By Richard Bashara

Are you guilty of making these common SEO foul-ups?

By Richard Bashara

As a web developer, you want to launch that site as quickly as possible. But if your operation is a one-person job, it can be difficult to find time to brush up on SEO best practice. With clients’ expectations rising, designers and developers will always benefit from familiarising themselves with a few canny SEO tactics — like these ones …

Not Using Web Fonts

Web fonts are useful for making more of your content indexable. Whether you are using @font-face or Google’s web font collection, you can bring style to a page without sacrificing indexability. Review your page to see where employing a web font tag can help your SEO efforts.

Creating a Code-heavy Page

Search engines (and users) would love your site that much more if the text loaded before anything else on a web page. Not only does this allow the user speedier access to the things he or she wants to see most, but structuring the code of a page to display content and navigation before all else is better for SEO efforts.

Forgetting h1 Tags

h2 and strong tags are not substitutes for an h1. A web page should only have a single h1 tag, and the tag should be related to the content of the page. Getting use of an h1 tag correct can improve a site’s relevancy in aggregate with other fixes.

Forgetting alt Tags on Images

title and alt tags make site navigation better for any user. Forgetting to use these tags often comes down to a simple mistake, especially on an image-heavy page. Add alt where appropriate, and use descriptive terms.

Overlooking a Sticky Footer

A sticky footer is one that is present on every page. It is useful for a few reasons: to house links that are important to only a segment of your audience (like press releases), contain important data like a business address or phone number, or feature a link to a sitemap. However you choose to use them, it’s a good idea to have footer links.

Calling Too Many Images at Once to Load a Page

If you use Photoshop regularly, you might have too many images being called on a page load. The time it takes for the browser to communicate with your server and back again counts in milliseconds, but pile that up 300 times and performance issues start to creep in.

Creating Obstacles That Slow Page Speed

Having too many elements loading at once, or loading the wrong objects first, creates unnecessary obstacles to page loading time. Page Speed Insights is a plugin for Chrome that uses the developer console to analyze a page and discover areas for improvement. It even ranks them in order of priority while assigning an overall score to your page.

Going For Any Old Web Host

Choosing a server that has consistent uptime and delivers good response speeds in your area is more difficult than you might imagine. If your site is seeing large volumes of traffic, choose your hosting options carefully to deliver the best possible user experience with the fastest times.

Leaving meta Keyword Tags

Google has stated that it does not care about your meta keyword tag. Yahoo and Bing might, but in the professional world of SEO, optimizing for Google usually ranks you pretty well on the other engines too. Remove the keyword tag you put in before one of your competitors comes by and steals your hard-earned keyword list.

Not Optimizing the Load Speed of Content

Allowing ads to load before content is not only cruel to users, it’s bad for SEO. As it turns out, trying to force ads on users before content actually leads to a higher bounce rate and a decline in repeat traffic. Load the content first; setting the priority of the ads to trigger only after the user has begun reading.

Creating Confusing Navigation

Main navigation is made up of categories, which should lead vertically to subcategories if applicable — related fields or terms. For example: in the category of “Games,” one might find the subcategory “NES Games,” which might lead to a product page like “Super Mario Bros.” Subcategory pages should also link horizontally to related subcategory pages. The subcategory for “NES Games” might also include a sidebar link to “SNES Games” or “N64 Games”. Products would also link horizontally in this way.

Using Too Many Redirects

The purpose of a 301 redirect is to permanently alter the page that the search engine bot should view. Reasons for using 301 redirects include removing important pages and redirecting users to another page instead. For example, if you remove a series of stories from a news section on your blog, redirect users that are searching for those stories instead to the news page of your blog. Do not use redirects to pass “link juice” to other pages, and avoid redirect hopping (where one 301 page leads to another 301 page).

Leaving Pages That are noindexed in a Sitemap

If you have chosen to noindex a page, avoid confusing the search engine bot and remove it from the sitemap. Resubmit the sitemap when you are sure the offending page is gone.

Forgoing Keyword-rich Copy

There is nothing wrong with using keywords profusely in the copy of a page, unless it interferes with readability. If you read your copy aloud and stumble, or feel strange about the amount of keywords in there, you have used too many.

Overreliance on Flash or JavaScript

Flash is nonindexable, and JavaScript means more time for the browser to communicate with the server and back again. Avoid overuse of either.

Going Overboard with Links

Keep the amount of external and internal links on a page to 100. If you have more than 100, ask yourself whether they are necessary.

Forgetting to Link to Other Pages in Content

Use relevant anchor text to link to pages deeper in your content. This helps reaffirm the page you are linking to is what you say it is.

Misusing robots.txt

If your position suddenly dropped, and you recently messed with your robots.txt file, chances are you messed something up. Go back and review your file, especially if you are using expressions.

Using Dynamic URLs For Vital Content

There is nothing wrong with a URL parameter that Google can understand. Webmasters should still avoid them at all costs, but pageids and productids are helpful variables to track. Using dynamic URLs with parameters that don’t make sense isn’t smart. Don’t give a search spider cause to walk away from your page before it reads your content.

Over-optimizing a Page

If your title is “Free shoes”, your URL is and your free shoe content talks a lot about free shoes and shoes for free … chances are you’ve used your keywords too often. Keyword-rich content does not mean you should use the same two keywords repeatedly.

Using a Free Template to Launch a Site

More experienced developers will create their own, but entrepreneurs looking to launch a product might be tempted to launch with a free template. In short, don’t do it.

Not Using Localization

Adding the city that you do business in or blog from can only help your ranking. It reduces your competition, makes you more accessible and opens doors for other opportunities, like meetups coordinated through your Google Local Page. Legitimate identity concerns aside, it’s worth looking into.


  • will

    what do web fonts have to do with seo?

    • Thomas

      I think he means instead of using alternatives such as cufon or using images for none websafe fonts as search engines may not fully see the text.

      • Indeed, it’s indeed not really clear what he means (and it was not a good idea of him to start with that it – since I almost closed the article already) but he is probably refering to the use of images as a title instead of text.

        h1 tags are (one thing search engines) use to calculate the relevance of your content. If you have an image as the title, it looks to Google there is no title.
        So, always put text there!

  • Are you sure you’re talking about SEO? What do web fonts have to do with SEO? Also there is nothing to suggest that using a free template will affect SEO.

    If you have any evidence to suggest that what you’ve written is correct can you please share it?

    • Hello Mike.

      As to the web fonts question (many people seem to have concerns here) what I mean is this:

      Instead of using fonts inside the image the way designers often do, research web fonts to find different kinds of fonts that fit your design aesthetic while still making your words indexable by a search engine. As opposed to a picture containing words, which is only as indexable as the alts or titles associated with it (Sadly Google isn’t good at interpreting photos from an SEO standpoint, so it relies on us webmasters to provide some instruction).

      Not all free templates are bad, and I do not mean to imply that. Only that inexperienced users should avoid simply searching for “free templates” as suggested in the article I linked to.

      I hope this clarifies any confusion, and thanks for reading my article!

  • ben

    alt “tags” ? seriously?

    • seriously. Use em.

      • Craig

        What Ben is referring to is that “alt” is an attribute of the “img” tag, it is not a tag itself.

      • I think ben would use the »alt-tag«, if there’d be such a thing.
        Thank w3c-goodness: there’s not.
        There’s an alt attribute.

      • It’s indeed the alt attribute.

        But yes it’s a good idea to always use the alt attribute and other attributes such as the title attribute for link, to give you an example.

  • Tim

    I think you confuse sticky footer with regular footer.

    • Literally “A footer on every page.” My apologies if I have confused you. A regular footer would change with each page though (if the webmaster chose to do so), so a sticky footer would be ideal for a retail store with a physical address, or an eCommerce store looking to house a sitemap. These are just ideas, definitely not law.

      I don’t see an issue with having a different footer on each page, only that you might be missing out on the benefits of using the same footer with the same info, same schema etc.

  • Scott

    Not sure why the confusion for web fonts. You should use web fonts instead of using image based text so search engines actually pickup the text. Some sites will use images for their navigation menu so the font looks fancy, however now you can use web fonts to make it look nice while search engines pick up your links.

  • Aankhen

    This is a parody or something, right?

    ‘Forgetting alt Tags on Images’
    They’re not tags, they’re attributes.

    ‘Google has stated that it does not care about your meta keyword tag. Yahoo and Bing might, but in the professional world of SEO, optimizing for Google usually ranks you pretty well on the other engines too. Remove the keyword tag you put in before one of your competitors comes by and steals your hard-earned keyword list.’
    Let me see if I’ve understood: you have a ‘hard‐earned keyword list’ which is irrelevant, and you should hide it so that no one else ‘steals’ your keywords?

    ‘avoid redirect hopping (where one 301 page leads to another 301 page)’
    Why? I mean, I don’t see much reason not to go directly to the destination, but if this situation arises, what’s the big deal? Do search engines penalize you?

    ‘For example, if you remove a series of stories from a news section on your blog, redirect users that are searching for those stories instead to the news page of your blog.’
    And if you remove a page, use the 410 Gone HTTP status code.

    ‘JavaScript means more time for the browser to communicate with the server and back again’
    That’s… not how JavaScript works. Unless you’re simply referring to having to request the script, which seems unlikely given you’re talking about overreliance on it.

    I also like the way the article has been optimized to say ‘load content first’ and ‘don’t have too much non-text content on the same page’ as many times as possible.

  • Sandor

    An excellent parody, and I appreciate that the comedian even makes effort to expand the subject in the comments.

    Talking about “sticky” footers (a client-side technique for keeping the footer at the bottom of the page or the viewport if the page is not tall enough) instead of footers having static content, insisting on “alt” and “title” being tags rather than attributes, mentioning “web fonts” while in fact referring to images supplied with crawlable description, and even suggesting that “free templates” can have *any* impact on SEO — these are excellent and entertaining bits of misinformation that would appear in an article written by an incompetent dabbler.

    Again, kudos to the author for his sense of humor but I feel this article should have been saved for 1st of April!

    • Mark

      I suppose so. I kept hearing ‘Yakety Sax’ in my head as I read this. :) Now how do I undo it?

  • Ben

    What do you mean by JavaScript being more time for the browser to communicate with the server and back again? Are you referring to just extra resources being downloaded on page load? JavaScript is a *client* side language, so unless your doing Ajax requests, there’s no browser-server communication. The only issues with JavaScript are generally, dynamic content cannot be indexed, and many people load all scripts and execute them (blocking page load event) in the header (ick) or everything before (sigh), increasing page load time which google uses as a metric for its results. Load vital, page layout related JavaScript on page load. Anything that requires interaction from a user Should be loaded asynchronously after the dom load event.

  • “A web page should only have a single h1 tag”

    Not strictly true. Depends how you interpret the HTML 5 spec. Technically each element, eg. article, aside etc can have its own header with its own h1 inside it – so multiple h1 tags on a page.

    • While it’s true that you can place as many H1 tags as you like, the search engine would appreciate it if you only used one per page. This helps inform the bot of what your page is about, along with many other elements.

      Thanks for reading.

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