We have all been a newbie SEO at one time or another. But if you are new to the industryâ€¦ or just need a refresher that you arenâ€™t making a cardinal newbie error when it comes to your siteâ€™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 â€œsome really obscure multi-keyword phraseâ€.
Wow, you rank number one for â€œsearch engine optimization in Smalltown USAâ€. 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 donâ€™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 wonâ€™t get lost if they didnâ€™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 shouldnâ€™t ignore the value of meta tags, they arenâ€™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 doesnâ€™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 viewsâ€¦ 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.
Itâ€™s only about the links
There is no doubt that inbound links are very important to any website. But donâ€™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 rankâ€¦ 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!