Stop Making the 6 Biggest SEO Mistakes

January is a time to make resolutions, and then promptly fail to follow them. That said, it's also a time to for new beginnings, a chance to correct the mistakes of the past.

Within search engine optimization (SEO) there are plenty of mistakes that people make that they need to stop making. So if you do any of the following, it's time to stop, especially if you want a new beginning for your SEO in 2011.

1. Home is Not Where the Traffic is

Sure, it's your home page, but that doesn't mean that you want it to rank for the word "home." Unless you're a real estate company or a homebuilder, it makes no sense to call your home page "Home" -- and even then you'd want to expand that out with other terms that cover your business.

Your home page should be targeted to the primary terms that you're trying to rank for. For example, if you're a plumber, your home page title should target your plumbing services in your locality.

2. Moving the Staging Robots.txt to the Production Site

This issue happens more often than it should. If done correctly, your staging server's robots.txt should block all spiders from crawling the site.

However, when the code is pushed live the robots.txt shouldn't move with it. I've seen large sites experience a sudden dip in traffic after release, all due to the spiders doing exactly what they're being told to do: not to index the production site -- you know, the place where you used to make money...

The reverse of this is also an issue: Not blocking the spiders from the staging server. Once a link to a staging server appears in the wild, all bets are off. The staging server will then be indexed, you'll have duplicate content issues, and the world can see what you're up to.

Make sure to block spiders from indexing the staging server, and let them in where you want them to be on the production site. The easiest way to do this is to make sure that it's added in as a step in your QA checklist.

3. Duplicate Meta Tags

Your pages aren't all the same, the content is different (at least it had better be), different topics are broached, different products/services sold. So why have a generic description tag on each page?

Yes, you may be "Albany's best plumbing supplier, selling pipes, tools and other plumbing equipment," but that's not what every page is about. Tailor your meta tags to the content of each page, target the right keywords for each page. Your list of pipes for sale should have meta tags reflecting that, while the page for each tool should talk about that tool.

4. Click Here

"Click Here" may seem like a good call to action, to tell users to click through on a link, but it's not great for the search engines. It doesn't tell them what the page is about.

If you absolutely, positively, utterly must have text that says "Click here to view pricing for our Amy Pond action figure" make the "Amy Pond action figure" text be the anchor text in the hyperlink. This tells the search engines that the page you're linking to is about the "Amy Pond action figure," and will help your page to be found by Dr. Who fans of all ages.

5. Set it and Forget it

SEO is not a once and done process, even though some people believe it is. Search algorithms change on an almost daily basis. Your competition isn't necessarily sitting back sipping iced tea waiting for the traffic to roll in.

Even keywords change as new phrases enter the lexicon and may begin to outpace the ones you were initially targeting. And if your corporate strategy changes, don't you think the optimization efforts on your site may need to change?

Someone needs to be in charge of monitoring your site. That includes an analytics solution and other monitoring tools, such as Google Webmaster Tools.

It's amazing how many sites haven't implemented an analytics solution or at least don't have one implemented correctly. Does your analytics solution track your entire sales funnel? Do you know where in the sales process you lose the majority of your prospects?

With those tools at hand, problems -- and potential opportunities -- on your site can be identified.

6. Impatience

"I want it all, and I want it now," was fine as a Queen lyric, but it doesn't work for SEO. Getting a site to the top of the SERPs takes time, and depending on the competition for the keyword(s), may never be possible for your page.

It may take time to get the new pages crawled, to get the right, good quality links into the pages, and for them to move up the rankings. All the players involved in the SEO process must understand this. So set the expectations early and frequently with clear communication.

Join us for SES London 2011, the Leading Search & Social Marketing Event, taking place February 21-25! The conference offers sessions on topics including search engine optimization (SEO), keyword analysis, link building, local, mobile, video, analytics, social media, and more. Register now.

About the author

Simon Heseltine is the Director in charge of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) at AOL Inc. In this role Simon and his team are responsible for organic search and training across all AOL and Huffington Post Media Group properties. He has also visited the UK office on several occasions to consult and train the AOL-UK teams on SEO best practices.

In his previous position as Director of Search at a Washington, D.C., based agency, Simon was responsible for developing and implementing organic search and social media strategies for companies across several industries. He also developed and delivered training programs for clients, including a large U.S. media company, to enable them to best take advantage of the opportunities available to their companies through both organic search and social media.

Simon is a frequent speaker at conferences in the U.S. and UK on topics ranging from SEO to social search to reputation management. He also teaches SEO at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., as part of their Digital Media Management program.

Simon has a BA (Hons) from the University of Humberside, and a Masters in IT from Virginia Tech.