Spider Food and SEO Blunders

I often wonder how some SEO (define) blunders came to be. Not to lay blame or point a finger at an algorithmically challenged Web site, but to understand how the faux pas were made in the first place.

Over the years, I’ve witnessed a few missteps that left me scratching my head and asking, “What were they thinking?” Though the question often remains unanswered, I’ll share some of the more common SEO bloopers and blunders with you.

Build It and They Will Come

If your site doesn’t have a particular unique selling point for users, building it probably isn’t worth a hill of beans. Most folks don’t seem to get that. Some seem to feel there’s no marketing plan required before they commission a Web site.

Nothing could be further from the truth. If users can see right through a veil of wantonness, the search engines algorithms aren’t far behind. If you don’t offer potential visitors a unique sales proposition or original content, you’re attempting to profit in a binary stone age with a contextual look-alike site that could have been something innovative.

You may was well build the site without title tags or, better yet, construct a 1,000-page site with the same title tag. I see that a lot, particularly from organizations that believe their brand name is worthy of top positioning.

Failing to utilize distinctive, keyword-rich title tags is one of the most common SEO errors. A dysfunctional database or unruly CMS (define) is the common culprit behind title tag duplicity. It takes programming time to generate automated title tags, but uniqueness alone doesn’t guarantee top search engine results.

It takes diligent keyword research and writing to affect SERPs (define). This doesn’t mean crafting content with search engine referrals in mind is enough to change a site’s conversion rates. Well-optimized title tags and on-topic content must be targeted to convert search-referred visitors into customers.

That’s right, folks, if you want to be found for particular words and phrases used in popular search queries, you need to build the words and phrases into page content.

Search engine spiders are highly intuitive, but they can’t intuit what you meant to say. If your site presents keywords and keyword phrases in images, no amount of alternative tags or meta data can compensate for the lack of visible, crawlable, indexable words on a page.

Eye Candy Isn’t Spider Food

There are a couple of ways to starve a spider. In addition to building image-intensive sites, frames, or dynamic URLs riddled with session IDs, you can build a site with Macromedia Flash or offer up a JavaScript-laden navigational system.

Using JavaScript or Flash navigation makes a site pretty, but it can lead to ugly search results for the entire organization. Search engine spiders are highly efficient when crawling the Web for fresh, juicy content, but they can’t index JavaScript applets or Flash programming.

Sure, you can put a few text-based links in your footers or construct a site map for spiders to chew on. But these types of nibbles quickly grow stale. Eventually, search engine spiders will stop coming by if there’s nothing new in the table.

Spiders come back for more if you feed them. Most JavaScript and Flash menus can be almost identically replicated by using CSS (define) and good old HTML. If you must employ a Web design that makes a site’s links and navigation invisible to spiders, be prepared to invest in building a few work-arounds, too.

Failing to Connect

In addition to presenting a Web site with indexable content and navigation, spiders require inbound links from sites outside your own to crawl and connect with. Ideally, these inbound links are text-based, keyword-rich anchors from topically authoritative hubs.

Submitting your site to be included in Web directories is a no-brainer. Sure, DMOZ and Yahoo Directory are a great place to start, but don’t limit your linkage to the big two directories. There are collections of directories available to every industry and commercial interest on the Web. Local directories can deliver valuable geographically targeted referrals. Regional and topical directories are available for linkage. Seek them out and nurture your inbound links.

If you never take the time to hunt out relevant, well-ranked Web sites from which to obtain inbound links, your site will fail to connect with the very premise of the Web. Your site needs a good number of inbound links from other Web sites to rank well in the search engines.

Inbound links should grow naturally over time. News items can contribute to inbound links, and blogs and online articles can continue to help your site reach greater visibility. Encourage deep links to your site and you’ll ensure it’s place in the Web.

Join us for Search Engine Strategies Local in Denver, CO, September28, at the Adam’s Mark Hotel.

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