The 12 Days of Christmas: Website Disaster Style

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Christmas comes just once a year, but terrible websites can be found all-year long! When it comes to SEO-friendly web design, here are a few practices that will have you asking Santa Claus for a new webmaster this Christmas. Feel free to sing along! (I would be amazed to see someone actually put this to music).

Credit goes to Jeff Call for the fantastic animation.

The 12 Days of Christmas: Website Disaster Style

On the first day of Christmas, my web guy gave to me:

A Website That Isn’t Ranking













The first, and biggest indication that your website isn't SEO-friendly is a lack of rankings for the keywords that would drive traffic to your site.

2 Spammy Tags













Stuffing your page title tags with keywords may sound logical, but it's considered misleading by search engines. It's better to make sure the title contains your top 2-3 keywords and build page content around those words.

3 Dead Links













The quickest way to force someone away from your site is to send them to a page that doesn't exist. Frequently run an internal link checker to make sure all of your links are valid. Create a custom 404 page so that visitors who do end up on an invalid URL have a quick and easy correction path back to your site.

4 Pop-up Ads













Hosting pop-up ads on your site may be profitable from an advertising standpoint, but they will infuriate your site visitors. There are more effective, less intrusive ways to advertise on your site.

5 Golden Rings













In addition to stuffing title tags with keywords, any similar practice in the body of your page content will also likely get picked up by search engines and will discount your rankings. Oh, and meta keywords are worthless.

6 Pages Flashing













Avoid flash animation on your site if you can. Written content that you would otherwise put in a flash animation should be turned into crawlable HTML text for maximum SEO benefit.

7 Keywords Hiding













Making links the same color as your page background or hiding them behind images is a serious black hat SEO practice that will only get you penalized. If your visitor can't see the text, you're better to leave it off the page.

8 Farms A-Linking













Don't get sucked into massive networks of promised links. While tempting, these link farms are often associated with black hat practices and spammy link building tactics that will penalize your site.

9 Pages Cloaking













Trying to deliver different content to a search engine spider than your visitors is just stupid. Cloaking is considered grounds for delisting by most search engines.

10 Links A-Buying













While some paid directories offer value, most take your money without providing substantial value. Search engines like Google are on the lookout for purchasers of paid links, which are often tied to networks of link farms and other bad SEO practices.

11 Blogs A-Spamming













Blog spamming is one of the least effective ways to build links. Most blog comments use no-follow links anyway, so do yourself a favor and build higher quality backlinks.

12 Sites A-Scraping













Taking content belonging to someone else and putting it on your own website will get your site devalued in the rankings, even if it does provide free content. If you have to use content already found elsewhere on the web, like quotes or technical specifications, make sure you have plenty of unique content to surround it.

The End


  1. Logan Clark

    Unfortunately I am easily having 10 of these problems – That is Fantastic and just in time for the holidays!!!

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  2. David Scoville

    Scott–Hilarious, creative, well-thought. I’m a big fan of this post!
    Jeff–Brilliant animations.

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  3. Alex McArthur

    Funny stuff.

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  4. Anita Pinkerton

    Definitely some time tested “bad” SEO practices. Thanks for the comical spin! I am trying to come up with one for “bad URLs,” a la /index.php?content=475, but my brain is tired – too many 3 year old’s b-day parties this weekend. =)

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  5. Rick Hardman

    NICE! Love the content, the idea, and the animations! Great viral potential on this one Scott. Now, you just need the right person to sing it.

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  6. Eric Salmon

    ZING! Nice one home slice. I love how you burned half the internet for Christmas. I can’t think of a better present.

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  7. Nathan Judd

    Awesome. Reminds me I have a lot of work to do. I’ll ask my wife if she’ll sing it for you.

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  8. Edwin

    Concerning the links in black text. I tend to color the text black for section headers in text which are also links. I think they look terrible in blue link text, particularly when one or two section headers may not link to anything. Is that still considered a problem?

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  9. Scott Cowley

    Thanks for the positive vibes, guys.

    Rick, are you offering up your vocal talents?

    Posted on December 14, 2009
  10. Danny Walters

    I’ve been visiting this site for a while now, and I’ve finaly decided to write a comment. Your site has been very helpfull and the tools and tips are great. The three sites I have all rank very well, thanks to the information on this site. Thank you,

    Posted on December 15, 2009
  11. Rob Aubrey

    Thanks Scott,
    Nice visuals too.

    Posted on December 16, 2009
  12. Ralph Hulet

    Good point. Brilliant summary.

    Posted on December 16, 2009
  13. Devon Harrison

    Website movement has been difficult for me this year. It seems that during the holiday I always get hit by spam. I think that I had 9 spam on my wordpress blog today alone.

    Posted on December 28, 2009
  14. Gabriella Johanneson

    Very funny and well said. I could even hear the song.. somewhere in my mind ;)

    Posted on January 27, 2010

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