10 ways to kill your site

When explaining SEO to a potential client I usually break it down into 3 key areas.
Technical SEO, being all those on-site things they don't understand such as duplicate content and fixing ugly URLs etc.
On-page SEO being the process of choosing the best words for your pages and using them in the right places.
And link building, the process of getting people to link to you. Clients often confuse this one with linking out to other people, thinking it's helping them somehow.

Technical SEO is not really a matter of improving your rankings, it's more about making sure you don't make some colossal cockup that will stop your site from being indexed.

This post covers 10 common mistakes people make with their technical SEO.

1. Brand new website, completely flash

I had the privilege of explaining to someone recently that the 5k he had just spend on his new website recently was not money well spent. The whole site was one flash file, and had no text content, making it invisible to search engines. The sad part was that the site didn't need flash - animation effects were limited to mouseovers on buttons, easily replicated using javascript.

Just because Google says they can read content within swf files doesn't make it a good idea. If search engine rankings are important, make sure there is plenty of text content for spiders to find.

2. Forgetting to redirect old pages

When you replace that old Frontpage site with your swanky new CMS and completely change all URLs on the site, make sure you setup 301 redirects from the old pages to the new pages.
If you don't, all the links you have naturally been accumulating will now be broken, meaning Google is likely to ignore them for ranking purposes, and webmasters are likely to remove them from their sites.

Anyone who has gone through the process of building links naturally will know how precious these are, so 301ing the old pages to the new pages is critical.

It takes only a few minutes to do, pay someone to do it if you have to.

3. A robots.txt blunder

Putting a bad line into your robots.txt file is a pretty fast way to axe your site from the search results. If you don't know what robots.txt is all about, then perhaps it's worth thinking twice about playing with it?

Google has a tool for checking your robots file, so take the time that any changes are done correctly.

4. <p class="big-heading">No H1 headings</p>

I hate this one so much. Who really knows if the H1 is weighted heavily or not in Google's algorithm, but my gut feeling is that it is important. I so often see websites where the major heading on the page is not a H1, it's a styled paragraph or simply a div.

CSS can be used to redefine the styles for existing page elements, such as H1 headings, so it just makes sense to use a H1 tag for your major heading.

5. Sitewide meta description

It's really easy to stick a meta description into your website template and see it used on every page of your site. Unfortunately, this can axe your site from the search results pretty quickly. If you have a sitewide meta description, then all it takes is a more powerful site to steal your meta description and suddenly they will be ranking instead of you (your site will be lost in the duplicate content filter).

Take the time to use a unique meta description on every page, or leave it blank.

6. Splash pages

The splash page or flash intro page is essentially an empty page (as far as the search engines see it) with a single link to your homepage.
What this means is that your navigation structure is now one level deeper. The page that would have beena PR5 is now a PR4, and Google visits your "homepage" less often (because the splash page is actually the homepage).

If you really really must use a flash intro or splash page, do the right thing and add a little paragraph of text at the bottom for the search engines to see. Also place links to your other top-level pages, not just the homepage, so the link juice spreads around the site properly.

7. 404s with content

I have seen some interesting ways of rewriting URLs, and my favourite had to be the 404 method. Basically, every page returns a 404 header, and a custom 404 handler (a php script) was used to deliver the page content to the browser.

Unfortunately, Google ignores the content and just sees the 404 error, so this site had no show of appearing in search results.

This is uncommon, but it's worth using a little extra caution when delivering a 404 to the browser. 404s can spell bad things for your site when you get them wrong.

8. Ads, ads, ads

While not strictly a technical issue, nothing screams "don't link to me" like an affiliate thin content site crawling with Adsense. If you expect to do well in the search engines, you need links, and it's not worth losing links for the sake of a few dollars a month in Adsense revenue.

Advertising is something that should be added to an established website with established traffic, it's unlikely you will get rich from advertising revenue on a brand new domain with no links.

9. Black hat that doesn't need to be black hat

Har har, I'll write this paragraph of really crap content with some useful keywords and make it white on a white background so people can't see it.

Thing is, it doesn't take much more effort to create good content with useful keywords in it and make it visible to your users. People spend time creating dodgy doorway pages when they should be optimising their content pages. Adding crap hidden content to the homepage when they should be writing good sales copy.

Black hat tricks like this are an invitation for other webmasters to burn you (Google never finds out on it's own). Before going ahead with a black hat scheme, look for white or grey hat alternatives first.

10. Multiple domains and dupe content

I once brought a site from top 60 rankings to top 20 by doing nothing other than removing 14 out of 15 versions of their homepage.
They had...

Each version of the homepage had a certain amount of link authority, and the version with the most power showed up in the search results. I redirected all that link power into the main page, and all of a sudden, the rankings jumped, having changed nothing else.

Is your site wasting precious link juice on duplicate versions of yoyur homepage?


There are plenty of other ways to kill your website in the search engines, and I have deliberately skipped some of the obvious and less interesting ones. SEO is often less about doing things well and more about not doing things badly.
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Tags: contentseoAdsensemfaadsense content mfa seo