. This assures the bots know the new pages are there, and to crawl them for content. Without a sitemap, this process takes much, much longer, and sometimes it doesn’t happen at all. That’s why your sitemap is crucial to your site’s SEO value.

Submitting your sitemap to Google and Bing’s Webmaster Tools will even give you valuable information about where the search engines are having troubles with your site or recommendations they have for you to make things better.

Blog Plugins for SEO

Bloggers often use plugins to determine the strength of the content for SERP ratings. While these are good tools to get a general idea of a page’s value, they are far from the most accurate way to get this information. You are better off hiring someone to do this work for you if you’re a newbie or even intermediate SEO practitioner.

Think about it as if you are sick.  Yes, you can take your own temperature and look up symptoms on the web, but a doctor is going to be more accurate in diagnosing what you have, and how to treat you. The same applies to your site’s SEO, and more often than not, the professionals know more than you do.

Not Using 301 Redirects or Coding for a Canonical URL

One thing some website owners often don’t know is their site’s pages can be viewed in various ways on the internet, such as www.website.com or website.com and website.com/services or website.com/services.php. Google looks at these addresses as different pages having duplicate content instead of as the same page.  As a result, Google will choose which page to index and give relevance to.  More often than not, it’s not the version you want them to pay attention to.

To counteract this, use a canonical URL, or rel=”canonical” in the head of your documents to define the correct address.  If you don’t know how, your webmaster should. If they don’t, you need a new webmaster.

Also, if you remove or rename a page, make sure that you do a 301 redirect to notify Google and the general public that the page has moved.  A 301 redirect basically says, “this page doesn’t exist anymore, here’s something relevant instead.” and will then redirect the visitor to the appropriate spot.  If you don’t do a 301 (or 302), you’ll get a 404 – Not Found error….and that’s bad because it makes your site look like it’s broken.

Multiple H1s & Other HTML Issues

The H1 is the main heading of your page and should describe what it’s about, similar to the title of a chapter in a book.  Believe it or not, H1s aren’t just to make big, bold text and have a structural purpose.

H2s, h3s and every other HTML tag have a specific purpose and use too and none of them is to style something.  These are the building blocks of your structure and search engines, as well as internet browsers, interpret them to mean certain things.

SEO begins with the code.  More often than not, someone will want us to “do the SEO” on their site and one of the first things we end up telling them is, “we have to rebuild your site.”  Ouch!

Some of these mistakes can be hard to fix, but none of them is damage-beyond-repair.  We’d be happy to help explain these to you and help fix them if you need help.  Just contact Trademark Productions today or give us a call at (248) 582-9210 to schedule a meeting.

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