Search engine optimization is on the minds of a lot of web marketers and business owners these days, and with good reason. Search engine success can often turn a marginally profitable website into a huge success.
But having a website that’s visible to search engines is not the question. The question is, how do you get there? More importantly, what mistakes can you avoid that might prevent you from getting there? Here are some of the most common search engine optimization mistakes I see on business websites, and how you can avoid them on your own website.
Content as Graphics or PDF
When you put your words into graphical format (JPEG or GIF), those words become invisible to search engines. Sure, there are times when it’s necessary, like when designing a logo. But if you use graphics as sub headers on your web pages, you’re wasting a good SEO opportunity.
Often, I’ll see keyword-rich headers and sub-headers in graphical format, when the exact same look could be achieved with regular text formatted by a style sheet. It doesn’t make sense to me.
PDF files are another area where companies often rob themselves of search engine-friendly content. Let’s say you have a news section on your website, and all 15 news stories link to PDF files. In this case, you have one page of readable web content and 15 PDF files (that search engines cannot read or rank you for).
But if you made a separate web page with regular text for each news story, you’d have an additional 15 pages for search engines to crawl through and evaluate. You can still offer the PDF files for people who prefer to download the story. But you’d offer the PDF in addition to the regular text page, not in place of it.
Lack of Titles
In this usage, “title” refers to the title element within the HTML code that makes up a web page. Titles appear in three places: (1) at the top of the web code for a given page, (2) in the blue title bar at the top of your web browser, and (3) above each listing on a search engine results page (SERP).
The title element is an important part of search engine optimization because it tells search engines what the page is about. In fact, I would say the title element is one of the two most important parts of a web page for SEO purposes.
But I can’t count the number of business websites I’ve visited that lacked key phrases in their page titles, our lacked titles altogether. If an older, well-established website with bad titles were to suddenly optimize all page titles with key phrases, that site could easily double its search engine traffic in a few short months.
Lack of Sufficient Content
Like many things in SEO, good content helps people as well as search engines. People need content to help them understand your products or services, to tell them what to do next, and to give them a sense of your overall brand and reputation. Search engines need content to understand what your site is all about. So if your website lacks quality content, you’re depriving two audiences at once.
From an SEO standpoint, think of text hyperlinks as road signs. They tell people and search engines where they’re going, and what they’ll find when they get there. If most of the internal text links on your site use phrases like “click here” or “learn more,” you’re missing another SEO opportunity.
If you have a text link that goes to a page about CRM software, don’t label it “learn more” — label it “CRM software advice” (or whatever is applicable). This helps people navigate better, and it gives search engines plenty of clues as to what your site is all about. Search engine developers know that the hyperlinks on a site say a lot about the site’s theme or topic, so they’ve built their algorithms with this in mind.
You need to eliminate bad SEO habits before you can rise to search engine greatness. Use this article as both a starting point and a checklist. Print it out and go through your website page by page, checking for areas where you can improve your visibility. Good luck!