Common SEO mistakes - and how to avoid them

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Companies of all sizes often struggle with the most fundamental search-engine optimization tactics. Is yours one of them?

Here's a list of common SEO mistakes and specific steps to make sure you avoid them:

Poor crawlability

Search engines can't rank a page they can't crawl.

Fix it - Eliminate complex JavaScript and DHTML navigation. Put session IDs in a cookie rather than your page URLs. Don't use Flash for important links and content. Use a spider simulator such as Delorie to see your site as a crawler does. Learn about robots.txt formatting at Robotstxt.org.

Ignoring keyword research

Poor keyword research will derail nearly everything else you do to optimize your site.

Fix it - Use keyword research tools such as KeywordDiscovery to learn the actual terms searchers use.

Poor page titles

The page title or "title tag" is the most important on-page SEO factor.

Fix it - Every page title should be unique. The primary keyword should be at the beginning; put your company name at the end.

Poor content

A page can't rank for "green widgets" if the search engine can't figure out the page is about green widgets.

Fix it - Develop quality content. Consider user manuals, newsletters, how-to articles, FAQs or a blog. Write naturally for humans, but use your primary keywords when appropriate.

Unnatural link building

Quality is more important than quantity with link building. Many Web masters try unusual tactics to increase link quantity, including reciprocal link trades, three-way trades and "link farms."

Fix it - Acquire quality links from relevant sites. Avoid schemes that get links from poor-quality, unrelated sites. Reciprocal links with relevant sites are generally fine as long as these links don't make up a majority of your site's inbound links.

Matt McGee is SEO manger for Marchex Inc., Seattle, WA. Reach him at mmcgee@marchex.com.

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