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5 terrible SEO tips

Everyone wants their website to come up as number one when they search on Google (in another post I'll explain why that isn't often important!), and a lot of people have ideas on how to do this. Here I'll list 5 tips that are often cited as working, but are actually a terrible idea.

1. Keyword Stuffing

What's it mean?

It's tempting to think that search engines love keywords, especially in large quantities. If a page says "wedding cakes" on it 100 times, most in bold and some as headings then it must be good right? Well no, not exactly. Google defines keyword stuffing as "...the practice of loading a webpage with keywords in an attempt to manipulate a site's ranking in Google's search results." They then explain how this will negatively affect your placement in their search results.

What's it look like?

Here's an example of some bad code found on an SEO specialists site.

 <meta name=description content="website promotion, web site promotion uk, website promotion, website promotion nottingham, web site promotion uk, web promotion uk, website promotion marketing, website marketing uk" /> 

This seems like a great idea, but lets see that search result in google:

google serp keyword heavy meta description

As you can see, this looks spammy. This won't help click through rates at all. Other examples would be paragraphs of keywords in the footer of a site, or keywords that are either a small font size, or positioned with css to be off the page.

We are trying to entice visitors to our site who will actually buy things, rather than people who are only tangentially related to our business.

What can we do to fix it?

Well, if you have endless lists of keywords with no benefit to the reader - delete them. A better example for the meta tag example above would perhaps be:

 <meta name=description content="Our company provide awesome SEO to enhance your sales and assist customers" /> 

Or some other such marketing spiel. This is what the user will see on the search engine results page (SERP) if there isn't a relevant snippet, so it's worth spending some time writing this to make your site sound relevant to the search query. Again, we want our potential customer to start with a positive view of the business.

2. Cloaking

What's it mean?

The idea of serving search engine spiders one load of content, whilst serving real visitors something different. Often the search engine will get a list of keywords, whilst the user gets actual content.

What's it look like?

This can be done using redirects, either in the server settings (check the .htaccess file in the server root) or using a server side or javascript redirect. If your site is doing this, you should stop immediately, or face being dropped by Google.

What can we do to fix it?

Simply stop doing it. Don't attempt to mislead search engines, write better content in the first place!

3. Linking to and from link farms

What's it mean?

Linking to other sites or directories in return for links inward to your site. In this case, the links are from irrelevant sources, primarily designed to manipulate search engine results. Back in the late '90s this worked well due to the naivety of early search engines such as Inktomi. Modern engines include penalties for linking in certain ways. Google has specifically said that:

"[Link schemes are in] violation of Google's webmaster guidelines and can negatively impact your site's ranking in search results."

In other words, this practice is not a good idea. Having paid links into your site is almost always worse than having no links at all.

What's it look like?

Pages of links to sites that are of no interest to the reader. These are either buried on a page somewhere, or are on the front page. Front page links are the worst type, as they may lead users to come to the conclusion that your site lacks substance.

Often pages who employ this technique do a link swap they link to the link farm in exchange for a link back. For legitimate sites this is a fantastic idea, but bought links are a definite no.

What can we do to fix it?

Link to relevant sites, and encourage sites to link to you, but don't link to directories just so they link to you. Talk to people who run local businesses and encourage them to link to your site and vice versa - we want links that real life customers will find useful!

4. Splash or Doorway Pages

What's it mean?

A landing page designed to entice search engines in stuffed with keywords that has little or no content. Often they have a "Click here to enter the site" button. If this page has a huge flash animation or introduction movie, then this is also a good way to really annoy visitors!

What's it look like?

Check your site for any pages with spammy sounding names. Any pages that have no content or are obviously not designed for humans to read are examples.

What can we do to fix it?

Delete, delete, delete! Optimise your site so that landing pages are relevant and designed to allow human visitors to access information and understand your sites purpose. Remember that you are trying to sell to people, not web spiders!

5. Duplicate Content

What's it mean?

Many pages that include the same information over and over again. This could be on different domains, or just similar pages in the same site.

What's it look like?

Many URLs that display identical content, either on purpose or by mistake. This either happens because the site owner has spread the site over lots of domains with the idea that they will attract more vistors this way, or because the server is set up badly.

What can we do to fix it?

Check that your server side code doesn't allow multiple pages to be generated with the same URL. This often happens if you are querying a database with different URL parameters. If this is unavoidable, either add a noindex meta tag to the pages that you don't want indexed, or tell the search engine to ignore parameters in their webmaster section. Yahoo allows you to rewrite URLs to not include certain parameters for example. Setting the a link with rel set to canonical in the head section of the website is also a good idea.

If you are mirroring your content on different domains, then just choose one, and if your site can be reached with or without the www. prefix, then pick one and redirect the other to that one.

Conclusion

So, there you go, a quick round up of 5 ineffective techniques. Most of these simultaneously annoy potential customers, bring in people with no interest in your business as well as attracting penalties from Google.

Any other things you've seen? Add them to the comments!

terrible SEO tips, website, design, focal strategy, hythe, hampshire

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