I was running some competitor analysis this week with a focus on design, usability, and organic search optimisation. I was looking at the websites of organisations of different business sizes, and different maturity (some long established, some much newer) and was surprised over and over at the SEO mistakes being made. And not just on the sites from smaller companies, which you might assume have less to spend on search engine marketing. No, I was spotting this stuff on the website of big corporations, that should really know better, or that should have the money to be able to afford to pay someone to know better.
I’m not (just) talking about a missing <h1>, unoptimised copy, or keyword-free page titles. I’m talking outdated SEO practices that used to work a few years ago, but that now just aren’t effective, or may actually be having a negative impact.
So here are my top four old school SEO tactics you should stop using immediately:
1. Using All The Keywords All The Time
The very foundation of SEO: The Keyword. Although I didn’t see any examples of it myself, I am aware that attempting to rank for an irrelevant but high-volume keyword just to gain exposure. Which makes no sense to me. Building relevancy for a search term is hard work, and to do it for a keyword that doesn’t fit what the business offers just seems like an arduous way to increase your site’s bounce rate.
Keyword density and stuffing are also no-nos. Search has moved on and you can’t write to a certain keyword density – the ratio of keyword-to-copy on a page – in order to rank. And you can’t just bung a load of keywords and keyword variations in your copy now either…
“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.” – via Search Console Help
2. Writing For Search Engines
Google knows when you’re writing for it and not your visitors. It has evolved. So, much like that dreadful example above, you don’t need to use your keyword, its plural, and its variations over and over in a bit of copy. Google’s Hummingbird update means it understands how keyword variants and synonyms relate, so don’t be trying to publish multiple pages all targeting similar keywords in order to rank. That won’t work either.
If you’re worried your optimised copy reads a bit too robot-friendly, give it to your human friend to proofread and ask them if it sounds forced or unnatural.
3. Reusing and Rehashing Copy
Now there are plenty of ways you can safely recycle content. It’s what evergreen content’s all about. But Google’s Panda update well and truly put a stop to any SEO gains to be had from article syndication. It’s all about that original, authoritative, expert content now, and it has been for ages. Low quality, copied, or stolen content should be axed from any online marketing planning.
Know what else you can’t do? Spin it. Article spinning involves running a piece of writing through some fancy software that’ll replace certain words and phrases with synonyms. So… fancy copying? And because it was auto-generated, it (obviously) made no sense because machines don’t do idioms like us humans.
4. Manipulative Linking
Hands up; I didn’t see any evidence of this when I was doing my research, and I think/hope it’s fair to say this is becoming a less common practice, but link farms used to feature BIG in old school SEO. Google has clamped down on the larger link farms (a group of sites created only to increase the backlink profile of another site) and so buying a ready-made backlink profile to manipulate SERPs will likely get your site penalized in search, all thanks, originally, to its Penguin update.
There’s nothing wrong with sponsored content (although that got a shake-up recently), which is just an SEM-friendly way of saying “it’s ok to buy these links”, but you’re probably looking at a link back to your site in the author bio and maaaybe one contextual link in the copy… but watch that Anchor Text. If you’ve got hundreds of links pointing to your site all via the exact same phrase inside a link, it’ll look unnatural and Google no-likey unnatural.
No more outdated SEO
Search has evolved – heck, we just had Google’s Core Update in September 2019! So many of what were once the fool-proof golden rules of SEO are now considered outdated, unnatural, and even Black Hat. The examples above should be struck from your online marketing plans, replaced with schedules for creating helpful, informative, quality content, which earns attention, earn links, and earns your site a spot on Page One, Position One.