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7 Search Engine Mistakes

... by Jimsun Lui

Many websites and webmasters understand that a major sources of website traffic comes from the search engines. Therefore, they are all keen on gaining top search engine placements through search engine optimization. Based on our several years of SEO experience, we point out some common mistakes and shed some lights to correct it.

1. Cannot Get Indexed by Search Engines: Really? A garment ERP software solution provider came to me and asked
      "I have established a new website for 1 year, and found a SEO company to submit my website. However, my website can be found in search engines only when I type my domain name in search query box. The SEO company told me my domain got banned. What can I do?"

Ah, I told them they have been fooled by that SEO company.

If you type your domain name in search box -- your website can be found, which means your website has not been banned. Interestingly, your SEO company's domain name is no longer found in Google. Their domain got banned only. To help them find out their real problems, I found the following in search engines:

With a closer look to their coding, I found that at the top of their webpage, they heavily use Javascript to present their heading, company name, visible content, and website menu. Actually, many search engines have difficulties in reading Javascript codes. Solution? Put those Javascript in external js files and leave the webpages with plain HTML codes.

Search engines usually have problems in crawling Javascript. Since, in this example, the whole site navigation menu is written in Javascript, they should build a sitemap using plain HTML so that search engines can read all of their pages.

One more tip: When you cannot get indexed by search engines, do not blindly believe someone who tells you that your website is banned. You should first look at your website structure and see if your coding is clumsy, making it difficult for search engines to "read" your code. The problem created by Javascript is not uncommon nowadays. Even a very big Asia Market Research Firm - Marketshare commits this error.

2. Link Building: In many forums, people are strongly opposed to link exchange, claiming that it hurts your search engine rankings and can even get you banned. I personally do not agree. Evidence shows that many top sites are doing link exchange and getting top rankings across all major search engines. In addition, link exchange has been a traditional way for traffic building between smaller websites. I do not see why search engines will block people to promote websites using this simple and long used method. Indeed, link exchange becomes a problem only when you manipulate link text with a pure purpose of tricking search engines, exchange links with link farms, or buy hundreds of domain names and cross-link with your site.
A solution to avoid link exchange hurting you includes:

Some webmasters know the importance of link exchange. However, they find that it consumes a lot of their time and eventually give up doing it. A solution is that you can consider using Link exchange Software such as LinkAutomate to manage your links. This kind of software saves you time in link checking and link page update.

3. Flash Intros: Web design companies try hard to persuade you to use a Flash introduction as your homepage. You think that "Wow! The flash animation is very appealing and it makes your site looks more attractive". However, do you know that it can hurt your website in search engine ranking? Let me explain.. Search engines analyze website based on text. Flash, unluckily, is not text. According to How to Design Website Guideline, search engines are not able to read content presented by Flash. They just treat Flash as an embedded object or graphics only. If you use a Flash Intro as your homepage, you will never get good rankings. In addition, many Flash intros do not offer additional and meaningful content to visitors. Ask your visitors, how many of them are really interested in seeing your Flash Intro before going straight to your website content? Ask yourself whether the Flash intro is really useful and does it offer usable information to your visitors?

Secondly, instead of a Flash homepage, you may want to consider making a Flash header as part of the content of your homepage.

4. Hidden Text and Meta Tags: Webmasters understand that keyword density is a way to improve search engine ranking, and some webmasters use a technique called "keyword stuffing". They will stuff keywords into their webpages repeatedly, e.g. "keyword 1, keyword 2, .... keyword 1, keyword 2...." Well, everyone should know it does not make sense to visitors. Therefore, those "clever" webmasters will make those text invisible. For example, make the text color identical to background color. What they haven't learned however is that this trick no longer works. Search engines are able to detect it, and penalize websites using this nonsense technique. If you've used this technique and do not want your site being penalized, remove them at once.

For webmasters, stuffing keywords in Meta Keyword Tags is also not a good idea. You can only repeat a keyword for 3 times at most. Nowadays, search engines place less emphasis or even no emphasis on Meta keyword tags. So, what is the point of risking yourself by stuffing keywords there?

5. Use of Dynamic Pages: Many websites use content managment system (CMS) to generate their webpages. While generation of dynamic pages is easier, search engines have difficulties spidering and understanding them. To solve the problem, you can consider using Mod Rewrite (for Apache server users) or utilize a CMS that can generate static HTML pages.

6. Be a Pagerank Monster: Many search engine marketers are too focused on their website's pagerank. Everyday, they monitor their pagerank -- link building based on pagerank only. In fact, pagerank is only one factor for Google to determine search engine ranking. It also cannot affect your rankings in other search engines like Yahoo and MSN. If you are too concerned about pagerank, you may ignore other important optimization criteria. Therefore, you should repeatedly remind yourself that pagerank is only one of the many factors and you shouldn't use it exclusively.

7. Too Believe in Sandbox: Some webmasters propose that a new website will be put into sandbox by Google so that you can get high rankings for highly competitive keywords. Even though their website cannot get any rankings after 1 year, they still believe that it is sandbox effect. Some even say Yahoo has a Sandbox, MSN has Sandbox, etc... From Google's patent information, there is no clue that such sandbox exists. From my experience, if your site is new and cannot rank high in highly competitive keywords, it is solely because other websites are more established in search engine world. For example, they have more inbound links, more content, etc. Therefore, webmasters should not focus on finding how to get out of Google's sandbox. Instead, you should put more effort in link building and content optimization. Eventually, you will see your website's rankings rise.

Jimsun Lui

Jimsun Lui is a principal of the Search Engine Optimization division of Agog Digital Marketing Strategy Limited. The company assists clients in both Chinese and English search engine optimization. The firm also offers Ecommerce Website Design Service.

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