Search Engine Optimization (SEO) has come a long way over the years. As trends emerge, others fade away. And then there are those that crash and burn.
In this post, I will cover five outdated SEO practices that crashed, burned, and now desperately need to be retired.
- Poor Content quality
- Duplicate content
- Keyword stuffing
- Stuffing meta descriptions
- Using link networks
1) Poor Content Quality
Content is king in today’s digital marketing world. Web sites that are continuously publishing quality content that is both well written and helpful to searchers will be more likely to find themselves on the front pages of search results, but it wasn’t always like that.
Before 2000, having quality content was not a prerequisite for high-ranking websites. Most search engines didn’t care if the content was any good or not, and usually, the content was just not good (see keyword stuffing below). As a result, searchers often had difficulty finding good how-to and other instructional articles that are now commonplace.
We know of course now that thin content is never rewarded in search results. When Google rolled out the Penguin update, it made having great content a must for anyone that wants to play the SEO game. Now having poor content is more detrimental to your website’s ranking than any other SEO practice.
If you want to create great content, remember these tips:
- Write between 700-1000 words for a great article. If you’re just writing static copy for a company page, try to hit about 300 words.
- Post new, engaging articles frequently to keep yourself relevant.
- Focus your content on problems or points of interest that your audience may have.
- Don’t make keywords the focus of your piece. Let the writing flow naturally.
2) Duplicate Content
Almost as harmful as having a thin, poorly written copy, duplicate copies can get you into trouble as well.
Imagine this: you’ve just finished a great article for your blog. You post it, and after the post becomes wildly popular you start getting messages from other bloggers. They love your article, but rather than do the work and write their article, they’d rather copy yours and post a link to your original work.
On the one hand, you get a helpful backlink (assuming the other blogger’s site isn’t spammy, to begin with), but now you’ve confused search engines. They can’t distinguish between the original draft and the copy, and they won’t know which version to link. If you let others copy your site, then they might end up getting the SEO credit for it.
To prevent this from happening, don’t let anyone copy your work, with or without your permission. If someone asks to do so, politely say no, but allow them to quote you, provided they use a backlink to your site. You still receive a credit; the blogger gets to use a bit of your work, and your SEO doesn’t take a hit.
3) Keyword Stuffing
Once upon a time, SEO was all about keywords. The more keywords and phrases you had crammed into your text, the more likely you were to see your page pop up in search results.
This quickly became a problem with content. While there were some bloggers and marketers who were creating great content, there were a lot of bloggers and marketers who were not. Instead, they were creating badly-worded copy that had no other purpose than to rank higher in search results. If the keyword was “property development company in Melbourne,” then the copy would squeeze the phrase into nearly every sentence, making the text redundant and not very useful.
“Looking for a property development company in Melbourne? We’re a property development company in Melbourne looking to help you find the perfect home. Contact our property development company in Melbourne today!”
Not very much help, right? Despite the uselessness of these pages, the tactic worked for some time until Google started penalizing websites for doing it. Now must search engines follow Google’s lead so if you’re still trying to keyword stuff, you probably won’t get very far.
Instead, sprinkle in your keywords and use them sparingly. Don’t worry about the keywords so much as the content. If you’re creating worthwhile content, the keywords will flow more naturally.
4) Stuffing Meta Descriptions
When you search for something on Google, the search engine provides a brief description of the site below the link to give readers a better idea of where the link goes. This is called the meta description.
In the past, it was common to stuff these with keywords to try to raise pages ranking in search results, but in 2009, Google announced that its latest update would do away with this practice. Now meta descriptions do not impact SEO, so it is pointless to stuff them with keywords.
5) Using Link Networks
In previous years, a big part of SEO was backlinks. To some extent today, it still is important, though maybe less so than other things like great content. About ten years ago, the easiest way to create backlinks was to pay for them by joining link networks, but now, this practice is highly frowned upon. In fact, Google even warns against it in their Webmaster guides.
When these networks were profitable, websites could pay to join them and get links to their site posted on other sites, creating plenty of backlinks. The problem with this strategy was that those backlinks were on some pretty sketchy websites, and even if the sites weren’t dodgy, they just weren’t relevant. For example, your clothing company might have a backlink on a weight-loss supplement site or on another questionable website.
Nowadays, backlinks are still relevant, but they need to be built over time and should only appear on quality websites. In fact, Google will start to categorize your site as spam if you have too many backlinks on spam sites, so beware. If you lay down with dogs, you might get up with fleas.
It’s All About Creating an Authentic User Experience
What’s important to remember with SEO is that it’s all about creating an authentic user experience. These practices might have once gotten you to the front page of search results, but if you’re still doing these shady practices, then you’re likely to be back on page three of four, which might as well be no man’s land.
Do you find yourself doing any of these practices? Which ones are still prevalent today? Tell us your thoughts in the comments.