Don’t Sour Your Link Juice By Forgetting Basic SEO

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Recently I was contacted by a site owner who wanted to know why their site is not ranking highly on Google for certain terms, despite years of building relevant and valuable links, and wanted some tips on building better links.

Excellent Backlinks, But Low Ranking

I took a look at the backlinks of this site (sorry, can’t mention the site to readers) and found over 400,000 backlinks from highly relevant portals, sites, blogs, forums and other web publications which organically linked to the site because of its selection of tools and resources for its target market.

Upon further investigation, I took a look at the anchor pointing to this site : more or less, all relevant because of the theme and brand name of the site.

What is the issue I thought, why are they not ranking properly? Then I took a deeper look at the site.

Linking is Very Important, But Don’t Forget the SEO Basics

Despite the amount of hardcore organic inbound links, the site itself was designed in a fashion which countered the value of the links, and soured the link juice.

After reviewing the site, I determined that they were lucky to rank as highly as they did (#25 to #40 for some terms) because of the obvious (to me) blunders in content management system programming and overlooking of SEO basics. If they did not have the incoming links, they would probably not even rank at all.

Linking Builds Authority, But On Site Errors Kill Your Status

Here are some of the basic SEO issues overlooked by this site and many more which can sink a link building campaign :

  • No use of keywords on the page : The keywords they were targeting were not listed on their homepage, which most of the links pointed to. Furthermore, if the keywords were listed, they were buried in irrelevant text at the bottom of the page. Sure, we’ve all seen or even ranked sites in the top 5 on Google for terms only used in the anchor text of links, but not every competitive market is the same … put relevant text on your site!
  • No Headers : Not only did the homepage not properly use the keyterms which they wanted to rank for, but they did not feature these terms in the proper H1 and H2 listing formula, before mixing the keywords in with other content.
  • Duplicate Titles & Meta : 95% of the pages on the site used the same title tags & meta description tags. Furthermore, the content on each page was very similar, so the site itself is seen as an ongoing copy of its own content.
  • Duplicate Pages : Doh! Over 100 links to search results which all show the same exact content!
  • Code Overload : I love old coding but this site was very 1998, with no usage of CSS to clean up tables and presentation and all of the javascript code running on each page.
  • Broken Links & Pages : A rather large number of the pages within the site return a 404 error or there are problems with the dynamic URLs in the internal linking, meaning that something changed in the CMS database which was not applied to the hard coded links. If the site serves broken pages and broken links, search engines think the site is under construction. Furthermore, these mistakes sour the ‘link juice’ passed throughout the site. Why would search engines want to serve their users a site in the SERPs which is under construction?
  • No Alt Tags : I believe that Alt Attribute Tags are of importance not only to the blind who are using the Internet, but also to differentiate & define the images and content used within sites, which can help with rankings.
  • Text in Images : Three paragraphs of text which would be extremely useful for SEO are hidden to the search engines as images. Do not hide your text.

These are only the tip of the iceberg for this mystery site, but as the changes are made, I highly expect the site to float to the top of the rankings and even dominate its niche. And when it does, I’ll be more than happy to share the site information 🙂

In the meantime, what are some of the SEO basics that you see sites forgetting or leaving out? Feel free to share some below.

Loren Baker
Loren Baker is the Founder of SEJ, an Advisor at Alpha Brand Media and runs Foundation Digital, a digital marketing strategy & development agency.
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  • Claye

    …and this is part of the reason SEOs have no need to worry – as long as so many website owners neglect the basics, they’ll need us to come in and whip things into shape.

  • Quentin6s

    I always check the source-code before backlinks.

  • Wil Reynolds

    Claye, so TRUE!

  • WebSite Design Orange County

    Seems like they would focus on their site FIRST then focus on their back links. Socks THEN shoes!

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    It’s quite a common issue. You’d be amazed at what SEhOles in a website Xenu Link Sleuth will expose.

  • Mercy

    So the bottom line is, concentrate on your On Page first before rushing into getting links thro’ off page. The most required alarm bell at the right time Loren!!!

  • Loren Baker, Editor

    Well, sometimes a good site attracts good links. In some situations, you’ll see what may have been a design norm back in 2004 is now faux pas.

    The dancing baby site has over six million inbound links, but does not rank #1 for dancing baby. Imagine what a little standard babyfied SEO would pull off on that super old and trusted page.

  • Afzal Khan

    That is why it is always recommended instead of doing SEO work on by own consult with Experts. What most people do, they learn from Forums/Blogs & in-corporate all those techniques. It is good to learn but most important also enquire about Pros & Cons of implementing such link building techniques. Ask experts they are here to help like ” Loren” and many more.

    Great post it will help all not to forgot basic stuffs.

  • caravan

    Good post full of many common mistakes which I’ve seen time and time again. I’ll look forward to a follow up post about how the site did following your changes

  • Googlelady

    Sometimes people want to jump from the basics to advanced and they forgot to apply first the basics. In this case with SEO basics.

  • Neil

    Hi im in the process of designing my first site now, it is yet unfinished as I want to get my on site se0 finished properly before even thinking about getting inbound links.

    I dont think you need to consult experts to get a site ranked well

    A modicum of intelligence and a bit of obsession can go a long way

  • Baidu SEO

    Great post. The amazing part is there are many self-proclaimed SEOs who neglect onsite SEO and embark themselves on link building campaigns. We have come accross of the “work” of such “professionals” many times, with SEO-killers on the sites including same meta tags for all the page, keyword stuffing (50 + keywords in the meta keyword tag!), huge number of orphan pages etc.

  • Hull Web Design

    An interesting post, its funny, as a web design/SEO company its easy to forget how under optimised some sites can be.

  • RickH-SEO Strategy

    Great post Loren. I’ve seen this many times too. People want links and magic tricks to boost their rankings, but won’t take the time to make some simple changes to their sites.

  • Jeffrey Smith

    Hi Loren:

    I had a similar client about 3 weeks ago. We made similar modifications, mainly using .php to implement site wide adjustment to the internal anchor text. As a result the site hit the top 10 from a languishing previous position in the 50’s (for a one word competitive national phrase ).

    The tactics you discuss are 100% effective. SEO basics are essential. Their competition doesn’t stand a chance when the off page and on page factors hook up the next time those pages get indexed.

    Look forward to reading the follow up post.

  • Mayank – Start Internet Business

    This underlines the importance of having regular maintenance checkups of your site.
    Any changes in the CMS should be followed by a thorough testing of the site to make sure nothing;s broken.

  • Live Sport on TV –

    This is a really useful article, ultimately its the content on your page that will attract natural linking, but on page factors are very important.

  • Los Angeles Movers

    You are right content is a KING.

  • Los Angeles Movers

    It is a good idea to post blogs and other articles on your website