Here’s a question for you: is your SEO knowledge up to date? If you’re confident it is, then here’s a second question: when did you last take time out to check? If it’s more than six months ago, then hard as it is to believe, the chances are at least some of your knowledge is already out of date. The techniques for search engine optimisation are changing all the time, and it’s important to keep your skills honed to get the most benefit for your web site.

There’s a lot of misinformation and myths spouted about search engine optimisation. This makes it difficult for business owners to track down the things they need to know but one of the best and most reliable resources I’ve found is industry forums. As a web designer, checking in on forums and resources regularly is part of my job. If you own a website and want to understand the basics of SEO, it should be part of your job too and leading authority sites like SEOmoz and SearchEngineLand should be on your regular research list.

Admittedly, uncovering and understanding the latest SEO techniques can be a difficult task and if you only have the one website it may not seem worth the trouble, but simply avoiding outdated techniques will help your site’s rankings. Lots of businesses implement SEO techniques that are five years out of date and wonder why their rankings are failing. In fact I’ve even heard so called SEO professionals giving out of date advice so, to give you a head start here are seven of the worst SEO mistakes I’ve come across recently…

  1. On-page SEO only. SEO isn’t just about putting keywords in the right places. Some site owners and even web designers are only optimising page title tags and Meta description data and think that’s all there is to SEO. You also need to look at site navigation problems which trip up search engine spiders, and you must invest in good quality, regularly updated content. You need to think about off-page things as well, such as attracting inbound links.
  2. Keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is the SEO equivalent of using stone age tools. It’s so out of date that I’m astonished each time I come across it – and I have done on a brand new site very recently. Keywords need to be used naturally on your pages, and they definately won’t work if you don’t have sufficient content to back them up. This means putting keywords in your Meta data alone will not work and some search engines ignore these now as they’ve been abused for so long. Invest in some good content instead, it’ll provide far greater benefit.
  3. Single keywords. Search terms are getting more complicated, so your keyword list needs to be complicated as well. Your keyword strategy needs to take keyword competition levels and long tail keywords (keywords that are four or five words long) into account. I believe in investing in keyword research – there are plenty of ways now to find out what poeple are actually searching for, there’s no need for you to second guess and you never know what gems you might be missing!
  4. Robot content. As you can guess from the blog posts I write, I’m a huge fan of sites that devote time to providing useful content for their audience as well as great design. After all, the Internet is all about sharing information. Sites that fill up on automated, spam-like content  instantly put internet users off and without them you have no customers and no sales.
  5. Buying links. The search engines want links to happen naturally. They consider that an inbound link to your site is a ‘vote’ for it’s content and so it must be valuable otherwise why would anyone link to it? It is my understanding that buying links is actually against Google’s terms, so buy links at your peril. A good SEO plan involves natural linking strategies such as article marketing and directory listings.
  6. Website desertion. In the early stages of the net, people would launch websites and leave them untouched for years. Investing in site design and then just leaving it is kind of like buying a Porsche and just locking it up in your garage, a real waste. More importantly, search engines look for constant content updates. ‘Fresh content’ is an SEO watchword.
  7. And finally…  Doing everything at once. SEO doesn’t work like a marketing campaign. It takes time, and rushed campaigns tend to make the search engines suspicious so you risk wasting your efforts altogether. Take your time to build up links and content, and keep at it. Successful SEO requires persistence and patience.
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