13 Common Mistakes That Hinder Your Search Engine Rankings

13 Common Mistakes That Hinder Your Search Engine Rankings

Your competitor has a Top 5 ranking for an important keyword phrase, but your company doesn't crack the top 100 search results. Why? Each of the search engines uses similar, yet different algorithms comprised of changing variables that determine how a Web page ranks for keywords and phrases. There are numerous inputs into these algorithms, but some of the more important include Title tag, link popularity, inclusion of keywords in page text, and for a few, directory inclusion.

The following is Intevation's list of 13 of the most common search engine optimization mistakes that companies make. (NOTE: To view the tags and code on a Web page, simply go to "View" and then "Source" on your Web browser.)

1. Using the Same META Tags Throughout: Perhaps the most common error we see is the use of the same META "Description" and "Keyword" tags on each page. While most search engines do not use the "Keyword" tag, the "Description" tag can help your page ranking and is used by many search engines in the results that are displayed.

2. Poorly Named Title tags: The "Title" tag is perhaps the most important element of each page of your site. Yet it is an after thought to most Web designers and Webmasters. Look at the title of most "About Us" pages and you'll usually see something like "About Company X." Very few people search using a phrase such as "about company X." Instead, use a relevant message from the page for the Title tag, such as "Integrated Web services for professional services firms," and optimize for an important and popular search phrase.

3. Lack of Relevant Text: Most search engines look for a match between the keyword phrase being searched and the text on your site. They also tend to place a higher priority on the text and keywords located higher on the page. Make sure you have a theme to each page and optimize the Title tag and page content to reinforce each other.

4. Putting All/Most of the Text in Images: Most Web designers develop sites to look good, but with little to no understanding of how search engines crawl Web sites. An extremely common mistake is to have all or a lot of text on a page in a graphic image. It might look great, but a search engine crawler can't read it. Make sure you supplement any "text in images" with enough page text.

5. Lack of META Tags: Not including any META tags won't really hurt you too much on search engines such as Google, but will reduce your ranking on many other search engines. As mentioned above, inclusion of the Description tag is fairly important - while the Keyword tag is of little importance.

6. Not Using Each Page of the Site: Whether your site is 10 or 100 pages, every page of your Web site is a potential search engine entry point. Have a plan for every page and optimize each one for specific keyword phrases.

7. Not Submitting Your URL to Search Engines and Directories: Most of the search engines will find your Web site if it is linked to other sites within its database. But with no or few sites linked to yours, chances are you won't be crawled unless you submit your URL directly to the site. Most search engines have a "Suggest a URL" link on their home page. Additionally, make sure you are listed in the Open Directory Project (ODP) and consider paid inclusion directories such as Yahoo and LookSmart.

8. Few Links From Other Sites: Most companies spend minimal time and resources on gaining links from other sites, yet it is one of the most important elements in many search engine algorithms, including Google. Make sure your company is listed on all the major directories, industry-specific directories and portal sites, your partners and clients as appropriate, and other sites. Secondly, expand the content on your site, including the development of "resources information," and seek reciprocal links from other sites.

9. Too Much Focus on the Keywords Meta Tag: Check out the Keyword Meta Tag on most Web site pages and you'll see a long list of words and phrases, including the name of the company CEO, product names, etc. The problem: Almost all of the search engines actually don't use this tag, but they do look at the keywords in your Title tag and page content, and a few look at the Description Meta tag.

10. Lack of ALT Tags: The ALT tag is used to describe the contents of an image on your Web page - and is what you see if the graphics are switched off in the browser or the image doesn't load/or loads slowly. Search engine crawlers read the tag as text and so when used correctly with appropriate keywords (related to the image of course), this tag could improve your ranking a few places or pages.

11. Lack of Text Links on Home Page: Make sure you include a number of text links (that takes visitors to various pages within your site) on your home page. Why? Most of the search engines will crawl your home page first, and then look for text links further into the site.

12. Low/High Keyword Density: While the use of keyword density in the search engine algorithms seems to be changing and waning in importance, it should not be ignored. Keyword density that is too low suggests that the page may not be as relevant as another, yet too high and your page is considered SPAM by most and will be penalized in the ranking.

13. Use of JavaScript, Flash and Frames: Though it varies by search engine, the use of Frames, Flash and too much JavaScript can cause problems with crawlers - relegating your pages to the end of the line. All is not lost, however, there are a number of approaches that can be deployed that will reduce or eliminate these problems.

About the Author

Loren McDonald is the President of Intevation! (http://www.intevation.com)