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.
Related: 5 SEO Trends Every Entrepreneur Needs to Know for 2014
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.
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.
Related: Your SEO Checklist: 4 Steps to Optimizing Your Website
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.
Related: Bring Traffic to Your Site With These 4 Blogging Alternatives
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.
10 Marketing Tricks From the Pros
Today's Most Read
I recently asked some of the smartest and most experienced marketing people I know for their No. 1 marketing hack. While all provided extremely effective solutions, I was amazed at how simple some of them were.
Here is a list comprised of the top ten, categorized by marketing experts.
Social Media1. Boost your posts. "Give your social media content a boost. Businesses are finding it more and more difficult to get their message heard. By the latest estimates, Facebook is showing only 6 percent of a business' content to their fan base. So give your content a paid boost. If you have more than 100 likes on your page, a 'boost' button will appear at the bottom of each post. Use it. For less than $30, you can get your message out to thousands of unique users."
-Rob Wellman, CEO of Social5
Related: Is Your Marketing Message Getting Muddled?
2. Load up on data, and do it quickly. "Facebook advertising can deliver the cheapest CPM's in online marketing with the ability to test ad efficiency in real-time. Use the power editor "duplicate" tool to create hundreds of ads and change one element per ad. Give these a small budget, and you'll quickly see what works and what doesn't without breaking the bank. Double down on the ones that work, and kill the ones that don't."
-Kyle Ivins, co-founder Envolve Agency
3. Retweet and engage "Don't just tweet out stuff about your company. Engage with other companies, your customers and thought leaders in your market. Retweet their tweets and add your thoughts. Respond to tweets that aren't directed at you and give your thoughts on those. Followers will start flowing your way."
-Jason Barber, co-founder Friendemic
Advertising4. Explore pay-per-click advertising. Google isn't the only show in town when it comes to pay-per-click advertising.
"Google has the most volume when it comes to their ad network. But they're far from the only option. Bing provides great results for businesses targeting the baby boomer generation. You can also look into Google Search Partner Networks for other opportunities for higher ROI."
-Jacob Baadsgaard, CEO Disruptive Advertising
5. One ad per keyword. "If you're running a campaign with a dozen keywords and only have one ad, then you're throwing money away. Create specific ad groups that target single keywords. Then create two to three ads for that one keyword. See which ad works best, then run with it."
-Scott Cohen, CEO of 180Fusion
Related: 7 Marketing Truths Every Business Leader Should Know
Public relations6. Don't brag, give real value. "The greatest secret in media and public relations right now is that the press (and your potential customers) are most interested in the value added information that will help them succeed in a given area—not in hearing promotional information from you. By thinking of your readers' needs first—not your own self-interests—you will receive business traction and audience engagement beyond your dreams."
-Cheryl Snapp Conner, Snapp Conner PR
7. One sentence "Here's a pro tip that's extremely obvious, but often completely ignored by entrepreneurs everywhere: You should be able to explain your startup in one sentence. That's it. No exceptions."
-Harrison Weber, Journalist and News Editor for VentureBeat
SEO8. Poach your competitors' mentions. "Create a Google Alert for your competitors' brand names. Find out where they are being mentioned and in what context. Then, see if there's opportunities to be mentioned alongside of them. Many times journalists and editors will write about one brand and be open to including a similar brand for parity."
-Nathan Tanner, Foxtail Insights
Email marketing9. Trim your subjects. "Get an immediate lift in email marketing revenue by reducing your subject lines to only one word. Choose that word carefully. It should induce irresistible curiosity, while staying relevant to your message. With the right word, your open rates will skyrocket. Do some testing to really dial it in."
-Tyler Dixon, Marketing Director for SpinGo
Outdoor advertising10. Think outside the box. "Get creative when working with a budget and with advertisers. A client of mine recently secured a ‘pay for performance' billboard on one of the busiest stretches of an interstate. They only pay the billboard agency if a sale results from that billboard. You'd be surprised what you can get accomplished if you only ask."
-Matt Frisbie, CEO of ChiefMO