One of the biggest strategic mistakes you can make when it comes to your site is to assume that keyword rankings are pretty much what SEO strategies entail. Albeit important, there is so much more to a solid SEO strategy than keyword rankings.

For your website to be able to endure Google’s ever-changing algorithm, avoid search engine penalties, and become a trustworthy quality source amid the content saturated web, here are nine huge mistakes you need to avoid.

1) Not Registering Your Site With Bing

Registering your site on the world’s biggest search engine, Google, is definitely a no brainer. But if you think you can ignore Bing and Yahoo, you better think again. Last year, while Google raked in over 67% of search engine market shares in the US, Yahoo and Bing came in a combined total just shy of 29% according to Statistic Brain.

If you aren’t sure where to start, run through the set-up process here. And just in case you haven’t set up Google Webmaster Tools either, you can get started at this link here:

2) Linking to Suspicious and Low Quality Sites

Google’s search algorithm factors in trust, authority, and expertise. Just how much exactly, is not an easy determination. But reading through Google’s published guidelines on Penguin, Panda and website best practices, you’ll find those three terms repeated many times.

We know that the websites whose links are pointing at your domain can affect your search engine rankings. But did you know the websites whom your domain points to can also affect your rankings? Be careful who you link to, and more importantly, who you pass SEO credited links to from your blog articles and web domain.

3) No Internal Linking

Internal linking basically means a page on a domain is linked to another page on the same domain. These links help users navigate your website and can contribute to your ranking power. Internal linking also helps establish the architecture of your site by establishing hierarchy of content.

Internal linking helps make your content visible to search engines and become easily crawlable. Failing to internally link the pages within your site can make it harder and in some cases, even impossible for search engine crawlers to index your pages accordingly.

Are the search engines not indexing all of the pages of your website? It could be because there are no links on your own website pointing to those pages! Inform the search engines of the most important pages of your website by internally linking to them frequently.

4) Not Canonicalizing

Canonicalization refers to the simplification of multiple URLs pointing to the same page. Take for instance your homepage, your site has a problem if a user can get to your homepage by using all of the following URL variations without them redirecting to one:

Allowing a page to be accessed using multiple URLs sends search engines a misleading signal that each of these URLs are separate pages. To avoid this confusion, you must specify which URL you prefer by either redirecting the other URLs to your preferred URL, or adding the rel=”canonical” tag to it.

5) Too Many 404s

If your site is plagued by 404 errors, Google will think your site has a quality issue. Pages you no longer use or that no longer exist on your site but still have active URLs pointing to them must be redirected to relevant pages or newer versions of the pages in question.

You need not comb your site meticulously to find these pages if you’re using Google Webmaster Tools. All you have to do is look for crawl errors within your Webmaster Tools and find pages under the “Not Found” section.

6) Slow Page Loading Speed

Faster loading sites are ranked higher by search engines. As a result, they attract more traffic and lead to more page views. For websites running ads, faster loading times will generate more ad clicks. If your website is slow and you’d like to know what you can do to speed it up, you can use the Google PageSpeed Insights Service to analyze your site.

Page load times are especially important on mobile. There are different ranking signals on mobile vs desktop (page load time, location of the searcher, type of query, device type, and mobile user experience of the site). Items that can slow down a page load time on mobile include: URL redirects, multimedia, overlays and popups. Responsive design allows for the website to drop out certain pieces of content for mobile devices. Use this accordingly, and keep your mobile page load time to under a second.

7) Missing “alt” Tags and Bad File Names

Search engines do not have the ability to “see” images, therefore they cannot tell or differentiate what the images on your site contains. Failing to label these images accordingly is an SEO opportunity lost. Be sure to replace generic image names (image-1.jpg, image-2.jpg, and so on) with meaningful and relevant file names and alt text tags. Doing so allows search engines to get more information about your site.

In addition, your images will appear on relevant search results. When naming an image file for your site, consider how you want an end user to save the file on their computer to find it again later. And when creating an alt image tag, think about explaining the image to a blind person, if a target keyword fits, all the better.

8) Not Taking Advantage of Google Authorship

Google wants to connect individual thought leaders to their online social identities and help filter the noise of all the content published daily. One attempt at filtering the best from the worst is through what Google calls, “Google Authorship”. Recently, Google eliminated photos and circle counts from Google Authorship in the SERP’s. Many SEO’s believe this is because it was so effective, it was taking away clicks from ads.

The good news is, the basic fundamental principle of Google Authorship is still alive and well. Google Authorship takes your personal Google+ profile and links it to the publications for which you write. Be it your own blog, company blog, or guest blog articles on an industry authoritative site such as HubSpot.

9) Not Taking Advantage of Local Search Consistency

If you want a quick win for SEO, take advantage of helping your business’ NAP (name, address, phone number) results across the internet. Chances are, your business has its name, address, and phone number listed in several formats. Let’s look at how many different ways we can write “East Main Street”:

  • East Main Street
  • East Main St
  • East Main St.
  • E Main Street
  • E Main St
  • E Main St.
  • E. Main Street
  • E. Main St
  • E. Main St.

Unfortunately, search engines could consider all of those to be different addresses for your business which hurts your SEO if the power isn’t all pointing to one location, but many. Take an assessment yourself here:

The Bottom Line

Don’t wait until it’s too late. Avoiding these mistakes will ensure that your website is reaching its full SEO potential. It will also save you from grave Google penalties that will definitely wreak havoc on your site traffic.

If you discover that you are already being penalized by the wrath of Google or other search engines, don’t despair, it’s not the end for your site. Finding out what caused these penalties, reversing them, and abiding by up to date search engine rules will ultimately resolve the issues and get your site’s mojo back on track.

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Originally published Jul 31, 2014 10:00:00 AM, updated January 18 2023