12 Biggest SEO Mistakes Web Designers/Developers Make

Presentation by Tony Tovar


  • Intro:
    • Question he got from a businessman: “What the heck is wrong with Google? I should totally be ranked high in Google.” This prompted Tony to start talking to the community about SEO.
  • < title > tag 
    • This is what Google sees when it visits your site and displays in Google search results. 60 characters seems to be a good rule of thumb. It could even be number of pixels. Also, good rule is 160 characters for description.
  • Image-based Headings
    • Use contextual links or a button with actual editable text.
  • Image-based buttons 
    • “If you need to fix your window contact us” – again, it’s good to use editable text rather than an image for these kinds of buttons.
  • Keyword research
    • This is very important – you can optimize your text and titles based on keyword research – those things you like to rank for.
    • Make sure keywords don’t amount to more than 7% of your content.
    • Google Keyword Planner – gives you a good idea of what people search for
    • Paid tools: SEM Rush, SEO MOZ; Raven Tools good for links
    • http://google.com/trends/explore
  • Keyword-rich content
    • Write good content. Don’t stuff your text and make it sound awkward, but use the keywords appropriately.
  • Content structure is important
    • Your first link shouldn’t be to “home”. You want the first link to have a keyword embedded in it. Your H1 tag should be the first header – like a headline. Don’t use header tags for formatting – use them for organizational structure like an outline.
    • If you link to other pages, you should make those separate pages. Siloed pages – link to pages of authority.
  • Regular content = more crawls = more traffic
    • The more content that’s on your website, the more often Google will want to come to your site. You can even repurpose content with new titles, revised. Consistent content is important.
    • If you have a low-ranking page with a high bounce rate – try revising it.
  • Don’t be evil: Use < alt > tags!
    • Alt tags on images will help those who are visually impaired know what’s on the page. Also Google crawls them – so they will help your SEO.
  • Flash
    • Flash looks beautiful. The problem is that stand-alone Flash content is not crawlable and can’t be used by screen readers. Search engines can’t use it to index a site.
  • Splash pages
    • Definitely don’t want to use splash pages (pages that show up while real content is loading). This can really hurt your SEO. Landing pages however, are fine.
  • AJAX
    • AJAX content is not crawlable. It refreshes content so Google doesn’t see it.
  • Too Late! 
    • SEO is implemented too late in the design/web creation process
  • 301 Redirects with htaccess files
    • redirect old domains to new domains – keeps SEO value
  • Panda and Penguin – Google updates
    • Panda focused on duplicate content
    • Penguin – link building and over optimization


  • Follow/No Follow
    • Reason why you would want to use a no-follow on your links – keep the most page rank possible.
    • Use no follow for new site links
    • Comments – make commenter’s links no follow
    • Does not affect your bounce rate either way
  • Websites with image banners as site title
    • use H1 tags are appropriately aligned
    • use alt tags for image
  • Links in footer
    • If goal is to do inner link building – yes
    • If your goal is to build SEO for a page – they can sometimes hurt you so it’s good to remove them because if they are on sites Google penalizes, it can hurt your SEO
  • Disavow tool
    • https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/disavow-links-main?pli=1
    • use at domain level, not page level
  • Navigation menus
    • sometimes the upper navigation rather than main navigation will get added to search engine results. Not sure if these help or hurt.
  • Categories and tags
    • to index category and tag pages or not – fine line for ranking and general SEO
    • it depends on the site, personal preference, how content-intensive the site is – if the site has daily content then it can help
    • Categorizing content can help your SEO. Use the tree structure as much as possible – helps build depth to a site. No definitive number but 10-15 categories is a good ballpark, but it depends on amount of content. Most people don’t have that much content so they don’t need that many categories.
    • Keywords are important – use categories in line from that
  • How do you control what is shown as a search result?
    • Use the SEO meta tags < title > and < description > to control what shows up
  • Sitemaps – are these how certain content shows up in search results?
    • Yes, if the sitemap is well-designed
    • You can create one using a plugin – Yoast’s WordPress SEO is a good one
  • Under construction sites 
    • Make sure your plugin doesn’t actually allow Google to access your content
  • RSS Feeds
    • As a widget – probably good not to index it or use in an iframe.
    • Depends on what you are trying to accomplish.
    • Google has devalued footer and sidebar links
  • Keywords in CSS or image file names 
    • Recommends against keywords in CSS – looks like blatant keyword stuffiing
    • Having good image file names and alt text can help a lot


  1. http://Ann says

    Thanks, Jackie!

  2. Hi Jackie, Thank you for the notes. Very useful to see some of the takeaways like this.

    • You’re welcome! If there’s anything I left out or didn’t explain fully, feel free to comment further.

  3. Definitely Keyword Research!

    And one thing I would add is that developers are often guilty of segmenting the content and pages of the site without any thought for SEO at all.

    Organizing the structure of your content and keyword theming is SEO Step #1. I touched on this a bit recently — http://www.wiredseo.com/creating-site-structure-for-seo-and-dos-and-donts-of-internal-linking/