Sending Out an SOS: How to Avoid SEO Disaster
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
A well managed SEO campaign with a long term focus can help grow your business into a profit producing powerhouse. All that can be erased instantly with a single SEO mistake. Some SEO mistakes will not only hurt your sales or lead generation efforts but can put you out of business. This is no exaggeration, I’ve witnessed it firsthand.
A few years ago a friend of mine started an online store, initially a profitable endeavor mostly due to good SEO. But he hired a web development firm that was inexperienced with SEO to launch his new website, and they made a critical error. His search rankings took a nose dive, and by the time he discovered the issue and the solution, it was too late. He ran out of operating capital and was forced to liquidate his inventory and shut down the business.
The tragedy is my friend could have avoided the SEO mistake that put him out of business with minimum effort.
Here are the three most common and damaging SEO mistakes and how to avoid them.
Don’t forget 301 redirects. A search engine like Google creates and maintains a huge index of websites and every page on those websites. If a person chooses to upgrade their ecommerce store or online presence to a different system, their search engine rankings can be thrown off kilter, if they aren't careful.
When a person replaces an old website with a newer version, they may change the addresses or URLs for their webpages. For example, an ecommerce website that used to have a product webpage at fakewebsite.com/products/product1.html might move information about that product to fakewebsite.com/category/product-a.html. The problem is Google will continue to send traffic to the address of the old page. When visitors arrive there they will find nothing but an error message telling them the page they are looking for is missing. Google will eventually remove the missing webpages from its index, and the ecommerce website’s product pages will no longer receive traffic. This is what happened to my friend.
The solution to this problem is to create a 301 redirect. This bit of code tells Google that the webpage that was at a certain address is now at a new address. This small tweak directs traffic to where it is supposed to go, and will help a website continue to rank well in the search engines when major changes are made to the website structure.
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Don’t use identical title tags. The title tag is a small bit of code that exists on every web page. How important is it? The Moz website says the title tag is “the second most important on–page SEO element,” (the first being all the content on a page). The title tag tells search engines what that page is all about. If all your title tags are identical, then to a search engine this is a bit like walking into a bookstore where every book, regardless of its content, has the same cover.
The solution is to create a unique title tag for each page. It should be brief, accurate, and clearly represent the content to be found on the page.
Don’t build low-quality inbound links. Google, in large part, decides how to rank your website based on the quality of links pointing to your website from other websites. If you have a lot of links from low quality websites that are irrelevant to what your website is about, you may even be penalized. It used to be that these links, called inbound links or backlinks, were not subject to the same level of scrutiny by Google as they are now. Quantity trumped quality. As a result, companies built hundreds, even thousands or tens of thousands of links to boost their rankings. Now that practice has backfired, as Google regards this practice as a form of search-engine spam or abuse. Many companies that previously had great rankings have seen their rankings and traffic fall sharply and in some cases disappear.
To solve this problem, Google recommends website owners try to remove all the low quality links. This can be an onerous and time consuming process, especially for a company that has thousands of low quality inbound links. One must identify the low-quality inbound links and then contact the owners of all the websites and request they remove them. Some website owners will charge a fee -- usually $10 to $20 -- to remove the links. For those links that cannot be removed, Google recommends disavowing the links, which means requesting the search engine not "take certain links into account when assessing your site." The good news is that once this process is complete, rankings can bounce back within a few months, if not a few weeks.
Once the low quality links have been removed, it’s important to build high-quality inbound links to one’s website. The best links come when you create high-quality content on your website that people naturally want to link to.
You’ve invested a lot of time and money in your website to grow your business. Don’t let one of these simple mistakes take that all away from you.