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Three SEO mistakes you must avoid

Learn SEOThere are three main mistakes you can make with SEO. They are: publishing duplicate content, using automated link-building and over-doing it with the same keyword anchors. John Straw explains why there are no short cuts in SEO

Mistake 1. Duplicate content

Duplicate or very similar content does not rank well. Publishing content that is exactly the same or slightly different to other pages on your site is not a good idea if you want it to rank and get clicked.

When creating new website content you will need to think about how each page can be unique and relevant to the keyword you’re targeting, as well as useful and engaging for the user.

If you want to use blocks of content that repeat from page to page, such as calls to action, forms, plug-ins and so on, this is OK as long as the bulk of the page is unique and designed to be a good result for the keywords you’d like it to be found for.

Detecting duplicate content

  1. Google Webmaster Tools - The Google Webmaster Tool tells you when you have duplicate page titles and is a great place to start looking for duplicate content issues.
  2. Supplemental Index - Another sign that your pages may be unique enough is their absence from Google’s main index and presence in what Google calls the supplemental results or index. This is the index that Google puts the less important pages it finds in, and only uses in the main results when it’s scraping the barrel and has no better results.

    To get an idea of how many pages you have in the main vs supplemental index you can do the following. Inside the Google search box type: site:www.yourwebsiteurl.com

    This gives you the number of pages both in the main and supplemental index. Then type in the Google search box: site:www.yoursite.com – inallurl:www.yourwebsiteurl.com

    This gives you the number of pages in just the main index. Take your first total (number of pages in both main and supplemental) away from the second total (number of pages in the main index) and you have the answer.

    You can then calculate this number as a percentage and compare it with your competition as a measure of how authoritative they are and how good they are at publishing good unique content, and link building.

Fixing duplicate content issues

If Google Webmaster Tools says you have duplicate page titles you need to decide whether the pages are unique but have the same title, or if the title and the pages are duplicated.

Where you have unique website content with the same titles, the answer is simple, change the titles to something more relevant to the page and the keywords you’re targeting.

Where you have the same page title and content but on a different URL you’ll need to decide which page is the best page for this result and use either a 301 redirect to point the duplicated pages at the best one, or use something called a canonical tag to do a similar job.

Where you simply have very similar content on each page you’ll need to find ways of making this content more unique. The simplist way is to write each page to be unique and about the topic you’re trying to rank for. You can also:

  • Add User Generated Content (UGC) such as comments and reviews to the page
  • Add data-driven content from other parts of the site such as a feed of specific product categories, forum threads, or tagged / categorised blog posts
  • Add data feeds from other sites you contribute to, including Facebook pages and Twitter
  • Add content feeds from authoritative external sources of content

Mistake 2: Over optimisation of keyword anchors

You need to build links to rank, and you know that the anchor text of the link matters. Once you know this, it’s tempting to create lots of links in directories, article sites, PR submission sites etc. with the same primary keyword anchor.

If you do this you’re making it easy for Google’s link spam technology to devalue your efforts, which means you will be wasting your time and money.

A link profile is a map of the type and frequency of links for a particular market or industry. Every market’s definition of what makes a natural and trusted link profile is different. If every site in your industry has the same spam-like link profile, this may be seen by Google as normal. This means you may need to do a bit of the same to rank highly.

What makes this even more difficult is that many of the sites you’ll see ranking on page one will look like their primary strategy is to create links with primary keywords in the anchor.

This strategy may or may not be the reason why the site ranks highly. There are many other factors at play, and there are as many examples of sites that don’t have spam-like link profiles that rank at the top for very competitive terms.

What’s also important to mention is that these sites may be very sensitive to Google’s frequent algorithm changes as they become better at detecting these sites. It’s necessary for you to work smart and hard, to get the results you want.

Mistake 3: Automated link building

When reading about link building you are bound to come across adverts that promise you hundreds or thousands of links for a few pounds. It’s human nature to want to find better, cheaper and faster ways to get the results you seek. However be warned, as far as SEO goes, short cuts and get rich quick systems should never be used as a replacement for intelligence, patience and endeavour.

If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. To help you form your own decisions on what to watch out for, here’s a description of some of the automated ways of building links:

Mass directory submission: “Enter your details and we’ll submit your site to thousands of directories” and messages like these, need to be avoided. Even if the site promises to do it manually, this job is best done by you. You can then use variations in anchor text and descriptions of your business to make your links look natural.

Automated article submissions: Like directory submissions, article submissions can also be automated. There are even systems that promise to turn one article into a number of unique articles using something called “article spinning”. It is best to avoid these services.

Comment links: Making comments and getting a link is one way of getting links and needless to say, software has been created to spam sites with comments and build links. Comment spam is not a good method of building links.

Why link building is reassuringly difficult

Link building is one area where you can outperform your competitors and protect your business from changes in search engine algorithms. All it takes is for you to invest a little more time, endeavour and brainpower to win.

John Straw is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the founder and VP of Business Development at SEO specialist, Linkdex.

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