At the recent Google I/O conference Matt Cutts and his colleagues held an interesting SEO site review session. They reviewed several sites looking for SEO problems and the ways to solve them. The full video of the session is available on Matt's blog. It's about 1 hour long but totally worth watching.
We decided to take a walk through the 10 SEO mistakes and their solutions discovered during the site review session. Read on to see if you're falling into the same SEO traps and how to avoid them.
Mistake #1: Little or no textual content
Believe it or not there are sites out there with little or no textual content whatsoever. The very first site in the site review session had all the information embedded in images. Since search engines can't read images they have no content to index. No wonder this site is not ranking anywhere.
Create content yourself. This one is obvious. If you don't have any content on your site just sit down and start writing it. If you don’t have the time or skills you can outsource this task, but it certainly has to be done.
Encourage user-generated content (comments, user reviews, etc.) Why do the work when you can have it done for you? You can use the no-sweat approach to content creation and encourage your visitors to leave comments, write reviews and create content for your site.
Mistake #2: Duplicate Content
While some sites lack textual content others are trying to live off someone else's work. Scraped content doesn't get you far. If you're using the same content that's found on dozens or hundreds of other sites you're not going to find your pages in the search results any time soon.
Solution: Make sure your content is 100% original.
Mistake #3: Letting your site get hacked
One of the sites in the review session got hacked so that the first time you visit it you get a pop-up saying that you computer was infected and you should pay to get the virus out of your system. When your website gets hacked and the hackers install some kind of malicious code on it Google will either put a warning next to your site organic listing saying that it's dangerous or remove it from index. Obviously this will hurt your organic traffic, so you want to by all means secure your site from hacker attacks.
Solution: Keep your CMS up-to-date. Whatever content management system you're using it's important that you keep it up to date to decrease the chances of being hacked.
Use Google Webmaster Tools to detect malware. If you have a GWT account you can monitor whether your site has any malware on it in Dashboard -> Diagnostics -> Malware.
There's a special tool called Skipfish that you can use to explore possible security loopholes in your code that might be exploited by hackers.
Mistake #4: Poorly optimized title
While most people realize that title is an important SEO factor many don't take the time to properly optimize it. Having a good title is critical for 2 main reasons. First, it affects your search rankings so you need to have your target keywords in it to give your site a push in the SERPs. Second, it largely determines whether people will click your link in the search results, that's why your title should be engaging and compelling for the searchers.
Solution: Optimize your title to include relevant keywords and look for ways to stand out from the crowd and promote your brand.
Mistake #5: Poorly optimized Meta descriptions
Although Meta descriptions are no longer part of search engine ranking algos there are still an important element. Because Meta descriptions are often used as your site's snippet in the search results they have a significant impact on how often your link gets clicked. If you don’t have a relevant Meta descriptions search engines will generate on based on your pages content. As a result your site's snippet may turn out incomplete or irrelevant.
Solution: Create/optimize Meta descriptions for your pages.
Mistake #6: Too many designed by links to the company that created the site
One of the reviewed sites had a lot of links pointing to the company that designed it. These were keyword rich text links in the footer that leaked PageRank from the site. It's quite a common practice and such links can be found on many sites. There's nothing wrong with giving credit to the person or company who designed your site, yet you shouldn't let them abuse your hospitality and throw links all over your site.
Solution: Make sure that the design company you hire doesn’t leave the links to themselves all over the place. It may be a good idea to discuss this point beforehand so you don't have to deal with it later. After all it's your site and you should ultimately be in control of where it links to.
Mistake #7: Optimizing for just 1 keyword
We often get obsessed with grabbing that coveted top Google spot for our #1 keyword. We're ready to throw in a lot of resources into pushing our site up for that trophy phrase however high the competition for it is. Sure, ranking high for traffic-heavy keywords can bring a lot of traffic, but it may eat up a lot of your time and resources and result in rather low ROI or never happen at all. On the other hand there are thousands of other search terms in every niche that don't feature impressive search volumes, but together can generate a substantial amount of qualified traffic.
Solution: Check your server logs, analyze the keywords you already rank for and diversify your keyword list.
Mistake #8: Ignoring other traffic sources
Search is constantly evolving and there are lots of traffic generating opportunities outside of the 'conventional' Google SERPs. Universal search elements: images, news, videos, real time and local search, review sites and social media all of these channels can be effectively used to drive targeted traffic to your site. If you're ignoring these additional opportunities you’re simply leaving a lot of traffic on the table.
Mistake #9: Poor hosting
If you're serious about making your site successful you need to make sure you can handle this success. If one day your website popularity goes into a full swing and thousands of people come to check it out the last thing you want to happen is for them to see a 'bandwidth exceeded' error message instead of your homepage.
Solution: Find a reliable hosting provider and get a good hosting plan.
Mistake #10: Layout problems
SEO is not just about improving your rankings. And it's not just about getting traffic either. Ultimately you want to gain loyal readers, subscribers, clients and business partners. That's why once the searchers click your link in the results and land at your site you need to make sure they can quickly find the information they were looking for. Quite often that information is pushed down below the fold by unnecessary extensive navigation, irrelevant widgets and other less important design elements.
Solution:Put your most important elements above the fold. You can use Google Browser Size to check how people with different display resolutions view your site: what elements they see above the fold and where they need to scroll.
Hope this post will help you avoid these common SEO mistakes and make your site perform better.
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