5 Common SEO Mistakes

by Frank on March 25, 2010

Confession: I picked 5 because it’s a nice number, not because these are a true “Top 5 Mistakes” or anything like that.  There are a lot of site optimization mistakes that are easy to make – I just picked 5 that I come across pretty frequently and that are pretty easy for non-techies to fix.

SEO Mistake #1) Don’t Redirect the Non-WWW to the WWW.

Pick a domain.  Do you want your site’s URL to be “http://site.com” or do you want it to be “http://www.site.com”?  Pick one, 301 redirect the other one to the one you picked.  I personally prefer the www version, but I don’t think it matters too much one way or the other.  To see if you’ve make this mistake, try going to both the www and non-www versions of your site.  If you can get to both without it redirecting, then you’re effectively splitting your links and site authority between two domains.  Google and the others will try to figure out which one you meant to index, but you’ll do much better to just tell them (and anyone else who may want to link to your content) which one is the right URL to use.

SEO Mistake #2) Don’t Use Your Biggest Keywords in Your Page Title.

This one is pretty obvious, but it’s easy to go with an attention-grabbing headline and ignore Googlebot.  You certainly don’t want to sacrifice your conversion rate and readability just to make the spiders happy, but keep a good balance.  After your URL, this is the most valuable SEO real estate on your page, so you definitely want to try and work in your primary keywords.

SEO Mistake #3) Don’t Use Keywords in Your Header Tags.

I see a lot of pages where the author has done a great job of using headlines throughout their web copy to visually break up the text.  Unfortunately a lot of them simply bold the font and increase the font size, rather than using header tags.  From a code perspective, use something like <h2>Subhead</h2> instead of <b>subhead</b>.  A second note here: don’t use your <h1> tag more than once.

SEO Mistake #4) Don’t Link to Your Other Content.

This is an especially easy one to miss, but internal links matter to Google too (even if not as much as external links that point to your site).  Presumably you have excellent content on your site – so link to it!  Then optimize those links using keyword-friendly anchor text, since you have total control over them.  Besides helping your human readers find the answers they need to convert, they also help Googlebot index more of your site, since you’re providing another path to the page you’re linking to, and using good, keyword-friendly anchor text.

SEO Mistake #5) Use Flash or Javascript for Your Main Site Navigation.

This is often a mistake the website owner has no control over.  The site designer made them some awesome and incredibly visually-appealing javascript or flash dropdown menus for their primary site navigation.  They may have even loaded them up with some great keywords.  Unfortunately, Google and the other search engines still don’t crawl flash or javascript very well (though they’re getting better), and if the only way for Googlebot to get to your subpages is by way of your main navigation, then the result is that the flow of “link juice” is compartmentalized on your homepage and individual subpages.  This is bad – you want the “link juice” to flow freely throughout your site, rather than have a site that’s a collection of very small, shallow pools of link juice.

Like I said, these are just five common mistakes I’ve personally seen quite often.  Some are especially easy to miss, particularly when you feel like you’re having to pick between your journalist “grab the reader’s attention” hat and your SEO “grab the Googlebot’s attention” hat.  As has been said elsewhere, though, don’t overthink it.  Most of your competitors are probably making worse mistakes than you are, or may be ignoring SEO altogether.  So taking care of these on-site SEO basics may be plenty to help your site get an edge.

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