SEO BAD PRACTICES - WHAT TO AVOID WHEN OPTIMIZING
Before you outsource SEO:
i.e. companies that claim to offer SEO services but substitute SEM
Website and search engine positioning isn't voo-doo. SEO is not based on buying out keywords and companies that appear to make this topic unearthly complicated are not worth a minute of your time.
Some articles you read on website optimization can discourage you with the amount of work and time that SEO may require. It is for that reason that clients sometimes choose companies offering 'SEO services'.
Unfortunately, many of these companies (especially on the Polish market) don't know more about website SEO than the client. Such pseudo-specialists in SEO feed on the fact that website SEO is a relatively new phenomenon, of which there is a lot spoken but little written and explained.
For some time now, almost every interactive agency in Poland offers website SEO services, while only a handful of them have real experience in SEO. What's worse, some that are experienced in website SEO replace it with SEM when servicing their clients. Clients, on the other hand, in most instances don't understand differences between SEO and SEM and aren't aware what they are really paying for.
Since SEO and SEM bring about similar results, and since clients are primarily interested in effects, they ignore what service is being utilized and whether it is the same that they paid for.
If results are the same, then what's the problem? Well, the problem is that:
On the surface, the effects that both methods produce are quite similar, even proportional in rare cases, so the client doesn't notice any problems. Clients seek SEO services without knowing how they differ from SEM, while some interactive agencies aren't keen on explaining the difference. Then, those same agencies exploit this situation by "offering" the more expensive SEO services, while substituting in cheaper SEM. In the mean time, they deliberately confuse the terminology and merge differences between these services, so that clients don't notice any difference between one service and the other.
In effect, clients pay more but receive less. The moment that cooperation with such an agency ends, that client automatically looses all of those wonderful results, web sales drop and web traffic dwindles. If only that agency offered true SEO services, then the effects of their work (web sales, web traffic, etc.) would remain, even if it had left.
Remember: if you outsource SEO but receive SEM, then all results will disappear in a few days after the service company leaves.
If you're reading this text and are not sure of the difference between SEO services and SEM services, or how to uncover dishonest SEO specialists, then we recommend reading: Purpose of website positioning; differences between SEO and SEM.
Before we proceed, let us just explain that SEM isn't wrong. SEM is however completely different from SEO, requires different methods and is used to obtain different goals. What is more, it carries with it different, larger, long-term costs than SEO.
You outsourced SEO:
i.e. how to check whether an SEO service provider follows proper SEO practices
White Hat SEO are the proper methods of website positioning. If you are interested in White Hat SEO techniques then we invite you to read: how to position websites.
Black Hat SEO are banned website positioning practices which we'll quickly describe below.
What is Black Hat SEO?
You will recognize Black Hat SEO by the following 5 elements:
- pages without content other than tens or hundreds of keywords
- page with limited content stuffed with an excessive amount of keywords (eg. more than 30% of the content is keywords)
- pages that have a column full of content, but house another column/s stuffed with keywords to its side
- pages, where above or below the content, there's a list of keywords stuffed with font often being tiny or in the color of the background marking it invisible to the reader (you can see the keywords by highlighting all text)
- page that automatically redirects to another page upon entering it (cloaking pages)
Some of these techniques can prove to be temporarily effective. But, just as we pointed out above, once a search engine notices that these practices are in place, it will ban the site from all of its results. Risks outweigh any real benefits.
Not too bright SEM ideas:
i.e. how to annoy web users and discourage them from visiting your website
SEM (search engine marketing) are popular methods of advertising in search engines. But, just as everything that is popular, it soon becomes duplicated without end, repeated without foresight and eventually ignored by the public that grows tired of it. Regrettably, marketers tend to continue repeating the same methods, but with more force, trying to convince themselves that those methods are still effective.
Just as TV commercials have lost their sex-appeal through excessive redundancy and in spite of all the more pushy ways of getting attention, a similar fate awaits some of the SEM practices.
In our opinion, the stupidest and most successful method of discouraging users from entering your website is by using pop-up boxes.
Pop-ups (possibly the stupidest advertising method invented)
Pop-ups are those ingenious forms of advertising that present the marginal creativity of their designers. If you aren't familiar with pop-ups, wherever they're used you will find them appear suddenly on a page you just entered. They will fly around on the screen with a hidden 'x' button preventing you from canceling them.
An ideal ad, don't you think? Always in your face, you have to notice it, you can't even click it off - BRAVO!
Thankfully, pop-ups are almost fully obsolete in America, but for some reason they are still prevalent in Europe. It is completely dumbfounding to us why they are still employed in Poland. What's worse, here they take on a new, horrible form and receive new idiotic traits.
In Europe, and specifically in Poland, you will find pop-ups appear on commercial websites and news portals. As though having an irritating and useless pop-up wasn't enough to discourage every living soul from clicking on it, geniuses here came up with an idea that they thought would change all that. For reasons completely unknown, pop-ups here received sound.
And, was it subtle sound? Oh no, that would be too indiscreet. After all, why add sound that's subtle? Isn't it better to add sound and blast it? Of course... provided you're 3 years old and easily attracted by loud and sparkly things. It seems that on this local market, the belief is that if a pop-up doesn't work, then adding all that jazz to it will somehow miraculous get people clicking on it.
Not without a cause, has the CTR rate of pop-ups and banners decreased in USA to levels so insignificant (less than 0.8%), that most online ad budgets are assigned to textual advertising.
What can be worse than pop-ups with sound?
Banners with sound
Banners are those horizontal or vertical ads that appear in either the side columns of a page, or above or below its content. Just as we pointed out above, banners have become less and less effective at attracting clicks. We dare say that banners online have become that, which TV commercials are: waste.
Banners take up space on a page and are almost wholly ignored by readers. While the CTR of banners dropped to unseen levels, they are still stuffed into every free corner of a page with a hope that someone, by accident probably, will click on them.
But, while banners in of themselves are not harmful to us (and the fact that they're marginally effective is a problem of their owners), they become harmful when they obtain that same function as pop-ups: sound. The most offending banners are those that turn their sound on automatically once a page loads.
Let's consider for a second the effects of such a sound banner. Actually, let's not and simply restate what was written about pop-ups above; useless. At SEO Magma we're interested to know, when people responsible for banners creation will realize that regardless of volume levels, not a whole lot of people will click on them.
(Over)Bidding on keywords in Adwords
Another trap into which some advertising 'specialists' fall is overbidding on keywords in AdWords. This is a common SEM problem caused not purely by inexperience, but by overall ignorance and greed of some companies that run and manage SEM (AdWords) campaigns.
Companies buy up hundreds, thousands or tens of thousands of keywords and then bid maximum on each of them, effectively raising their costs across the board. Of course the competition that's always on your heels, automatically tries to overbid the new rate in an effort to regain the top spot. Result; keyword price continues to climb up. This repeats until cost per click hovers around tens of dollars.
In effect, everyone works to raise the keyword price well above the average, thereby increasing costs for themselves and others. Sheer genius.
The problem escalates due to ignorance of many companies and greed of others at reaching top position for a given keyterm. This is even less rational, when one considers that web users tend to ignore the relevancy (position) of sponsored ads. They look at them with reserve and give almost equal credence to all, without showing a defined pattern of clicking on the first, or top, positions in sponsored results.
It would serve all these bidding companies more purpose to rethink their bidding strategy and possibly focus on getting positions 2-4 that receive a comparable amount of clicks as the top position, but at a fraction of its cost.
Flash and music on websites
Just as you have probably noticed, we don't really like sound in online ads or websites. The reason is obvious; sound and music that you like may not be appreciated by your visitor. So, why discourage him to your site right off the bat?
Besides websites that deal with music, or some other related industries, there isn't the slightest reason to use music or sound on your website. Web users don't visit pages to listen to someone's favorite hits of the 80's.
However, a bigger problem in website SEO and SEM is the prevalent use of Flash on web pages. Companies often get seduced by web designers to create websites full of Flash. This is done because Flash pages are 'prettier', may have movement and be more interactive. Regrettably, pages developed in Flash aren't well indexed by search engines. As a result, they tend to obtain deplorable positions in search engines.
The problem lies in the limited abilities of search engines to properly 'read' the content of Flash pages. Even though Google has made some headway recently in their attempt to index Flash sites, sites that use this technology still obtain lower positions and aren't fully indexed.
Pages developed in Flash can be effective and can reach high search engine placements, provided that they have a properly optimized copy of that site coded in HTML. Unfortunately, many companies that have Flash sites stick only to that one version without building an HTML counterpart.
That is like owning a florist's shop with the most beautiful facade, in the best part of town, but hidden behind a tall wall of the local bus station lavatories where no passerby dares enter.
If you created a beautiful website, then don't make the above mistakes. Try to design it with SEO in mind, so that others will easily find it in search engines.
You positioned your website and are wondering what to do now? Find out how to improve its conversion by website testing.