I was just remembering my 9th grade work placement. We were each sent to “work” for a week in a career that interested us, and I went to an architectural firm (yeah, I know it’s pretty far from where I ended up). Our teacher visited each of us over the week and we talked about what we had seen and done. I discovered an electric eraser during my week and was giggling about it. My teacher told me that those were for people who made mistakes, which I didn’t do. I still laugh, thinking about it. Well, even in SEO there are mistakes made.
I can stand up and say that, because even SEOmoz admits that they’ve made mistakes along the way. Here is a list of their top five mistakes, according to a whiteboard Friday video by Rand:
1. Blocking outbound links: At one point Rand had a “tactic involving offering reciprocal links but blocking the outbound links via robots.txt/meta robots so that he could get all of the link value.” Eventually other webmasters figured out that he wasn’t linking back to them, which didn’t make him any friends in the SEO world. He did remove this tactic from his site, but did end up doing a lot of work to ingratiate himself into the community again.
2. Buying links for clients: It seemed like a good idea to increase rankings by getting more links, but it turned out that there was never a good way to figure out if those links were helping the clients. Worse, as it turned out, Google wasn’t even counting these links and in some cases it hurt the client’s ability to rank.
3. Ensuring keywords were in the H1 tags: I know Rand was not the only one to recommend this tactic; it was pretty common in the middle part of this decade. It turns out that having your keywords in your H1 tags makes no real difference between having them “in normal text in bigger fonts”.
4. Not using XML sitemaps: The theory was that XML sitemaps can make it hard to find information architecture problems, but they also have a great impact on traffic to your site and site rankings in general.
5. Redirecting Linkscape to Open Site Explorer (OSE): OSE is a better reporting system for SEOmoz’s clients, but the original conversion wasn’t done well and it resulted in a huge loss of site traffic. It’s fixed now though.
Although it is fun to look at the mistakes of others and compare notes, it is also provides a few lessons for all of us. First, no one is perfect and the SEO process may take a few detours. We may need that electric eraser from time to time! But the most important thing is to learn from your mistakes, correct them as you go, and be smarter about it with the next project. If you learn something, it’s never a waste of time.