This isn’t a typical “SEO mistakes” article. I won’t exude the virtues of readable URLs and unique page titles — good web developers know those techniques. This advice is aimed at people running a business. You may not have strong IT or marketing skills, but you’re probably aware of the importance of Search Engine Optimization. Hopefully, this will help you avoid the mistakes made by others…
1. Mismanagement: Considering SEO at the End of Your Project
People love the creative part of building websites. Choosing colors, designing graphics, approving layouts and making videos is fun. By comparison, keyword research and writing good content is a little tedious. It’s often handed down to someone on work experience or whoever complains the least.
Don’t fall into that trap. Identify your customers before embarking on any web project. You should understand who they are, what motivates them, and the language they use in search queries. Ideally, your website content should be researched and written before your designer launches Photoshop.
2. Outsourcing: Pushing SEO to a Third-Party
A good web agency will include SEO in their development plan. Be wary if it’s not considered or they recommend handing the SEO effort to another company. I’m sure there are some great SEO consultancies — it’s just a shame I’ve never worked with one.
Seek advice by all means, but don’t assume another person can solve all your SEO problems.
3. Technophobia: Equating SEO with Witchcraft
Despite what many “experts” say, most SEO techniques are bleeding obvious. Some of it can be laborious or take time, but it’s rarely difficult.
Anyone who tells you their sophisticated technology is a secret or highly complex is a liar or doesn’t understand SEO. Politely decline their services.
4. Laziness: Divorcing Yourself from the SEO Process
Ask yourself this simple question: “Who knows more about my business?” Is it you, your web developer, or the pushy SEO salesperson who called 10 minutes ago?
You should be actively involved in the SEO process. If you’re not, there’s only one person to blame if your site isn’t gaining the traffic you hoped for.
5. Ineffectiveness: Neglecting your Business Model
This is one of the worst problems caused by outsourced SEO. An “expert” will recommend an SEO technique without considering what it means for your business.
For example, they’ll tell you that blogs are a great way to engage with customers and create interest in your services. That’s absolutely true. But what if you’re a sole trader manufacturing table legs for a few big clients? Do you have time to write an article every week? Do you have the inclination? Can you think of many interesting table-leg-related topics?
6. Ineptitude: Hoping Meta-Tags will Solve Content Blunders
If you’re selling Blue WidgetsTM, it’s really a good idea to mention it.
Of course, you’re absolutely free to write about your corporation’s environmental ethics, leadership interfaces, organizational diversity and accountability strategies. But will anyone looking for Blue Widgets find your site?
And, no, meta tags are not a magical answer. Search engines apply considerably more weight to readable content than invisible text.
7. Cheating: Attempting to Trick the Search Engines
It won’t work. If there were a sneaky trick which could guarantee a #1 position, everyone would do it. You won’t beat Google and Bing at their own game.
In 1998-BG (Before Google), some tricks were possible and websites would stuff pages with repeated keywords. Today, that practice will get you banned. Search engines look for good quality content which matches a search phrase. It’s even better if that content is regularly updated and lots of other sites link to it. In a nutshell, that’s SEO.
Bonus Sin — Naivety: Falling for SEO Scams
How would you react to the following sales pitch: “hey, I can make you the most popular person in town — it’ll only cost you $300 per month”? Yet many people fall for the charms of someone pertaining to be from Google who’s selling the #1 position in search engine results. Please don’t be so gullible.
Do you know of worse SEO sins?
Craig is a freelance UK web consultant who built his first page for IE2.0 in 1995. Since that time he's been advocating standards, accessibility, and best-practice HTML5 techniques. He's created enterprise specifications, websites and online applications for companies and organisations including the UK Parliament, the European Parliament, the Department of Energy & Climate Change, Microsoft, and more. He's written more than 1,000 articles for SitePoint and you can find him @craigbuckler.