Wordpress & Web Development

10 Common SEO Mistakes that can Destroy Your Website [Part I]

Ryan Dube 19-12-2009

explodeFor many reasons, the last decade has been both very difficult to me and also very kind to me in a variety of conflicting ways. I’ve had personal tragedies in my life that have brought me to my knees, while at the same time (and in some cases because of those tragedies) I’ve stumbled upon one opportunity after another. One of those opportunities was entering the Search Engine Optimization industry almost half a decade ago.


I initially stumbled upon the industry while I was struggling to win contract bids at freelance project bidding sites in order to earn extra income for my family. I took on a very underpaid role with the owner of a small interior design business who wanted to use a blog attached to his business website in order to draw in potential customers. He wanted what just about every blog owner out there today wants – highly optimized content that would draw in crowds from the search engines.

The SEO Learning Process

Here’s the first thing that I learned the moment I jumped into the SEO pool – the industry is full of sharks and “gurus.”  Often, I would find advice from someone who seemed to know what they were talking about, but it turned out the advice was 1990’s-era SEO, filled with common SEO mistakes and no longer an effective technique in today’s Web 2.0 world. And the sharks, – there are some SEO experts so fed up with the bad advice and the SEO scam artists that there are now entire blogs devoted to exposing bad SEO and revealing those common SEO mistakes – such as the aptly-named bad-seo.com.


I pity the folks that make the hit list of a blog like that! With that said, blogs like this serve an important purpose – they educate businesses and blog owners about the serious dangers of hiring an SEO “expert” who either (a) doesn’t really know what they’re doing, and/or (b) makes use of “black hat SEO” techniques that can gather significant immediate traffic, but will ultimately destroy your long term ranking with Google.


The Top Ten Most Common SEO Mistakes To Avoid

In the process studying SEO techniques over the years, I learned that many of the older techniques and myths from the 1990’s are not only ineffective anymore, but in some cases they can seriously hurt your website or blog search engine ranking.  So I would like to share a few of those SEO mistakes and help you avoid driving your blog or website straight off of the information superhighway and into the ditch.

SEO Mistake #1: Packing Meta-Tags Full Of Keywords Will NOT Optimize Your Page

During the 90’s, the extent of “SEO optimizing” for many webmasters was simply to insert relevant keyword phrases into the meta-tags for a page. Here’s an example of a site that’s heavily focused on the meta-keywords:

common seo mistakes

There’s nothing necessarily wrong with adding keywords into this field that represents valid information on the page itself, but placing a long list of similar phrases with duplicate words (reaching 10 or 12 phrases) is a major SEO faux pas.


And as of this year, September 2009 to be exact, due to many years of webmasters constantly using meta-keywords to spam keywords, Google no longer even looks at the meta-keywords in order to rank your website.  This doesn’t mean the meta-keywords are not useful for aligning the page with particular valuable search phrases – but it certainly is nowhere near as valuable as it used to be, and overusing it can put your site at risk for a lower ranking.

SEO Mistake #2 & #3: Not Using The Keywords In Your Title & Permalinks

When you visit MakeUseOf, you’ll notice that not only are the titles descriptive and relevant to what the article is actually about, but the URL link (otherwise known as the permalink) is as well. Every SEO guru worth his salt knows that the two most effective areas of a webpage that you can get the most bang for your efforts is the title and permalink.


They don’t always necessarily have to the be same, but they do need to focus on the a primary keyword phrase that you’re trying to target with your article. If you don’t target that phrase in your title and permalink, you’re wasting your time and you’ll only reach a small fraction of your intended online audience. In WordPress, you can set up your permalink to be descriptive like this.



As you can see, I’ve set up my blog TopSecretWriters to use the month/name and post title.  Never set it up to use some nonsense numbering system.

SEO Mistake #4 & #5: Using Javascript Or Using Only Flash/AJAX

I would never suggest that a web designer shouldn’t make use of the latest and greatest website scripting languages that offer a more interactive online experience, but to use scripting to serve up all or a majority of your website content is SEO suicide. Take the website of fashion entrepreneur Marc Ecko for example.



The site is completely written in Flash. It is actually touted by most web design experts as one of the best-designed Flash websites on the net. Flash and AJAX websites are aesthetically superior to most traditional websites, however they struggle when it comes to search engine ranking because there’s virtually nothing for search engines to crawl. The same goes for websites that utilize Javascript to generate web pages on-the-fly depending on user interaction. Search engine crawlers cannot touch those script-generated pages at all.

The creator of Marc’s website tried to make up for this by listing about half a page of keywords in the Meta-Keyword tag – but how much will this help now that Google no longer looks at meta-keywords to rank websites? These sort of sites are excellent, but there should always be hand-coded primary HTML content that you can optimize even though there’s Flash on the page.

Build Your SEO Optimized Site From The Ground Up

The fact is that SEO optimizing should begin from the moment you lay down the first stone of your website’s foundation. That’s not to say that an existing site can’t be “fixed,” but you’ll see far more success if you get your website off on the right foot from day one. The tips above focus on how your website is built, and the elements that identify each web page to the world. In part two, I’ll discuss the actual content of your page and how you can optimize your site without ruining the quality of your content.

Do you have any SEO tips of your own? Did you make any mistakes that you’ve learned from? Share your experiences in the comments section below.

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  1. James traffic
    February 5, 2010 at 9:16 pm

    I love the point you made with the Java and not getting seen. great Job

  2. MessageForce
    January 30, 2010 at 3:23 am

    No, it’s definitely possible. Several of our clients have achieved first place results in Google. The point is that there’s no guarantees. SEO is not a black and white process with repeatable results.

  3. seooptim
    January 29, 2010 at 4:35 am

    excellent tips contains blog for seo....

    thanks so much for sharing these great tips and post.

  4. SEO Sydney
    January 28, 2010 at 4:59 am

    Hey dude, if you don’t aim that phrase in your label and permalink, you’re killing your time and you’ll merely reach a small portion of your planned online audience.

  5. Melanie
    January 19, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Hi Thanks for the article and all the posts. I have been SEO for a few years and have trialed all of Ryans points (some by pure accident0then realised I was on to something)and have had great results doing so.
    I have two questions

    1) Could I have more info on the unique website name(domain name) Don't most search engine users type in fairly generic searches such as "mecahnics Brisbane" If I invented a new term (unless something that was worldwide like twitter) the average Joe search engine user would not know to search for that?????? sorry If I have missed somethin here

    2)In my city (brisbane Australia) we seem to be rife with "experts" One in particular claiming they have secret Google Knowledge" only available to five companies in the world..... Has anyone else heard of such claims and do you think there is any legitimate base for them?

    Sounds a bit knights templar ... secret society of those who have teh deep google knowledge/magic..... hoods, rituals
    sorry I got carried away with the metaphor....???????

    • billp
      January 19, 2010 at 11:25 pm

      " 2)In my city (brisbane Australia) we seem to be rife with “experts” One in particular claiming they have secret Google Knowledge” "
      The whole world is crawling with SEO "Experts" whose goal is to separate us from our money. Sometimes I get several calls a day from SEO companies.
      The real secret seems to be to follow the recommendations of articles such as Ryan's. I have slowly been applying these principles to my 3 websites and now with some searches come up on page one, sometimes first listing, on google. And I am not any kind of expert. Haven't spent a cent, no submissions, no link farms. Just following what others have found to work. So thanks to Ryan and the rest of y'all who share here.

      • Ryan Dube
        January 20, 2010 at 10:55 pm

        Hey Billp,

        There are a lot of those self-proclaimed "Google Insider Experts" out there. 99% of them are scam artists, and the 1% who aren't are working for a company as an SEO expert. :)

        Thanks for your positive feedback - it's very much appreciated!

  6. flamencoman
    January 12, 2010 at 4:06 am

    Great text Ryan, great posts people!

    I know that topic is SEO, but not using JS/AJAX leads to "bad user experience" result.

    It is important that your site is "at least" on the first page among search results, and you will get a 'click++' but refreshing the whole page is obsolete, 'ugly for an eye' -> bad user experience (I do agree what is said about flash sites though!). I would say that there is a lot of benefits with AJAX and real SEO experts should make AJAX site ranked well.

    There will be always trade-offs but I really must oppose to comments like '... AJAX should be BURNT ALIVE' (I don't take it personally btw :-))

  7. Roman
    January 7, 2010 at 10:40 am

    Great tipps. But what about not enough content in the posts? Isn't much content the main aspect for good rankings?
    Also agree with the linkbuilding within your website. Many wordpress tags generate much traffic over google.

  8. qson
    January 3, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Oh, is that a fact? I've been wondering a bit about it ever since aunt freda's neighbour told us about the library thing. Anyway, nicole, don't forget to the broken pane to andy on the way to pick up the charcoal.

  9. Warren Miller
    December 31, 2009 at 4:16 pm

    Great points, all. And it appears that we've made a few of these mistakes ourselves...especially using mostly flash on some of our pages. Thanks for posting!

  10. いつもエイジャックスが大嫌いです
    December 29, 2009 at 9:44 am

    "Often, I would find advice from someone who seemed to know what they were talking about, but it turned out the advice was 1990’s-era SEO, filled with common SEO mistakes and no longer an effective technique in today’s Web 2.0 world."

    It has some info, but it's too big. This can be said for the whole article.

    "These sort of sites are excellent, but there should always be hand-coded primary HTML content that you can optimize even though there’s Flash on the page."???

    Excellent? Any site entirely in Flash or AJAX should be BURNT ALIVE, assuming they were alive. Besides the fact that it's slow and jerky on my computer, - which is only 4 years old - it makes the browser's cache huge and thus causes the entire browser to be slow even after I exit the site. (AJAX and Javascript = bane of my life. Don't take it personally if they're your lovers or something.)

  11. seo india
    December 21, 2009 at 9:00 pm

    i am not agree with point 2 because, now a day to get ranking, its must to do.

    • Ryan Dube
      December 21, 2009 at 9:07 pm

      Thanks - please see the comment above. Also, if you read the paragraph carefully under the section you're referring to, you'll see that your comment actually agrees with the advice offered in the article.

  12. wazz
    December 21, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    should #2 and #3 read: *Not* Using The Keywords In Your Title & Permalinks ?

    • Ryan Dube
      December 21, 2009 at 9:05 pm

      Hi Wazz - yes it should. Thanks, I've updated it and it makes the point of that section much more clear. Thank you.

  13. Oasis Cruise
    December 21, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    Although keywords may not be used by all search engines, our site's internal search engine uses the keywords for search.

  14. scott
    December 21, 2009 at 3:38 pm


  15. scott
    December 21, 2009 at 12:34 pm

    another mistake would be to say you have 10 tips when you only have 5. or am i missing something..

    • Brian
      December 21, 2009 at 1:34 pm


      I think you're missing the part where it says "PART 1" in the title......and the part at the end where it says "In part two, I’ll discuss...".

      So basically you needed to read the beginning or the end to catch it.

  16. Brian
    December 21, 2009 at 6:45 am

    Excellent tips there Ryan, I'm definitely going to have a a look at that bad-seo.com site. From what I can tell there seem to be a lot more bad SEO "experts" than there are good ones.

    Oh and if you're wondering if you should use flash intro on your website, I have the answer for you.


    • Ryan Dube
      December 21, 2009 at 9:11 pm

      Hey Brian, thanks! The field is crazy with self-proclaimed experts. Of course, it's not much unlike the computer field in general...everyone's an expert. lol

      By the way, I checked out your blog - it's a lot of fun, you've got some awesome content. Keep up the great work.

  17. Noel Wiggins
    December 21, 2009 at 6:26 am

    I agree with the permalinks, this is one of the if note the most critical of SEO techniques, This and the "fist sentence" o the page, which is different on how your layout was designed.

    I also agree with the flash tips. But I wouldn't get so frustrated with websites that have flash only website, they are out there with a different goal in mind, they are "trend setters" its almost appropriate for them to be difficult to find.

    So unless you are a trend setting pompous company that doesn't care about SEO then get yourself a flash only website, but for the rest of us, at least have another site that is geared towards SEO marketing...


    Thanks and Regards

    Noel for Nopun.com
    a graphic design studio

  18. AK
    December 21, 2009 at 3:52 am

    Great Post, looking forward to 2nd part.

  19. Search Marketing Expert Maria
    December 21, 2009 at 1:14 am

    I absolutely agree with these tips. It's a waste of time to improperly build and market your site. You def need to build your site from the ground up using proper seo techniques and do it right the first time. Great post and great tips!

  20. Utah SEO
    December 20, 2009 at 10:44 pm

    I agree we must not do that SEO mistakes cause it can lead to destruction of the site.

  21. viveks
    December 20, 2009 at 10:26 pm

    how to optimize for bing

  22. Bill Allen
    December 20, 2009 at 10:25 pm

    And if you REALLY want to get fancy, try this out. Not for the layman developer:


  23. andy
    December 20, 2009 at 9:39 pm

    Ahem, excuse me, but...


    Sorry to make your post obsolete, but don't blame me, blame Google.

    • Ryan Dube
      December 20, 2009 at 9:50 pm

      Thanks Andy,

      Yes, as of 2008 they improved Flash indexing but it's nowhere near as easy to increase the rank of Flash site as it is a non-Flash site because of the limitations of Google's ability to capture textual data from Flash. And in the case where Flash designers primarily use images? Forget about it.

      From Google Webmaster Central:
      "At present, we are only discovering and indexing textual content in Flash files. If your Flash files only include images, we will not recognize or index any text that may appear in those images. Similarly, we do not generate any anchor text for Flash buttons which target some URL, but which have no associated text."

      It'll take a bit more effort than that to make my post "obsolete."

      But thanks for your comment.

  24. bronofox
    December 20, 2009 at 7:12 pm

    i think Google and yahoo he update the mistake and also develop a spamming.

    • billp
      December 27, 2009 at 1:45 pm

      "i think Google and yahoo he update the mistake and also develop a spamming."

      Does this sentence make sense to anyone?? If so please explain!

    December 20, 2009 at 6:52 pm

    Thanks for making this blog, I really love it! It is so informative and taking precautions is much important in this job. Your article helps us a lot how to deal such mistakes.

  26. Jaspher
    December 20, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    its not full for SEO term,but its okey for any reader and it can help also for starting an SEO worker!..

  27. Bill Allen
    December 20, 2009 at 2:53 pm

    Some of your comments about flash are a little dated. With swfaddress and other developments within the latest versions you can actually make reasonably searchable content and separate addresses within a flash site. Albeit not as great a full on text based site.

    However, all of this pales in significance to inbound linking. Make some great content that gathers attention (be it a blog, video or game) and the searches take care of themselves. So, first rule is probably, have something worthy to say, show or sell and the eyes will come. Consider your content well before you SEO.

    Also, not all sites or businesses live or die by SEO, or they are so small within a category filled with SEO giants that they'll need to do something attention getting to rise through piles of sites that are doing the same exact thing and have been doing it for longer.

    btw - really enjoy this site.

    • Ryan Dube
      December 20, 2009 at 4:05 pm

      Hi Bill - thanks for your great comment.

      I agree with you on all points but one. A small website *can* compete with the giants if they are more capable of quickly identifying and responding to niche search areas that the SEO giants may not capture. It really comes down to how good you are at identifying and targeting those niche topics. In time, those small sites *will* rise to the level and surpass those other sites.

      New website owners should never feel as though catching up to and surpassing the big guys is impossible - it's not, and powerful/effective SEO is the secret to doing so.

      • Bill Allen
        December 20, 2009 at 5:45 pm

        Well, that goes back to the point of having content and a point of view that is worth passing around.If you prove yourself distinctive AND necessary within a marketplace then you'll certainly be better off.

        Someone's comment up above about having a unique name is actually a pretty good one. But you have to quickly be able to make that name MEAN what it is you do, good example: Expedia.

        And finally, latest hint that I only recently discovered. Search engines tend to give more weight to h1 tags higher than unique class tags. So instead of writing a unique class for a page topic in your template, redefine the h1, h2 tags etc. in your CSS.

        • Ryan Dube
          December 20, 2009 at 5:53 pm

          All excellent points! Please stay tuned for the upcoming Part II, I'll be very interested in your feedback on the last 5 "SEO Mistakes" (and everyone elses input as well) - thanks again!

  28. Ed Fry
    December 20, 2009 at 7:50 am

    NB: Both Google and Yahoo have publicly disclosed they now ignore the meta keyword tag due to abusive spamming.

    • Ryan Dube
      December 20, 2009 at 7:55 am

      This is excellent news for those people who have avoided spamming all of these years - now, as the spammers quickly sink in rank, the "white hat" SEO guys that use good keyword distribution methods, will see a drastic increase in their rank (and traffic).

      Score 1 for white hat SEO!

  29. shubham
    December 20, 2009 at 7:01 am

    "The fact is that SEO optimizing should begin from the moment you lay down the first stone of your website’s foundation" I agree with this . what i suggest is that we need to be unique ! start by making your website name unique!a good tip for this is to avoid using any proper english word ! it may sound silly but is the key to seo optimization.

  30. jan alvin
    December 20, 2009 at 6:35 am

    hey, I think Google can now read through ajax. But not just any ajax, there are ways to optimize ajax to be seo friendly.

  31. Matthew
    December 20, 2009 at 5:54 am

    Linking to keyword anchor text within the content also helps. As does utilizing the 'alt' tags for images.

  32. TheDebtHawk.com
    December 20, 2009 at 5:39 am

    The most important advice is to carefully craft your post titles. This is the absolute most important onpage SEO factor.

  33. Igor Petrushenko
    December 20, 2009 at 3:31 am

    Also, please, remember that putting your site to link directories is not effective.
    It's much better to put it into pages with bigger page rank and with a less number of links on it.

    If president in his new year speech will say your name - he will link to you and you probably very popular, but if he will say another 1000 of guys you are not so popular.

    Try to avoid spaming!

    Also the great way to index your pages is to use social bookmarking.

    CEO at mytaskhelper.com

  34. Sytor
    December 20, 2009 at 2:44 am

    The other tip I have is to develop the quantity and quality of backlinks to your site.


  35. Node Tech Blog
    December 19, 2009 at 5:39 pm

    Another mistake would be listing your site in a spam directory for a link back to your site, because they rank low with google. Quality link building and original content is best for SEO purposes these days.

    • Aibek
      December 20, 2009 at 12:45 am

      i second the 'quality link building and original content'

    • Ryan Dube
      December 20, 2009 at 7:10 am

      That's a great one - folks often try to find any site out there that covers there niche in order to get a linkback, not even considering the rank of the site. Great tip!

  36. Codrut @ Blog Post Ideas
    December 19, 2009 at 12:06 pm

    I heard Google is not taking into consideration Meta-Tags anymore, is this true?

    • Anupum
      December 19, 2009 at 1:29 pm

      Yes its true, but yahoo and others do. So it is always better to use meta also.

    • Aibek
      December 20, 2009 at 12:44 am

      i read the same thing on several sites as well

      • Shiju Alex
        December 20, 2009 at 11:12 pm

        @Codrut @Anupum & @ Aibek

        Its just that they ignore Meta Keywords tag. They do consider the Meta Description tag.

        Google mostly shows the first 145-150 characters given in Meta Description as the description in search results - of course we can see exceptions.

        It is better to give good meta data.
        [There are also other meta tags, inlcuding some which affect SEO - be sure to learn details, before using each.]