6 Good Ideas That Are Terrible for SEO

SEO mistakes oopsSmall business websites often have a lot of design input from many different people. Those that give advice certainly mean well, but they don’t always have the experience to know what negative impacts their guidance will have on SEO.

I have had many opportunities to troubleshoot websites, both large and small, that failed to rank competitively in search engines. In most cases, the fixes are simple, and can get the website ranking well enough to get SEO traffic in a short period of time.

Here are six common problems that seemed to be good ideas, but resulted in poor search rankings and missed opportunities to gain new customers…

#1: Block All Robots

The Good Idea: Make your website perform faster by preventing bots from crawling it. This is easily done by adding “Disallow: /” to a robots.txt file.

The SEO Problem: “Disallow: /” is a command that blocks all bots, including Googlebot. If Googlebot can’t spider your website, then your website won’t be added to Google’s search index, and won’t be found by your customers.

More Useful Information…

disallowing bots by user agentYes, there are bad bots out there that can slow down your website performance if allowed to run amok. You can address each one uniquely as “user agent” within the robots.txt instruction file, and even tell them where they should not go with the “disallow” command. Note there is no “allow” command, so you must create exceptions with the “disallow” command.

Now remember that bad bots may have been programmed by humans will evil intent, and their bots may be programmed to ignore disallow statements. To truly prevent overactive or malicious bots from crawling your website, ask your server administrator to identify and block them at the server level by IP address.

#2: Remove Meta Descriptions

The Good Idea: The Meta Description no longer affects your Google rankings, so remove it to reduce code weight.

The SEO Problem: The Meta Description is one of two elements that is presented to consumers when they search on Google. The other is the Title Tag. Both of these describe the website that the consumer is about to visit, so it had better be good if you want that click. Google will make an effort to populate a page description if you don’t provide one, but don’t rely on automation to thrill potential customers on your post important pages.

website meta description

More Useful Information…

It is a good idea to reduce the amount of code used to construct your website. Google likes fast loading websites, and speed is a factor that impacts your rankings. It is also true that Google no longer uses keywords within your Meta Description to rank your website.

However, SEO is not just the science of speaking to bots. You must also consider the art of human interaction. Your goal is to get consumers to visit your website, and stay there as long as possible. Ideally, they find their solution with you, and do not need to visit another website.

This human behavior also affects your search rankings. Google watches consumers to see what they click, and if they return to Google to click on another website. If a consumer returns quickly to Google’s search results to click another website, Google can assume your site was not a good option for their search query, and has the proper signals to drop your ranking and test another website in your former ranking position.

#3: Flash Animation

Flash not available in mobileThe Good Idea: Flash animation is attractive, so use it to engage consumers

The SEO Problem: Bots can’t read it, and many mobile devices won’t display it. Google knows this, and won’t rank your website for mobile searches if your website is built with Flash.

More Useful Information…

Search bots not reading Flash has been an age old problem, and developers who practice good SEO techniques avoid creating websites with Flash. Now Apple refuses to display Flash in iPhone and iPad devices, making Flash even more unattractive for SEO.

Google often has different website rankings based on the platform used when displaying search results. Try performing a search on a desktop computer, then do the same search on a smart phone … you will likely get different search results. If your website isn’t built to display properly on mobile devices, it is not worthy of ranking well for a mobile search.

#4: Multiple Websites with Keyword-Rich URLs

The Good Idea: URLs that contain search keywords rank well on Google, so build several websites for everything you want to sell.

The SEO Problem: Every new website must perform well for hundreds of factors, not just whether or not target keywords are in the URL. Websites that do not provide consumers with useful and unique experiences won’t rank well in Google.

More Useful Information…

keyword stuffed url for local searchA trend for small businesses attempting to compete in local search is to create many different websites, all with URLs containing service and city keywords. If the business wants to reach 15 different cities for a single service, then 15 different websites are built. If the business offers many different services – then they have an awful lot of websites to build.

Don’t do this.

Every website that you build must have a reasonable amount of unique content to prove relevancy to search engines. Instead, most of these template-built websites use duplicate content, creating doorway sites that will not rank in Google.

If you do decide to craft a lot of unique content on every site, you still need links from other websites to establish importance to the Internet. If you have the option of pointing 15 links to one website versus 1 to each of 15 websites, I recommend the most links to a single website.

Oh, did you want your Google Plus page to rank for local search results? Each of the 15 sites must have a unique phone number and address. Further, each of those unique business profiles must have consumer reviews associated in order to outrank your local competition. Similar to backlinks proving importance of a single URL, it is best to associate all of your consumer reviews to one business profile in order to gain trust.

#5: Duplicate Content

The Good Idea: There is a lot of useful content in the Internet, so just republish it on your website to help your consumers

The SEO Problem: Google looks for duplicate content when considering a website’s uniqueness to the Internet. The website that wrote the useful content will rank for it, and the others that copied it will not.

More Useful Information…

If you have a small business website, you probably don’t have a lot of pages of content – five to ten pages is typical. It is critical that all of your pages contain uniquely written content. If a website with 5,000 pages contains 8 pages of duplicate content, then those 8 pages won’t rank. No problem. But, if your 10 page website contains 8 pages of duplicate content, then Google may choose to penalize your entire website because it is only 20% useful to the Internet.

#6: Renew Your URL for One Year

The Good Idea: Renew your domain registration for another year (makes sense – otherwise, your website won’t work).

register domains for multiple yearsThe SEO Problem: Google can check your website registration record in order to interpret your intent as a business. In this case, a multi-year domain registration could signal your commitment to service customers, and impact your level of importance to the Internet. If you plan to stay in business for more than one year, then commit to your domain name for multiple years.

More Useful Information…

Some website developers attempt to implement shortcuts (aka blackhat techniques) to easily gain and profit from Google rankings. Those developers aren’t willing to commit to financial investments in each URL beyond one year. This is because many SEO tricks are attempted en masse (requiring a lot of URLs), are temporary, and may render the URLs useless within the first year as they become banned by Google.

If two websites are exactly the same for all algorithmic factors, but one is registered for 1 year while the other is registered for 10 years, which might Google choose to rank higher?

Prove to Google that you are in business to do business by purchasing your domain for multiple years.

About Steven Spaulding

Director of Digital Media for SuperMedia.com, I personally enjoy the art of online community building and my frugal wife forced me to become good at SEO. I consider myself a jack of all trades, and am fortunate to be surrounded by passionate and highly skilled subject matter experts at SuperMedia. However, note that those experts still can't beat me at Madden or chess. #bazinga

Comments

  1. Howard Huang says:

    This is a great post. I never knew that Google had the ability to check the length of your web domain registration. Now I’ll be extending that period longer. Usually the registrar gives you a bigger discount if you buy it for multiple years…so it’s a win win.

  2. Yes, the multiple year registration is a new one on me – and it makes sense. I’m due to renew now. so I’ll renew for several years. Thanks for the tip.

  3. #3 Flash. Google has been saying they can read flash swf files but I’m not sure how good it is right now. Swf files have text in them so they should be perfecting the spidering of flash files soon.

    • Steven Spaulding says:

      Mick, agree that Google has worked with Adobe to understand how to read flash files, but it still remains a less-than-ideal method of serving content and images for search indexing. The greatest threat to flash is that it won’t appear at all on Apple devices, which hinders the rapidly growing segment of mobile search.

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