'Search Engines'

Are you sabotaging your SEO? 4 mistakes to watch out for

21 DEC 2016 0

SEO is confusing. Like some dark sorcerer high atop a mountain keep, Google is constantly weaving and working its magic, secretly re-writing the alchemical recipe that produces great page ranking placements. Nobody but Google knows exactly how page ranking and placement is calculated, but that doesn't mean we can't make educated guesses and look at the results.

And when you look at those results, you can see that some websites are way off.

This is a list of the most common mistakes websites make when trying to boost their SEO. If any of these seem familiar, it might be time to go back to the drawing board and make some changes.

1. You're binging on keywords

The value of keywords has fluctuated over the years. Back in the prehistoric age of the late '90s, keywords were the thing that determined whether or not your page would show up in a search. The web crawlers of the day were simple and easy to trick, and all you needed to do was slap a bunch of commonly searched words at the bottom of your site to draw in visitors (whether your site had anything to do with what they were looking for or not.)

Believe it or not, we still see similar behaviour on the net all the time. Only, instead of casting a huge net with lots of words, people will try to spear-hunt. They'll relentlessly drill one specific phrase or keyword into their content over and over again in an attempt to drive up their search relevancy. This is why you have sites that seem like they were written by an obsessive, constantly going back to the same exact product name or phrase like some kind of compulsive habit.

Don't do this. Google is smarter than that and will actually penalize you for trying to game the system so blatantly.

2. You're writing your best content where Google can't see it

This is a problem I used to run into myself. I love fancy fonts, cool lay-outs, and overlapping graphics. I'd write an article or blog and want the title to jump off the page at the reader, or have all kinds of captions or extra text I'd want to include in a piece. The easiest way to do this for a long time was to just design it all in Photoshop and plop it down on the page as a big ol' JPEG.

Can you see the problem here?

Google is smart, but not smart enough to read pictures yet. If the title for your blog post, a big chunk of your content, or whatever else, is only on the page as part of a picture, it might as well not exist as far as Google is concerned. 

Overly relying on images tends to run into other problems when making a site mobile responsive as well. While an image may shape and adapt to whatever size phone or tablet its being viewed on, text tends to suffer in the process. No sense in making something intended to look beautiful if it's only going to be appreciated by roughly half the audience.

You need to make sure content is written on your site in text. Thankfully, modern CSS and browser capabilities make it much easier to still indulge in beautiful fonts and wild designs than the old days.

3. Your anchor text is dragging you down

Anchor text is what you call the clickable words in a hyperlink. Part of Google's dark wizardry when determining page relevancy is based on backlinks to related content. So, weaving in links to related articles, blog posts you've already written and related external sites is usually a great idea whenever you're adding new content.

Until it isn't.

Much like the problem with over-stuffing keywords, Google is touchy about what it considers relevant. If you're using too many internal-backlinks, or if your anchor text is repetitive and generic, Google will write it off as fishy and you might be penalized. This is another "Tragedy of the Commons” style mess where Google had to become picky about anchor text because of legions of low-rent sites intentionally abusing the mechanic. They'd pepper just about every other word on their site with useless anchor text hoping to bump up their ranking, thanks guys.

Of course, not hyperlinking anything at all just isn't an option. Strategically done, external and internal links can help boost your relevancy and page ranking, and they're genuinely handy for visitors. The key is to use a light touch, and keep up a good mix of different types of anchor text. You can weave it into a part of a sentence, throw in the occasional generic www.lifelinedesign.ca style of link, or hyperlink the occasional proper brand name.

4. You've got the numbers, but no engagement

Social media is a difficult beast. It can be excruciatingly hard to build an audience, so when you finally see that follower count rise, it can be tempting to sit back and rest on your laurels. A hardy pat on the back from yourself for a job well done.

But, just having a bunch of followers on Twitter or Facebook doesn't count for much if you never talk to them, if they never talk to you or about you. Google carefully watches social media and takes it into account when determining relevancy, but it's blind to follower counts. Google doesn't care how many people follow you, but is obsessed with how many people share you. 

Getting people to talk about you by talking to them, reaching out, and developing excellent content that generates conversation is the best way to capitalize on social media. So don't get comfy once you built an audience, you're only half-way there.

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