5 Common Ailments of SEO Neglect

Everyone knows what a search engine is. Well, my 81 year old mom has a little trouble with the concept but pretty much everyone who has surfed the internet knows what Google and Yahoo are. By the same token, a lot of people know what SEO is or what it means to optimize a website for a search engine. Unfortunately there are a lot of misconceptions of what proper SEO entails.

I find that some folks, after reading a particular article or overhearing some random conversation and picking out a few keywords decide that they are a SEO expert. Many times I have had discouraging conversations about this subject with clients who decide that they will handle their sites SEO because nobody knows their business better than they do and I should just do my job and make the website. No problem, I completely agree, there is definitely no way I could know my clients business better than they do.

Ten minutes later I get an email with four lines of text saying that this is the information for their seo marketing campaign. What the… So my next email to them is what page is this for and of course their answer is all of them!

Now I have to make a decision. Do I spend the time to write back and try to explain some of the techniques that SEO companies use or some of the seo tips I have learned over the last two years. Or do I just blow it off, do as I’m told and be done with it. Writing back with any kind of worth while explanation takes at least an hour to do properly and I have taken this route before but statistics have proven that this is not always the best use of my time. A few times I have written back stating some basic reasons why this tactic will actually do more harm than good and then added a few links to some of the better sites that teach SEO. The problem here is that there is no easy explanation. Any comprehensive SEO site requires comprehensive reading and a bit of devotion to get through it all. They also require a bit of HTML know how in order to understand what they are talking about.

Lately I just take the later route.

So, here are the most common mistakes I see all the time when making websites for other people along with an explanation of why it may not be a good idea, and a solution or alternative.

1. Picking your keywords out of a hat.

Just because the word may describe your product or service doesn’t mean it is the wisest choice for the site. If you are a web designer you may be inclined to use web designer as a keyword however, you will now be competing against 40,800,000 other websites that also use that same keyword. Most of these sites are much older and have probably hired seo companies that are utilizing the most up to date link building strategies on a daily basis.

Try localizing, specializing or one of the many other tactics of keyword selection. Pittsburgh web designer or SEO web designer or SEO web designer Pittsburgh narrows it down to a point where you will not only have a better chance of being found in the search engine results pages but you will also be getting more targeted traffic.

2. Using the same keywords on every page

As mentioned above it is a common practice for companies to come up with a list of ten or so keywords then proceed to put them all in the keywords meta tag on every page. Many times I see someones name in the keywords. This isn’t a bad idea unless of course the page has nothing to do with you. Search engines take the page content into consideration when deciding where to place it in the results pages so if the page is about web design techniques and doesn’t mention your name you are probably just diluting the authority of the terms that are used in the pages content.

Using your name as a keyword on the about or contact page makes sense.

Actually, only a few of the search engines take the keywords meta tag into serious consideration. I believe Google, which is responsible for close to 50% of all searches on the internet, doesn’t really place a lot of weight on these words. Still, using words here that are unrelated to the page content does not help.

3. Finding your keywords… then not using them

Here is a common scenario to any web designer… The page title contains the company name. Then on all the inner pages the page title consists of the company name a dash then the page header and the page headers are “Who We Are”, and “What We Do”. How many people do you think go to a search engine and type in What We Do? But there’s twenty keywords stuffed into the keyword meta tag so that makes it OK

The page title should contain the pages focus keyword, so “Our Web Design Team”, and “How We Approach Web Design” would be better choices for the page title as well as the content headers.

4. Not using HTML tags for the purpose they were intended

Back when CSS started to become popular many web designers began to use the div tag for page headers so they could give it color, size and font type via a style sheet. The H1 and H2 tags seemed to go away or only be used for their size attribute. The same thing happened to lists and to top it off they continued to use tables for their layout. This is all backwards. One of the main advantages to CSS is that we no longer have to use tables for layout and we gain better control over HTML tags like the H1 and H2 heading tags. By using H1 for the page heading we are telling the search engine that this term should have the most weight in the hierarchy of the pages content. Neglecting to use H1 and H2 renders all words the same importance.

By using H1 for the page heading we are taking advantage of an inherent hierarchy structure and placing more weight on these words which should contain the pages focus keywords. H2 is used for sub headings H3 for sub-sub headings etc…

Tables and lists are meant for… tables and lists. If you have a multi-row table of data to display then this is the perfect place to use a table. When used for the layout of the entire page a table will slow down loading because all the data must be parsed before it is displayed unlike divs which load in a more modular fashion.

Menus are lists. Lists of internal links. This is why the proper way to do menus is via an unordered list.

Using HTML the way it is intended to be used helps the search engines determine what the data is and how it will be cataloged and the little details like these do indeed make a big difference.

5. Using images or Flash for page headers and menu text

This can be remedied with if you utilize alt tags and/or use one of many techniques available to allow the search engines to find them and follow the links or give the term proper authority.

Search engines read HTML. They can’t look at an image and read what it says (though I’ve heard this may be possible soon but I’m not holding my breath). Same goes for Flash.

Images and animations definitely add entire dimensions to a web page and can make the difference between one that looks OK and one that looks truly professional, they must be used in certain ways if you want your site to be properly optimized for the search engines.

Using the alt tag on an image helps immensely however if you are using images for page headings and/or your menu, other techniques must be utilized. Using CSS you can place an image as a background in an H1 tag then position the text off screen or put the image as a background in a span tag the goes just before the text. This way the text gets covered by the image. Now the page heading text is intact and getting the proper weight but people viewing the page will only see the pretty font you made with Photoshop.


h1 { position: relative; overflow: hidden; }
h1 span { position: absolute; width: 100%; height: 100%; background: url(image.gif) no-repeat; }



There is also a technique called sIFR which is a very clever technique done with JavaScript and Flash that will place a Flash movie over a tagged div thus replacing or hiding the HTML text within.

The rules for optimizing a web page are pretty simple.

  • Find your sites main keyword.
  • Find relevant keywords that support the main one
  • Focus on one keyword per page
  • Place this keyword in page title
  • Place this keyword in the description meta tag
  • Use it in the keywords meta tag (not absolutely necessary)
  • use it in the page heading use it at least twice in the page content

Finding proper keywords can be a little time consuming but it isn’t rocket science. Just use the free Adwords Keyword Tool (Google it) to search for the words that are getting good amounts of monthly search traffic and are not too competitive for your site or your skill level (yeah, look who’s talking).

All it takes is a little planning, a little research and some attention to detail to make SEO work for your website. Keep in mind that using these ideas will not rocket your site to the number one spot for your focus keywords over night, it will poise the site to reap the benefits of your link building efforts which CAN rocket your site to the number one spot, or at least closer depending on factors such age and keyword competition.

7 Replies to “5 Common Ailments of SEO Neglect”

  1. Finally, some more ammunition when explaining SEO to clients. Yes, it’s a bad idea to use the exact same search term as 40,000 other businesses unless you have to. One of our clients is a steakhouse. Rather than using the generic search term ‘restaurant’, we’re pushing hard to get them to accept adding in steakhouse, their local area, etc.

    Also, keep in mind that you should definitely take advantage of Google and Yahoo Local for your sites. A lot of people use these services, since people are interested in working with companies nearby. Plus, by using these services you get better overall Google PageRanks for your site.

  2. Thank you very much for sharing this great article. i read your complete article and come to know about some new things like ” Using the same keywords on every page” i like this one.

  3. These are really the big no-no in SEO. Thanks for taking the time to share these important points.

  4. Great article Norman.
    I need to pay more attention to my H1, H2 tag hierarchy.
    I always find this a slight pain with CMS site design as the CMS’s don’t always want to play nice…

  5. Thanks Bear,
    Joomla on the other hand is quite easy to manipulate for seo with it’s one and only template. Takes a little getting used to if you are used to WP but it is definitely one of the best I’ve seen.

  6. Great read. I agree that people really don’t take proper care in selecting their keywords. They choose the keywords they “want to” rank for rather than having realistic expectations of what they “can” rank for. Use of long tail terms can definitely be a lot more useful to those who have sites that are rather new, and I agree it is often a very overlooked aspect and is a sure way to bury yourself before you even get started. Great read.

  7. Great post!

    I actually now use Open site explorer to work on my SEO for a number of client websites, along with Google Analytics and Google Webmaster tools.

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