In this article, I’ll be looking at some of the many old-school SEO techniques that you should avoid – or else risk getting penalized.
1. Keyword Stuffing
Offering value to readers should be at the forefront of all SEO and content marketing tactics. In the past, marketers could get away with producing a ton of thin content that didn’t provide much value to their users but would still get them at the top of search results. Keyword stuffing was one of the most common content tactics because well… it was so easy! Marketers would simply identify the keyword(s) they want to rank for. Then produce content with a high-level focus on the topic but not too in-depth – stuff content with the exact-match keyword(s). And make sure the title, page tagging, and headers were stuffed with the keyword as well.
Google is now much better at understanding what content provides value and answers the questions that users are asking. For this reason, this on-page content optimizations tactic was made obsolete with the Panda update in 2011.
How to Avoid It
To help ensure you’re offering real value and not participating in the act of keyword stuffing, here are a few questions that you should be asking yourself when crafting content:
- Does the content on this page truly align with the title and page tagging?
- What types of content are showing up in top search results around this keyword? Is my content better or is it just providing more noise?
- How many times did I use the keyword on the page? Are there any uses that don’t read naturally?
- What actionable next steps could readers take from this content?
- Could this content have been added to an existing page instead?
2. Only Optimizing for Desktop
Mobile optimization was not always a big focus for SEO pros in the past. However, there is no denying that it will be fundamental for the future. Google first announced that it was experimenting with mobile-first indexing in 2016.
How to Avoid It
Mobilegeddon is in play, and marketers who aren’t optimizing for mobile will surely be left behind. Make sure that the mobile version of your website correctly reflects the content that you want Google to index and rank in search results. M-dot sites may experience having desktop users sent to the mobile version of their site from SERPs. For those with an M-dot site, it’s recommended that you identify desktop users and redirect them to the correct desktop version of your website.
3. Targeting Keywords for Traffic, Not Intent
In the old days, marketers would include popular (and often inappropriate) keywords in their content for the sole purpose of gaining traffic. However, once the users arrived on the page, they would not convert due to the simple fact that what was provided on the page was not aligned with what they were searching for. While high volume keywords present the opportunity to drive traffic to your website, targeting keywords that aren’t relevant to your brand can cause serious harm. Not only will you have the wrong eyes on your content, but you will also confuse search engines and get penalized.
How to Avoid It
Stick to your niche.
Understand that as Google is indexing pages on your website, it takes into consideration all the content and topics that you address across the domain (beyond just that page) then ranks it for the queries it deems relevant. My suggestion is to write about what you want to be known for – by users and by search engines. If you are a software organization, don’t write a series of controversial articles about the presidential election. Content that is irrelevant to your brand will only create more noise and confusion for search engines.
4. Unnatural Internal Linking
Internal linking can be an extremely powerful strategy for SEO if done properly. Ideally, it allows you to connect webpages and create an ideal structure or path for search engines and users to follow. Both users and search engines reference links to find content on your website. Google uses links to understand the relationship between content and attribute link value while readers use links to find valuable, related information. Unfortunately, marketers often walk a fine line when it comes to internal linking. If you are repeatedly linking to your site’s top pages with keyword-rich anchor text and in ways that don’t make sense or feel natural, this may be flagged by Google. Getting hit with this type of over-optimization penalty is far from ideal. At one point in time, marketers could dramatically and almost instantly improve keyword rankings by implementing internal links from keyword-rich anchor text.
As shown above, all you would have to do is link off to the same URL from several keyword variations. However, similarly to the spammy tactics we’ve covered already, Google caught on!
How to Avoid It
Internal links should provide users with relevant information around the anchor text and topic at hand.
- Does this link provide real value to users?
- Does this link make sense with the anchor text that I am linking out from?
- What other content might users want to explore after reading this page?
- Would users expect to land on a page with this type of information, or is the anchor text misleading?
- How often am I linking off to this page (on this page and other content)?
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