If you’re unfamiliar to SEO strategies then it’s understandable that you’d want to enlist the help of the professionals to maximise your website’s profile and attract traffic. The problem is that while all SEO service providers claim to offer relevant and effective tactics, not all of them are as clued up as they should be, often offering out of date and ineffective push button solutions that do more to harm your site than help it.
To help you avoid these potential pitfalls, here are some of the out of date SEO tactics you’ll still see commonly offered (or hidden) – and why you should be steering clear of anyone that suggests them to you!
1. Keyword stuffing
In short – this is the practice of jamming as many keywords as physically possible into your website’s content, resulting in an unreadable mess of text that hardly makes sense. This is a throwback from a long-gone era when sites would be ranked according to how frequently keywords appeared on a web page. Using this tactic now will not only be unhelpful to someone viewing your site, it could negatively impact your ranking. It’s easy to spot sites that stuff keywords as the content does not make sense when reading. Google is now intelligent enough not only to spot keyword stuffing but also evaluate the level of vocabulary being used so check your spelling and read everything back before publishing.
2. Unrealistic keywords
Keywords are still an effective approach to boosting SEO – when used correctly. That means thorough and careful research is required into selecting the right keywords for your market and budget. Instead of using broad, generic terms, you should be focusing your attention with more discrimination on keywords that are relevant to what you actually do to improve traffic and ranking. Google spends more time than ever reviewing semantic keyword indexing which can seriously help improve your SEO efforts when used effectively.
The semantic part of the algorithm determines what users are actually trying to find when they search using a keyword. The semantic search algorithm tries to understand the meaning of the keywords and the purpose behind why they are being used. Local keywords can be very effective on websites for local search results. For instance Red Alien are far more likely to appear at the top of local results for ‘seo agency cambridge’ as opposed to ‘seo agency’.
3. Spammy blog comments
Not only an out-of-date tactic, this one was pretty awful to start with. It involves the practice of spamming a blog’s comment pages with often nonsensical comments, with the aim of creating links back to your site. Many blogs now have nofollow link tags to prevent the suspect link juice flowing out of the site. Google became aware early on that this was a suspicious practice and has devalued links from blog comments.
There were many back hat SEO platforms that cropped up a few years ago blasting blog comments across hundreds of spammy sites. In fact many SEO’s will still use these out of date tactics today. Using blog spamming is extremely artificial and can seriously harm a sites ranking.
4. Duplicate sites and domains
If you’ve been encouraged to have duplicate websites, domains or even post duplicate articles across different sites, you should heed the warning bells and steer clear immediately. Duplication will not help your website stand out in rankings – in fact, it will do the exact opposite. By highlighting or promoting duplicated content to Google and other search engines can lead to a drop in ranking, or even pages being removed entirely from the search index. If you have duplicated content on your own site consider using a canonical link to tell Google which is the unique url for the original content.
Search engines may struggle to understand which version of the content to index, especially if they are all released at the same time. Google has to make a decision on which page to trust and index. There are a number of factors that Google looks for to identify original content but don’t make their job or yours any more difficult with duplication.
5. Meta Keywords
This technique dates back to the distant days of early SEO, when meta tags were initially used to add relevant meta keywords across the pages of a site. After a few years the meta keyword tag became flooded with irrelevant terms, simply in an attempt to boost more traffic. Now, meta keywords are entirely irrelevant and completely disregarded by search engines. If you’re being encouraged to spend any of your money this way, you should avoid it now.
Meta data should not be used only to enhance search rankings. Instead use meta data to encourage relevant content to hit the target audience and provide the best possible impression. Titles, descriptions and images all play a role in this. However the meta title has long be cited as one of the most important on-page factors for SEO. The title and description is your visible way of advertising yourself in the search results so make sure it reads well. We can also highlight social meta tags at this point including twitter cards, opengraph tags from Facebook and schema.org for Google+, they are used to help get peoples attention (I will write another post on these). As for meta keywords, don’t waste your time!
6. Submitting to search engines
Newbies to the web world can often be duped into thinking that submitting your site to search engines will help boost your ranking. This couldn’t be further from the truth. This never worked to start with, and will do nothing to help search engines to rank your site although submitting to Google can help index pages. Outside of the top handful of search engines including Google, Yahoo and Bing there really is no need for submission.
When you see sites that say they will submit you to thousands of search engines there really is no point. Instead just install Google Webmaster tools on your website. You can spend 30 seconds to submit your site here. Webmaster tools will also help identify issues with your site as well as crawl your content with the ‘fetch as Google tool’. Hopefully you have also set up a sitemap which you can also submit in here. You can also set up a few social profiles and link to pages on your website which will get the search engine crawlers scanning your site and indexing pages.
7. Thin or low quality content
Google rewards fresh, unique, high quality content. On the downside Google frowns upon low quality, spammy or copied content. This includes content that can be determined to be thin or shallow and lacking in any real substance. Writing pages that aren’t informative with only a couple of paragraphs of content are unlikely to rank for particular keywords. You should be considering more informative pieces of content, solve problems and add value to a visitors experience.
Google released the Panda 4 update to the search algorithm earlier this year which was designed to further reduce the ranking of low quality content and this had a big impact reducing the visibility of many sites previously ranking.
Follow Google’s guidelines as closely as possible and if you are using an SEO agency make sure they are up to date with their tactics and strategies. If not you could be setting yourself up for an SEO fail.