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As the year is new, it would be appropriate to do a review of your website to make sure you are not engaging in one (or more) of the following search engine optimisation mistakes.

It appears from general research that on Google at least, only about 5% of searchers click on a sponsored Google Advertisement. That then indicates that 95% must be finding what they want in the organic results of Google (and by inference, most other search engines).  This data highlights the importance ensuring your website achieves good search engine visibility. Being near the top of SERP’s that are relevant to your business can mean the difference between success and failure in 2013.

So, for those in the market for success, here are the Top 10 SEO mistakes people make:

1. No research into how search engines actually work

It is valuable to learn the basics of how search engines work. They run automatically utilising robots (also called ‘bots’). These bots work a bit like a human surfing the net, following links, finding web pages and sending information back to the index. So basically, you want these bots to be able to ‘see’ all of your relevant web pages so they can send the information back.

The index the bots populate with information is the tool which the search engine trawls when a searcher uses their search box. It’s a mammoth storage vessel and because it’s the search engines’ reference to your website, it’s essential as much of your website is referenced in this index so users can find it.

The algorithm is the key tool in the search engines’ arsenal to ensure their users retrieve the most useful, timely and relevant information for their search. Google and other search engines exist to give their users the best possible outcome to the search, not to make website owners happy. Thus, the algorithm utilises hundreds of criteria to determine how a webpage will rank for a given search.

2. What SEO strategy?

SEO is another method of delivering marketing communications, as such, it needs to have a defined strategy as with every other area of marketing. Determine the target keywords for the relevant web pages (it is probably not useful optimising your ‘contact us’ page for example) that you know can deliver the communications you need. Also include in the strategy some measurement of success to be able to adjust your SEO as required.

3. Non- SEO friendly technology has built the website

Robots find it difficult to ‘read’ pictures and some ‘flash’ web technology, so don’t rely on these for the bulk of your website. Similarly, websites which are structured as tables are almost useless for SEO purposes. Whilst the purpose of your site is for the use of human visitors, if it can’t be read by the robots, no human will find it in a search.

4. No keywords, or wrong keywords are targeted

It appears that there are still web developers and owners who don’t know about or choose not to do research on keywords. There is a simple group of steps which improve the SEO of a page:

  1. Define the target audience for the page;
  2. Define the marketing message you want to convey;
  3. Using a program such as (the free) Google AdWords Keyword Tool find the best keywords which relate to the message above;
  4. Write content for the webpage which includes the most relevant keyword and stays on-topic.

5. Too much content

Whilst there is rarely a case where there is too much content on a website, there is often too much content on a web page. Remember when you were being taught to write essays at school, it was suggested you include one thought per paragraph. This is very similar to your website. On a single page the general rule of thumb is to select one message, with one keyword phrase and include that phrase a couple of times on the page where it works well with the content. Not only does this make it simple for the search engines to understand exactly what is going on with your page, it is also clear and useful for your human reader.

6. No ‘on-page’ optimisation

To optimise your web pages you do need some very basic HTML, the outcome of this is to ensure you have unique title tags and meta content descriptions, your pages are named uniquely and reflect their content.

7. Trying to trick a search engine- black hats don’t suit anyone

There will always appear to be ways to try and trick search engines to rank your page higher and faster. If you look at this path, you are going to the dark side. Trying to trick a search engine is unethical and is known as ‘Black Hat SEO’. No matter what, you will eventually be found out. Once a search engine blacklists your site for unethical techniques, getting back in their indexes is very difficult. Don’t risk it. Just don’t do it.

8. Design a site which is not friendly to SEO

Web pages needs to be textually rich for good SEO. At least 300 words gives a quality view of what the page is all about, so design your site with enough room to have at least 300 words per page with images that are relevant. It is also useful to remember to always include alt-tags on all images that are named relevant to the image. Your page needs to be friendly to both humans and search engines.

9. An external link strategy that is lacking

If others like your site, you will be more attractive to search engines, as you have credibility. To gain external links is no doubt difficult. Don’t panic and buy links – they are frowned on by search engines. By all means ensure you are included in all relevant, valid directories, but most importantly, just keep improving the content of your site. If you engage in active discussion through say, social media and keep providing useful, interesting content on your website, you will eventually reach a critical mass which will encourage external links.

10. Lack of a good internal link strategy

When you hand a customer a sales brochure, the way that this is created guides the user through the information. They generally flip from page 1 to the end via each page in between. This helps to deliver the message clearly. A website doesn’t have this luxury, so great internal linking is critical for your human visitor to ensure they receive all the information they require in a way which doesn’t confuse. To reinforce this human need, search engines highly reward websites which have great internal linking. Also, the anchor text (the on page text which holds the actual hyperlink) is also critical for SEO and the user to ensure they know where they are going and why. Avoid ‘click here’ and ‘find out more’.

As SEO is greatly underutilised, especially by SME’s, and can be completely DIY if you have the inclination to learn the techniques and have a bit of patience, it can be truly cost effective and a means for your business growth.