Common Seo Mistakes

Dave (self-taught newbie freelance Web designer) was sure he'd done everything right. The redesigned website, slick domain name, eye-popping Flash (now, Animate) intro, up-to-date javascript for the menus, and keywords on every page! Lots and lots of keywords. Not to mention the easy-to-read anchor text ("click here") to make it easy for visitors to find the links.

So where was the traffic? He couldn't understand it. One site launch and two very quiet months later, his client found a different designer.

Could this happen to you? How can you prevent a similar fiasco?

Dave's problem was simple. He tried for cool and important. He should have focused on what actually helps SEO. What he should have been attending to, he ignored — and didn't even realize it.

Read on to see some of the pitfalls he fell into, and how you can steer clear of them.

1. Choosing a domain name that tickled his (or his client's) fancy, without doing serious keyword research ahead of time.

Users often search for things online in odd ways. What they do is often counterintuitive and unpredictable. That's why we need to do keyword research. It's imperative that we find out what people are actually doing — not what we think they're doing. Once we know that, we know how to name our domains, title sections, headers and more.

2. Putting a Flash/Animate intro on his home page.

Google and other search engines rank websites partly based on their text content. Animate presents a problem here — it's not text! That makes it pretty much unsearchable. Each page on your site has to contribute the maximum toward attracting visitors and then convert those visits into the action of your choice. (Note: if you are working for a TV network or film producer, this may not apply to you.)

3. Using Javascript menus without HTML alternatives or good site maps.

Javascript is another format that Google still can't read very well. Web design has to cater to both human visitors and search engines. Leave one of them out of the equation, and your visitor stats will suffer.

4. Stuffing keywords into your pages so search engines think you're relevant.

Don't get me wrong: of course you're relevant! The trouble is all those other websites that aren't! Search engines are getting smarter by the day. Remember how they outwitted link wheels, "roboblogs", and auto-generated content? Now they're counting keywords! Be careful how many you pack into your site's pages, lest the search engines jump to the unfair conclusion that your content is (gasp) spam. Web designers who get their clients blacklisted and de-listed are not Web designers for long.

5. Leaving the same tired old anchor text in your links.

Gone are the days when a link could simply display the phrase "Click here." Today's ever-more-sophisticated human readers expect — nay, demand — better. At the same time, search engines are being designed enhanced with ever-smarter AI. They now see your anchor text as a clue to the relevance of your links. Don't believe me? Just try using "Click here." Then sit up late, anxiously watching your site analytics for any sign of activity. Don't be surprised if the only sound you hear is crickets accompanying the total lack of visitors!

Use It Well

If you made it this far, congratulations! Now you know more than the majority of the website designing masses. Go forth and use this knowledge well, rise above your competition, please your clients and have an impact on the world!