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6 cures for common SEO mistakes

6 cures for common SEO mistakes Brian Easter
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How bulletproof is your SEO campaign? Do you have all your bases covered? Are you getting the most organic traffic available? Smart marketers crave targeted, low-cost web traffic, especially in this challenging economy. When implemented correctly, a finely tuned SEO campaign has the ability to drive traffic efficiently, especially when compared to other forms of marketing. 


However, many sites don't take full advantage of the power of a well-honed SEO campaign that has implemented both on-the-page and off-the-page SEO best practices. SEO is both an art and a science, and I view the science part as 90 percent of that balance, even though there is some debate on what true best practices include.


With that in mind, listed here are six common SEO best practices that are often overlooked. The techniques are usually quick and painless to implement and can have dramatic effects on SEO results.


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Mistake #1 -- Lack of W3C compliance
Old-school HTML was table-driven --

>
-- and was once the standard for website design. It sort of makes your head spin to think of all of the needless code, doesn't it? Font treatment was much the same. However, HTML and web development has evolved, and in turn, tables and other HTML techniques have become relics of the past. 


What used to take 1,000 lines of code can now be done in 300, thanks to off-page CSS and JavaScript. Clean code really helps the search engines to better crawl a website. Abiding by W3C standards also helps ensure that search engines are able to crawl and index your content in the proper fashion. 


Tables aren't completely taboo relative to W3C standards, but it's against best practice to use tables for anything other than tabular data. Failing to comply means that the search engines may not place your content in its proper context. Following W3C standards will also create other positive benefits on your site, such as cross browser compatibility and separating design and content layers, making your site easier and more efficient to manage and update, and increasing your keyword density from the major search engines' perspective. 


A W3C-compliant site does not ensure good rankings by any means, but the difference between a poorly coded site and a W3C-compliant site can be enormous in the eyes of the search engine robots. To check if a site is W3C compliant, go here or here.

Mistake #2 -- 301 redirect issues
301 redirects are used to ensure that users are directed to the correct page. One of the most impactful and common SEO mistakes made is to use a 302 redirect instead of a 301 redirect. 


To the user, the difference is minimal and can't be seen, but the search engines may penalize you for it. A 302 redirect tells the browser or search engine robot that the page has temporarily moved to a new location, while a 301 redirect indicates a permanent move.  The difference between the two is in the value of the links pointing to the page you are redirecting.


If it's a 302 redirect, the value from all the links to the old page doesn't pass to the new page. If it's a 301 redirect, 99 percent of the value for those links transfers to the new page. Technologies such as ASP often use a 302 redirect by default, so you must be cautious. If you are using "mod_rewrite," make sure you declare the redirect as [R=301], not just [R]. [R] is a mod_rewrite rule flag that tells the server to redirect. If you leave out the "=301" part, the redirect is created as a 302 by default. This also applies to sending PHP headers; if you don't declare what type of redirect, it will be a 302 redirect:


// 301 Moved Permanently
header("Location: /foo.php",TRUE,301);


// 302 Found /Moved Temporarily
header("Location: /foo.php",TRUE,302);
header("Location: /foo.php");
?>


Follow these redirect tips properly, and search engines will transfer PageRank and popularity more easily from the old page to the new ones. 

Mistake #3 -- Using JavaScript in navigation
JavaScript is a fantastic technology that can enhance the user experience of your website. However, it is important to not let JavaScript get in the way of search engines' ability to properly crawl and read your site's content.  For example, many sites will use JavaScript to create toggle elements with hidden DIV tags. Below is an example:



This is a very common mistake. The script works, but the search engines do not pay attention to any of the content inside of the "

" element because the style is set to "display:none" when the page loads. The fix is easy. Change the style element of the
to block and call the JavaScript function toggleScript when the page loads to make it display none.



This way, search engines will index all the content on the page. Furthermore, and equally as important, users without JavaScript enabled will be able to read the content as well.

Mistake #4 -- Lack of best practices in URL structure
There are two types of URLs: dynamic and static. Dynamic URLs are most often produced by a database-driven website. Often times these URLs are long, complex, and tend to be associated with ecommerce sites, forums, or other sites that have a high volume of data. 


Static URLs are usually more descriptive of the site they link to and often contain keywords relevant to the site. Google's official position is that they prefer that you leave your URLs as is, meaning if you have a dynamic site structure, don't change it for Google's sake. This is because URL rewrites can be very complicated and potentially disable your website from being shown. 


A good example of the difference is shown below:


Bad URL structure:



  • Improper-URL-Example.com?id=12&cat=32&type=45&color=67

Improved  URL structure: 



  • Proper-URL-Example.com/men-s-thermal-socks/12-pair-of-men-s-thermal-socks.html

Notice how the URL structure above is not only more search-engine friendly, but it also makes more sense to people as well. Contrast that to the first URL which is both difficult to crawl from a search engine perspective, and the "id=12&cat=32&type=45&color=67" is meaningless to potential customers.


If done properly, rewriting URLs can be well worth the effort in terms of Google and other search engines indexing deep pages. Doing this also enables a site to better compete on long tail keywords as well. Make sure that you do a thorough job of rewriting dynamic URLs or else you can actually hurt yourself by creating duplicate content and confusing both the search engine spiders as well as the user.

Mistake #5 -- Duplicate content pages
Although exposure is key for a successful SEO campaign, quality and original content are what create the highest visibility and rankings. Articles are an excellent way to increase exposure, but many organizations make the mistake of over-syndicating and over-submitting their articles. When search engines are presented with multiple pages with the same content, they commonly react by labeling the websites touting this material as spam and react accordingly. 


Search engine reactions can range from a decrease in PageRank to an outright banning in severe cases. As this is usually the opposite effect that the creators of content wanted, article creation and submission should be carefully done and submitted only to reputable sites. When content is submitted, it is preferable to include a link back to the original content. By doing this, you increase your PageRank building efforts as well as demonstrate the author of the content. 


Lack of knowledge and laziness often result in duplicate content penalties as well. Many high PageRank sites fail to get their deep pages indexed because the time was not taken to craft unique Title tags, Description tags, and content on deep pages. Even if there is a little bit of fresh content on most of the deep pages, if you are working with a template that uses 90 percent of the same content as the other pages on your site, you may encounter serious duplicated content issues.

Mistake #6 -- SEO and PR aren't connected
As mentioned previously, press releases and article creation are a great way to both create content for a website as well as increase brand awareness. Incorporating and integrating PR efforts with SEO efforts does require a high level of resource allocation to get proper coordination between both areas. 


The primary goal in the creation of content is to create value for potential readers. This can be accomplished while increasing the SEO value to a website with just a little extra work. By including keywords in headlines, hot linking, and using anchor link text in keywords, press release, articles, etc., your PR efforts are now integrated with your SEO efforts, driving exposure and increasing online visibility as well as attaining valuable links to your site. 


Additionally, if the content is well-written and original, it can rapidly become viral and could be picked up by news sources and highly ranked pages. This strengthens the off-the-page SEO benefits for any site referenced and linked within the content. Remember, any content, including articles, whitepapers, case studies, press releases, etc., should only be written and distributed if there is a genuine topic or newsworthy content to share with readers. Bad or untimely content is not likely to get picked up and can negatively impact your brand.


Summary
SEO is not an exact science, but there are basic principles that are considered best practices. Many of the tactics can be easily mismanaged, improperly implemented, or just overlooked. By carefully following SEO best practices in combination with the simple suggestions in this article, you can easily increase the visibility of your site on search engines.



Brian Easter is the CEO of NeboWeb.

As Co-Founder of Nebo, Brian Easter brings international experience to his role along with a proven track record of helping organizations reach their marketing objectives. Under his leadership, Nebo has enjoyed 12 straight years of growth, has never...

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Comments

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Commenter: Jason U

2009, February 13

I like how the title of the article is "common SEO mistakes" and the author then makes 'common SEO mistakes'.