This “things not to do when optimizing a website” is my list of what people have done in the past, still doing and will continue to do. Please note that some of these SEO tricks are really old, but you will be amazed that people still try them. Feel free to use this as your SEO checklist.
LINK TRICKS THAT WILL HURT YOU
1. Perfect match anchor text – too many external links with perfect match anchor texts can hurt you. The recent Google “Penguin” update took care of the unnatural link building. One can logically assume if a site has too many perfect links, the links are purchased.
2. Comment spam – blogs struggle with comment spam. There are a few automated tools like Scrapebox that can place comments on blogs in a large scale. Google’s way of fighting the spam war was by introducing the “nofollow” part to links in 2005. By adding the “nofollow” to the links we tell Google not to pass any PR (Page Rank) to the site the link points to. One problem is the “evaporation” of PR that still occurs (as with “follow” links). The evaporation was introduced in 2009 to prevent PR sculpting.
3. Purchasing links – is an easy way to get links (usually of poor quality). Google will not only detect purchased links, but also send you a friendly webmaster notice like this:
Dear site owner or webmaster of www . y o u r s i t e . com
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Specifically, look for possibly artificial or unnatural links pointing to your site that could be intended to manipulate PageRank. Examples of unnatural linking could include buying links to pass PageRank or participating in link schemes.
We encourage you to make changes to your site so that it meets our quality guidelines. Once you’ve made these changes, please submit your site for reconsideration in Google’s search results.
If you find unnatural links to your site that you are unable to control or remove, please provide the details in your reconsideration request.
If you have any questions about how to resolve this issue, please see our Webmaster Help Forum for support.
Google Search Quality Team
4. One-pagers – Do not build one-page sites and link from them. This is very obvious and easy to spot.
5. Linking to questionable sites – It makes sense if you have a quality site you don’t want to link to “spammy”sites. A link to site with of poor quality can actually hurt your rankings. Use the “nofollow” attribute on your links if you are not sure about a site you link to.
OTHER SEO TRICKS THAT WILL HURT YOU
6. Keyword stuffing – is a classic. Don’t stuff your content with too many keywords. There is no secret percentage of how many keywords you should have. Instead make sure you use the right keywords and make the copy sound natural. In case you mention a word a little too much, see if you can find synonyms instead. There are great synonym directories on the web. Google’s keyword tool can also be of great value with its suggestions.
Some spam methods for keyword stuffing are:
- Place keywords behind the images
- Place keywords outside the page area
- Hidden <div>s with keywords
- Used the same font color as the background
- Set the font size to 0
- Stuffed the <META description> and the <META Keywords>
- Stuffed keywords in the images alt- and title text
Can you think of more?
7. Cloaked pages – is when humans and crawlers see different content. The reason for cloaking can vary. Sometimes cloaking is a way to give the search engines information about the content in case it it’s hard to index (e.g. Flash). Other reasons to cloak could be to create search listings that trick people to click what looks like normal links, and instead they end up somewhere else (think spam sites). Cloaking is considered bad practice and should not be used. The spiders today have no problem indexing content. If you have problems with getting your content indexed you need to sort it out with normal methods, cloaking is not an alternative.
9. Spun content – is content that has been rewritten, usually with an automated tool to make the content appear fresh and to remove any copyright restrictions. Google can detect spun content and by using spun content you risk more than you win.
10. 301-redirect exact match domains to one target site – It can be smart to register the domains you don’t want your competitors to have, just don’t redirect them all to your site.
VERY COMMON SEO ISSUES YOU SHOULD AVOID
1. Duplicate content – will make your pages compete among each other for ranking. A large site with a lot of duplicate content will have other disadvantages too, such as long time to get new content indexed.
Duplicate content usually happens by mistake and is fairly easy to fix; however, if you have same content published in many places you need to rethink. It could be something as simple as a product description from a manufacturer. What if your competitors are using the same product description? You will be much better off rewriting the product description in your own words.
12. Not using your keyword / phrase in the title – is a common mistake. One of the most important parts of SEO optimization is to set a great title that will rank well at the same time it has to be very “click-friendly”. If you don’t nail the title one you are will have a difficult time to rank for the keyword / phrase you have chosen.
13. Missing meta description – If you can suggest to Google what you want your organic listing should say, why not take advantage of it? The meta description might not help you rank better, but a good call to action will increase your click through rate. In case of missing meta description Google will pick some text from your page that matches the query the user did.