• Top mistakes newbie SEOs make

    by  • September 9, 2007 • Search Engine Optimization • 23 Comments

    We have all been a newbie SEO at one time or another. But if you are new to the industry… or just need a refresher that you aren’t making a cardinal newbie error when it comes to your site’s optimization, here are some of the top and most frequent mistakes and how to fix them. And yes, I did one of these back in 1999… although fortunately it wasn’t one of the ones that would get me banned, either back then or now!

    My site ranks for “some really obscure multi-keyword phrase”.

    Wow, you rank number one for “search engine optimization in Smalltown USA”. But who actually searches for that? You can be number one for tens of thousands of obscure keyword combinations, but if no one is actually searching for any of them, you have just wasted your time and effort optimizing for them (but hopefully it was sheer coincidence that you rank for them, and not actual effort on your part!)

    Instead, use one of the many tools on the market that can give you some idea of how many people are searching for various keyword combinations related to your industry and focus on the ones that can actually bring you traffic rather than the unusual or obscure ones that no one ever searches for except you when you check your rankings.

    Only focusing on the homepage

    In the short tail world, one would only need to focus on the homepage. But in the world where long tail is not only king but queen too, you cannot afford to let your internal pages go neglected while your homepage gets the royal treatment.

    Consider your internal pages just as important as your homepage, and don’t forget that a large percentage of your visitors will actually enter your site through an internal page, and not the homepage, so ensure that you have suitable navigation in place so that the visitor won’t get lost if they didn’t happen to get to your site via your homepage.

    Too much time and effort on the meta tags

    Yes, once upon a time meta tags were a very important part of any search engine optimization campaign. But the fairy tale is over and while you definitely shouldn’t ignore the value of meta tags, they aren’t so much relevant nowadays for rankings as they are for displaying what shows in the search engine results page.

    The robots.txt oops

    I am still a person that triple checks any robots.txt file I do. And while I fortunately (knock on wood) have never had any problems by accidentally disallowing all bots from visiting any of my sites via a robots.txt-gone-bad, I have seen the results of newbie webmasters who think they are telling Googlebot and Slurp to visit their site, when they are actually disallowing them from visiting and indexing the entire site. Ooops.

    If you too live in fear, run any robots.txt file through a validator the moment it goes up (to reduce the window of opportunity of a bot happening to visit when you have a messed up robots.txt file live on the site). And it is worth double checking Google Webmaster Central to make sure Googlebot doesn’t have any indexing problems stemming from robots.txt, or any other reason.

    Focusing on the traffic numbers without checking the follow through

    Wow, so you had ten thousand visitors today. That traffic is pretty decent, depending on your goals, but the most important figure is page views… and the bounce rate. If those ten thousand visitors have a bounce rate of 98% (meaning only 2% of those ten thousand actually stuck around to click a second page) you need to figure out why so many leave after their first page view. Reduce your bounce rate and your page views will go up, and you can turn the slightly over 10,000 page views into 20,000 or 30,000, simply by figuring out why 98% of your traffic leaves immediately and what you can do to ensure they stick around for at least another page or two.

    Don’t forget it is much easier to make some changes to a page or website to keep a visitor on your site for a few additional page views than it is to optimize to get entirely new visitors.

    It’s only about the links

    There is no doubt that inbound links are very important to any website. But don’t make the mistake of thinking it is the only important thing about your site. Sure, throw enough links at even the crappiest site and it will probably rank… however it will also probably tank in the serps shortly after. For your site to live a happy and healthy existence in the search engine results, you need to include links in your SEO strategy, but we aware that it is only one piece of the entire SEO pie.

    While there are also many other newbie SEO mistakes (hidden text, keyword stuffing and spammy linking strategies, just to name a few) these are some of the common ones that I am sure some of you can admit you just might have done in the past before you knew better!


    Jennifer Slegg is a longtime member of the SEO community and is an expert on social media, content marketing, Google AdSense and search engines.

    23 Responses to Top mistakes newbie SEOs make

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    2. September 13, 2007 at 7:05 am

      We regularly coach our clients not to be swayed by one buzz technique as the end all to solid SEO … it is a multi-layered process where all elements require attention, including the metas, links, content, and relevance.

    3. September 13, 2007 at 7:26 am

      A nice way of explaining the fatal consequences of losing PR’s/good one

    4. September 13, 2007 at 11:58 am

      Jennifer – Good to see you posting again….I have been waiting for another post since….”Choosing your anchor text for incoming links”.

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    6. September 14, 2007 at 8:14 am

      How about adding in “Relying on XML sitemaps”? Many of our new clients seem to fixate on them until we educate them on their purpose.

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    8. September 14, 2007 at 11:11 am

      Right on tips. Although I have been pursuing a career in SEO now for nearly a year, I still consider myself a total newbie.

      Are there tools similar to Google AdWords Keyword Tool that reveal search volume and trends for organic search and not just PPC?


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    10. September 15, 2007 at 4:30 am

      Hi Jennifer,

      Nice article.
      I believe I’m NOT a newbie SEO.
      But the post reminds me of fundamental of SEO.

      Thank you.

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    13. September 18, 2007 at 11:36 pm

      I believe there should be another important one: Being reactive SEO. SEO needs to be proactive. I still consider myself a newbie because the online world changes everyday. Luckily, I don’t have to make living through SEO although it is part of my job.

    14. September 21, 2007 at 11:55 am

      I have another one for you (which is basic for all on-line disciplines); don’t set it and forget it. Keep the content fresh.

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    17. Wnw
      January 29, 2008 at 6:24 am

      Valid points……I have also seen that sometimes people tends to forget the basics….

    18. March 9, 2008 at 7:21 am

      Nice post, Jennifer.
      When I was starting out, I made a lot of funny mistakes. I was just a victim of those forums where you get crappy answers to your questions. I wrote about those mistakes last week, I guess. Here

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    20. May 26, 2008 at 9:09 am

      Really informative article, it helped me a lot, had to come back a few times and readi it again. keep up the good work, thanks

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    22. February 5, 2009 at 11:12 am

      well facts are facts and we got to digest them at some point in time.. its a blunt way to tell ya the consequences of your excitement on becoming a SEO expert…

    23. July 14, 2009 at 2:21 am

      I am guilty of this Jennifer so now I have robot.txt done. Great iinfo mate. Thanks heaps Nigel

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