Biggest SEO Mistakes – Part 1

Time Breakdown of modern Web Design

Image by mringlein via Flickr

I gave a talk recently to my SEO Meetup about the 10 biggest SEO Mistakes. I discovered that there are way more than just 10, so I grouped them into three basic sections: Web Design; Title and Meta Tags; and Linking.

Of course the absolute BIGGEST mistake is not to do SEO at all, but I presume that you already know that.

Web Design


Put a splash or doorway page on the website. This is a page with no text that a user has to click on to enter the actual website. We have all seen this, there is a big graphic, or a Flash movie, and a small “Skip Intro” button at the bottom somewhere. Why upset your users when they come in to the website? Remember, you only have 7 seconds to grab their attention.

Use frames on the site. An example is a website that is cut into boxes where the text scrolls down but the design stays put. This includes I-Frames. Fortunately, most designers no longer fool with frames, but i-Frames are just as bad. Try printing out a web page that has frames and you will get two blank pages and one of text. Which one will the search engine see? The blank ones.

Have a Flash movie on the first page. Most search engines cannot see Flash, and will not index your website as a result. Even though Adobe supposedly gave Yahoo and Google information on Flash, the programs cannot see your images. However, you can embed the Flash video in a static HTML page. This allows the search engine to index the page and your users still can see the lovely movie.

Use graphics with text in them (i.e. like a page header with your tagline in it). Again, search engines cannot see graphics and will miss the important data.

Have a lot of flashing and blinking animations on your website. This is distracting to the user and “so last century”.

Please do not try fancy navigation buttons. These often lead to confusing both the users and the spiders. You want to have straightforward, easy to read / see navigation links throughout the website.


Have at least a paragraph of text on the first (or home) page. This allows the search engines to properly classify the site and helps the users as well (7 second rule).

Have your contact information at the bottom of each page or in a visible location (such as a Contact Us page). This boosts credibility.

Use your most important key terms in the text of the pages, so that the search engines and your prospective clients can find you.

Make sure that the navigation of the website is clear and simple to use. If a user cannot navigate your site, they will leave.

Make sure that there are no broken links on the website. This means checking back every few months.

Part 2 will cover Linking.

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With All the Tech Layoffs, Why Hire an In-House SEO?


Image by jlori via Flickr

As the economic crisis continues, more layoffs are being announced everyday in the tech industry. Zillow (real estate) just laid off 35 people, hi5 (a social network) let go 10-15, Adbrite (advertising online) dropped 40, and even eBay downsized 1500 peeps.

Yet i still see many notices for in-house SEO jobs. Why? Most companies do not need someone on staff to handle SEO or SEM. Most of the work is in the first two months and after that it tends to be monitoring the rankings, meta tags and ad campaigns.

Look at all the advantages of hiring a 1099 contractor. The company does not need to pay any benefits; the person works from home so they are saving gas and not polluting; the rate can be by the hour or a fixed number of hours rather then by year; the list goes on and on.

Someone needs to clue in these folks that in-house is no longer the way to go for search engine optimization.

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Client Wins Awards!

Cool! My client, Ferrari Productions, just won both the San Diego Reader’s Poll and the US Local Small Business Awards for best video production company in San Diego!

Ferrari Productions

Social Media and Gustav

It is really fascinating to watch the deployment and preparations for Gustav from my computer. Twitter allows me to follow CNN reporters, disaster doctors “tweeting”, people on the ground, and the various emergency networks coming together online. Several new networks such as one on and others are being set up and people are being asked to pass the word to the “non-geeks” as well.

Video Optimization

With all the video websites around these days, following the success of YouTube, it is no wonder that Video optimization would appear.

When people upload videos to YouTube, MetaCafe, or DailyMotion, the process asks for a title, description, keywords, and a category. Unfortunately, many people do not know what to do and just plug in anything that strikes them.

Videos, like other media on the Web, need to be catalog and categorized so that others can find them as well. The items asked for are basically the same as the meta tags and title tag. Those of us who understand this can then get their video found in both the video search engines as well as in the search function on the video sites.

What are Meta Tags?

While the most important tag on your website is the title tag, don’t forget the meta tags. The meta tags are the description and keywords tags.

The description tag is often used as the snippet of text in the organic search engine results. The best description tags are clear and concise. I recommend two sentences, with your most important keywords first. As an example, the description on the MySearchGuru site states:

We specialize in organic search engine optimization, social media optimization, ghost blogging, and other techniques to drive targeted traffic to your web site, and maximize your visibility in the search engines.

I have bolded the keywords that are in the sentence. You will notice that I spelled “web site” as two words, and mentioned “search engine” and “search engines.” This is on purpose. Google sees singular and plural as two different words. I use the spelling “website” on the site itself, and in the keywords tag.

While Google and some of the larger search engines no longer use the keywords tag, it is a myth that the tag itself is no longer used. The smaller engines use it as does Yahoo. The keywords tag should only have 20-25 keywords in it, with the most important keywords first.

The Most Important Tag for Your Website

There are a lot of untruths floating around the Web about SEO. I often hear them when clients bring them up to me. New ebooks on SEO are constantly popping up with headlines like, “Rank First on the Search Engines!” or “Learn the Secrets that SEO people won’t tell you!”

Well, as an SEO guru (and I was a guru long before most of the others, LOL), I’ll tell you right now, the most important tag in your website code is the title tag.

The title tells not only the search engines, but your users what the website is about. It should be no longer than 60 characters, and should have your most important keywords in it. But, it needs to be a title, NOT a string of keywords stuck together.

Here are some examples of titles that I have recently placed on websites:

Jewell Entertainment: Your Agency for Unforgettable Events (this is for an entertainment agency that places talent at events)

Tamara Alter: Unique Gemstone Jewelry (a jewelry designer)

Arenson Office Furniture: San Diego’s Workspace Solutions (office furniture store in San Diego)

Grand Entrances: San Diego’s Finest Custom Entry Doors (‘nuf said)

Once Upon A Favor: Wedding and Baby Shower Favors (wedding and party favors)

Now, once the title is correct on the home page, it needs to change for all the inner pages in order to reflect content. So, on the About Us page, the title would say: Once Upon A Favor: About Us and so on.

A lot of people make the mistake of just repeating the same title tag over and over. It does not help your users find their way through your website.

What is SMO?

A lot of people know about search engine optimization, or SEO, but SMO is a relatively new term. It stands for social media optimization and goes along with the phenom of “Web 2.0.” SMO is another technique to help a website or brand show up in the search engines.

Social media optimization basically includes placing a website/person/product/service on the various social media networks (Facebook, Ning, MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.), and social bookmarking sites (, Mixx, BackFlip, Digg) so that the search engines see more inbound links.

The trick is to know which ones of the hundreds out there of social media sites are the best. One place to find this information is at my Squidoo page, Online Networking.

Another interesting ebook is The Definitive Guide to Finding the Best Social Marketing Sites . Bill Ortell has taken the time to go through the many sites and subject them to specific criteria. He examines social networks, bookmarking sites, and video sites. I heartily recommend this book as an excellent place to start.

A New Type of FFA site

FFA, or Free-For-All websites, have returned. These are sites that just have lists of links with little or no content (a.k. “link farms”). The new ones are claiming to be classified ad sites, with small ads and links. The way to tell that it is an FFA page is the fact that once your “ad” is posted, it will fall to the bottom and disappear as soon as enough other ads are posted. So you get an email telling you that you need to post it again. If you ignore this email, they do not go away, but will continue to pound away at you.

The Promises of Automatic Submission Programs

There are a lot of automatic submission (i.e. to search engines) programs online that promise a lot, but only deliver a little. A number of them claim that they submit to over x number of search engines. If the number is over 1,000, a red alarm light should go off! Usually, this number refers to FFA (Free-For-All or link farms) sites, or classified ad sites. You do NOT want your site submitted there.

A client asked me to look at a company that he was paying to do the submission of his website. After carefully checking through their list (they said it was at least 3,000 search engines and directories), I found that there were only 304 actual websites. And, of those, only 26 were real search engines, and 16 were pay-per-click search engines. The other links included dead sites, foreign language sites that do not accept English language websites, meta search engines that do not even accept submissions, and a number of sites that had nothing to do with search engines at all!

There are also a number of programs that will submit your site to directories for a fee. Unfortunately, the program submits the website blindly to any directory it has in its list. As a result, your site gets submitted to directories that have nothing to do with your field. One client, who sells Turkish cotton bathrobes, found his site had been submitted to a Greek tourism directory.

When I submit a website to a search engine or directory, I know that the site will accept the link because I have done the research.