Most Deadly SEO Sins – Common mistakes even experts fail to notice

If you are initiating Search Engine Optimization of your website, you probably have done some study about SEO techniques through forums and articles. You may have somewhat worked out a roadmap of how to proceed with the site optimization process. While you may be clear on ‘what to do’, it would also help to understand ‘what not to do’. Very often, SEO professionals miss out these critical aspects of optimization rendering all their site optimization work ‘useless’. Here are the 10 most avoidable situations while you are carrying out SEO for your website.

  1. Optimizing for the wrong keywords:
    The biggest sin anyone can make in a SEO campaign is to choose the wrong keywords to optimize your site with. If your Site is ranking high for a keyword that is not being searched for then even a very high ranking cannot bring you any traffic. On the other hand, if you are ranking high with wrong keywords then you would get you traffic but will not convert into transactions.
  2. Spamming:
    Search Engines are getting smarter by the day. Over a period of time Search Engines have evolved from “Ignoring” spam to a point where they now ‘penalize’ websites for using spam techniques. Following are the prominent Search engine spam techniques you should avoid.

    • Hidden text:
      Hidden text is using the same color text on your page as the background color. In order to get a higher keyword density, webmasters sometimes add a lot of keywords as hidden text because they are not visible to the human viewer but can be read by the search engine crawlers in the source code of the page. Most search engines can now detect which pages use such techniques and ignore or ban such sites.
    • Doorway pages:
      A doorway page is a web page designed for search engines so as to rank well for specific keyword phrases and redirect a user to a different page on visit. This is called “bait & switch” technique. These pages usually rely on frequent repetition of the keyword phrase, and try to “trick” search engines into ranking them well. Most search engines can now detect techniques such as “Meta Refresh” and penalize such sites. If you’ve used doorway pages on your website and it is still not penalized, you stand a good chance to come out clean by deleting these pages immediately.
    • Doorway domains / multiple domains with same content:
      This technique uses URL-redirection meant to display another web address for the same web page or several domains show same content. In a typical example, the user types in a web address such as but the URL is redirected to Alternately, both these websites show identical content in the hope that one or the other may rank high in the search engine result pages (SERP). Most of the time these domains are registered by the same party. Many people also use ‘disposable’ domain names in sending out email spam so as to protect their main domains. Search engines can easily detect these techniques.
    • Duplicate content:
      Many site owners try to increase their content base by creating multiple pages of the same content either on the same site or copying the same site over several domains they may own. Search engines avoid cluttering their index with duplicate content and penalize sites which do excessive content duplication in order to ‘trick’ their algorithms.
    • Cloaking:
      Cloaking is a technique of serving keyword-stuffed spam pages to search engine spiders by detecting their IP address, while serving totally different pages to human visitors. This is different than geo-targeting where you may show different content to different visitors based on their region or language. The search engines can differentiate between the two and might penalize your site if you are attempting to ‘trick’ them. If you want to avoid any penalties, the thumb rule is to show the same content to search engines that you show to the visitors.
    • Keyword spam:
      Keyword spam is a technique to stuff lots of keywords all over the page – in the Title tag, Meta tags, Anchor texts, Alt Attributes etc., in an attempt to increase keyword density or accommodate large number of keywords on the same page. This not only results in the page text to sound stupid to your readers, but you also lose the ‘theme’ of the page. Search engines rate pages as per ‘themes’ and credit pages which have content classified in nicely laid out ‘themes’. For best results, one should always focus on optimizing a page with 2-3 themed keywords rather than trying to optimize with lots of keywords. Over-optimized pages with keyword spam may invite search engine penalties.
    • Excessive HTML markup:
      It is common knowledge that search engines give more credit to text marked as Headline <“H1”> / <“H2”> or other attributes like making the text bold, underlined, colored, italicized etc. In an attempt to improve importance of the text, many webmasters do an excessive HTML markup of their page content and hide the ugly display behind a craftily made CSS. Search engines have a fair idea of a balanced markup and penalize sites which do excessive HTML markup in an attempt to ‘trick’ their algorithms.
  3. Creating search engine roadblocks:
    If you are developing a website, it helps to know of ways you can prevent creating search engine roadblocks. Your SEO efforts may not get results if your site structure is such that search engines find it difficult to index your site easily. Following are some of the problem areas which create a hurdle in your site indexing –

    • Having Flash-based site:
      Sites built in Flash may have a greater aesthetic impact but perform poorly in search engines. Most search engines cannot read text or links embedded in Flash. It is best to limit the use of flash for content which absolutely requires flash or make a text-based alternate for your website so that search engine crawlers can index your site content easily.
    • Having text in images:
      Search engines cannot read text embedded in images. If you have too much content and navigation using graphic, image maps or image buttons, it would be good to either convert them to simple text or have an alternate navigation bar at the bottom of your website. It would also help to have appropriate text in the Alt-Text tag for each image. Similarly
    • Having frame-based sites:
      If you have built your website using frames, you might have a major problem indexing content sitting inside frames. The way frames and the content page URLs are structured, most search engines find it difficult to reach the inner page content of your website. It is best to restructure your website and remove frames so that you can get your site in the search engine index.
    • Having free content behind login:
      Some sites & forums prefer the visitors to login before they can reach the real content of the website. Due to lack of awareness or inadvertently, if you have placed all your content behind a login, then the search engines cannot index your site as their crawlers cannot fill in a login-password or ‘register’ on your website. You might want to restructure your website such that you can show the publicly-available content without the need to login to your website.
    • Poor site inter-linking:
      Poor site interlinking not only poses hurdles to search engines for indexing your site but also makes your site navigation difficult for your site visitors. It is advisable to have a good navigation bar and a site map on your site so that each page is not more than two clicks away.
    • Deep directory structure:
      A deep directory structure is generally difficult for search engines to crawl. While it is not a rule, it would be good if you can keep your directories not more than one or two levels down, neatly classified into ‘themes’. Deep directory structure also makes your inner pages URLs look too long which discourages other sites to link to your inner pages.
  4. Having less content / Non-original content:
    Search engines thrive on text content. They are mainly looking for text content on your website and reward sites which have lots of easily accessible, non-duplicate original text content. If your sites has less or non-original content picked up from other sites or your affiliate sites, it is unlikely that you would be rewarded, no matter how many efforts you put in optimizing your website. A good way to generate original content is to write nice, keyword rich, descriptive articles classified in themes, about your product or service, its usage, benefits and tips etc.
  5. Using session IDs:
    Session ID is a long string of jumbled characters appearing in the URL of your website which changes on each visit. They are usually used to track a visitor ’s online shopping cart contents. When a search engine crawler visits your website, your server assigns it a session ID and the crawler indexes your content and associates it with that session ID. Most search engines have hundreds of bots crawling and re-crawling the web. On each repeat visit of the crawler to your website, they index a fresh copy of your content and associates it with different URLs (session IDs) resulting in cluttering the search engine database with lots of duplicate content. Since search engines are not very good at tackling this problem, they often drop the site from future indexing. If you wish to track as user’s session, a better solution is to use cookies instead of session IDs. Cookies are information files stored on user’s computers and perform the same task as a session ID.
  6. No efforts in getting incoming links:
    Incoming links to your website are very important and are responsible for high rankings on search engines to a large extent. Link popularity determines how important your site is. Link building is an important part of your SEO campaign. No extent of site optimization can get you high rankings if you do not carry out a supporting link building campaign.
  7. Relying on one-time SEO:
    Search engine optimization is a constant process. You need to update your website SEO when you add new content, update old content or change the theme of your web pages. Addition of new content often requires you to update site interlinking, improve navigation and add links in your site map. Search patterns and keyword phrases also change over time as the search community matures or industry trends change. This requires a fresh keyword research and SEO perspective on your site. Changes may also become necessary if your current SEO strategy is not paying off. In any case, optimizing your site once and expecting it to give you sustained results without further efforts is a mistake.
  8. Showing impatience:
    SEO of a website rarely show instant results. If your site is already indexed in search engines, it may take about 4-8 weeks to index your new content. New sites may take 4-6 months to get indexed for the first time. It takes time for SEO results to show up. It is easy to think the past efforts were not good enough and get tempted to change the optimization techniques. It is not advisable to change the optimization of your site pages before you are able to see the results of your previous SEO efforts.

If you keep the above points in mind while carrying out SEO for your site, you would be safe from any penalties. If you are outsourcing your site SEO to a professional company, make sure they adhere to the above guidelines and do not risk your site into a search engine penalty. Remember, just a few precautions can go a long way in having your site rank high and stay away from undesirable search engine penalties.