Time flies in the business world, and the search engine marketing industry changes more quickly than most. Something that used to be a sure-fire marketing trick can suddenly become worthless — it might even get your site kicked from the search rankings altogether. Or the search engines can suddenly start giving added weight to new elements… without telling anybody.
This month, let’s clear the air and debunk a few search ranking myths. To make sure you don’t get penalized by the search engines — or just plain IGNORED — watch out for these 5 deadly search engine marketing mistakes…
Search Rankings Killer 1: Keyword spamming or stuffing
If people are searching for your keywords, and you have more of them in more places on your website, then Google will rank your page higher, right?
That’s exactly how this search engine marketing strategy used to work ten years ago, until too many people overdid it, searchers started seeing irrelevant results at the top of the search rankings, and Google changed the way it ranked pages. These days, Google’s algorithm (the formula it uses to figure out where to rank pages on the search results) is much more complex than that, thanks to years of dealing with people trying to game the system.
Don’t bother with these outdated search engine marketing tricks:
- Typing your keywords over and over again in very small font at the top and bottom of your page — blocks of tiny text either in the copy or the header tags don’t improve your relevance
- Increasing your keyword density above about 10% — you end up with a page full of text that doesn’t make sense to anyone reading it
- Invisible text or keywords in white text on a white background — this search engine marketing oldie is so frowned-upon that it can get you delisted from Google altogether
The only foolproof search engine marketing strategy is still to find out what kind of quality, relevant information your customers are searching for, and then give it to them.
Search Rankings Killer 2: Using irrelevant keywords to attract more traffic
So, you found some great keywords with low competition and great traffic numbers… but not quite on target with your website?
Just because Paris Hilton was the most searched-for term in the country (according to Google’s 2007 stats), that doesn’t mean that an article about her on your website will increase your traffic and sales.
I know it’s tempting to get high-traffic keywords on your page just for the increased traffic, but you need to either junk them or start another website. What happens is that people may come to your page or website in search of a keyword phrase and find that your site has nothing to do with it. So they leave!
Effective search engine marketing is all about getting qualified traffic. All the traffic in the world won’t help you if it’s off target. Although you may get a few more visitors, it will definitely lower your conversion rate.
Search Rankings Killer 3: Useless content
I can’t tell you how many low-quality articles and blog posts I see every day that are just thinly disguised search engine marketing tactics designed to get better search rankings.
It can take a potential customer 6-8 visits to your website and exposures to your content before they feel comfortable enough to make a purchase from you. If the only content you’ve posted is just a few keywords repeated without any real substance, why would anyone bother coming back to read more?
This search engine marketing tactic can harm your reputation and your credibility. Once those are gone, it’s almost impossible to get them back.
Search Rankings Killer 4: Doorway pages
Doorway pages are generated with the sole intent of marketing to the search engines. They typically have very little text but a very high keyword density. For example, if the page only has four words on it and two of them are “sailboat,” that gives the page a keyword density of 50%! But if you’re searching for the term “sailboat” you’ll have to click through to the “real” page if you want to see some actual content.
This search engine marketing trick is really frowned upon by the search engines because they clog up the index with junk. So before you put a doorway page up, remember to ask yourself if it’s actually providing useful information to your potential customers.
If so great, if not, DON’T.
Search Rankings Killer 5: Bait and switch — “magic” pages, redirects, and cloaking
Search engines want to make sure that once they’ve ranked a page, the visitors they send there see the same thing they did. However, this isn’t always the case.
Some site builders build two versions of their sites. The one for the spiders is full of the kind of stuff the search engines like. The one that regular visitors see is full of the flashy, off-topic effects that look cool, but it isn’t the relevant, content-rich site it’s advertised as. The search engines are pretty good at delisting these offending sites.
Using spammy redirects on your site is also a search engine marketing no-no. These redirects send you from a page you think you’re going to (one that’s been marketed for the search engines) to another one altogether. This deceptive search engine marketing method has been overused, and the search engines no longer fall for it. 301 redirects are the only kind of redirect you should ever use.