Search engine optimization (SEO) begins with eliminating anything that might negatively affect your search engine rankings and then focusing on the items that will improve them.  Here are the top 10 most common SEO mistakes we find:

Choosing the Wrong Keywords

Keyword selection is one of the most important aspects of optimizing your website.  Pick the right keywords and your website traffic will soar; choose the wrong words and you won’t even crack the top ten pages of Google.  Select descriptive words that your prospect will use while searching for your products or services and then focus on those that will bring the most traffic.

Empty Title Tags

Some will say that title and meta tags aren’t worth the effort, but my experience shows they can be extremely valuable, especially in controlling descriptions on the search engine results pages.  The fact that Google tracks them as part of their Webmaster Tools indicates that we should pay attention as well.  Take the time to write proper title, description, content and keyword tags.

Flash Without an HTML Alternative

If you find a flash script you simply can’t live without, just make sure you provide an HTML alternative that your readers and spiders can follow.  While Google has announced it can read “textual content” embedded in Flash and extract link information, I’m not ready to drink the Koolaid just yet.  Better safe than sorry, especially when millions of dollars in sales are riding on it.

Focusing Too Much on Meta

Many of our new clients come from a world that’s about 5 years behind the SEO power curve.  These companies rely on outdated techniques like keyword stuffing, meta tag stuffing and even invisible text in an effort to boost their rankings.  Google has developed an answer for each of these manipulations and imposes penalties in the form of poor rankings or banning them altogether. As previously mentioned, it is important to create good meta tags, just don’t get carried away with it and forget to implement much more effective techniques.

Using Images for Headings

Many designers like using graphics rather than text for headings and menus because it gives them more control of the look and feel of the site.  Unfortunately, search engines can’t read text in images, at least not yet, and this negatively affects your rankings. Use H1, H2 and H3 tags in conjunction with CSS to improve the look and feel of your website.

Poor URLs

One of the key factors for website ranking is the site’s name or URL.  While it is possible to get ranked very high without it, it’s much easier to achieve top placement if the keyword is as part of the URL itself.  Avoid dynamic pages that can’t be indexed and strategically place your keywords within the URL.

Link Spamming

As the focus of SEO moves from on page, to off page factors, some search engine marketers feel that more links is always better.  All things being equal, they’re right; but all things are never equal are they?  Don’t be tempted to spam search engines, using link farms, groups and forums in an effort to artificially gather links.  The Big G can see these patterns and will penalize you appropriately.

No Keywords in the Content

If you take my sound advice and include words in the title, keyword and other meta tags, make sure those very same words are found within the content of your page as well.  Items listed in the “head” area of your website are used to communicate information to the search engine spiders.  If that information is not also included in the areas that a human can read, it’s not congruent and your site may be penalized accordingly.

Poor Grammar and Spelling

It’s surprising the amount of time our clients spend finding the perfect word, only to place it into a sentence that’s either not grammatically correct or contains misspelled words.  Spelling and grammar do count, not only with Google, but with prospects as well.  Spend the extra time it takes to get it right and have all the work proofed by at least two people.”Click Here” Link Anchor Text

“Click Here” Links

We’ve all seen the “click here” text used as the clickable text in a hyperlink.  These words, called anchor text, provide a description of the link for Google.  Anchor text like financial seminars actually add to the credibility of the website referenced; while for more information about financial seminars, “click here” gives no added relevancy to the linked page, since it is very generic in nature.

These top 10 search engine mistakes are examples of the most common errors we see from our new clients.  While eliminating these problems can dramatically improve your ranking in the search engines, there are still over 500 other factors that need to be considered, evaluated and optimized.

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