As much fun as it can be to detail all the ways to help your site grow, prosper and attract wonderful clients, it’s sometimes more valuable to itemize all the things you can do to wreck it.
It’s safe to assume that no one wants their site to plummet in search rankings, yet many site owners and webmasters make the following mistakes all the time, and their reward is getting hammered by Google on an increasing basis.
Here’s the breaking news: Google has figured out all the tricks. When new tricks pop up, it figures that out too. It hires the best and brightest to be ahead of the curve, and that makes the curve more dangerous than a hairpin turn on a cliff with no guardrail.
So with no further ado, here are 10 great ways to ruin your search rankings:
1. Advertising Avalanche
Ads are where many sites make their money, so there’s a natural inclination to go over the top with them. Bad idea: Google tends to severely penalize sites that don’t have an appropriate balance of content to advertising. Too many Google AdSense ads above the site fold, for example, is a great way to tell Google you’re not a useful site.
2. The Hidden Text Game
Some time ago, webmasters figured out that they could get search engine spiders to see content that the human eye cannot. So a site could be packed with all sorts of content that’s irrelevant to the site that won’t put off the human viewer because it’s invisible. Problem: Google also figured this one out some time ago, and it’s the type of shenanigans that will get you penalized big-time.
3. Pack Your Site with Stolen/Plagiarized/Bulk-Purchased/”Spun” Content
Adding fresh, high-quality content to your site isn’t the easiest thing. Of course, that’s why many sites don’t even try. They purchase bulk packs of prewritten copy from vendors and glue it into their sites. Bam, plenty of content, simple as that! Unfortunately, when the Google spider crawls your site, it recognizes your content as being identical (or virtually so) to hundreds or thousands of other sites. The spider isn’t happy about that. You won’t be either.
4. Keyword Ignorance
Is keyword stuffing a terrible idea? Sure – and more on that in a moment. But there’s a massive difference between stuffing your site with irrelevant keywords and correctly using keywords that identify your site to web surfers genuinely interested in your products or services. An SEO professional can help you ensure the most appropriate and valuable keywords are carefully weaved into your site (especially in title and header tags) to optimize your search ranking.
5. Hide Behind the Cloak
If you don’t know what cloaking is, that’s a good thing, because you don’t want to do it. But here’s a quick summary: It’s a scheme designed to show the search engine spider different results than what a human visitor will see. Misleading the spider seems like a great way to improve search ranking, but if Google figures it out, it’s a great way to get your site blacklisted.
6. A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Yeah, it does, but that doesn’t make it the best choice for ensuring your website ranking. While images, scripts and other visual components are important complements to your site’s content, you need some quality word-based copy both for visitors and the search spiders. Too many visual elements also can be detrimental to your load time, which we covered above.
7. Take All Day to Load
Well, okay, not all day, but if your site even takes seven or eight seconds to load on most browsers (presuming a decent broadband or wi-fi network connection), it’s taking too long. Google factors load time into its ranking algorithm, so elements that bog down your site’s load speed are costing you ranking. A professional SEO consultant can help you fix this problem.
8. Ignore the Panda and Penguin Algorithm Revisions
As noted earlier in this newsletter, Google’s alterations to its algorithm have caused enormous changes in page rankings for business both major and minor. Understanding Google’s expectations in making those changes is imperative to ensuring a good ranking.
9. Keyword Stuffing
See, we promised we’d get back to this one. Think of keyword stuffing like a clove of garlic in your marinara sauce: Without a little garlic, your sauce would be pretty bland. So you need a little in there. But if you put 20 cloves in there, it would be disgusting. Having the content on your site unnaturally packed with keywords completely turns off readers, but that’s not the worst part. The algorithms have picked up on this little game, and they can tell the difference between keywords appearing naturally and being artificially jammed into the copy.
10. The Door to Destruction
They’re called doorway pages, and like cloaking, if you’re not familiar with them — stick with that game plan. Here’s what you want to avoid: A doorway page, somewhat related to cloaking, is created to achieve a high page ranking without actually providing useful content to the visitor. The visitor is instead abruptly redirected to the “actual” site. It’s yet another great way to get blacklisted.