Two Terrifying SEO Mistakes and How to Prevent Them

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There are things you can do to cover your bases before disaster strikes. Here are two SEO mistakes you can prevent simply and inexpensively.

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We marketers don’t rush into burning buildings, diffuse bombs, or direct commercial air traffic over crowded cities.

But we have our share of work stories to tell, with both good and bad endings. In fact, most of us can recall a time we sat paralyzed with fear at the news something we had done went catastrophically wrong.

If you can handle the anxiety of it, think back to some of your biggest mistakes on the job. What’s the scariest moment you can recall?

Maybe it was a mission-critical deadline for a big client you inexplicably forgot. Perhaps it was a sensitive email sent to the wrong colleague. Or maybe you permanently deleted a massive database—which you’d later discover had never been backed-up elsewhere.

The Struggle is Real

These are the occupational horror stories whispered in meetings and commiserated about at happy hours. The especially tragic ones get passed on from team to team over the years like the oral histories of previous generations.

As innocent bystanders, we can learn from these cautionary tales and remind ourselves to stay sharp and alert.

But when you’re the one responsible for that click, that email, or that game-changing oversight, the pain and embarrassment can haunt you for years.

An Ounce of Prevention

Whether or not you’ve escaped such a fate, one thing is certain: none of us in marketing are immune to costly mistakes.

But for anyone willing to invest a little extra time, there are things you can do to cover your…ahem…bases.

Here are two SEO mistakes you can prevent simply and inexpensively.

Mistake #1 — Telling Search Engines to Keep Off Your Website

Some readers may recall an article I wrote a couple years ago when I discovered this exact mistake in the wild. A well-known consumer electronics brand had accidentally included a snippet of code in its website that basically told search engines, “there’s nothing to see here; keep moving.” My article has all the details, but—spoiler alert—when I was able to get the attention of the company’s president, he was grateful that one of his customers had a background in technical SEO.

Though it’s difficult to do on accident, and fairly uncommon, using a noindex tag on an important web page can literally make or break an entire digital marketing campaign. In the example I wrote about, a single line of bad code had put a stranglehold on this company’s eCommerce revenue.

How to Prevent It: Ask your developers to check and double check your website’s head section of code for noindex tags where they shouldn’t be. Then, ask your digital marketing person how recently—and thoroughly—they’ve confirmed your website is being indexed. They can do this using a variety of tools (e.g. Search Console) and manual methods ( search modifier).

Mistake #2 — Confusing Search Engines When They Do Find Your Website

If you’ve avoided mistake #1, and search engines have found and begun indexing your website, it’s time to make sure they know where all your content is, and how to serve it to users.

Normally, search engines can do this just fine on their own once they’ve discovered your root domain or homepage. From there, a search engine’s bot (or spider) will crawl the pages of your website, starting at the homepage and using any internal links they find to discover the rest of your pages.

But if your developer cut corners or disregarded best-practices when designing your site’s URL architecture, it’s possible that Google won’t be able to find all your content, even if it’s there “in plain sight.”

Conversely, some of the pages you’d rather not have show up in Google search results (account pages, gated content, etc.) could still be indexed if they aren’t excluded properly.

How to Prevent It: Step one: make sure your developers and digital marketing team are talking to each other. Between them, they can ensure the right content is indexed, sensitive content isn’t, and both types are clearly defined. From there, they’ll use an XML sitemap and a robots.txt file, among other things, to lay this all out for search engines (using webmaster tools like Google’s Search Console).

Once that work is completed, it’s best to verify with your own eyes. Try Googling your own content to make sure you can easily find it. If you can’t find your content on purpose, your prospects won’t stand a chance of finding it at all.

What Now?

Anytime I share from my digital marketing and SEO experience, I try to encourage business owners and directors of marketing to start by doing one thing. Find a partner you can trust.

If you don’t already work closely with a team who can manage this, it’s time to have a serious conversation about your digital strategy.

DKY can help. We’ve partnered with brands of different sizes, missions, audiences, and marketing objectives. While goals vary from client to client, the core principles of SEO apply equally to each.

We’re ready to help serve your brand to new customers wherever they are, including the search results page.

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