SEO Pitfalls to Avoid

Search engine optimization pitfalls to avoid speech

By Dr. Ty Belknap. A speech to the Tacoma Chamber of Commerce.

(Have you seen our newest Webcast, 5 Pillars of Digital Marketing?)

Dr. Ty Belknap is a veteran of creating and managing digital content to build relationships for organizations and individuals. He has written three books (including Timeless SEO Secrets) as well as writing hundreds of articles for over 30 magazines and online blog sites.

A self-professed techy-nerd, he has the ability to translate Geek-Speak into English.

Dr Ty is the founder of Port Bell, an SEO and digital marketing firm that has been providing search engine optimization to Tacoma businesses since 2002.

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Well, thank you everybody for being here. I’ve been doing search engine optimization since 1995 and back then, if I would have said “Hey, let’s have a lunch so people can learn about SEO,” the crickets wouldn’t even come. So, I am so glad to see so many people here, especially so many marketing people.

Now, I get asked this a lot, so I’ll let you all know right up front. Yes, I really am a doctor. So, if anyone’s spleen should happen to rupture, please make sure that I’m the last person you call. I’m not a medical doctor; I’m an academic doctor. I could research ruptured spleens all day long. But if your spleen does rupture, and you want me to actually do surgery on you, you’re probably going to die.

So, I don’t know much about medical stuff, but what I do know a lot about is search engine optimization. I’ve been doing SEO since 1995. Back then, it wasn’t even called search engine optimization.

I have done another speech on Applied SEO Techniques, which is ways that you can get your website higher in the search engines.

Today I’m talking about SEO Pitfalls to Avoid. These are things you don’t want to do, either for yourself or for your SEO specialist, your web designer, etc. You can either use these SEO tips to make sure that you’re doing the right things, or to make sure they’re doing the right things.

Contact us today to get higher in the search engines. We are a professional Search Engine Optimization company.

The first point I have today is about websites. For small business people, I’d highly recommend that you do this:

Own Your Website

This might sound stupid, because you might think, “well, I do on my web site,” but do you have the master password and login, or does the web person you hired have it? Many websites today are being designed using WordPress, and WordPress is a great program.

Your designer might design the website and give you the WordPress login and password, but that’s not your master login and password. There’s an umbrella area that runs the WordPress stuff. If you only have your WordPress login and password you, don’t actually have control over your own website.

A lot of designers won’t give you that information because they will take every website they design and put it all into one spot. But that doesn’t help you because, if a hacker hacks it now he has access to all those websites, including yours.

you don’t want that. So, if you don’t have control of your website, I would recommend moving it. Check out KoolWebHosting. It is a fast, safe, and secure hosting site. You can set up your own master login and password, and make it so other people only have access to certain areas.

Create Cryptic Passwords

Get control over your website. And, if you do have main control over it, change the password today as soon as you get back to the office, home, etc. Change it because just like you heard the previous speaker, it can cost up to $690,000 if somebody hacks into your website and starts causing problems with your small business. You don’t want that and with the way passwords are these days, you can make a cryptic password very easily.

I realize that doesn’t sound right. How do you make something cryptic and easy? Consider this:

I love my dogs

(sorry cat lovers). That could be a great password. Consider it this way:


Every I could be the number one or an exclamation point. Make the S’s dollar signs. And make the first letter of every word capitalized.

You could create a sentence like “I love my dogs” into a very cryptic password that you can remember.

You don’t want to do “I love my cats” and don’t tell my cat I said that. Yes, I’m joking. Actually, that could make a good cryptic password as well since the A in cats could be an @.

Think of something that you will remember, whether it’s a sentence or a word that you like (I would recommend a sentence, it would be a longer password). Turn that into your password.

The more things you can use with an I or S is great because an I can be the number one or an exclamation point and S can always be a dollar sign.

You’re much more likely to have a cryptic password that nobody will ever crack when you use those.

But, of course, that is impossible. Anybody can crack anything given enough time. But if your password is about four characters long, with today’s algorithms (sorry for the techie stuff), it would take a hacker a couple of days to just brute force find that password. If it’s 8 characters long, it would take them about 3 weeks. A 12-character password could take months of a hacker constantly watching the computer.

So, if you’ve got a small business website, they’re probably not going to spend six months trying to hack in to your 5-page business marketing web site.

They’re not going to spend the time on it.  They might on the US government, but they won’t spend that time on you.

So, passwords really aren’t guaranteed to keep people out. You just want to make it so difficult that it’s not worth their time. And the number one way that web sites get hacked now is by hackers actually trying to type in your password (called a “brute-force attack”).

If you run a plumbing company, you don’t want your password to be Plumber with a capital P. I had a company that did that and they got hacked. So, you don’t want that. You want to make it something that can be difficult for anybody else. That’s why I like passwords like 1LoveMyDog$.

Unless you have a dog company.  If you have a dog company, I wouldn’t make your password 1LoveMyDog$. it’s almost too obvious. Make something else that is not part of your company.

Another thing to be aware of is black hat techniques. Now, has anybody heard the term “black hat?” Good, a few people have. Does anybody know where it comes from?

The term “Black Hat” comes from western movies back in the 40’s and 50’s, when every good guy wore a white hat and every bad guy wore a black hat.

It was like that until the mid 60’s when the guy with no name did the Good, The Bad and The Ugly, were the hero that movie wore a black hat. It was probably the first time in movie history where that happened.

Today, black hat of course doesn’t mean illegal. There’s very little you can do on the Internet as a legitimate businessperson that’s illegal. But there are a lot of things you can do that Google® and Bing® don’t like. Those are black hat techniques.

The two top techniques that most people that aren’t familiar with marketing do as a mistake are:

  • Copying text and
  • Creating bad backlinks

Google Slap

I’m going to pick on plumbers today because I work a lot with plumbers, and so I see a lot of what they do. Let’s say you have a plumber company in Tacoma, and you have a website. And maybe you want a frequent questions page.  You have a friend who runs a plumbing company in Texas and they have a great frequent questions page.

So, your friend says, “Hey, copy mine; we’re not competitors so it’s no big deal.”

So, you copy it and you get higher in the search engines because it’s got great keywords on it.

That is, you get higher until Google finds out. Now, these are two direct copies of text. Google sees that as spamming and eventually Google will see it. So, when they see it, if you’re lucky, they’ll do what’s called a “Google slap.”

Oh, by the way, I love to research stuff and I researched this not too long ago. Did you know that, if somebody upsets you, it takes about 20 muscles to make a frown in your face. But it only takes four muscles to reach out and slap them. So, no more frowning.

Anyway, there’s a thing called Google slap and what they do is; if you have a web page that is a direct copy of another site, it basically disappears off the internet. They slap it kind of for being a copy, and they know which page is older.

They don’t blacklist you or anything, but they basically tell you that you can’t do that. Now, if you do it with every page on your web site, you could get blacklisted.

Being Blacklisted

Blacklisting is worse than slapping. We (at Port Bell) have worked with three companies in the past that got blacklisted. Two of the three companies paid us to help them get back into the search engines. The third company just changed their business name. That’s how bad this is.

If you get blacklisted, it’s not like your website is no longer found on Google anymore, your company may not be found on Google Maps. Somebody could type in your company name and it won’t show up.

Everybody goes to Google to find businesses now. You don’t want to get blacklisted.  So, you don’t want to copy text. But there’s a workaround, and for those of you that were here in January sorry, you’ve already heard this.

The workaround is, if you don’t want to do the writing yourself, take that frequently asked questions page your friend offered you and hire somebody to rewrite it.

You can use the same meaning but different words. As long as the content itself is original, Google doesn’t care. They just don’t want exact copies of the same text.

So, there. You can use the information that you find or the information someone offers, and it doesn’t hurt you at all.

And the reason you want to re-write the content is because the two companies that we helped, the minimum that a cost was $10,000 plus a year’s time to get them back into Google. And that was just to get their name back into Google. So, once you get off the blacklist, you then get sandboxed (sandboxed is a term I made up, it’s not an official term). So, you’re in Google but you ain’t going nowhere. Your keywords won’t go up in the search engines and no one will be able to find you unless they actually type your business name

It took a year each time to get their name back into Google, and then another year just to get them back up in the search engines to a decent spot. it’s a lot of work and a lot of money if you get blacklisted from Google to get you back in.  That is why the third company just changed their business name. It was cheaper for them to do that than to try to fight Google for a year or two.

Bad Backlinks

Bad backlinks is the other one to watch for. And this one is even trickier. I worked with a client who had hired an SEO specialist and the specialist created marketing pages. Marketing pages can do very well when done right. They put the marketing pages up on other websites and they had links back to the company. That’s what a backlink is. Some of you might have heard it called “link juice” these days. It’s just a fancy way of saying backlinks.

And so, they had backlinks coming to their website and the website shot to the top of the search engines.

And then, about six months later (it took about six months for the search engines to see the backlinks weren’t right), they dropped

several pages down in search engines because this company was an architect firm and the links were on a TV repair blog in the UK, an Outback tourism web site in Australia and others.

It was obvious that these links had absolutely nothing to do with the company. Now, if there’s an Outback Australian tourism company next to the architect company, Google would have seen the addresses and known that they were similar (in location) but these were across not even the US, these were across the world and so Google eventually realized they were bad backlinks. They got Google slapped and all that money they paid that SEO person went down the drain.

So, you want to be careful about your backlinks.

Some “specialists” push backlinks a lot and I’ll talk about that a little bit more, and backlinks aren’t bad. You just have to be careful with where they’re being put. Make sure they’re on decent sites. For instance, links to an architect wouldn’t be given a second glance by the search engines if they were on a construction blog or some sort of similar organization.

If it’s another architect firm, even if it’s in the UK, Google would have had no problem with it because it was a similar firm. Backlinks can be kind of techie-nerdy, really getting into the details of it, but if you hire somebody and they’re putting backlinks from a boat repair company in something like Iceland, you know that it’s probably a bad backlink (unless your company has something to do with boat repair).

Forwarding Domain Names

A company just hired us and they said that they had a couple of other domain names pointing to their regular website.  I found out that they had 17, which… having 17 domain names is no big deal. But it’s not going to help you and it really could hurt you if not done right. All these domains were being forwarded to one web site. No problem, Google doesn’t care about that. But when you forward a domain, there’s this little thing in there that says “masking.” If you forward a domain with masking…

 I have lots of different domain names. I have, (for those of you that are familiar with what our company name used to be),, and more. Those are all okay.

Let’s say I forward to my web site.

If you use masking, it’s going to look like is still its own domain, it’s not going to have the PortBell URL on there so it’s going to look like two different web sites.

Now, remember what I said about copying text. What do you think Google’s going to do when they see 17 web sites with the exact same text?

They got lucky they didn’t your blacklisted. So, watch out with forwarding domain names, it can backfire on you very easily. My recommendation is; if you’re going to get a domain name, put a website on there. It doesn’t have to be big, maybe one to three pages. Do a small marketing website. Have everything else forward to your main web site, which is actually what all of my small web sites do.

(Example: Go to Click on “Frequent Questions.” Now, look at the top URL, you just went from to They are both marketing web sites.)

 Some SEO people ask why would you do different web sites? Put it all on one web site. Well, here’s the difference: If you put it all on one website, you might be number one in the search engines. But if you have four web sites, now you have spots one through four of the top ten. Would you rather have one or three of the top ten spots?

Your Target Audience

I talk about this one a lot because your customer is not the world. I was at a networking meeting one day and a person proudly stood up and said, “I’m in the skincare industry, anybody with skin is my customer.” It’s very cute and it’s kind of funny, but it’s not true. The average two-year-old in Ethiopia isn’t his customer. the parents might be, but I doubt it. They’re still in Ethiopia, that’s a lot of shipping charges. So, target your customer.

What does this have to do with SEO? How much money do you want to spend on your search engine optimization? How much time do you want to spend to target everybody in the world? Target your customer to the head of a pin if you can.

I have a client I just started working with and he’s doing great. He did so much that I didn’t even have to do much marketing for him. His target market is women that are 45 to 55 years, old empty-nesters whose husbands are working and have an upper middle-class wage paying job.

That’s his target market because that’s the number one person that is starting small businesses right now (in the US).

Their kids are grown up, the husband’s still working all day, they want to do something to make a difference; they want to start a business.

and he loves working with startups. He knows that’s his target market. And yes, that’s really targeted, isn’t it? But that’s his prime target market. That doesn’t mean you don’t market to other people as well, but find your prime target market.

There is a specific reason why I’m standing here today (in front of Tacoma business people). My prime target market is small businesses in the Tacoma area. Thank you all very much (for being here). That’s how detailed you should target your market. What kind of car do they drive, where do they work, where do they live, at what kind of stores do they shop? All of that can tell you a lot.

An auto repair shop that I know of has Lamborghini’s and all these really cool new cars on the front page of their web site, some of which I don’t even know the names of. It looks awesome, but they only fix cars that are from the 90’s and older; they don’t even fix new cars.

What they’re showing on their web page is exactly opposite of what their target is. That doesn’t help in the least bit.

So people go there, they see the Lamborghini’s and they think, “Hey, the guy can fix my Lamborghini,” but he can’t touch a Lamborghini. So, that’s why it’s important to find your target market. you want to base everything else off that target.

If you go to my website, portbell,com, the first thing you see is a bunch of palm trees and the Sun. what does that have to do with SEO? Nothing. What it does have to do with is to tell people I like working with a certain kind of person that has a calm, relaxed personality. I’m not a type-a driven person. People that are type-a have hired me in the past. Sometimes the personalities just don’t work out great. There are some type-a personalities I have worked very well with, but it lets them know right up front who my target market is.

The Home Page Dilemma

What do you put on your home page and how much is too much? I get this question quite a lot and I usually get it from people who have a home page that has about ten words on it.

There was research done that just came out the middle of last year (2018).  The average page that is number one on Google right now has an average of 2,000 words. That’s a lot of words. You don’t have to have 2,000 words on your home page. As a matter of fact, the search engines are getting much more sophisticated. You’ll find that many times it isn’t even your home page on page one.

But do you care what page is on page one as long as those people find you? No, so you don’t have to have 2,000 words on your home page. But if the average page that’s number one on Google is 2,000 words, I’d make every page on your website 2,000 words.

Why not? As long as you make it good, accurate content, you’re going to do just fine.

Back in 1995, one thing was true about search engine optimization, about getting a pages to the top of the search engines: You could get to page one if you had accurate content on your website. Not that you would, but you’re much more likely.

Today, the exact same thing is still true. It’s all based off accurate content. Google spends millions of dollars a year to give you accurate content. If you went to Google today and you typed in to find a sewing company and it popped up with plumbers, you wouldn’t go back to Google; you would go somewhere else.

That’s what they (the search engines) care about; everything else is secondary. Accurate content is king.

So how much is too much? well if the average is 2,000, you could write a book on page one. Now, people may not like it, but Google will because Google loves text.

More Keywords

I frequently get asked, “How many keywords can I have on a page?” and every SEO person that you ask is going to tell you something different. And most of them will tell you that it’s relative, or there’s no surefire way to know, and they are correct. But we can estimate.

I found that generally it’s two percent; that’s how much you have to work with. Now, that’s not a given; that’s not always true.

A frequent questions page is full of questions about your business and it’s a heavy keyword page.

There’s going to be more than two percent on that page, and Google understands that. You don’t have to worry about that.

but if your home page just says: Architect, architect, architect fifty thousand times, they’re also going to know you’re spamming the web site. Two percent is the average. So, if your front page has ten words, you have two percent or two tenths of one word that you can use (and forgive me if my math is off). This doesn’t give you much room.

However, if you have 2,000 words, you’ve got what, forty keywords on one page and Google won’t care. That’s the whole point: The more words you have on a page, the more keywords you can use and it won’t look spammy because you’ve got more keywords.

I hate going to a website where it says, “Hi, yeah we Puyallup web design do Puyallup web design one Puyallup web design…”

I leave immediately whenever I see a site like that.

How little is too little?

I would say, again, that’s relative. your contact us page is probably going to have less than a hundred words on it; it may only have twenty, but it’s a Contact Us page. It shouldn’t have a lot of words, so it depends on the page.

Your frequently asked questions page should have at least 2,000 words. If you have a blog (and if you don’t, get one), your blog should be ten, twenty, thirty thousand words; but that’s built over time. So it is relative.

But your general pages, like a page about your main product or service, should be at least two to four thousand words.

And for those of you that weren’t here in January, the trick is that you don’t have to write it yourself. You can dictate it over your phone and send it to someone to transcribe it. Or hire someone to write it for you. You don’t have to write it yourself, but this is one of the things that will set you apart.

One thing to make sure of, especially if you have 2,000 words on a page: your first two paragraphs need to be the most important thing you want people to know, don’t save the best for last. Tell people right away your product or service. Everything below the first two paragraphs is secondary, but the most important information should be in the first two paragraphs.

Why? What do you want people to do? you want someone to read 2,000 words and think, “Oh, that’s interesting,” or do you want them to read one paragraph and then contact you?

I don’t know about you, but I rarely read past the first paragraph myself. So, most of that page is for the search engines, but again, don’t just throw a bunch of keywords in there.  Make good content.

Social Media Is (NOT) The Answer

I get asked about this all the time and I hear it constantly: “Post on Facebook® so that you can get higher in the search engines.” Has anybody ever done a search for your business name and have your Facebook profile come up? Yes, several of you.

Do a search for any post you’ve ever put on Facebook; you’ll never find it. Facebook and Google are competitors. Interesting enough (for some strange reason), LinkedIn posts are starting to show up on Bing.

I used to tell people that no social media showed up in the search engines, but Microsoft opened up LinkedIn. LinkedIn posts and LinkedIn articles are starting to show up on Bing and now they’re even showing up on Google.

No matter what you do on Facebook, Twitter®, Instagram®, any of it. None if will help you web site SEO in the least bit, even if you link to your web site from a post.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it won’t help your business, it just won’t help your web site SEO.

YouTube® is different than the others. Of course, YouTube isn’t a social media platform. YouTube is the number two search engine in the world. What many may not know is YouTube is also now the number two most looked at web site in the world. That didn’t used to be, it just got that ranking.

YouTube also transcribes all of its videos, the little CC for people that can’t hear. And what you may not know is that YouTube does not use any of that transcription to help you get higher in the search engines because, if you look at it, their transcriptions are terrible.

Luckily, they filter out what they think are bad words because if they didn’t, their transcriptions would have bad words everywhere, even when you don’t say them.

If you have a business you need to be on YouTube.

Do a video about your business. I did a little two-minute video off my cell phone about what is SEO because I was getting asked constantly about just what it is. I think it’s 3 minutes.  I did it in my office myself, and it has no “professional” flair to it.

It doesn’t have to be a multi-million-dollar production, just do it and get it up on YouTube. If you hate it, then do another one later. If you’re in business, do videos. It’s well worth it

 If nothing else, do a video on why buy from me rather than someone else. Or your most popular product. It doesn’t have to just be on YouTube, put it on the front page of your web site as well.

But what you want to do on YouTube is work on the description and the keywords.

 The description should be a synopsis. A little two-minute video should have a synopsis. The synopsis could be almost what you say, but don’t use your transcript on YouTube.

YouTube will notice if you do an exact transcript of what you said, and you won’t get ranked as high in their search engine. I haven’t figured out why they do that, but they do.

A synopsis is different than your transcription. And make sure you do all the keywords that you can, because YouTube looks at those. The keywords and description are how you get ranked in YouTube.

someday their own transcription service will get good enough that we won’t have to do this anymore, but today is not that day.

Beware of falling for the “latest craze.”

I’ve about backlinks and I talked about movies. I’ve been asked about Alexa skills before as well. The one core thing you want to do, if you want to do something that will help you get higher in the search engines, is good quality accurate content. That’s number one. Everything else is number two.

Don’t worry about the right domain name. Don’t worry about having “link juice” (a fancy way of saying backlinks) and having 2,000 backlinks versus 200 backlinks. Don’t worry about having the right YouTube movies.

Worry about having the right content on your web site. To me, that’s the number one thing. People jump on the latest craze, which we’re almost programmed to do that anyway, aren’t we? I mean, how many people stand in line for the latest iPhone when they already have one version older that works just fine.

If you have good quality, solid content on your website then start doing backlinks.

Start doing movies; start doing all the other stuff. But content is number one. and I’d say even if you do have good quality content you could probably add on to it.

When I read that the top pages had about 2,000 words, I realized my web pages averaged about 500. So, I only had about 25% of what I needed.

Last but not least: You’re in business because you are very good at what you do. The big question you want to ask yourself is: “Do I want to add in doing the SEO stuff myself or get help?”

Contact us today.

A lot of what I talked about today is in my book: Timeless SEO Secrets.

Thank you for joining me!

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