Three White-and-black Scrabble Tiles on Brown Wooden Surface

With consumers spending more and more time on computers and mobile devices, while using Google as a primary tool to find products or services that they need or want, having a prominent position in search engines is an increasingly important part of effective marketing for small businesses. While hiring an SEO firm is often a desired luxury, most small businesses choose to learn and do SEO on their own. There are an abundance of free resources that provide instruction on how to plan and execute effective SEO like SEOMoz’s Beginner’s Guide to SEO and blogs like Search Engine Land.

However, this do it yourself approach can lead to many mistakes by small business owners who do not have a full understanding of the latest updates by Google which can make an effective tactic obsolete overnight. Here are some of the biggest time wasters in SEO that produce small or no improvements to your site’s rankings.

1. Commenting On Blogs

While commenting on relevant blogs can be a good way to build relationships with blog owners, it is a horrible way to improve your SEO. From a pure traffic standpoint, very few people tend to click on your comment link. From a linkbuilding perspective, you are getting a minuscule to zero link juice going back to your site. Since 99% of blogs automatically no-follow comment links, they send zero link juice to your site. No-follow communicates to Google that the site owner does not endorse the link and therefore it does not count as a vote for your site. If you can find blogs that take no-follow off their comment links, it can pass a small amount of value. But typically there are tons of comments and your link juice gets divided between the other links on the page.

2. Manual Link Requests

This is equivalent to a brute force attempt to solve the link acquisition problem. Some site owners think that if they email tons of sites, that they will get a few of those people to send a link their way. However, linking usually doesn’t work that way. People link to content that they find very interesting or compelling. They typically don’t link to something just to help out a random person who emails them. Most site owners are too busy to even read these emails and often times there is not a compelling reason given for why they should take the time to add a link to their site. Why not spend the time that you would have spent emailing a hundred people and create a piece of content that will be incredibly helpful or fascinating? Even if you don’t think you’re much good at presenting information or design, it’s still a much more time-worthy task to research and develop something than spam a load of emails!

3. Submitting your site to Numerous Directories

Submitting your site to directories is extremely easy. Often times you just have to fill out a form and you’re done. However, most directories send so little link juice to your site that they are not even worth 5 minutes of your time. There are a few good directories like Yahoo directory,, and Best of the Web that are known to send you good value and also cost hundreds of dollars per year. Local directories can also be a good value if their editors are careful on who they allow in. But most smaller directories allow anyone to be included, even poor quality spam sites and have little SEO authority to share.

4. Requesting link exchanges

The SEO community believes that link exchanges are devalued by Google, even to the point where they don’t count. So emailing a lot of site owners offering to link to their site in exchange for a link back can be an extraordinary waste of time.

The exception is if you are exchanging links to similar sites in your industry. Google views it as natural for sites within the same niche to link to each other, so there is likely to be link juice passed in these cases. However, exchanging links indiscriminately probably adds little value since this is considered an attempt to manipulate the engines.

5. Building another site and linking to yourself

At first this may seem like a brilliant idea. If you create a blog with some quality content and maybe a few links, you can send links directly to your main site and even control the keywords used in the links. However it often takes a huge amount of time to build a separate site and fill it with content. Additionally Google recognizes when sites are linking to other sites you own. Even if you host the site on a different server in another state, Google can often determine when networks of sites are just linking to each other by detecting unnatural linking patterns and sometimes checking the domain registration data.

Additionally, Google considers domain diversity, or the number of different domains that link to you as an important signal. Therefore it is much better to have several different sites link to you than to get a lot of links from a single site. If you already have different sites, it is okay to link them together, but it is not recommended to build a site just to get links from it.