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Welcome to the second instalment in our Top Five Most Common SEO Issues as Seen by Receptional in 2011.

For anyone who missed yesterday’s blog, the premise of this countdown is to highlight common SEO problems – the issues we see time and time again on the vast majority of websites.

Number five in our list was XML Sitemaps, an issue that sparked some debate on the blog. For now, it’s onwards and upwards to number four.

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Number four in our chart, and this one shouldn’t be contentious…

Content

Content is of course one of the most important aspects of on-page SEO. Get it right, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful website. Get it wrong however, and the consequences can be disastrous.

The mantra ‘content is king’ has become somewhat overused, but it can’t be denied that unique, high quality content is paramount to being successful in organic search.

We’ve seen all manner of website content issues over the year.

Low quality, boring content

Search engine algorithms are continually evolving and getting better at evaluating the value of content on a page. This fact, coupled with the overriding importance placed on content can drive webmasters to write something, anything to stick on a page.

Of course types of content and tone will vary from site to site, but overall text should be engaging, relevant to users and should speak to them in their language. On e-commerce sites, never forget the WIIFM (what’s in it for me) and be sure to mention the benefits of any products or services. Simple stuff we’ve all heard before, but still an extremely common symptom of having little regard for SEO and users when writing content.

Poor keyword targeting/keyword stuffing

The days of black hat techniques like simply repeating a keyword throughout a piece of content are long gone. Strategic use of keywords within content is paramount to the success of a website within the organic search rankings. Various techniques are now required to successfully target a set of keywords which involves the use of backlinks, anchor text, headings, co-occurrence and synonyms to name a few.

Content needs to be natural, useful and informative to the user, which will innately appear favourably to search spiders. Text should never be written solely for search engines without consideration for users, as this will appear spammy and have a negative impact on conversions. We know that Google has dedicated teams of people who will review websites manually and flag those that appear to be ‘gaming’ the search engines as low quality/breaking Google’s guidelines. Black hat techniques such as keyword stuffing and repetition therefore pose a very real risk of content quality penalties being imposed, as many sites experienced earlier this year following the Google Panda algorithmic update.

Duplication

There can be a tendency, once quality, keyword orientated text has been created, to just copy the content and paste onto many different pages across the site. There are many ways to evaluate content value, but the most simplistic is whether or not it improves the user experience or quality of a particular page. Having the same text on many different pages does not stand up to this. How can it, unless you have a site consisting of identical duplications of one page.

Blatant text duplication, as with keyword stuffing, can be considered an outdated technique that at the very least will erode confidence and dissuade people from using the site, and at the worst lead to penalties being enforced.

Lack of content

The final common content issue we’ve seen is the opposite of the points above, a severe lack of content. Most often seen on e-commerce sites, where webmasters merely present product lists with little accompanying text. This missed opportunity to use relevant keywords in copy is a criminal oversight.

Others have attempted to generate unique and relevant content through the use of blogs and news articles, but have failed to keep them updated regularly. This can be seen as a negative confidence signal to users and decrease the chance of and customer interaction.

I’m sure you’ll have thoughts on content, especially in this increasingly social age, so please leave any comments below. Number three in The Top Five Most Common SEO Issues as Seen by Receptional in 2011 will be on its way tomorrow.