Like anything else, if you want a successful search engine optimization (SEO) campaign, you have to do it right the first time. Sounds like a no-brainer, doesn't it? After all, who would spend all that time and money on an SEO campaign only to see it fail?
Well, you'd be surprised.
With all the conflicting information about how to rank high, some SEO confusion is normal. What is not normal is demanding your in-house or outsourced SEO expert to use techniques that won't work, are a huge waste of time, won't achieve any long-term rankings, or might wreak havoc on your existing rankings.
However, if you are really dead set against seeing any SEO results (or actual sales once they hit your site), here are some things you can do to sabotage your search engine campaign and not get the results you want. (Believe us, it's easier than you think!)
Do not include key phrases in your copy. Hey, even if the search engines and directories recommend content (check this out), as does the industry-leading SearchEngineWatch, why should you create a keyword-rich (and content-rich) home page? Wouldn't a slick-looking Flash presentation make your site look cooler? Besides, you can get tons of high rankings simply by placing key phrases into your meta tags, can't you?
News flash -- the search engines rely on visible, HTML text with key phrases that relate to your content. If there are no key phrases, or not enough text, the search engines have nothing to work with -- and your site won't rank high for the long term. You can tweak your meta tags till you're blue in the face. But if the information in the tags doesn't jibe with the information (or lack thereof) on your page, high rankings will be a pipe dream. Sure, you won't mind adding heaps of money to your SEO budget for the inevitable monthly meta-tag tweaking when you go this route.
Optimize key phrases that are never, ever searched for. Why make it easy on your prospects to find you? One of the surest ways to make sure your SEO campaign fails is to optimize key phrases that your prospects aren't likely to run a search on. If you want to make things really difficult, you can concoct some weird-sounding marketing-speak key phrases. So, instead of using the phrase "free chat," you can optimize the phrase "cost-effective multilingual communications solutions." See how easy it is?
SEO success relies on well-researched key phrases. There are specialized databases like Wordtracker, which help you discover the most-searched-for key phrases relating to your site. Of course, if you want your campaign to fail, why do any background research? After all, you know exactly what your prospects are searching for in the search engines, right?
Write for the search engines without emphasizing your prospect's experience. Here's another way your campaign will fail -- create body copy that's unintelligible (or dirt dull). After all, your goal is to simply get users to your site. Who cares about tone and feel? You just know that your product or service is so cool, they'll buy from you no matter what.
Want to convert site looky-loos into faithful buyers? You'll have to include benefit-oriented and key-phrase-rich copy that reinforces your marketing message. If the writing doesn't wow your prospects, they'll surf to your competitor. But, hey, you didn't need that client anyway...
Redesign your existing site to delete all the old files and URLs. Who cares about all those high-ranking pages from your old site that are already in the search engines? You just spent big bucks on a slick new kick-ass design and want no traces of "old clunky" to be found. You have a new image and a new brand; God forbid anyone find out you once had a different site. You'll just worry about optimizing and submitting the new site pages. Yep... that'll work. Or will it?
In most search engines, older pages tend to rank higher than newer pages. A well-established site can have hundreds of indexed pages (not to mention links from other sites) that can bring in lots of traffic. When you remove those files and their resulting URLs from your server, you've essentially removed some pretty powerful traffic generators. Keeping your new file names consistent with your old ones can go a long way toward hanging on to those old rankings. If that's not possible, simply leaving the old files on the server can be a rankings lifesaver. Sure, you could just put up custom 404 error pages to catch the old traffic, but, eventually, the search engine spiders will come a-crawlin'. And when they do, all of your high-ranking URLs will get dumped. But that's OK; you didn't need that highly targeted traffic anyway, did you?
As you can see, it takes a lot of deliberate effort to make a strong SEO campaign fail, but it can be done. If you have your own comments about what not to do with an SEO campaign, or if you have an article idea, zip us some feedback! We're here to dish the search engine dirt!
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