SEO Mistakes for 2011

It’s 2011. Are your SEO tactics stuck in 2003? Google has moved on since then, and so should you. This article will discuss which tactics you should toss out with the trash from last year’s holiday parties.

I got most of these ideas from Lindsay, writing for SEOmoz. Taking them off your SEO to-do list will save you a lot of time this year – and we can all use more time, right? You can invest the time you save in building more quality content for your website and improving your visitors’ experience.

First, stop playing hide-and-seek with your keywords – or any content, for that matter. You’re not fooling anyone. Putting white text on a white background (or black text on a black background) so search engines see it but visitors don’t is so 1997. Likewise, don’t hide text over an image, or use CSS to hide text. And don’t get fancy by putting links or keywords in tiny text, or linking from some tiny character such as a comma, hyphen, ampersand, etc. Google is smarter than this.

Now that you’ve given up that game, it’s time to give up another game: keyword stuffing. Would you hire a plumber who told you 50 times that they can unclog any type of drain, or would you get references? Google’s algorithm does something similar. So don’t use the Meta Keywords tag, don’t put tons of keywords in your Meta Description, and for the love of search, don’t track your keyword density.

I’m not saying you can’t use keywords, mind you; in fact, one or two judiciously-used keywords in your Title Tag can help. I’m saying you shouldn’t go overboard. SEOmoz commenter gfiorelli1 gave the following Title Tag as an example of going overboard: “HOTELS IN MUMBAI, MUMBAI HOTEL RESERVATION AND MUMBAI HOTEL BOOKING, MUMBAI LUXURY HOTELS, DELUXE HOTELS IN MUMBAI.”

In case you’re wondering, this SEO managed to fit in “hotel” five times, “Mumbai” five times, and the concepts of “reservations” and “luxury” twice each. That’s insane. Remember that Title Tags do get seen by visitors – and this one looks ugly. It’s much better to greet your users with “Going to Mumbai? Book your reservation in a deluxe area hotel.”

The third thing you can leave at the curb for 2011 is link schemes. Whether they’re called link farms, link wheels, link exchanges, multiple-way linking, it doesn’t matter. Just say no. I’ve seen some would-be SEOs claim that they still get some value from reciprocal linking, though. If the reciprocal link would benefit users of both sites, then it might be worth considering. For instance, if you run a dog obedience school, you might exchange reciprocal links with a dog grooming site.

While we’re on the subject of linking, there’s a right way and a wrong way to use forums and make comments on blogs. If you become a valuable member of the community by making interesting and helpful comments, that’s one thing. If your sole purpose is to drop your site link and otherwise market yourself, you’re spamming and you need to stop. Google will know the difference, and so will anyone who actually participates in that community. You’ll be doing yourself far more harm than good.

Basically, anything you do to artificially generate links does not belong on your to-do list. So don’t pay SEO companies to submit to thousands of directories for $20 or less (and don’t do it yourself!). And don’t build lots of mini-sites to divide up your content so you can make them all link back to your main site to improve its standing in the SERPs. Google will detect this, and when it does, your sites’ rankings will fall faster than snow in Boston.

Okay, now that we’ve beaten links to death, it’s time to talk about content. You’ve heard that “content is king.” That’s not exactly true; QUALITY content is king. So if you’re trying to boost your site by adding page after page after page of content, stop right there. As Lindsay explains, “Quantity is not quality. More pages in the index does not mean more traffic.” So don’t publish new pages for all 25,000 keywords you’re targeting (and why are you targeting that many keywords to begin with?!). And don’t expect every single page of your website to get indexed. Settle for the most important ones, keep building QUALITY content, and move on.

Finally, I’ve come to some items that are so old I hesitate to even mention them. I’d like to think that most modern SEOs are totally past these, but I’ve seen too many forum members asking questions about these issues to hang on to that illusion. So – in case you didn’t get the memo, PageRank is NOT an indicator of your website’s strength or success. If you’re trying to use it to measure either one of these, stop it right now. Also, you wouldn’t substitute your competitor’s brain for your own, so don’t blindly target their keywords; do your own research.

SEO has been declared dead before, but as long as search engines continue growing and improving, you will always need to improve your website. This is why SEO isn’t something you do once and forget about. Think you’re not guilty of that? Do you have pages that rank well that you haven’t touched in a long time? I thought so. It’s time to get to work on them, and the rest of your site as well. Good luck!

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