Top 5 Worst SEO Mistakes

November 23rd, 2006 by Chris

SitePoint published a pretty crappy article yesterday about the worst SEO mistakes. Not only does it mention some things that will not hurt you, it also fails to mention the most common and most hurtful SEO mistakes people regularly make. I wonder how many months the author has actually been doing SEO.

So here is my list:

1. Inaccessible Navigation.
The #1 mistake webmasters make is to make their navigation inaccessible to search engines either through flash, javascript, or just plain bad coding. If a search engine cannot utilize your navigation they cannot crawl your site, period. Any pages on your site without an external incoming link will not be crawled. Even if you have 1000 pages on your site, likely only the homepage will be indexed. Your traffic potential will be only a minute fraction of what it could be.

2. Non-unique Title Tags.
The #2 mistake webmasters make is to repeat the same title tag on every page of their site. Some software programs, either content site management systems, or shopping carts, do this out of the box. The title tag is the single most important on-page element for search engine optimization and it needs to be uniquely tailored for each page of content. Failure to do this is a huge hindrance to your efforts. If your software does this you either need to hack the software, or get different software.

3. Putting Session IDs in the URL
Search engines cannot crawl sites that append session IDs to the URL. The reason is that while the crawl happens there IDs will continually change, thus changing the URL, thus making the search engine crawl every more duplicate pages in a never ending loop. As such, when encountering a session ID or something that looks like it, most search engines stop crawling. Depending on your backend code as well, this can be a problem when a session ID page is actually indexed and someone follows that link from a search engine they can be assigned this old session, which may not be theirs.

4. Mucking up your Robots.txt File
Having a robots.txt file is a good idea; otherwise your error log will be full of requests for it. However the most common cause of a “ban” or “penalty” from a search engine is really just a person putting the wrong thing in their robots.txt file and accidentally banning the search engine (not the other way around). With Google SiteMaps or Yahoo SiteExplorer a webmaster can verify their site is crawlable and robots.txt is not interfering, among other things. Using these services is so vital and helpful that one could even say not using them could be a major SEO mistake.

5. Using Meaningless Identifiers in the Anchor Text of Internal or Incoming Links
Incoming links are extremely important, the anchor text inside of them is doubly so. One major mistake people make is to use meaningless anchor text in their internal or incoming links. For instance “Next Page” or “Click Here” do absolutely nothing to help you. You should never, ever, use such anchor text within your own site unless you really do not care about ranking well with the linked to page. And while you cannot control how others link to you, if they ask your input, always ask for something more descriptive that uses your keywords.

There, those are what I consider the 5 most common and most hurtful SEO mistakes. Sure, things like leaving out an image’s alt attribute are bad, but not as bad as any of the above, and then too you should remember other accessible things like title attributes for anchor tags. Really, at the level of importance of alt attributes there are dozens and dozens of things you could do wrong.

10 Responses to “Top 5 Worst SEO Mistakes”

  1. JT  Says:

    #3 is incorrect. Google, Yahoo, and MSN all index ‘id=’ in the URL whether it’s a session id or a page id. This was recently confirmed by Vanessa Fox of Google. I do agree that you’re better off not using it, but if it’s used correctly, then you shouldn’t have too much of a problem.

  2. Chris  Says:

    Erm no. session IDs will still stop your site from being indexed, or ranked correctly. Just using &id= will not. They aren’t the same thing or the same issue. Session IDs cause a problem because they are long strings of numbers of letters that are constantly changing, which confuses the crawlers.

    You’ll notice they left in the part about sessions IDs in their webmaster help:

    Thanks for the link though, hadn’t read that.

  3. Ed  Says:

    Hi, we crossed paths on the Sitepoint forum and you made a few good points to help me out with SEO mistakes. I did a blog about what I have since learned. If you reach the bottom, you will see your name in lights! cheers

  4. Ken Barbalace  Says:

    #1 and #2 are probably the most common mistakes and the easiest to screw up. #2 is especially easy to screw up with content management systems or similar database driven pages.

    Even when one wants to use dynamic drop down pages there is really no excuse for not making them search engine friendly. Heck one can build completely dynamic menus using the :hover pseudo class and only need to rely on JavaScript to replace the :hover pseudo class for IE5 & IE6 (IE7 now supports hover mostly correctly).

  5. Myspace Layouts  Says:

    I would partially agree with the sitepoint 5 worse SEO mistakes being poorly written. Althought most of the ones listed are good points in general they are definatly not the worse. Also the part about Non Standard Page Titles is complete BS. Every good SEO knows not to use “stop words” or other meaningless words in a pages title as they are trying to suggest be done.

  6. Hi-Tech  Says:

    I’d say another mistake is to not have a sitemap – whether on your site or submitted to G & Y. It’s relatively easy to do and helps your site get fully indexed.

  7. ozgression  Says:

    Chris, it looks like you make “mistake #2″ on this blog?

  8. Chris  Says:

    Yup, thanks for pointing that out. WordPress doesn’t do it by default and it looks like I lost the edit to make fix it when I did the switch to the new design.

  9. richard  Says:

    useful article. duplication of content can be a big problems

  10. robseo  Says:

    “The mistake webmasters make is to repeat the same title tag on every page of their site.” yes it is very common mistak.

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