When attempting to make our presence online, it can be tempting to play some tricks that don’t necessarily sit well with Google and other similar search engines, after all, it worked in the past, right? Well, initially it may well have, and many were able to climb through the ranks, thanks to a number of simple tactics that delivered results for the website owner, but not necessarily the reader. As Google was keen to keep hold its search engine giant crown, things had to be updated to ensure that those employing the services of the search engine were only receiving content that was of a good quality, as well as relevant. As such, steps were taken to eradicate the use of blackhat SEO tactics online and penalise those who decided to use them.
As such, Google released a number of algorithm updates that looked to eradicate content that was deemed irrelevant. The latest update was the release of Penguin 4.0.
When talking about SEO techniques, it’s normal to hear about both, white-hat and black-hat practices. White-hat SEO consists of practices that are ‘legal’ within the online hemisphere and will look to serve a website well moving forward. However, strategies that look to offer nothing more than a ‘quick hit’ of traffic will often fall by the wayside long-term, as well as be penalised by the likes of Google. In this regard, we take a look at ten SEO strategies that are lifeless and will do nothing more than hinder you moving forward.
1. Keyword Stuffing & Article Spinning
One of the main targets in Google’s sights was the act of keyword stuffing & cannibalisation. Keyword research is, of course, important to ensure your content can be found, but the tactics of yesteryear literally meant stuffing as many keywords as possible into content that simply wasn’t relevant. As such, the new, updated algorithms suggest that they are far more intelligent, and will also review the content surrounding the keywords to ensure it is able to offer value to the online users who use Google. This means that if you’re stuffing keywords into content that is nothing more than spammy content on a site, you will see your ranking fall tremendously as a result (if you even get indexed at all).
While it’s always advisable to repurpose content for different platforms, this doesn’t mean you should offer readers with spun text. Like keyword stuffing, article spinning was seen as something of a ‘get rich quick’ scheme in the world of SEO, as it allowed users to repurpose content over and over. While this may sound fine initially, it’s worth remembering that spinning software just exchanges words with other synonyms, which often result in unreadable content that makes little sense. So, to be clear, content spinning shouldn’t be confused with translating content into other forms of media, such as videos and infographics. It’s simply a case of ensuring that the content is original, and not just a series of text that doesn’t read too well.
2. Blog and Comment Spam
Blogs can bring a lot of value to the online community, regardless of whether it’s the blog of business, or simply a part-time enthusiast. What’s more, blog comments can be used to build connections with other people in your niche, and can actually reap a number of rewards. However, simply visiting a series of blogs in order to leave links that lead back to your site is something of pointless endeavour when carrying out SEO.
In the first instance, blog owners rarely want a series of spammy comments all over their blog, so will often remove them, often leading to a ban. It also puts you and your website in a bad light when it comes to forming online relationships. Search engines such as Google also don’t take comments kindly that are nothing more than nonsensical links, so it is also likely to affect your domain trust and authority. As such, you should only look to leave comments when they’re relevant. While this may seem like a slow link building process, it will help you flourish more naturally within the online domain. It is also important to keep in mind that majority of respected blogs, websites and popular commenting plugins set “no-follow” attribute to comment links. Hence, there is almost no value in practising this strategy anyway.
Surprisingly, the famous Quora seems to be facing the spam issue as well. Every time we come in to answer some SEO queries on Quora, some people leave a bunch of useless links that lead to “Backlink Packs” on Fiverr. Weirdly, a lot of these “answers” don’t get banned or marked as spam.
What kind of answer is this?
Funny enough, people don’t realise that Quora links are ‘no-follow’, but still decide to spam.
Nevertheless, online users are looking for value regardless of what their searching for, be it a product or a website. If a website isn’t maintained in the right way, then you could fall foul to a series of penalties, as well as fall down the ranks of Google and other search engines.
3. Hidden Text
Much like keyword stuffing, the hiding of text became a method of SEO that was soon made redundant by Google’s new algorithm. The practice would normally include disguising keywords within the website so that they could have been embedded into pictures or hidden within the website design itself. For example, by using white font on white background. Although the use of alt tags is encouraged when describing a picture, the use of hidden text actually looks to manipulate the use of keywords, meaning that the content being delivered was very rarely relevant to what searchers were looking for.
4. Purchasing Links and Link Schemes
When carrying out SEO for your website, you need to ensure that any links placed on your website follow the relevant guidelines. This means that different links work in different ways, and it’s important that they are listed correctly as not to fall foul of Google. For example, if you make use of the Google AdSense program, or anything similar from Yahoo or Bing, then you will be fine with the current setup, as is often the case when it comes to advertising links with reputable search engines. However, if you’ve paid for a review or press release to be placed on a site, it must be labelled with the ‘no-follow’ attribute within the text, or you could be open to a number of penalties. While the use of paid links are allowed, they are not beneficial from an SEO perspective, as they do not hold enough weight when it comes to backlinking, and are therefore dismissed.
There is also the danger of using link schemes that look to link to each other free of charge. Again, while this may sound like a good idea in the interim, it actually can do more harm than good moving forward. This is because the link will be often coming from a website with very little trust, and as such, fails to make any kind of impression on your rankings, other than in a negative way.
5. Buying Expired Domains and Building Micro Sites
The purchasing of websites in a niche market can be profitable if used in the right way. However, using a number of different sites to try and target can be a bad move, despite the benefits associated with domains that have been active in the past. Microsites are great for someone offering a basic site that offers users information, but funnelling in traffic for your particular brand could prove to be problematic with multiple domains. The reason for this? Well, the first thing you need to consider is the time spent on managing the other sites. While many feel that there may be a benefit in backlinking to sites using an expired domain, we have to consider how the algorithms that bring up content have changed. As such, the use of microsites with expired domains is no longer a viable SEO option.
This can be due to a number of factors. The main one is that the algorithm changes that have taken place are far superior to that of days gone by. As such, if we’re not able to conform to the rules set out by Google, then we could be penalised as a result. Backlinking to and from a number of microsites may seem like the right thing to do initially, but you have to consider how Google looks at links that haven’t been formed naturally. Working on other sites also means that you’re investing less time into the main website, which means it won’t be performing as well as it should, making your other SEO efforts pointless.
The use of existing domains can also affect the branding of our website and business. Think of it like this, you now have a number of different platforms in which to promote your business, but for your business to gain traction, you need to ensure that you’re ensuring your identity remains the same for all platforms being used. So, while expired domains could potentially be used to divert more traffic in the interim, it would be worthwhile considering focusing on one website, and ensure that all the content is relevant, and the site is optimised in the right way. Otherwise, you could find that you’re falling behind as a result.
It’s also worthwhile noting that buying expired domains carries certain risks, the main one being the backlinks. You will never know whether the site has been using dodgy SEO techniques before and whether it has been penalised previously.
6. Thin Pages & Content
There is an assumption that you should create a page for every keyword variation. We still see a lot of “SEO” agencies practising this strategy. For example, it is believed that by creating separate pages for targeting “SEO in London”, “SEO in Greater London” and “SEO in Central London” the site will get a ranking boost for some or even all of these keywords. The truth is, Google has gotten much smarter in identifying patterns & user intent, so this strategy became no more than an attempt to try and game the system.
As well as thin pages, the times of 300-word blog posts are gone. You will find a number of so-called SEO experts claiming to provide users with more content, focusing on quantity over the quality. However, in reality, a lot of poorly-written content will not move the needle in your search rankings.
Think about it this way, would anyone want to read or link to an inferior, low-quality piece? Probably not. So, what’s the point of creating short, useless content?
We get it. Huge, informative and well-researched pieces take a lot of time & dedication to get prepared. So, it can be tempting to focus on short content instead. But, long, informative & relevant content is the only way to go if you wish to boost the credibility of your site and gain some quality backlinks.
7. Using Low-Quality Directories
Like many of the other SEO methods, the placing of links within online directories was actually commonplace and promoted by Google. But like many aspects of SEO, it wasn’t long before the system was abused, and before there would be thousands of links placed within numerous directories online, which devalued a service that was once considered a vital part of SEO. As such, Google took action and began to issue penalties to spammy, low-quality directories, making any links placed on them useless. While listing your services on a directory is deemed a good practice, it should be used in the right way, and never over-used. Remember, whatever you do with regards to SEO has to have some benefit to the end user, so trying to take a few shortcuts to raise your ranking may do more harm than good in the long run.
In this regard, you should ensure that you only use directories that follow the strict regulations set out by Google. Otherwise, you could be wasting time posting to directories that simply carry no weight for your search rankings.
8. Heavy use of internal anchor text
This is not to say that you can’t link your internal content. Instead, you should, in fact, provide links as long as they provide value to the reader, by leading them to relevant sources & further reading.
In the past, internal anchor text was an effective strategy that could have impacted the rankings positively. However, as Google is much smarter now, it can identify whether the internal link is there to manipulate the rankings or to provide the real value to the reader.
9. Not focusing on Design & User Experience
Okay, this one might be straightforward to some of you, but the vast majority of people still put a fat line between SEO & Website Design.
It’s vital to understand that everything we do online is done for the end user, not search engines. Therefore, we must focus on developing and designing a seamless website experience that will allow users to navigate across our website & share our content with ease. Not only this will increase the user satisfaction, but can also flare up your site to the top of the search results.
Great website design & UX can determine the success or failure of your website. If users struggle to understand the content or find your design somewhat confusing, you are at risk of losing them.
Hence, it is vital to avoid the deadly sins of user experience when developing an SEO & Content Marketing strategy for your business.
Before you start with marketing your site and its contents, answer the following questions:
- Is my site visually attractive?
- Is design consistent on every page & post? Do I use more than 3 fonts and colour schemes?
- Is my site loading fast?
- Is it easy for people to share my content? Do I have social sharing buttons?
- Is it straightforward to navigate?
- Are images of top-notch quality?
- Do I have too many pop-ups?
- Are there any broken links or hidden pages?
10. Ignoring Social Media
When it comes to marketing our website, we can often forget about other solutions by focusing on one aspect too much. While there should be time invested into the website, you also need to ensure that you’re tending to other aspects of marketing your website, especially your social network channels. Many businesses may create some social network accounts, but very few make use of them, which means their traffic can be lower than if they were used. More and more websites are becoming more than familiar with the benefits that the likes of Facebook have to offer. Of course, a Facebook business page will never replace your main website, but it will ensure that you remain connected with your audience.
Social media profiles are also great for keeping a steady flow of traffic coming into your website, as long as you ensure the content you are sharing is relevant to your business. Try and think outside the box and offer your visitors some information or tips. Not only will this give you a more trustworthy status in the online world, but it will ensure that you have an active audience with the potential of making some sales in the process.
Although social popularity isn’t a direct ranking factor, it’s worth noting that social media can influence the way your site ranks indirectly. For example, if you share a valuable piece of content on Twitter that gets 1,000s of re-tweets and likes, your website traffic is likely to increase as a result. Moreover, if you manage to retain those visitors by providing a seamless user experience, you can be assured that they will come back for more, indicating Google that your site is more relevant than it used to be.
11. Exact Match Domain Names
Think about your website as a brand. Would you want people to remember you as the founder of ‘freelinkbuidlingguides.com’ or ‘linkomania.com’ (just made the names up :))?
Anyway, if you didn’t get the analogy, people tend to trust real brands more. The main reason being the spammy association that users & search engines have developed over the last couple of decades with exact keyword match (or partial keyword match) domain names.
Although keywords in a URL may still be a tiny ranking signal, you might want to rethink your strategy and focus on long-term benefits of having a credible brand name. Later, when you realise that it’s time to build a proper business, you would have to go through the hassle of re-branding & re-direction.
12. Ignoring Mobile Friendliness & AMP
It must be no-brainer for most of you to understand the importance of having a mobile-friendly website that is adjustable to any screen size. In fact, Google has confirmed that mobile search has surpassed the desktop search.
More recently, Google, with a couple of partners (including Twitter) have introduced Accelerated Mobile Pages (also known as AMP), with the main goal to provide its users with a lightening-fast mobile experience. Websites that have integrated AMP can now allow users to view the content almost instantly.
Although AMP isn’t officially a ranking signal, it’s clear that the vast majority of people will appreciate the super-fast experience.
This is not to mention Google’s latest announcement about ‘mobile-first’ indexing. Previously, Google evaluated search rankings based on the desktop version of the site. Now, Google will be shifting from desktop to mobile, meaning that if your site does not perform well on mobile devices, there is a high probability that it won’t do well in desktop search.
SEO can be a balancing act of knowing what to do, and what not to do, and with the frequent updates we see, it can become more and more confusing. When you get underneath the hood of SEO, it can be an easy endeavour, albeit a time-consuming one.
But, one thing you know for sure – don’t try to game the system, as it will always come back as a boomerang against you and your business.
That being said, considering the above points, you will be able to avoid the most common SEO pitfalls. Ensure you carry out an extensive research before proceeding with promotion of your website and its contents, and never fall for buying links.