What a lot of marketers don’t seem to remember is that SEO is consistently evolving, as the search engines update how they work, what they look at and what kind of behavior they punish. This means that strategies that worked great a few years ago often don’t anymore. Even worse, some strategies now actively harm your chances to actually get ahead.
For that reason, it is important to not only know what new strategies actually work, but also to know which strategies you need to abandon. Because if they’re hurting your strategy, then you’re actively dropping yourself in the search results. And that’s the last thing you want!
For that reason, here are some of the SEO strategies you really need to abandon right now.
To be honest, it amazes me that people still do this. This strategy has long since been rendered ineffective. In large part, because it’s so easy for Google to figure out that this is what’s going on. You create links to other web pages at about the same time as they create links to you? This happens over and over again? Well, then you’re obviously trading links in the hope of building yourself up in terms of SEO.
As this obviously does not create any kind of value for users is and purely a strategy to manipulate yourself into pushing yourself up in the rankings, this strategy no longer works. Try earning actual links that are deserved instead!
Quantity over quality
Another common strategy is for websites to try to get a huge number of links from any and every website. Sometimes they’ll publish guest posts. Sometimes they’ll simply buy such links. This also isn’t a very good strategy. In fact, it can easily get your website labelled as a low-quality site.
That’s because Google no longer just looks at the quantity of your links. That’s been old hat for quite a while. Instead, what matters to them is the quality of the links. If sites with a lot of juice are pointing to yours, then your site must have value. If, instead, it’s all low quality sites that are pointing your way, then your site must be low quality as well.
The assumption is that if you associate with low quality sites, then chances are you’re low quality as well. And that’s not an assumption anybody wants!
A couple of years ago the trick to getting your word listed for a keyword was to make sure it occurred as often as possible on a page. The thing was, people really didn’t like it as it made the page read like it had been written by a four year old.
Google introduced a very simple fix, which was that if the words appear more often than necessary, you are clearly keyword stuffing and your page actually ended up dropping in the rankings! The easiest way to avoid this is to make sure the expression that you’re trying to rank on is used in complete sentences. In other words, no lists of all the variations of the keyword that you wanted to rank for.
How much is too much? There doesn’t seem to be any clear guide in that regard. The rule of thumb is that if it reads naturally then you’re probably okay.
Irrelevant internal linking
There is certainly something to be said for relevantly linking to other content on your website. Internally, it means that your readers are more likely to stick around and read more content. For Google it helps them understand what a page is about, as the way you link to it helps explain what a page is about. Also, it helps them establish the hierarchy of the different pages, among other things.
The thing is, as is so often the case, there is such a thing as too much of a good thing. And when you’re throwing links in there just because, then you’re heading down the wrong road. Links need to be relevant to the article you’re writing. So if I suddenly threw in a link to – say – penis lengthening medication, that would obviously not belong. And so, putting a link like that into the article would get the page, if you’ll excuse the pun, penalized.
Again, the best way is to build the links naturally. If you’re talking about something that you’ve discussed before, then it’s fine to link to that content. If you have to play the contortionist in order to create the link, or your link is misleading, then it’s not going to work.
The truth is that most of the content on the internet isn’t worth the screen space it’s written on. It doesn’t offer anything new or give us insights. Instead, it’s really just the same story rewritten with slightly different words.
Now, because there is so much out there, you might think it’s okay for your content to do the same. Unfortunately, that’s not true. Really, if you think about it, that’s kind of obvious. What is Google going to throw at the top? An article that just rehashes what everybody else has already said or content that is clearly unique, relevant, special and timely?
And yes, Google does know the difference. The main way it establishes that difference is by looking at reader’s behavior. Do they bounce or stick around? Do they link or do they ignore? Do they close it after a few seconds or do they leave the page open? Things like this establish whether people find something is relevant. And when it isn’t, it will sink down faster than the titanic.
Do note, you can’t always know what people will find relevant. Sometimes content that you think is killer doesn’t do much, while something written up on a whim ends up hugely popular. On a similar track, if you only have two articles on your entire site then obviously people can’t stick around all that long. There is just not that much to consume. So do create content and don’t paralyze yourself by thinking high quality should be perfection. Nonetheless, quality pays.
Focusing solely on desktop
You might decide that you’ll ignore mobile and focus solely on desktop as that’s where your clients are. And that would be a great strategy if it weren’t for the fact that Google now penalizes you if your website is not mobile compatible.
So yeah, even if you don’t care for mobiles and you’re fine with sacrificing that traffic stream, you’re still going to have to make sure your site is compatible, as Google doesn’t agree with you. It sucks, but that’s what you get when one company rules them all. They get to write the rules.
Of course, since more than half of traffic is now mobile, it’s probably a good idea to be compatible with those devices regardless of whether Google does or doesn’t like the practice.
Too many advertisements
Another thing you need to avoid is having too many ads. Yeah, I know, you need some to finance your content. And that’s okay. An advert here and there, in the sidebar for instance, won’t do your site any serious harm. If, however, your site is little more than banners here and an ad there, then Google is going to kick your legs out from under you.
A specific thing that you want to watch out for is pop ups. These, Google has decided (and I heartily agree), detract from the user experience. So these are not well liked by them. The worst kind, it turns out, is the ones that redirect the user away from the landing page. And that makes sense, because the moment popups start steering you away from the page Google is sending you to, well then obviously those popups are interfering with its search algorithms.
Another thing to be careful of us popups that block text and content.
Cheap website hosting
And finally, there is where you’re hosting your website. It might not seem like such an important thing, but it turns out it is. You see, the place that you host your website gives you a certain address (an IP address for those who want to be specific). This number does not exist in isolation, though. Any other website hosted at the same location is going to have a similar IP address.
Google pays attention to that. If your IP address is similar to other websites which have a bad reputation. Well, then your reputation will take a hit as well. Yes, it’s hugely unfair. Who is sitting next to you shouldn’t impact your value. Nonetheless, it does. Why? Well, because it works. Cheap hosting services are going to attract dodgier clients. And though not all of them will be dodgy, the simple rule ‘downgrade those who have a similar IP address to low-standing sites’ makes search results better for users.
And as ultimately Google’s entire existence depends on them being as useful as they can be to users so that they stick around and don’t use other services, that’s what they’re going to aim at. No, it isn’t fair. But then, Google isn’t a democracy.
You should do the same
Though it isn’t quite enough, the best rule to follow is that the more useful users find your site, the better you’re going to rank for Google. For that reason, always aim at giving your visitors what they came to the site for. To do so, make sure you label your site correctly and effectively and that you do so in the right places, like the headlines and the meta descriptions. Also, don’t use any bait and switch strategies, as those will generally get penalized.
Really, the trick is that even though obviously you have some sort of aim with bringing somebody to your site – for example you want to sell them something – make sure that this is what they came to the site for. If it isn’t, then make sure you first fulfil the actual need that brought them there. And only after that, hit them up with your own need. This philosophy will generally get you ranking well.
Bio: Jessica Fender, pro writer and blogger at Online Writers Rating, a platform for the customers, who want to find the best writing companies on the web. I am passionate about the folk music and Dutch contemporary art.