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Perhaps one of the few constants in the world of search engine optimization (SEO) is constant change. Search engines like Google are constantly changing their algorithms, making over 500 updates per year and typically 2-3 major updates per year. With all these changes, it becomes a full time job just to keep track of what search engines want, let alone handle the operational aspects of SEO.
With all these changes in mind, here's 5 of the most common SEO mistakes entrepreneurs are making in 2013 and the best way to remedy them in-house.
We find that many business owners we work with were once told several years ago to get as many links to their website as possible from a variety of sources and have the anchor text of those links be the keywords they're trying to rank for. This worked great up until 2012 when Google rolled out the "Penguin" update, which penalized sites that were over-optimized with their anchor text.
Today, you still want to get links from a variety of sources, but the emphasis should be on quality rather than quantity. Likewise the links should look natural, so while using your keywords every now and then is okay, you should try to vary it up as much as possible.
2. Web Design For Aesthetics Rather Than Usability
The goal of Google is to organize the world's information in an easy to use format. If you think about it, that's essentially what a search engine does. However, Google can only organize your information if you do a good job in organizing it in your website and formatting it in ways that are easily readable by Google's search engine bots.
We constantly run into entrepreneurs whose web designer was great at making a visually appealing website, but knew very little about making a usable, organized, and Google friendly website. When it comes time for you to design or redesign your website, make sure you're not just doing it for design but also for function.
3. Un-Optimized Pages
Sometimes with a strong domain, you can rank for certain less competitive terms just by doing a little basic optimization work. However we often find websites whose homepage title says "Home" or websites with pages that have no headings or optimization done to them.
On-page optimization for low competitive keywords can be as easy as writing a descriptive page title with the keywords used in it, adding H1 and H2 tags to your body that are descriptive and use the keywords, and strategically placing some internal site links throughout the website pointing to your page. While this certainly won't rank for most terms out there, it's a good starting point to try and rank for less competitive terms with little to risk.
4. Duplicate Content
We constantly find duplicate content on the internet. Someone thinks an article is great, so instead of linking to it or rewriting it in their own words, they copy and paste it onto their blog. Since the Google "Panda" update in 2011, Google has penalized websites with duplicate content. But sometimes website owners have duplicate content without even knowing it! We just helped a client who paid 5 figures for a high end design firm to build their new site, yet they failed to properly redirect several pages, including the "www." and "non-www." versions of the website, so in Google's eyes there was duplicate content without the site owner even doing anything!
Our biggest tip here is to spend some time looking through your site and making sure you don't have any pages that have close to the same content. This can be done intentionally or unintentionally, but either way search engines will penalize you for it.
5. 404 Errors
Anytime you move a page, remove a page, or change a page's URL on your site, you're going to get a "404: Page Not Found" error. With enough of these errors, search engines will start to question the quality of your website and think you don't care enough to deal with all these "dead ends". It's like building a city and all the roads lead to nowhere.
To prevent this, make sure you setup what's called a "301 redirect" anytime you change a page's URL or remove a page. This will allow that dead page to be automatically redirected to a new page, making sure both your site visitors as well as search engines find what they're looking for.
There's plenty more common mistakes entrepreneurs can make when doing their own SEO, but by making sure you aren't making these five most common mistakes you'll be able to get the most out of your website and gain some search engine traffic at the same time.