7 completely out-dated SEO practices you should avoid

The advent of the internet and it’s magical search engines have revolutionised how we search for products and services and, with it, how companies market and sell them to us.

A new marketplace, with a whole new set of rules. These new rules- or algorithms- objective was to make each search as accurate as possible. So that the search result their engine gave us was the closest and best suited to our intention.

            As with any set of rules, it didn’t take long for people to find ways around them.

Astute marketers were soon able to work out the secrets that governed these algorithms, and then exploit them relentlessly in the quest for visibility in this new online marketplace.

And those secrets didn’t stay secret too long. What started as cute -‘playing the system’- became ever more clumsy, with every unscrupulous marketeer jumping on the bandwagon. The result? Readers being directed to pages of irrelevant drivel. Fluff pieces designed purely to manipulate the rankings and draw more visibility to inadequate, often useless, offerings. It didn’t long for Google and co. to realise these practices were not only spoiling their reader’s experience, but making a mockery of their service. Over time they have become more and more accurate at detecting content of genuine value to the readers, more and more adept at finding these attempts to cheat their system.

            Today the search engines are fighting back. And this time it’s personal!

If you are still using any of these outdated, ‘black hat’ practices, search engines have been getting steadily more determined to not only ignore them for ranking purposes but to actively penalise them. In this article, we get you up-to-speed with the 7 biggest outdated practices so you can stay on the right side of the new, ever-evolving, ‘rules of the game’.

1. Keyword stuffing

This is the first thing that unscrupulous marketers jumped on before and it was the first one that the search engines moved to clamp down on. For example:

We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at custom.cigar.humidors@example.com.

Irrelevant Keywords and Keyword Stuffing | Google Search Central

Keywords were- and still are- a crucial component of any successful SEO strategy but as the algorithms have become more savvy at ascertaining what has genuine relevance for the searcher, they have become a much smaller part of the jigsaw and one whose abuses they are wise to. You can’t get away with crude and excruciating repetition of your keywords to fool the algorithms anymore. And you certainly can’t get away with squeezing them onto your site, camouflaging the text to be the same colour as your background either (yes, people really did that!)

In general, common sense prevails here. If it feels unnatural or wrong, then don’t do it. There are a few general tips to guide (put them in your title, first paragraph and last paragraph, which shows relevance but not overkill) though you won’t go too far wrong just keeping it natural. If your content is original and useful then it will be ranked as such.

2. Exact-match domains

Squeezing the keyword you were targeting into your domain name was also a tactic that was exploited for many years.




You get the point!

And it made perfect sense: as far as signals to help the algorithms determine what your site sold, what better than the name itself? It was an easy win for marketers, but with its abuses again soiling the user experience, Google stepped in with their ‘Exact-Match Domain Update’ to prioritise other signals in determining a site’s relevance and its rightful place in their rankings. Goodbye Exact Match Domains, Hello Brandable Websites – Niche Pursuits

Our advice is not to use an exact-domain name unless it fits the direction you were taking with your branding anyway. If it fits your business then, sure, but it’s simply no longer worth it if you doing it just to try and score an easy win.

3. Linking abuses: reciprocal links and buying links

“You rub my back and I’ll rub yours”

Search engine’s goals are to find the best, most trusted and most relevant answer to the searcher’s given question. One way they establish a site’s relevance and trustworthiness is by measuring how often other sites link themselves to your content.

 For example, if your blog is being backlinked in the New York Times then that’s a sure-fire sign what you have written has relevance and authority- basically, your site piggybacks on the previous authority built up by The New York Times.

I’m sure you see where this is going… over the years marketers traded back-links to propel each other up the rankings. In fact, businesses sprung out that solely dealt with SELLING these links. And the party went on for quite a while until the search engines hit back. Today it heavily penalises anyone caught in the act.

Similar to our advice with the keywords: it’s still useful, still a tactic to be utilised but if it feels dodgy and unnatural (say, swapping with popular site with zero relevance to your own) than you can be sure the algorithms are on top of it and you should be giving it a wide berth.

4. Separate pages for every keyword variation

Another popular tactic the search engines have been stamping out is a variation on keyword stuffing. Here some marketers would compile lists of every variation on a keyword and create separate pages for each one. The result was pages fluffed out with repetitive and unoriginal content- often re-purposing the same old article half-a-dozen different ways to fill the white spaces.

Thankfully, the Hummingbird update put a stop to this one. If you find your site is still guilty then this is your opportunity to sort it out.

5. Over-using anchor text

Along with keywords and backlinking, this is another practice that, when done properly and organically, is hugely beneficial for your website. But if you try to abuse it to score a few easy wins, then nowadays it will backfire.

Your anchor texts- or internal linking- are necessary to let your reader know what to expect when they click on it. Exact-match and keyword anchors were factors that the engines looked upon favourably until they started to be abused, and recent updates have got wise and begun to pay less heed to such obviously over-optimised content. So don’t be tempted here either. It makes your content look clunky and it does you no good.

6. Duplicate content

“Content is king” on search engines and has been for some time. Again, the less scrupulous out there tried to bypass quality control with a shortcut.

Firstly, there were brazen copy-and-paste jobs, ruthlessly cannibalising other site’s efforts to create original content that was of genuine use to the reader.

After they clamped down on that they started doing the old uni student trick of just paraphrasing existing pieces of work. Dragging it into the 21st century, in fact, with software that could do it for them.

Quite aside from the ethics and the copywrite issues, the result was often a mumbled excuse for an article that just about got the original points across. If they were lucky.

Now there are a whole host of plagiarism checkers, ever more adept at detecting synonyms and the slight twists of phrase that this practice relies on. And the engines themselves have the same technology to as they weed out the fluff and rehashes to ensure that truly original content is rewarded in the rankings.

7. Crappy content

This includes duplicate content but so much more.

Repurposed articles that end up being rife with third-grade grammar errors and dodgy spelling, harder to make sense of than the ‘Da Vinci Code’.

Articles targeting a keyword, then fluffed out to fill 500 words, 1000, 1500 words (or whatever that week’s research suggested was the optimal length).

You know they want content, but if you try to cut corners with how you provide yours then know they are on to you.

Content creation isn’t easy, but if you don’t get sucked into trying to cheat the system and resolve to give the searchers content of genuine value then it’s an effort and investment that gets paid back many times over. By your customers and the search engines.

As time has moved on, so have the algorithms. So long rife for exploitation, they have become better attuned at ranking and rewarding GENUINE content and value.

The outdated SEO practices some businesses used to boost their visibility at the expense of the user experience are on their way out. Viva the revolution! Take heed of the advice above and make sure you are a part of it.

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