Search Engine Optimization – indisputably one of the most important, and simultaneously shadowy digital practices. Even if you decide to train as an SEO specialist, the required skill set to perform the role effectively is diverse, encompassing both highly technical and creative elements.
From creating content to understanding server response codes, SEO is a broad, and often overwhelming occupation.
Nevertheless, it’s an essential component of any digital strategy and one that you should incorporate, regardless of your company size or industry. SEO can drive high quality, highly targeted traffic to your website as it’s the primary port of call for most internet users looking for something specific.
SEO, like every other digital marketing specialism, evolves at a rapid pace. This means, that for every innovation in the area, there’s an outdated technique that should be avoided at all costs. If you’re not an expert whose sole focus is SEO, these developments can often be hard to stay on top of, and your rankings can suffer as a result. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive list to help you identify and sidestep the most old hat techniques, and guarantee SEO success.
1. Don’t over-prioritize keywords
Keyword research has long been considered a cornerstone of SEO. Creating content that features the keywords and terms your target audience are searching for seems like the most logical approach. However, using these keywords to excess will seriously harm your SEO strategy.
Using keywords in a way that doesn’t seem natural or complement the rest of your web page’s content will come across as spam, and could potentially deter a user from clicking. Rather than keywords, prioritize user experience, and the creation of content that is informative and easy to read.
Google is an example of a search engine that is a proponent of semantic search – which favours the context of a search rather than the exact keywords used. This means that Google delivers results that it believes are most relevant to a search term, rather than an exact match. As a result, you should focus less on including specific keywords on your landing pages, and more on creating content that anticipates a searcher’s needs. In short – quality over keyword matching.
2. Don’t create a landing page per keyword variation
Again, rather than focusing on a positive user experience, a common SEO tactic of old has been to create a single, separate web page for every variation of a keyword that a business wants to target and rank for.
Take the following keywords:
- Rocking chair
- Handwoven rocking chair
- Handwoven rattan rocking chair
Previously, an SEO specialist would have created a landing page for each of these search terms, which would ultimately result in an unwieldy user experience as they try to navigate a plethora of pages.
As we mentioned before, Google now gives precedence to pages that cater to a searcher’s intent, which gives you the power to eliminate extraneous web pages. In reality, it would be much easier and effective to create a single product page for a rocking chair that subtly, organically includes all of the keywords mentioned above.
For the keywords referenced above, the needs and interests of each search are the same. All you need to do is create a single interesting, educational product page that is a healthy blend of imagery and text.
3. Don’t publish too much content
The advent of content as an important ranking factor has brought an overabundance of blog articles and text-heavy webpages, in the hope that this higher volume of content would result in increased traffic to a business’ website. But with this increased output comes increasingly diminishing quality.
More content doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic. Any piece of content that sits on your website needs to have a distinct purpose. If you can’t easily define what that purpose is, it shouldn’t be on your site.
4. Don’t use lazy link acquisition techniques
When your business’ website is linked to by a number of other websites, these ‘backlinks’ are considered a hallmark of credibility by search engines, and you will rank higher accordingly. However, when SEO specialists reduce the concept of link building to this simple sentiment, they can forget about the key factors that make those links valuable.
Link exchanges are a method of reducing the effort required to build up authoritative quality backlinks, instead opting to offer a link back to a site in return for one from them. It may seem like an easy way to boost your ranking, but in an age when context and relevance rule, link exchanges can seem spammy and thoughtless.
Backlinks only count when they are high quality (i.e. relevant to your website and from a popular, authoritative domain). When you start using methods such as link exchanges or paying for backlinks, it sends a clear, unavoidable message to search engines that you’re trying to cut corners with your SEO strategy. Lazy link acquisition techniques are damaging, rather than helpful. Instead, take the time to focus on creating a long term strategy centred upon high-quality content that will inspire people to share, so you can build genuine links in a natural manner.
5. Don’t accept poor quality guest blogging
Guest blogging has long been a staple of an all-inclusive content strategy. The benefits can be manifold – it relieves the pressure that content creation can often place on a marketing department with limited resources. It can provide your audience with more varied content from different perspectives. It can build links.
So why then, did Matt Cutts, former head of the web spam team at Google, declare:
Stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.
Because what started out as an authentic SEO technique has now become a mechanized method for gaining backlinks, with many participants disregarding the importance of quality content in favour of producing a high volume of repetitive, spammy content to which Google may respond with a spam penalty.
When done correctly, guest blogging, whether you’re accepting contributions or offering them to another site, can extend your brand’s reach, build its online following, and drive more traffic to your website. However, it’s important to be shrewd when deciding who to guest blog for, and who will blog for you.
If you accept a guest blog post from an unfamiliar author or a low-authority website, this could potentially negatively impact your ranking. Similarly, guest blogging for another site whose credibility is questionable won’t enhance your SEO either.
To summarize – make sure to only accept guest blogs from and blog for authoritative sites and industry influencers with solid reputations and strong social media followings. Anything else is unequivocally damaging to your business.
SEO is an essential specialism for any digital marketer, and it’s important to be able to understand and measure your effectiveness.