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Top 10 Webmaster SEO Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

by David Nicolosi

One of the biggest misconceptions with new webmasters is that you need to hire an "expert" in SEO to achieve high rankings. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is not rocket science. You don't need a degree or a doctorate in IT or marketing to apply effective SEO techniques. There are, however, several rookie mistakes that are made by many new webmasters. This guide focuses on these mistakes and explains how to avoid them.

Mistake #1 - Poor Keyword Analysis (or non-Analysis)

The Mistake: You've found a niche for a website that fills a void that has been missing online for years. You build your website and fill it with all kinds of great unique content and finally launch it to the world! Traffic starts off slow... and stays that way for several months and you're left perplexed on why people aren't finding your site.

The Reality: You've launched your website too soon, without doing proper keyword analysis. Keyword analysis is the process of analyzing the keywords search engine users have been searching on the most that best matches your niche. The goal is to target keywords that get the most searches and have the lightest amount of competition. Before you launch your website (or even write content), proper keyword analysis is a must! It's suggested you open an account with Wordtracker and begin your keyword campaign today. Word Tracker will allow you to view the number of times a keyword was searched in any of the major search engines and will provide reports on the competitiveness of that keyword. With some clever keyword analysis you can broaden the reach of your website by zeroing in on those niche and non-competitive keywords.

Mistake #2 - Keyword Stuffing

The Mistake: As an overzealous newbie you've read various threads and guides that state the importance of highly-targeted keywords appearing on your WebPages. In an attempt to gain high-rankings for a specific keyword phrase you place them several dozen times throughout your text. By the time your done with your aggressive keyword stuffing you're left with a page that has 40%+ density of your keywords that the search engines are going to love. Your proudly pat yourself on the back and give a good "atta boy!" for a job well done!

The Reality: Congratulations! You've just created a non-sensical page and applied the black hat marketing technique known as keyword stuffing all at the same time! Keyword stuffing, for those who may not be aware, occurs when a web page's meta tags and content are loaded with a particular keyword or keyword phrase in a repetitious manner. Not only does this practice result in pages that are non-readable to humans, it also raises a red-flag to the search engines. Keyword stuffing may get you higher Search Engine Results Placement (SERPs) in the short term, but it will only gain your site a bad reputation with users in the long term. It may even get your site penalized or (even worse) banned from the search engines.

Mistake #3 - Identical Meta Data For Eevery Page

The Mistake: You create your home page and fill your META data tags with some nice keywords and a very well worded description that is also search engine friendly. You're home page serves as a template, so you just propagate the same content from the header into every new page you implement without ever altering the content of the META tags to correspond to the content of the new pages.

The Reality: By applying the same META information to every page on your website, you are doing yourself a great disservice! Despite what some people think, META tags and META descriptions are still important! For every page on your website you should have a new set of META keywords and new META descriptions that are relevant to the content of the new page. By doing this you are optimizing for potentially MORE hits to your website as users who search for information may land on these pages as a result of your META updates.

Mistake #4 - Using Images in Place of Text

The Mistake: Wow! Those images your web designer just created sure do look pretty! Much prettier than plain old text!

The Reality: Yes, they do look pretty and I'm sure your web designer did a fine job on them. They've also managed to loose you potential customers at the same time, so make sure to send them a nice thank you letter. The reality is that images in place of text is a terrible practice and one that you really need to avoid. The content of your website plays a very hefty part in determining how well your website will place in SERPS. Spiders are smart, but they are not able to read the text contained in images. By placing text in images you may loose out on your pages being indexed and miss out on some keyword counts. This will loose you potential traffic, not to mention that images load much slower than pure text (and you'll probably have to pay your web deisgner every time you have a text change need). You'll find that you can achieve an almost identical appearance and reduce load times by applying style sheets. Web designers are good at what they do, but often their reliance on flashy images can be a huge detriment to your website.

Mistake #5 - Inappropriate URL Anchor Text

The Mistake: Trying to grab the attention of a user on your site you use a nice spiffy bold-faced 24point font with the words "CLICK HERE!!!" (and for added affect you use the blink style). Yep... that will get their attention all right!

The Reality: Besides the fact that you've just gained some NEGATIVE attention (talk about tacky) you've also managed to create a 100% irrelevant link by providing garbage anchor text! Internal linking is important for proper SEO, and providing relevant anchor text makes all the difference. Instead of using anchor text that reads "Click here" or "click me", provide relevant text to that describes the destination page of the link. For example, when linking to an internal customer support page you want to avoid setting your anchor text as "Click here for customer support". A proper set-up would be "Please visit our customer support page if you have any questions." In the second example you've created relevant anchor text for the link and increased the readability at the same time. Search engines spiders will love you for it!

Mistake #6 - Expecting a Miracle

The Mistake: Online businesses are booming and the potential is unlimited as more and more users jump onto the information super highway every day. In an attempt to cash in and make some very easy money, you hastily create a couple websites with little content and not much substance. You put your feet up and sit back and wait for the cash to start flowing in as people flock to your sites!

The Reality: If only it were that easy... we would all be millionaires! Im sure most people have heard the movie quote if you build it, they will come. Well, that most certainly does NOT apply to online websites. The simple reality is that people are not going to just stumble upon your website. Even if you've done a lot of keyword analysis and applied proper SEO to your web pages, chances are you are not going to get any substantial traffic. You need to be one part webmaster, one part salesman, and one part marketing expert to succeed in an online business. Think of it like this. If youve lost a recent job and sit in your house and never submit your resume, never conduct interviews, and never market yourself do you really think your phone will ring with a job offer? You need to hit the market, promote yourself as the best in your field, and peruse every possible opportunity that is presented to you. Its the same way with online businesses.

Mistake #7 - Ignoring The Importance of Links

The Mistake: You've set-up your website and have been getting some decent traffic thanks to your paid marketing campaigns and off-line marketing. Several webmasters with competing sites email you and ask for link exchanges or offer you a one-way link (perhaps in exchange for writing an article for their site). Sitting up on your high-horse you turn them down. After all, why would you want to help a competitor?

The Reality: This is a huge mistake. By not participating in link exchanges (or more importantly, securing one-way links) it's not your competitor who will be hurt, it's yourself! A very heavy component in search engine algorithms in determining the search engine rankings is the number of links a website has pointing to it. Think of each link as a vote of support. As your website gains more votes, its level of popularity is considered to be higher by the search engines. Of course, not every link exchange or one-way link can be a good one. You need to make sure to pick your link partners based on relevance to your own website category. For example, if your website is dedicated to the PC game World of Warcraft, you wouldnt want to link to a website that sells woman's shoes. On the other hand, if a webmaster approaches you for a link exchange to his website that provides hints and tips to PC games then that would be a very relevant link. One-way links are perhaps the most difficult to get as very few webmasters are willing to provide an outgoing link without getting something in return, especially websites that have a high PageRank. To gain one-way links you have several options. The first is to pay for them. When paying for a one-way link it's suggested you go after only those with high PageRank (PR) as they will be weighted heavier than those with low PR. Another option is to sign-up for one-way link directory services such as Free Links Direct. Two other strong options are to write articles and press releases and then submit them to article and press release directories.

Mistake #8 - Not Filling Pages With Enough Relevant Content

The Mistake: Writing content can be very time consuming and a real chore when you're already balancing your full-time job and family on top of your website(s). Since the number of pages on a site has a direct correlation to the weighting you gain in SERPs, you add several dozen pages with only a few sentences that are keyword rich for each page and then throw in an image or two to fill the white space.

The Reality: Well, the good thing is you've created several keyword targeted pages in your site rather than stuffing all of it into one page. That's the good news. Now the bad news. By only adding a few sentences to each page you are killing your chance of being picked up in search engines and providing very little value to your users at the same time. It's better to have a few pages with high quality content than a lot of pages with little to no content. It really is a quality vs. quantity thing. The best suggestion is to ensure each page contains at least 250 words at a minimum. By adding more words you can increase your keyword density and also provide users with something valuable to read.

Mistake #9 - Not Creating or Updating Sitemaps

The Mistake: Sitemaps are a pain. Not only do they require constant updates every time a new page is updated, but they just look plain ugly and don't offer much value to your users! Sitemaps are a waste of time.

The Reality: Sitemaps are the blueprint to your website. Without these blueprints, search engine spiders are going to have a difficult time crawling your site. Your goal is to get every single page you've created indexed by all search engine crawlers. Providing a sitemap to the crawlers is an easy way to ensure they will crawl each page in your website (that's included in the sitemap). Sitemaps also serve a practical use to your users by presenting an overview of your site navigation tree. Some users prefer jumping to a sitemap page for quick navigation as the various pages are not obscured behind collapsible menus. With a little work, you can present your sitemap in a manner that is both pleasing to your users and easy to crawl for the search engines.

Mistake #10 - Changing Filenames or Removing Pages of an Established Website

The Mistake: Your site has been going strong for a couple years. Traffic is outstanding and you're finally ranking in the top 10 in the major search engines. Only problem is your site is beginning to look dated and you want to clean up some old content. You decide to really clean the attic and remove old pages, rename most of the existing pages, and change the overall site structure completely around. When the dust settles you're left with a trim and very well organized website with easy to read file names.

The Reality: That clean-up may have just killed your website (at least, for the short term). Perhaps one of the biggest mistakes a webmaster can do is to remove or rename existing WebPages, especially when you have a well established website. What you're doing is essentially removing your website from the search engines. For example, let's say you have a webpage on your site about Puppy Grooming. It's an old page that was there since your site launched a few years back. From your knowledge, it's a page that doesn't get much traffic so you decide to delete it in the cleanup. What you've just done is created a hole in your website. If a user searches under Puppy Grooming and sees your page listed (it will still be indexed and in the cache of search engines) what do you think will happen when they click the link? Most likely they'll see an ugly 404 Page Error. That's not exactly what you want the user to see. It takes a user less than a second to determine if they want to visit your site so first impressions are everything in this business. More importantly, youre throwing off the search engines that are caching and indexing your website! You risk going from top-ten placements on some pages to falling off the search engine results page altogether. Doing site cleanup of existing pages needs to really be a well thought out process to avoid any potential pitfalls.

This list wasn't compiled by pulling ideas from thin air. It's based on a foundation of past experiences by several professional web developers. After all, even the best web developers were once newbies too. By reading about these potential pitfalls we hope that you'll learn from the experiences of others and not make the same mistakes.

David is a Senior Programming consultant and SEO expert with over 10 years experience in the IT industry. David currently owns several successful websites, including Free Links Direct, a free SEO service that provides one-way links and quality SEO articles and tips.

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