SEO Targeting Today, most individuals in the marketing arena are aware that SEO rules and guidelines can literally change overnight. This constant dance of change and adaptation can often leave many business owners confused, frustrated, or just out of the loop all together. Because of this, many will operate off of old and obsolete information due to lack of knowledge or possibly resort to black-hat tactics, which will ultimately do more harm than good.

For this reason, a vast number of individuals scour the web for hours on end in search of the most up to date and useful information when it comes to SEO. The topic that seems to slip through the cracks for most knowledge-seekers, however, is what SEO tactics are actually harmful to sites and will damage overall visibility and performance. You can’t just focus on what to do; it’s imperative you know what not to do as well.

To ensure that you do not fall victim to today’s most frequent and easy-to-avoid SEO pitfalls, here are 4 crucial points of focus for search engine ranking success:

Improper Backlinks

Link building is one of the most important aspects of any SEO campaign (yes, links are still golden!) because links garner credibility and authority for a site. Not all links are created equal, however, and some may actually drag a site down. Links from irrelevant sites, gambling sites, link directories, ad-heavy sites, or anything that seems spam-like or unnatural is likely to do loads of harm.

To fix this issue, site owners can harvest backlink data from a variety of tools such as Open Site Explorer, MajesticSEO, or SEMrush. These sites will provide a comprehensive list of backlinks for a site. From there business owners can find any that appear to be unnatural or undesirable, and reach out to those site owners to have the link removed.

Though proper link building and bad link removal can be a time consuming endeavor, it is a necessary part of any successful website. Guest blogging is one excellent way to expand one’s network, develop a credible online reputation, and build proper backlinks.

Duplicate Content

Most site owners and marketers are aware that posting duplicate content is frowned upon by Google and will eventually negatively impact the site’s rankings. The problem here is that many post duplicate content unintentionally. Most will be completely oblivious to this issue until after the damage has already been done.

These duplications can occur for a number of reasons including URL parameters, CMS templates, and secure HTTPS pages. There are a myriad of tools that can be used to detect these carbon copy ranking killers. Screaming Frog, Link Sleuth, and the Moz Crawl Test are all fantastic options for obtaining this information. Once the duplicates have been uncovered, owners must then tell search engines to not index certain pages through either Noindex, Nofollow, or rel=canonical tags.

Optimized Images

Unfortunately, many view image optimization as something of an afterthought. This should, however, be a focus point of any SEO strategy. Image titles, tags, and file names all affect SEO efforts. The fact is that search engines cannot read images. Because of this, they are quite difficult to index and should be optimized with meta data containing relevant keywords and phrases. Some aspects to utilize are:

  • Alt Tags – These provide text to display when the image cannot be shown due to a slow internet connection or other issues. This will explain exactly what the image is.
  • Image Tags – Words that are displayed when a user’s cursor is held over the image, providing search engines with further context clues about the image.
  • File Names – These provide additional context on how the image relates to the rest of the content on the page or site.

By optimizing images correctly, you stand a far greater chance of increased rankings versus sites that neglect this important feature.

Sub-Par Content

Content that is too thin, unhelpful, or not written with the audience in mind will simply not help your efforts, no matter how keyword rich it is. Google made sure of this with the 2011 update to Panda.

In order for content to be successful these days it must be written with the audience in mind. Try to make content as helpful and useful as possible through new emerging data, visual devices, and tips on the subject. Also, avoid the overuse of keywords and phrases; Google will spot this and you will pay the price for attempting to woo bots, not people. If you are still having trouble generating top-notch quality content, here are some great tools that can greatly assist you.

Yes, SEO is constantly changing and transforming. It is imperative for business owners to not only keep up on the latest developments, but to also have a decent understanding of the potential dangers as well. Without the knowledge of both sides, you run the risk of getting stuck in the proverbial SEO quicksand. To be well rounded and know all of the angles is what turns a marketing novice into an SEO master.

What other commonly made SEO mistakes have you seen recently?

Digital producer, online marketer, community manager, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney-Brown has been managing cross-functional teams for online businesses since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, massively multiplayer games, community management, social networks, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, nonprofit director and spiritual counselor. Learn more at her personal website, or find her on Facebook and Google+.