Posted to Ben Finklea's blog on April 15th, 2009

Five SEO Faux Pas That Will Burn Your Ranking

There are a lot of rules in SEO and most people make a few "faux pas" on the way to learning them all. You may not hear it enough, but it’s O.K. to make some mistakes. However, there are common faux pas that have more tragic consequences than others. If you’re not careful, your website could find itself in Google’s graveyard, where black hat websites go to be burn for their sins. Here are five common SEO faux pas you can make that will burn your web site’s rankings.

Faux Pas #1 - Improperly Using Your Title Tag

A title tag is a crucial element for optimizing any web site because it serves three important purposes. Think of it as your web site’s host for the search engines, telling them what your site is about. The title tag also gets displayed in the search results for your page and at the top of your visitor’s browser while they are on your site. Ideally, the title tag will include the main keyword for your page at least once. If possible, work it in twice.

Many site owners make the routine mistake with a basic error that ends up costing them rankings, traffic, and conversions.

No Title Tag

If you leave your title tag blank, visitors will see “Untitled Document” in the search results and at the top of your page, if they make it that far. It is sloppy and unprofessional.

Using Your URL as a Title Tag

Title tags are keywords. URLs that contain your business name, category or product will not help your rankings.

Stuffing Title Tag With Keywords

Always use only one or two of the keywords or phrases that are a priority to your web site. Don’t try to stuff it full of as many as you possibly can. Title tags should be 70 characters or less, or half a tweet.

The title tag is pretty easy to change in the HTML code of your web site. You can find it on most of your pages near the top of the page, right below the head tag. It looks like this:

Title Tag Mistakes

Faux Pas #2 - Improperly Using Keyword Meta Tags

Once upon a time, during the Age of the Keyword, keyword meta tags was held most of the weight of search engines to determine the relevance of your page. Keywords are still important, but nowadays even well-written keyword tags can be ignored by the Google gods. This is no excuse for you to write a mediocre meta tag. Google will penalize your ranking if you place a poorly written meta tag for your keywords. Your best bet is to use the meta tags for their intended purpose: to help identify which keywords you have optimized your page for. Meta tags appear only in the HTML code and can be found in the Head section near the Title tag.

Faux Pas #3 - Keyword Stuffing

When it comes to the search engine spiders, content is king. Their algorithms become more complex everyday and have years of experience finding black hats on the web. One black hat technique is a common misperception by site owners is that the more keywords they use, the better their ranking will be.

Repeating keywords ad nauseam will be unnatural and is a major turn-off for any search engine. If your keyword density is increased to 10% or greater, your content will read like a Mad Lib filled out by a one-toothed baby. If that is your audience, by all means...

Invisible keywords, like using white text on a white background, is disliked so much by the spiders that you will be banned for using it faster than a kid in the Toys R’ Us parking lot. Another big SEO keyword faux pas is using irrelevant keywords. The last thing visitors want is to find that your site has nothing to do with their search. They may even report you as spam, and that is one of the last things you want for your site.

Faux Pas #4 - Useless Content

Potential customers average 6 to 8 visits before they feel comfortable with a site and its content to finally buy into the products or services. There is too much junk on the internet for you to throw up irrelevant or unprofessional content to try and snag a sale. Think of your web site’s content as your sales pitch. If you post content that doesn’t engage, you are damaging your credibility and reputation. Once you lose those, what else do you have?

Faux Pas #5 - “Doorway” Pages

“Doorway” pages contain very little content but have high keyword density. They tend to clog up search engine indexes with what is seen as trash, and search engines don’t like that. If the page has relevant content that provides useful information, then you will be useful to your visitors. Keyword stuffing a landing page that is a waste of space will get you nowhere fast.

There are many faux pas you can make with search engine optimization, and some common ones will get you banned faster than Michael Jackson at a spelling bee. It’s a full time job to keep up with the “Google’s” and their SEO rules. But once you know and embrace them, they’re not that hard to follow while wearing a white hat and a smile.

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