Just done a free website review for a local business to give them some ideas of why their website is so appalling from an SEO point of view. It is actually usable, but it is not search engine friendly. Which is why, even though I knew they had a website, it took almost an hour to track it down.

I had thought of writing this as an April Fool’s article, but was sort of gazumped by the How to do Local Search article. So, at the risk of being hauled over the coals……

Over the years, as SEO and internet marketing have become huge (especially when you are deeply entrenched in the business), the mistakes made by website designers seem to have continued to plague anyone trying to promote a website.

The general scenario (and it hasn’t changed in 14 years) is:

1. Client approaches IM company. “I want you to get our website to number 1 on the search engines.”

2. SEO/IM company responds, “OK, what is your URL / website address?” (Looks up website address)

3. SEO/IM bod stares at the website in front of them, often in total disbelief. The conversation usually then goes in one of several different ways.

a) Who is your website designer? (Because I am going to kneecap them for creating THIS monstrosity for any business)

b) What is the primary objective that you want your website to achieve for you? (Because it really isn’t obvious from looking at it)

c) What are your main keywords and phrases that you would like to be found on? (Because I am struggling to work out exactly what you do.)

or, far too rarely, d) We would be more than happy to create a campaign for you and promote this website. When would be a good time for a meeting for you? Friday this week any good?

Website designers (not all by any means, but many) seem to delight in building websites that make the job of internet marketers doubly difficult. There are some very common, and after many years in the business, seemingly deliberate errors introduced by site designers that affect not only how the search engines perceive the site but also how other sites who may be potential link partners view your website.

The first mistake is page titles. So often, we see ‘homepage’ or ‘page 1’, 2, 3 etc throughout the site with not a keyword in sight. The search engines need keywords in page titles to compare the relevance of the text with the title, and also to help get a grip on what the page is about and hence include it in searches. The next mistake, and one which is still being hotly debated, is META tags. Should you or shouldn’t you include META tags, which and how long should they be? Whilst some feel that the META description tag should be omitted to allow google et al to create their own, others feel that METAs are still important. Try both on your site and see which brings the best results, but don’t just omit them for the sake or it, and definitely put the keywords tag in.

Next, lack of headings, H1 tags etc. Not only are these valuable for the search engines, but they help to clarify for your visitors what the next block of text is about and break up the page. No alt img tags – once again, we often see ‘image312.jpg’ or similar instead of “Woohoo Widget Company logo” or other descriptive, keyword rich text about the image. These are required on most commercial sites by law to assist visitors with disabilities, but are frequently left out, and the search engines do include them in the algorithms.

Lack of keywords in the visible text (or anywhere else for that matter). Whilst that flowery prose about the craftmanship and dedication your staff provide to customers may seem lovely, it is unlikely that any potential customer seeking to have their chimney cleaned (or any other product or service) is going to search on those words to find you. Brainstorm your keywords before ANY text goes on your website, and make sure that the primary and secondary keywords are included in all the right places.

Keywords hidden in Flash or images – it may look like a fabulous arty website, but if your keywords are lost inside Flash, Shockwave or images, then the search engines won’t find them.

Missing site map. A site map is not just essential to help your visitors navigate your site, but also helps the search engines.

There are further problems but these are the top few. Check your site and make sure your website designer hasn’t hindered your marketing efforts in any way.

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ClickThrough is a digital marketing agency, providing search engine optimisation, pay per click management, conversion optimisation, web development and content marketing services.