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165 Mistakes Businesses Make About Web Marketing and SEO165 Mistakes Businesses Make About Web Marketing and SEO

I recently had the privilege of developing a course for Kaplan University,in their eCommerce program,regarding the role of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) in a company’s marketing strategy. In addition to a wonderful textbook,The Art of SEO:Mastering Search Engine Optimization (Theory in Practice),I was able to condense my own experience and accumulated SEO research into the project. As the work progressed,I realized how many revenue-obstructing mistakes can be made in the name of “budget”or “limited resources.”It became clear that,to compete on the Web,companies can no longer rely on traditional advertising models while there are potentially millions of customers who find what they want through search engines. By the end of the course development,I had an extensive list that I thought I’d share here.

165 Mistakes Businesses Make About Web Marketing and SEO:

  1. They fail to realize that organic search engine traffic is essential to the growth and success of the company.
  2. They fail to acknowledge that search engines impose specific constraints on how websites can be structured.
  3. They fail to realize that search engine success requires specialized marketing programs.
  4. They fail to embrace both the limitations and requirements of SEO in order to gain a strategic advantage over their competition.
  5. They fail to follow current trends in search,and are,therefore,unprepared for the competitive landscape.
  6. They fail to recognize that the Web outperforms other sales channels.
  7. They fail to understand that search traffic happens regardless of the market or economy.
  8. They design their web pages with the most important content below-the-fold,or in places where most visitors don’t even look,or in code that the search engines cannot read.
  9. They rely solely on paid positioning (PPC,AdSense,etc.) to drive traffic instead of optimizing for organic search results.
  10. They fail to optimize their sites for local (geo-targeted) searches,where applicable.
  11. They opt to make websites fancy,with Flash,Ajax,and JavaScript gizmos,at the expense of text-based content,rendering their web pages virtually invisible to the search engines.
  12. They ignore building Mobile-friendly web pages,thereby cutting valuable search traffic out of the picture.
  13. They mix topics on individual pages,rendering one section irrelevant to others on the page.
  14. They fail to enforce unique title tags on individual pages.
  15. They duplicate content from page to page.
  16. They build site architectures that are deep,requiring many clicks to reach detail pages.
  17. They fail to use contextual navigation links to internal pages.
  18. They fail to use keyword-rich tags within the page to reinforce the relevance of the structure to the content.
  19. They fail to optimize on-page images with keyword-rich alt and title tags.
  20. They rely on their meta keyword tag to communicate the page topic to the search engines.
  21. They ignore the importance of the meta description tag to “sell”a page to potential visitors on the search engine results pages.
  22. They fail to provide content in the NoScript tags whenever a JavaScript element is presented to the majority of visitors.
  23. They use complex,outdated table-driven page layout methods,instead of lightweight CSS methods that provide semantic clues to the search engines.
  24. They fail to optimize anchor text on links to be keyword-rich,instead of using “click here”or “read more”.
  25. They allow links to outside sites to pass PageRank to other sites,by not using “NoFollow”attributes.
  26. They fail to continuously update,or add to,their content,allowing the site to become “stale.”
  27. They do not manage 3rd-party links back to their site,ensuring that proper anchor text is used.
  28. They accept inbound links from shady or spammy sites,instead of accepting links from high-quality sites.
  29. They ignore the importance of social media on traffic,link-building and social buzz.
  30. They miss opportunities to maintain keyword-rich content,including H1 tags,section headers,and bold text.
  31. They use URLs that are irrelevant to the site or page topic,instead of using keyword-rich addresses.
  32. They use unreliable hosts or servers,reducing visitor satisfaction,and blocking search engine crawlers.
  33. They fail to 301-redirect broken inbound links,and old internal links,pointing to their replacement URLs.
  34. They contain duplicate content or images from other websites.
  35. They fail to use a canonical URL structure for internal pages.
  36. They obtain a “new’URL that might have a negative past,including unresolved penalties,with the search engines.
  37. They participate in link purchasing schemes,excessive reciprocal linking,or flooding blog comments with spammy backlinks.
  38. They use top-level domains,other than dot-coms,for their primary sites.
  39. They do not optimize their top-level domains for in-country preferences.
  40. They do not host their sites within the country they are targeting.
  41. They do not personalize their content by region or language.
  42. They omit their address and contact information on every page.
  43. They fail to optimize for the top-three search engines,at least.
  44. They lose sight of the fact that SEO is really a marketing function.
  45. They fail to realize that the mere presence of their website does not automatically allow people to find it.
  46. They fail to track the optimizations,user activity,and page statistics that prove whether the site is competing in the search engines.
  47. They fail to perform competitive analyses to discover why the competition is beating them.
  48. They fail to perform adequate keyword research to capture the “long-tail”keywords their potential customers are actually typing in the search engines.
  49. They fail to realize that every SEO plan is custom –no two websites can be optimized equally.
  50. They fail to actually plan the SEO for their site,but just “wing it”and expect to improve.
  51. They do not tie SEO improvements with increased conversions,revenue or ROI for the site.
  52. They ignore the strategies being used by their competitors.
  53. They do not budget for SEO improvement or content development.
  54. They fail to implement even basic SEO techniques,such as tag optimization.
  55. They fail to base their goals on specific,measurable,achievable,realistic and time-bound objectives.
  56. They ignore the lead time needed to see results in the search engines for SEO changes made earlier.
  57. They ignore seasonal trends in keyword usage and search engine traffic.
  58. They mix the purposes of their website,creating confusion.
  59. They ignore the critical importance of link-building.
  60. They fail to exploit SEO mistakes made by a competitor.
  61. They fail to use the website to compel visitors to take an action –any action.
  62. They use content management systems that are not SEO-friendly.
  63. They hide content behind cookies,session IDs,or user IDs.
  64. They have many parameters or superfluous flags in their internal URLs.
  65. They use links that are created by,or contained within,JavaScript,Java,AJAX,or Flash.
  66. They use temporary (302) redirects to pages.
  67. They ignore the importance of a category-based hierarchical navigation architecture.
  68. They allow irrelevant pages to link to each other.
  69. They attempt to hide keywords with CSS backgrounds,images,or font colors that disappear visually.
  70. They engage in “cloaking”techniques that serve different content to search engines than to visitors.
  71. They fail to have an optimized Sitemap.xml file.
  72. They fail to control the crawlers by providing directives in their robots.txt file.
  73. They use excessive subdomains instead of a proper navigational link structure.
  74. They use sloppy,non-compliant HTML code instead of conforming to the W3C standards.
  75. They engage in “keyword cannibalization”where a single keyword is targeted on multiple internal pages.
  76. They ignore slow server response times and timeouts.
  77. They share IP addresses with other sites.
  78. They use an IP address that has previously been blocked by search engines for past abuses.
  79. They fail to perform careful advance planning when moving content,changing domain names,or changing servers.
  80. They fail to use webmaster tools to perform regular web analytics on their site.
  81. They ignore the fact that many of their internal pages have not been indexed by the search engines.
  82. They ignore the keywords being used by the competition.
  83. They expect any website change for SEO purposes to remain effective forever.
  84. They obsess over page rankings instead of long-term keyword and inbound-link performance.
  85. They fail to benchmark current traffic sources and volumes.
  86. They fail to leverage other business assets for SEO purposes.
  87. They optimize for broad keywords instead of long-tail (specific) keywords.
  88. They use keywords they like instead of the ones actually being queried by potential customers.
  89. They over-estimate the value of the 2nd through 10th natural positions on page-one of Google.
  90. They ignore the value of interative testing on each SEO element on each page.
  91. They fail to optimize user landing pages for the highest possible conversion rates.
  92. They ignore the value of user-generated content,such as blogs,comments,forums,reviews,and tagged media uploads.
  93. They allow their site to be difficult to access by search engine spiders.
  94. They hide valuable content behind submission-required forms.
  95. They allow too many links on a single page,costing both page ranking,relevance and confusion.
  96. They use frames or iframes to display content.
  97. They allow a site to have “spider traps”whereby spiders get into endless loops on individual pages.
  98. They use subdomains instead of folders,or microsites instead of subdomains.
  99. They use non-unique domain names and fail to control and redirect the closes variants.
  100. They use numbers or codes in URLs instead of descriptives or keywords.
  101. They use title tags with more than 65 characters.
  102. They exaggerate in their meta descriptions about what the user can expect of the content for that page.
  103. They ignore the psychology and motivation of why people click on links,images,or ads.
  104. They use fonts that make ease of reading difficult.
  105. They engage in keyword-stuffing instead of providing a keyword balance,proportional to the content.
  106. They do not enforce the rule that page content,in its entirety,must be unique. Period.
  107. They allow unlicensed content to exist on a page.
  108. They allow a high ratio of ads-to-editorial content.
  109. They ignore the value of “breadcrumb”navigation links on large or complex sites.
  110. They ignore the value of making their content “link worthy”or to act as “link bait.”
  111. They ignore the value of “authority”websites.
  112. They ingore the value of frequent and deep spider crawls.
  113. They fail to understand why links are created to other websites.
  114. They fail to establish their site as a leading expert on its topic matter.
  115. They maximize the commercial aspects of their site instead of providing educational,entertaining,or other useful content.
  116. They disguise the relationship between their content and their commercial content.
  117. They embed ads in their editorial content.
  118. They ignore the power of blogging to generate authority,traffic,and links.
  119. They ignore the power of online articles to generate authority,traffic,and links.
  120. They ignore the power of online directories to generate traffic and links.
  121. They ignore the power of double-opt-in email list-building campaigns.
  122. They ignore the power of obtaining links from military,educational,government,or relevant hobby sites.
  123. They engage their SEO activities casually,as if it is inconsequential to their success.
  124. They fail to conduct regular strategic reviews of their website performance.
  125. They stop their link-building activities after they have accumulated a predetermined number,or their web page has been ranked #1 on the search results.
  126. They engage in “sitewide linking.”
  127. They attempt to hide ad links among non-commercial links.
  128. They expect SEO results to be realized immediately instead of in the standard 1-6 month period.
  129. They ignore the power of video marketing,in the form of educational,enlightening or entertaining content to drive traffic to the website.
  130. They ignore the power of building relationships over selling.
  131. They ignore the power of optimizing for “vertical”search.
  132. They ignore the power of image and video sharing sites to generate traffic and links.
  133. They ignore the power of “product search”where results are optimized for specific brands,models and characteristics.
  134. They ignore the power of RSS feed optimization.
  135. They ignore the huge potential of Mobile Internet Search.
  136. They ignore the power of video search optimization.
  137. They fail to apply useful metrics against the website performance.
  138. They do not regularly identify poor-performing or low-converting pages and make repairs.
  139. They fail to regularly check server logs and other sources for page or site errors.
  140. They fail to measure search traffic by keyword,category,event,user-action,or other key performance indicators.
  141. They fail to track every user action or click on landing pages or conversion pages.
  142. They rush to make decisions after collecting too small of a data sample.
  143. They fail to recognize when they have collected enough data.
  144. They are content to work with biased data,or data from unreliable sources.
  145. They fail to place a dollar value on every type of conversion they receive,and by corresponding visitor.
  146. They fail to attribute SEO performance gains to the activity that created them.
  147. They fail to track conversions by their sources,keywords,referrers or visited pages.
  148. They ignore the value of determining the ROI of any SEO project.
  149. They fail to calculate and compare the relative value of incoming links and their sources.
  150. They fail to detect and correct crawl errors on their site.
  151. They fail to evaluate competitive trends over time.
  152. They ignore the perils of engaging in activities specifically considered as “spam”by the search engines.
  153. They expect that a lot of pages with thin content is better than fewer pages with more robust content.
  154. They fail resolve search engine penalties or “slaps”.
  155. They fail to act when their content is stolen.
  156. They fail to invest in,allow continuous training for,or provide support for,their internal SEO team.
  157. They fail to continuously research the evolving search engine algorithms and ever-changing SEO standards.
  158. They ignore the SEO strategies used by the competition.
  159. They miss opportunities to regain competitive advantages by hiring SEO specialists to perform audits or pinpoint problems.
  160. They fail to adequately budget for SEO efforts.
  161. They ignore the importance of embracing SEO throughout the organization,and never making a strategic decision without considering the effects on search engine ranking.
  162. They fail to “get”what benefits are available from SEO,and leave customers on the table as a result.
  163. They compel their inhouse SEO staff to resell SEO 80% of their time instead of “doing”it.
  164. They expect any new hire to be up-to-speed on SEO with minimal training or experience.
  165. They do not check the references of SEO consultants or SEO firms before contracting them to help.

[Dan James is Sr. VP at LarkinSoft,a division of Larkin Industries,Inc.]

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