In business, many people talk in terms of “best practices” and “worst practices”. To start with, I would like to say that this is a BS term cooked up so that people have a way to back out of doing things the right way. It’s a politically correct term that people hide behind. I hate it. Instead of saying “you did this the wrong way” or “you took a shortcut that cost us time and money” people say “you did not adhere to best practices” and that somehow makes it less of a bad thing.
So here I present my list of SEO worst practice, or, SEO mistakes, in no particular order. This is going to cover both SEO implementation and theory.
1. Overselling optimization
The first mistake many SEO specialists make is to oversell SEO. Whether it’s their services or just the concept in general, it is really easy to get worked up over how much of an impact SEO can have, and sometimes clients think that they’ll instantly get to #1 on Google for whatever keyword they want if they just reformat their page titles.
It doesn’t work like that.
It’s important for SEO professionals, or people bringing the concept to their companies, to make sure that their clients know that it’s a slow process that might not show enormous results for their keywords. If a small mom and pop burger joint wants to target the “hamburger” keyword, they will probably not do very well, due to the ENORMOUS competition. It’s important to make sure that expectations are realistic.
2. “If only I did this, I could trick Google and improve my rank!”
No. You can’t. Sorry.
The first thing a lot of people say when they are introduced to SEO (especially those with some sort of stake in the project, whether it’s a content person, or a designer, or a developer) is “if I did X I could have my cake and eat it too!”.
Sometimes people suggest various methods of cloaking, which is in layman’s terms hiding content from the search engine so you can target keywords that might not be relevant to the site. For example if you saw that the keyword “puppies” wasn’t competitive (yeah yeah, unrealistic, cut me some slack!) but your site was about the rise and fall of Enron, you obviously won’t rank for “puppies”. But! says the enterprising new SEO recuit. “If I create a fake page with puppy information and then automatically redirect to my Enron page, I can get lots of hits!”
Trust me: If you can think of an idea on how to trick Google, rest assured someone else has already thought of it, tried it, succeeded, gotten caught, and had the loophole closed. It’s not worth spending any time thinking about.
Cloaking and other black hat SEO techniques can (and will) get your site blacklisted from most notable search engines.
Someone will always oppose SEO. People actively working on a project will all of course want SEO, because it’s not undesirable for most any site.
That said, one person will always oppose the practical implementation of SEO while praising the concept itself. This is, honestly, one of the hardest things to deal with. Whether it’s a content writer not wanting to retool their text, or a designer not wanting to sully their wonderful design with ugly formatting (bold etc), or a developer not wanting to rely on 301 redirects and external js/css files, someone will want concession after concession.
“Well, we’ll implement this aspect of SEO if we don’t do this other aspect of SEO to maintain balance” or something along those lines.
Ugh. What people need to understand is, plain and simple, these “rules” of SEO are not meant as punishment, it’s meant as a complementary system that feeds and grows on itself. One aspect of SEO is not enough, ever. All of them is ideal.
Make too many concessions, and despite tons of effort, you’ll see little to no gain.
5. Keyword stuffing/forgetting keywords
Covering both ends of the spectrum, keyword stuffing is the act of putting as many instances of a keyword on a page, or having way too many keywords.
This ultimately hurts SEO because the engine knows what you are trying to do. Think of a search engine as a self-aware machine. It is Skynet but without the killing part (so far). It is much smarter than you think.
Stuffing keywords will get you blacklisted, but forgetting keywords will get you laughed at. If the content writers don’t want to rewrite the content for web copy, or you forget to update it, and there are no keywords, the search engine bots will get confused and you won’t rank highly for anything. How is it supposed to know what your site is about unless you tell it?