10 Things That Negatively Impact Your Search Engines Rankings
Many things have changed in the last ten years (a very long time for the Internet). Things that worked even a few months ago are no longer viable, and if you're doing any of them, you need to stop, turn around, and take action on ridding yourself of these practices that are holding you back in search.
Or, if you're starting, many of the things I want to talk about with you are newbie mistakes, things that those of us who have been around a while know better than to do. Don't feel bad if someone else's terrible advice has caught you. We've all been there; done that.
So, let's get started helping those who are already smart about getting website traffic and those who aren't yet, but will be.
1 – DO NOT Create an Insane Website
Insane websites make your visitors cranky. What are some of the characteristics of an insane website?
- No clear purpose or call to action for each of your pages
- Poor layout. (For example, text stretched from one side of the screen to the other so that visitors have to turn their heads to read your copy.)
- Tons of pop-ups
- Flashing anything
- Any page that doesn't follow the K-I-S-S formula
What's the K-I-S-S formula? “Keep It Super Simple.” Give your visitors a clear path. Show them a helpful place to start (your home page), with straightforward navigation to every other page on your website.
If you're walking through a store, doesn't it make you nuts when merchandisers put obstacles in your way on purpose, just so that you can't get where you're going? It makes me crazy to circumvent tables piled with stuff to get where I want to go. That tactic doesn't increase my interest in the products they make my trip over.
So, don't do that to your visitors! Give them straightforward navigation. No page on your website should be more than three clicks from your home page.
WordPress is an incredible tool, and I've built several websites for myself and my clients using that platform. You can use WordPress.com, where everything is easily laid out for you, but if you plan to sell from your site, WordPress.com won't work, as merchandising is against their terms of service.
WordPress software is one easy way to ensure your navigation is simple.
But if you're writing HTML or having a designer do it for you, be sure to tell them about this – no more than three clicks from the home page! It's crucial for your visitors and important for search.
Designers and Search Engine Optimisers (SEOs) are at odds sometimes because SEOs understand how search engine spiders work and plan, while many designers do not. Don't get me wrong; there are lots of designers who do understand SEO. Just be sure the person you hire to design your site knows what you want. Make even the basics clear.
2 – Don't Just Grab Any Keywords and Think They'll Work
Keywords are the foundation for your website, though things are changing. There's a feature of Google, at least, and maybe Bing, where spiders can read the words in your copy and understand the “gist”. It's called “Latent Semantic Indexing (LSI)” or semantic search, the phrase you may not remember, but…
Until search engines perfect this, you need to sweat your brain and find keywords that will bring traffic over time. Notice I said, “Over time.” SEO is not a quick fix or something you'll see results from overnight, but if you work things the right way, you'll most definitely get results that last.
Find keywords that get a decent number of searches, either globally, if you have an international business, or locally if you're concentrating on your local area or have a brick and mortar store. You can use almost any keyword discovery tool on the Web. Some of these tools include:
- Google AdWords Keyword Tool
- Bing Webmaster Tools' Keyword Tool
- SEOBook's Keyword Discovery Tool
- Word Tracker
Once you have a group of keywords you're interested in using for your business, check the competition. When first starting, you need to find keywords where the competition isn't high. Suppose you check for your keywords In Google's AdWords tool. In that case, you can export them to a .csv file (comma-separated values) and review them in your favourite spreadsheet software, such as Excel, Open Office Calc, or even in a Google Docs spreadsheet.
Competition for each word is shown as a number, with one being the highest and .1 being the lowest. If your site is a little older and more substantial, you can compete for keywords that may be tougher to conquer in getting your site into the search engine results pages (SERPs). But if your site is less than a year old or a few years old, I'd stick to competition under .5 or lower. The trick is to find keywords with the lowest competition and the highest traffic.
Using any keyword tool and evaluating the keywords you use will be more helpful to you than just brainstorming words that may be too competitive or that may get no traffic at all. You must don't want that!
3 – Don't Neglect Your Site Map!
Many folks don't even think about this, but every website online should have an XML sitemap. XML is slightly different from HTML, as computer languages go, but spiders can fly through XML very quickly.
A sitemap is nothing more than a list of the URLs (Uniform Resource Locators or Web addresses) to the pages on your site. Without an XML sitemap, spiders have to guess about the number of your pages and where they live. You may not get all your pages indexed without a sitemap, which is very important.
And remember, I'm not talking about the sitemaps you see on websites that give you links to different site areas. That's one kind of sitemap for your visitors, but visitors will never see the XML version.
If you're using WordPress, SEO for WordPress by Yoast is the best SEO plugin. It will build a sitemap for you (among other things) and makes it simple. Just be sure to activate the sitemap feature.
If your site is HTML, there are plenty of sitemap builders out there you can use. Just Google “XML sitemap generator,” allow the tool to do its work, and then download the sitemap when it's finished. It will have to be uploaded to your website, so it's something you may want your webmaster or SEO to do for you. But I guarantee that if you're paying an SEO, you probably already have a sitemap installed.
Remember to update your sitemap periodically to ensure all the new pages on your site are indexed.
4 – Don't Use Bare Images
I'm talking about attributing your images so that spiders know what they are.
To do this, use a unique tag called the ALT tag. It means “alternate title.” When you upload an image in many places where you might place content — in WordPress on your server or at WordPress.com, Tumblr, Gather, or other places, you may be asked to complete the information when you upload an image. It may say “ALT” or “Alternate,” but be sure to fill it in, no matter what it says.
Try to use a keyword, but only when it makes sense. If your keyword is “cool wallets,” for example, and you're tagging a shirt picture, you won't make Google happy by using that particular keyword as a description.
Sometimes people stuff keywords into the ALT tags, and it's a big mistake. Google hates it, so don't do it.
You may wonder why I'm always mentioning Google, not Bing, Yahoo, Yandex, Blekko, DuckDuckGo, etc. It's because Google is the BIG Dog and will (at this point) bring you the most traffic. Plus, when you optimise for Google, you're doing what other search engines like.
But back to our don'ts.
5 – Don't Make Pages for Search Engines
That may sound contradictory; after all, we've been going over, but listen, you want happy visitors. You want customers in many cases. If you want to make money or build relationships, you must worry about your visitors first. Make sure that everything you write is well-written. Be sure your spelling is correct. And make sure the layout of your page is clear and easy to read, as well as your site navigation. Make your readers love you, and you'll achieve the desired result, I'm sure.
6 – Do Not Post Automatically Generated Content
Back in the day, folks used software to generate nasty, nonsensical content or “scrape” content from other websites (meaning, they'd take what someone else had done and post part or all of it to their websites). I doubt this was okay with Google, but people weren't penalised for doing it.
Many people who did that made lots of money using Google AdSense. We used to call sites with no or scraped content “AdSense Sites”.
Back then, Google's algorithm wasn't as sophisticated as it is now. You could get away with more tricks to get your ranking up. Today, Google has humans going out and finding these things, and slowly, very slowly, Google is taking them out of their index.
With the Panda Update, first implemented in 2011, and the Penguin data updates, Google is taking a stance for better quality results by automatically weeding out what it considers spammy sites. However, they still have human quality raters. In one of the 2012 updates, sites with automated content felt the bite of that Big Dog. Many sites fell completely off Google's radar when this update ran.
This is a good thing and won't affect you unless you're doing things Google hates. And really, can you blame them?
Google wants to provide the best results for its users. That's a search engine's job. And most people hated these spammy sites, anyway, unless, of course, they were the people making money from them.
Don't waste your time on schemes to game the search engines. Eventually, these things come back to haunt you, so not only are you wasting time, but you'll be hurting yourself in search at some point in the future. And once Google gives you the stink eye, you must jump through hoops to get back into their index. Sometimes, it's not even possible.
A backlink is when Webmaster A puts links to Webmaster B's website. Search engines see these links as “votes” for your website. The more links you have pointing to your site, the better you will rank in search.
However, there are two types of links – follow and no-follow. Follow links allow spiders to follow the link back to the website they belong to. No-follow links tell spiders, “Hey. Stop right here, arachnid,” and they do. Though search engines would like us to believe that “no-follow” links have no value, I disagree. Several SEOs have proven through testing that you still get some advantage from no-follow links.
Follow links are still the most valuable form of backlink, but you can get them in several ways. Never buy them, get them through linking schemes of any kind, or even bother with reciprocal linking. (I'll link to you if you link to me.) Google considers those a wash, and they no longer provide the benefit they once did.
Today, the deal is this: Creating fantastic content that people will naturally want to share.
That's it. How simple is that?
8 – Don't Use Blackhat Tactics That Can Get You Banned from the Index Forever
Most new web admins wouldn't even know how to go about doing some of these things, but here's what I mean:
- Creating doorway pages (One page to please the search spiders, which leads to another that visitors see.)
- Redirecting pages sneakily. (Having a script embedded in your HTML that sends visitors to another page while leaving the spiders on the “good” SEO page. Permanent redirects and even temporary redirects are okay if you're moving your page or want to use a shortened link from your server or a link shortener like Bit.ly or BudURL rather than a long, ugly affiliate link. )
- Hidden text (For example, adding keywords in the same colour as the background so visitors can't see them, but spiders can.)
- Loading pages up with keywords that aren't relevant to the search.
Search engines abhor many more of these tactics, so don't do them. These will get you banned from the index. Who needs that?
9 – Avoid Duplicate Content Like the Plague
Everyone used to write articles and put them into a gazillion online article directories, on their websites, and their blog, but it never seemed to matter. Then, Google started making noise about results pages coming back with the same information in the top 10 places on the page, and a little alarm went off in my head. This happened many years ago. I figured that duplicate content was a massive waste of time and stopped posting it. And boy, am I glad!
I then worked for a virtual company, but my boss told me, “I don't believe that duplicate content will hurt you.” And he kept allowing it to go out on the Web.
In 2012, one of Google's updates targeted duplicate content. People had to run around to find where they had placed these blog posts and articles and remove the duplicates before they could get back into Google's good graces. Those with the foresight to stop publishing duplicate content had no worries.
Everything you put on the Web should be unique — except videos. Spiders still can't parse videos so that you can post videos in several places online, and it's okay, as long as you create unique titles and descriptions for the video in every place you post. All written content should be one of a kind.
And the biggest mistake of all has duplicate content on your website. We learned this way back in 2006 when articles I had been posting to a blog were taken by the site manager and posted on the front page. He didn't know any better, but when I woke up the next day and saw that we had fallen from #3 for our main keyword to #603, I had to track the issue down. When I found the problem, and we removed the content, our site went right back to #3. Duplicate content on your website is the kiss of SEO death.
10 – DO NOT Ignore Google or Bing Webmaster Tools.
Search engines are good for us. No, they are. They want us to prepare our sites with search engine optimisation in mind. I've heard some people say that SEO is spamming search engines, but that's not true. White hat or positive SEO helps search engines index and promote sites, and as long as we follow their guidelines, they're happy as search engines can be.
And they give us tools to use for free. Both Google and Bing have given us free Webmaster Tools accounts; if you don't have one, go now and get one!
These accounts provide a wealth of information about your website. Google sometimes sends messages through Webmaster Tools, letting you know when they see something awry with your site. It's always wise to pay attention.
The Moral of the Story?
SEO isn't rocket science. It's not something to fear. It's a solid understanding of search principles and how search engines want us to behave as webmasters. If we follow their guidelines, we really can't miss it.
Author Bio: Diane H. Wong is a business content writer at essaywritercheap.org. She works out different marketing strategies. In this case, she has an opportunity to share her experience with others and keep up with advancing technologies.