Most Common SEO Mistakes

8/23/2011

- Danielle Leitch, EVP

I recently presented at the Internet Retailer Annual Conference during a workshop focused on Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  We provided live, on-the-spot website critiques for those who volunteered their websites to be reviewed publicly in front of the large audience attending.  It was a great session and many advertisers have reached out to me since to discuss issues and problems their sites are having, which we highlighted during the show.    As a result of the astounding interest during this session, MoreVisibility is extending the SEO Website Critique offer to marketers who did not attend the show.  We have performed quite a few site reviews so far, for a variety of websites in many industries.

During all of this analysis, there were several factors or issues which kept surfacing.  I am naming them the "Most Common SEO Mistakes" and highlighting each below.  There are many fundamentals which should be focused on by marketers, yet tend to get overlooked for "hot" topics in the news.  Check your site for the basics, and once those are in order expand out into new, emerging SEO tactics - onsite and off.

Content Strategy

What key phrases and terms are targeted for optimization and which web pages have you selected to do so for each?  Establish a game-plan is critical, but more importantly, following it is essential to experiencing SEO success for your website.  Keyword research and ultimately selection is the first step, but deciding what pages are best to optimize is equally important.  Organizing the content within your website can be daunting, but will lead to opportunities for better SEO if done correctly.  A good first step is to segment out content by subject or categories into buckets, creating hierarchies (think sub-navigation here) along the way where needed.  Lay the groundwork for your newly organized site through an organization chart format.  Piece in the missing content where appropriate, or determine new sections/site pages for this to be housed.

The end result of the above task will be a strong foundation to implement SEO efforts and most likely a better user experience too!

Analytics

This is one of the most critical factors for your business.  Without it, you are operating blindly in a fast-paced, competitive environment.  Website analytics are offered through a variety of vendor platforms, ranging in cost from free to tens of thousands of dollars per year.  Ultimately it comes down to what you are looking for from the program, but MoreVisibility is an advocate of Google Analytics, as well as a Google Analytics Certified Partner.  Installing this program correctly, which is another common mistake we see, is critical to achieving accurate data and results.  Ensure every page of the site is coded with updated javascript.  You should append any campaign url's with tracking parameters, to properly identify paid marketing efforts, social media and true organic results. An easy way to code all of your links accurately is through MoreVisibility's Tagging Tool - if you don't do this, then the organic traffic displayed in Analytics is likely inflated by your CPC ads or other marketing efforts.

Usability (User Experience)

Never, ever forego the user experience for SEO!  Too many times I stumble onto a highly optimized and well-ranking website only to find it confusing and lacking a real call to action or defined paths.  What value is being #1 in Google if your site, isn't generating all it should be in sales or leads?  Your company is in business for profit, whether your website produces leads, a sale, sign-ups, downloads or another conversion point.  Therefore, take every measure possible to ensure these are highlighted throughout the site and easy to find.

Leverage the data within analytics to identify any hurdles or site challenges and take steps to correct them.  Enhancing your website's usability could make a huge impact on your bottom-line, independent of its Search Engine positioning.

Linking

In-bound links are the links from other web sites to your site's pages. While search engines may know about all links to your site they may not count each one as relevant. Links need to be cultivated from authority sites, especially those related to government and also to education, as well as relevant national or international professional organizations.

Linking is a slow and steady process.  Many marketers saw penalties placed on their sites (i.e. drop in rankings) after the last Google update, based on the repurposing of content for the gaining of links.  Content can be promoted for inbound links value, but do it carefully and strategically.  There are no "fast-wins" here, so use caution with vendors who promise this.

Canonicalization

Canonicalization deals with a site's ability to be found using either the www version of the domain or the non-www version. Both are used frequently by web users and it is only natural for the site to be displayed when people type in either. However, when a search engine spider finds both versions of the site, it will see each version as a separate site; therefore, duplicate sites. To correct the issue, you need to implement redirects of your URLs. If this is possible, a version of the URL would be selected as your primary URL for every page of the site. This can be either the www or non-www version as long as your internal links on the site always refer to the same version. The other version of the site gets redirected to the primary one, avoiding duplication.