It is possible to learn from both good and bad examples. Usually I write about what you “should” do to optimize your website, but now I will highlight some of the things that you should “not” do when you prepare your web pages. This list is not in any order of importance as all the points should be taken seriously if you want your site to do well in the search engine queries for your main keywords.
1. Using a “Splash Page”.
I think you have seen sites where you go to the main page and all you see is a beautiful picture with the two words of text saying “enter here.” The picture is beautiful, no doubt, but this is a disaster when it comes to search engine optimization. Search engine robots are looking for text, but there is no text on a “splash page.” The main page of any website is the most important page, and it has the best chance of being optimized. If you use it to place a pretty picture, you are throwing away this chance. Search engines don’t appreciate splash pages, and many human users too are annoyed by having to click to finally view the content. Avoid splash pages at all costs.
2. Putting Important Text, or even all the Text as an Image.
I have seen clever web designers produce a beautiful web page that has images and text combined to look like a normal web page. However if you try to put your cursor over the text and select it, you can’t do it because there is no text. The whole page has been rendered as a jpg or gif image. It looks good to the viewer, but the search engine robot doesn’t find any searchable text. Be careful if you are using some automatic web design programs which turn text into images. Also while it is quite extreme to turn an entire page into an image, you should also avoid changing your important headlines into gif images.
3. Not Putting Title And Description Tags on Pages.
Have you ever visited a web page that showed the words “new page” in the line at the top of the browser? The website owner forgot to put a title tag on the page. The title tag, which is in the head section of the document and is put between the items is treated by search engines as one of the most important indicators about the content of a page. If you leave out the title tag or don’t pay much importance to what you put there, then you are wasting a good optimization opportunity, as well as showing a sloppy kind of site construction.
Similarly, the description tag is often shown in search engine results pages (SERPS) as the description of your site. If you make a compelling description, it helps people to click through to your site. Ideally you want your site to be well ranked, but a high ranking is not enough. You need people to click through once they see your site’s listing, and a good description can help you out.
4. Putting the Same Title and Description Tags on all the Pages.
Each of your pages is unique and has a special function, and you should let search engines and users know about this by changing the title and description tags to match the content on that particular page. It is not possible to optimize one single page for many different search terms, but it is possible to optimize each of the pages of your site for one or two important search phrases. If you take the time to make unique title and description tags for each of your pages, you can take advantage of this possibility and rank well for several search terms.
5. Trying to get by with a “Brochure” Site.
If you want to be the top site in your particular field, then you have to deserve it. The best way to deserve is to offer a good amount of quality content. You cannot get by with just putting a few pages with general descriptions about your company. For example, if you are selling electronic items, then back up your offering with reviews and helpful information for the consumers. This will make your site a valuable resource. Human visitors, and search engines alike, will soon recognize you as an authoritative source of information in your field.
6. Redesigning an Existing Site and Neglecting the Old URLs.
Your old website may have looked bad, but it had traffic and search engines indexed those pages and people are finding those pages based on the information that the search engine robots compiled from them. If you redesign your site, and completely toss out the old urls, without compensating for it, then you are tossing away all the traffic you built up before, because search engines will be sending people to pages that no longer exist.
There is a way to avoid this. If it is possible, stick to the same structure that your old site had and retain the same url addresses for the new pages. If this is not possible then the best thing to do is to make “permanent redirects.” For this you will have to make a .htaccess file (a text file with instructions on the functioning of the site) . This file will tell search engines to permanently redirect traffic from an old url to a new url. When this file is in place if anyone types in the old url, he or she will be permanently redirected to the new location. Similarly the search engines will soon change their listings from the old urls to the new urls.
7. Not Using Local Keywords.
If you have just set up a web design business, don’t think that you are going to be able to get a first page listing for the term “web design” or “web designer.” The competition is too great and you are just starting out. But if you live in Missoula, Montana, then it is possible to get a good listing for “Web design, Missoula, Montana.” So, put those geographical terms in your title tag, your description tag and the text on your page. Wherever possible optimize your site for local and regional keywords and you will stand a much better chance of being found by people who need your products or services.
8. Trying to do “Branding” in the Title Tag.
Everyone likes to put the name of their company first and the title tags of most sites reflects this. The first thing you see in the upper left hand corner of the blue line at the top of the browser is the name of the company. But if no one knows about your company, then no one is searching for your name. People are searching for answers to their needs, not to find you! If you can, avoid the temptation to put your company name as the first (and for search engines) and most important word in your title tag. Rather, put the most important keyword that people will use when searching for a site such as yours. You can do your branding elsewhere on the page (with your logo and supporting text) but don’t try to do it in the title tag unless you are already quite famous.
9. Trying to Trick the Search Engines with Hidden Text, Cloaking or Doorway Pages.
If I had to prioritize the list, then I guess this is the biggest mistake you can make. Instead of putting energy into deceiving the search engines, you should use the same enthusiasm and skill to construct web pages that offer solid content to visitors. In the past people used to put hidden text, stuffed with keywords using font coloring that matched a background, or construct doorway pages or even pages with code that tried to deceive the search engines. These methods don’t work and can get you banned from search engine indices. If anyone proposes to help you with “optimization” methods such as this, then you should avoid it like a plague.
10. Linking to “Bad Neighborhoods”.
You can’t get into trouble if a questionable or substandard site links to you, but according to Google, you can be penalized if you link to what they call bad neighborhoods. These are spam sites or other sites that have a bad reputation. So, don’t accept offers to link with any and all websites. Visit the proposed link partner and see if the site is ranked, as opposed to being banned, and if there are any other issues that might make it questionable. If you have doubt, then don’t.
Avoid these mistakes, and concentrate on providing informative and interesting content and you will succeed in your online endeavors.
About The Author
Donald Nelson is a search engine optimization specialist. You can read more of his articles at his website www.a1-optimization.com and learn about the affordable web promotion services that he offers.