Introduction to Search Engine Optimization

Limitations of Search Engine Technology

While Search Engine Optimization is necessary, search engines don’t work the same way as humans do. Google and Bing, for example, are powerful sites and tools to use to market your business, but there are search engine limitations that you need to know about.

Picture of woman at computer working. Introduction to Search Engine Optimization Search Engine Limitations

While Search Engines like Google and Bing are increasingly complicated, there are things that they can’t do well. Read more about this in today’s post.

Remember, search engines send out crawlers to scour the web and follow links. They take what they find and index websites and present that information to a user. Using complicated algorithms, this information is ranked according to popularity and relevance.

Search Engine Limitations include

Online forms

Online forms where people contact you, fill out surveys, etc. often lead to other pages that are hidden, think of an Email sign up form where it sends the user to another page. Alternatively, search engines may have a hard time getting to membership sites or pages where a login is necessary.

Duplicate pages

Pages with the same content within a website present a particular problem to search engines. Search Engines, when they come across a page of the same content can’t decide which page should rank.

Blocked Pages

Developers and designers can decide to limit access to a web page through putting instructions on the page for search engines not to crawl pages. Websites may want to limit access to certain pages to search engines because they want the content to be private.

Poor Link Structure

If a site’s link structure is not clear and understandable by search engine crawlers, search engines may not be able to see all the content on a website. This means that an engine will not get an accurate picture of the website and not be able to index it properly.

Non-HTML Content

Because search engines can only index HTML code, when websites have images, videos, flash content, audio, and other non-HTML content, search engines can’t make sense of that information. Search engines can’t “see” the images, “watch” the videos, or “listen” to the audio files like we would. One way to help search engines with this is to use ALT tags for images. ALT tags can also help with accessibility for handicapped individuals.

Further Search Engine Limitations

Weird terms

When you write content for your website, be sure to use terms that your user will use to search. Writing content for “electrified stringed instruments” won’t be matched to user searches for “guitar” or “bass guitar” because the search engine can’t match your content to searches.

Language Idiosyncracies

While some countries and localities share a common language, different locals and countries may spell their words differently. The obvious example is US and the UK. The word “color” is spelled “c-o-l-o-r” in the US while in the UK it’s spelled “c-0-l-0-u-r”. You wouldn’t rank in search engines if you were using a US spelling for a UK term for UK users.

Location Targeting Problems

If you spend a lot of time writing content for Spanish language users while most of your users are Italian speakers, search engines will be confused with the content and not be able to rank your content appropriately.

Mixed context signals

Let’s say you have a site with the title Kentucky’s Best Bourbons but you write a post on your blog about the great Opera you saw in Cincinnati and the bourbon you had afterwards, you’d confuse your search engines because they would be receiving mixed signals from your site.



Think of all the above as pitfalls or obstacles to great search engine optimization. Knowing them now will help you as you work on your website, or to provide you a better understanding when working with your agency or in house designer.

Read other posts in this series of search engine optimization:

An Introduction to Search Engine Optimization (1 of ?)
Search Engine Optimization: How Search Engines Work (2 of ?)
Search Engine Optimization: How People Use Search Engines (3 of ?)

Question: Had you ever heard of these SEO pitfalls? Which ones do you think you need to fix on your site? Let us know in the comments below! You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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