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25 Super Common SEO Mistakes

by Stephan Spencer

No, these aren't "myths" disguised as "common mistakes." Iíve already beaten the SEO myths theme to death with my previous three articles. What follows are innocent mistakes that many SEOs make. Some of these things catch even the best of us...

1. Google AdWords Keyword Tool Set To Broad Match

The Google AdWords Keyword Tool defaults to "Broad match" mode, which yields useless data from an SEO perspective - useless in that the numbers are hugely inflated to include countless phrases incorporating the search term specified. For example, the Keyword Tool reports 30.4 million queries for "shoes", but that includes multi-word phrases such as "dress shoes," "leather shoes," "high heeled shoes," and even "horse shoes," "snow shoes," and "brake shoes."

In Exact mode, the search query volume for "shoes" drops to 368,000. The difference between those numbers is striking, isnít it? So always remember if you are doing keyword research for SEO in the AdWords Keyword Tool: untick the box next to Broad match and tick the box next to Exact.

2. Disallowing when you meant to Noindex

Ever notice listings in the Google SERPs (search engine results pages) without titles or snippets? That happens when your robots.txt file has disallowed Googlebot from visiting a URL, but Google still knows the URL exists because links were found pointing there. The URL can still rank for terms relevant to the anchor text in links pointing to disallowed pages. A robots.txt Disallow is an instruction to not spider the page content; itís not an instruction to drop the URL from the index.

If you place a meta robots noindex meta tag on the page, youíll need to allow the spiders to access the page so it can see the meta tag. Another mistake is to use the URL Removal tool in Google Webmaster Tools instead of simply "noindexing" the page. Rarely (if ever) should the removal tool be used for anything. Also note that thereís a Noindex directive in the REP (Robots Exclusion Protocol) that Googlebot obeys (unofficially).

3. URL SERP Parameters and Google Instant

I just wrote about parameters you can append to Google SERP URLs. Iíve heard folks complain they arenít able to add parameters to the end of Google SERP URLs anymore ó such as &num=100 or &pws=0 ó since Google Instant appeared on the scene. Fear not, itís a simple matter of turning Google Instant off and URL parameters will work again.

4. Not using your customerís vocabulary

Your customer doesnít use industry-speak. Theyíve never used the phrase "kitchen electrics" in a sentence, despite the fact that its the industry-accepted term for small kitchen appliances. Your customer may not search in the way you think makes intuitive sense. For example, I would have guessed that the plural "digital cameras" would beat the singular "digital camera" in query volume ó yet itís the other way around according to the various Google tools.

Sometimes it is lawyers being sticklers that gets in the way ó such as a bankís lawyers insisting the term "home loan" be used and never "mortgage" (since technically the latter is a "legal instrument" that the bank does not offer). Many times the right choice is obvious but itís internal politics or inertia keeping the less popular terminology in place (e.g. "hooded sweatshirt" when "hoodie" is what folks are searching for).

5. Skipping the keyword brainstorming phase

Too rarely do I hear that the siteís content plan was driven by keyword brainstorming. Keyword brainstorming can be as simplistic as using Google Suggest (which autocompletes as you type and is built into Google.com) or Soovle (which autocompletes simultaneously from from Google, Bing, Yahoo, YouTube, Wikipedia, Amazon, and Answers.com). The idea is to think laterally.

For example, a baby furniture manufacturer discovers the popularity of "baby names" through looking at popular terms starting with "baby" and decides to build out a section of their site dedicated to related terms ("trends in baby names", "baby name meanings", "most overused baby names" etc.).

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