There are plenty of people who claim that SEO is a science. They say nearly every problem can be solved with a repeatable solution and that high page ranking is more of a function of long hours than smart work. They are wrong.
Proper SEO is more of an art than a science. Sure, there are plenty of repeatable steps the best guys practice in order to up your website’s visibility, but to think there’s any kind of one-size-fits-all approach will get you in a situation just like JCPenney.
Here are a few of our most-seen SEO mistakes that far too many people make.
1. Serving broken pages with a 200 response code
So you moved content, deleted a page or just didn’t get around to finishing a page you started. Do you leave it there? Of course not, unless you’re Greyhound. Greyhound.com/locations should be redirecting to the new Greyhound locations page, but apparently whomever constructed their site doesn’t seem to think so.
2. You links look unnatural
Please stop acquiring links to your site from completely unrelated sites. It’s not natural for a mommy blogger to link to a penis enlargement site, no matter how lonely she is. Your 5 year old site that had 20 links to it last week should not have 20,000 links to it this week unless you found a cure for cancer or something. Is every link to your site the same keyword rich phrase? If so, stop doing that. Think before you link. Look at what is typical within your niche and try to look natural.
3. Your page titles suck
This is nearly as bad as leaving “admin” as the author of every WordPress post. Wait, no, that’s not right. Crappy page titles get your site little Google love and will turn off anyone reading. Think short and descriptive instead of default.
4. Your site ranks for [insert pills porn or casino term here] and shouldn’t
I’m fairly sure the University of Georgia and the University of California at Santa Barbara don’t post many articles relating to buy Viagra, but they rank pretty well for it. Most of the time, this is a result of a site being hacked.
5. Your site is built completely in Flash
Flash is good for plenty of things, e.g. cool animations that add value, video walk-throughs and time-wasting games. It is NOT good to build an entire site completely in Flash, as the search engines will likely not pick up much, if any of it in their index. Mobile users are usually completely out of luck, as even non-iOS devices haven’t had great success in making Flash truly mobile worthy. Photographers seem to be continuous offenders of this rule and someone needs to stop them from doing it.
6. Your site doesn’t rank in the top 100 for at least a few main keywords
Unless you have zero interest in others finding your work, your site should rank in the top 100 for at least a few of your main keywords, provided you’re not writing about hugely popular subjects like anything related to a DUI. You may not experience an avalanche of traffic at position 83, but at least you know you’re making progress. Having your entire site outside the top 100 means you’re not trying hard enough or you’ve been penalized.
7. You get traffic, but no one buys
Far too many sites are excellent at attracting readers and very poor at attracting customers. This could be because your targeted keywords are poorly thought out, your call to action is terrible or you’re giving everything away. A bit of target market research is essential to figuring out what search terms people use when looking to buy. Figure out what converts the best and focus on that. Don’t just try to saturate every possible keyword in your niche. If you are selling something, don’t try to rank for terms that have “free” in them.
SEO is part art, part science and part knowing your audience. Which part could you improve on?