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Website Optimization Tips: Common Mistakes

Over the past few weeks there have been lots of discussions in the forums regarding proper website creation and some of the issues every webmaster should be concerned about. We are always eager to get our website online as fast as possible, and of course we want to generate as much traffic as we can. In doing so, we sometimes take shortcuts that seem perfectly reasonable at the time... but in the long run, these shortcuts can do more harm than good.

While this is not a complete list of all the common mistakes, these are definitely the top ones we should all be considering when developing a website.

Mirror Sites

What is a mirror? The term “mirror” refers to an identical website hosted on another domain / website address. Large websites often provide mirror sites in different continents so their users can download from a closer server in hopes of achieving faster download speeds. While this is a perfectly legitimate practice, many search engines consider it “spam” because the number of pages is doubled, yet the content is identical.

Most search engines use “Duplicate Content Filters” which can prevent mirror sites from distorting the search engine results pages. Unfortunately, in some cases one or all mirrors may be removed from the index of a search engine without any prior notice.

Multiple Title Tags

Given that search engines place a great degree of emphasis on the tags. A well-constructed page should contain ONLY one tags and have been known to ban websites which employ such spamming methods!

Another no-no I have seen lately is the concept of instant rebates. Don’t offer a product for $300 and then offer an instant rebate of $275. Yes, this may sound strange to some of you, but I see it all the time. And even though the instant rebate will reduce the actual price to just $25, your customer may subconsciously only notice or remember that initial $300 price tag, and may then decide to look for something cheaper elsewhere.


Cloaking is the practice of delivering keyword-enriched content to the search engine spiders, while providing different content to the actual website visitors. The rationale behind this approach is to deliver “optimized” content to search engines while delivering regular, un- optimized content to surfers / visitors. An example of this would be a website that has chosen to use Flash media, yet does not wish to suffer the lack of content from a spiders perspective (given that search engines cannot read Flash media)... so they choose to deliver the Flash media to their human visitors, while the spiders see a different page full of text and keywords. While this sounds like a logical and worthwhile approach, it is considered “spam” because the search engine is being “fooled” by being shown content which will never been seen by human users.

Most search engines have devised methods to detect cloaking, and many search engines have implemented a “Zero Tolerance” approach to such activity. Google, Bing, and Yahoo are among the many engines that will either ban a website entirely from their index, or drastically reduce the rankings of any website found to be engaging is such spamming practices. For these reasons, I highly recommend that you refrain from cloaking your website in any form. Properly optimized content is a much more effective long term approach to better rankings!

Keyword Stuffing

“Keyword Stuffing” is the practice of inserting blocks of keywords in the webpage text, for the sole purpose of increasing search engines rankings. Stuffed keywords are generally of poor grammatical structure, and would make little or no sense to human visitors. Given that search engines rank websites based on the text contained in the website pages, the theory behind stuffed keywords is that the density for targeted keywords will increase. While using stuffed keywords will indeed increase the density for the targeted keywords, this practice is also considered spamming by search engines. Stuffed keywords are sometimes disguised as “hidden text” (see below).

Can Stuffing Be Detected? Search engines can easily detect keyword stuffing and most search engines will place a complete ban on the offending website. Given that our goal is to increase your rankings, rather than getting you banned, we encourage you to refrain from using stuffed keywords!

Hidden Keywords

One of the most common instances of spam on websites is the use of “hidden text”, which is also referred to as “invisible text”. Hidden text is text which cannot be seen by regular human visitors, but can be seen by robots and spiders. The theory behind hidden text is that search engines will index the text, even though they are invisible to human readers, thus making the page more keyword dense. There are two forms of hidden text, through regular HTML and through CSS (Cascading Style Sheets). Hidden keywords in regular HTML can be achieved by specifying a font color for a block of text (which is usually ‘stuffed’ with keywords) which is the same as the background color, thereby making it seem to “disappear” into the background. This form of invisible text is easily detectable by search engines. Hidden text though CSS is more complicated in that the color of the text is defined in an external file, which is not crawlable by search engines.

While almost all forms of hidden text will produce good results in the SHORT term, all major engines have implemented filters which are capable of detecting this type of spam. Websites found to be using hidden text will almost certainly be permanently removed from the index of all search engines. For this reason we encourage you to refrain from using hidden text on any of your web pages.

Flash Content

Flash movies are a popular way to make websites more compelling. They are useful if you want to impress your visitors, and especially if you offer web design services. Unfortunately, if you use Flash movies, or if you design your complete web site based on Flash technology, your odds of getting listed in the search engines are greatly reduced. Search engines can only “see” pure text. They are not able to recognize text that is contained in an image file, or text that appears as a graphic within a Flash movie.

Google includes the following advice in their webmaster guidelines: “If fancy features such as Flash keep you from seeing all of your site in a text browser, then search engine spiders may have trouble crawling your site.” The following tips can help in getting your Flash content indexed by the search engines: