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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Spider Guts - What Hurts Ranking

The next set of variables weighed by search engines are negatives. These will negatively effect the performance of a page on a search engine without exception. Avoiding these items is crucial to reaching and, more importantly, maintaining a high rank on a search engine.

  1. Broken Links - Internally or outgoing, search engines do not view pages with broken links as pages with fresh content, and are going to be scored as less relevant for their keywords.
  2. Spam - This refers to any attempt to trick a search engine, such as using irrelevant keywords to draw extra hits, placing invisible content on the page to boost keyword density, and using meta refreshes (often in combination with irrelevant keywords) to draw a user in for an irrelevant search and then direct them to the page you want them to see. These techniques can result in a ban from search engines if they catch them.
  3. Excessive Search Engine Submittal - Over submitting a site to a search engine will likely result in a ban. Submit no more than once every three months, according to Google.
  4. Empty Alt Attributes - Empty alt tags is a major accessibility issue as well as just poor coding, and will affect a page negatively.
  5. Excessive Punctuation - Excess punctuation in the Title and Description tags wastes valuable space and may cause a problem with the engine.

These negative factors could greatly effect an otherwise relevant page, of course some of them preclude the page actually being relevant, particularly spam. The biggest pitfalls for an otherwise optimized page is simple typographical errors, broken links (usually due to stale content) and oversight in markup. Simple mistakes could mean the difference between top ten and top fifty for a search on an engine, a difference that could mean thousands of dollars per day in lost revenue for many websites.

Imagine if a site like Amazon.com failed to use alt attributes and stopped using <h> tags (replaced by images, for example). Searches that would typically show the site as a number one result could start bringing the site up as a number fifty result.

Conclusion

Approaching SEO as a holistic process rather than simply a combination of steps is critical. It is simply not enough to use an effective Title tag on every page and stop, or to use keyword relevant URLs and then stop. To achieve and maintain top rating on all pages for the appropriate sets of keywords, a page must be optimized completely for the way search engines weigh content relevance, and that involves taking everything discussed earlier in the article seriously.

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