beware of bad seo

Britt’s Top List of Most Frequently Spotted Bad SEO Practices

Bad SEO - Grinds My GearsIt used to be true that you could just slap a few keyword strings on a page and call it SEO. Don’t forget cloaking, hidden text, keyword stuffing, paid links and article spinning, either. I’m already getting dizzy thinking about all the antiquated SEO techniques that I’m STILL finding evidence of during many site audits. These are techniques that Google and other search engines know to watch out for and penalize if found.  But the sad thing is I haven’t even scratched the surface with that list of sneaky tactics, and many providers (and clients) still believe them to be correct actions of SEO.

In the last three years alone, the digital marketing landscape and the criteria for good SEO has already changed tremendously, and it continues to change every day. As much as we gripe about the changes Google makes on a constant basis, it’s not merely change just for the sake of change, but change to help make the internet a better place. There’s a reason these questionable SEO practices shouldn’t be used anymore, and it’s because they don’t provide any value for the end user or the true purpose of your digital presence.

One does not simply - recover from Google PenaltySEO isn’t about gaming the system. It’s not about trying to trick search engines into ranking your website higher. Google and other search engines have gotten smarter about methods of deception used to cheat your way to high rankings, many of which are still used by some ‘black-hat’ SEO companies.  While some can be harmless, most of these out dated methods can get you smacked with a hefty penalty or banned from indexing if not corrected. Although in most cases it’s entirely possible to recover from a penalty, it’s no easy feat. Just ask those who were hit by Google’s Penguin update in 2012. In any case, it’s much easier to correct these actions than it is to deal with penalty damage control.

Without further ado, here’s my list of the most frequently spotted bad SEO practices.

Please stop doing these things:

  • Thin or duplicated content. No content or duplicated content from other pages on your site or across the internet. This is an obvious spam tactic to get rankings for the same terms on various pages of your site. In the end it only devalues your existing content and confuses search engines as to which version to serve.
    • Instead: Each page should be written with unique, quality content that provides the best answers to the searcher’s question.
  • Cloaking. Designing your site so that visitors and search engines see different things is trickery and is definitely a good way to get your site banned.
    • Instead: Each page should be written with unique, quality content that provides the best answers to the searcher’s question.
  • Hidden text. Intentionally hiding strings of keywords by matching the text color to that of the background.
    • Instead: Hiding things is never a good idea. Just don’t.
  • Keyword stuffing. Some consider hidden text keyword stuffing, but another instance of keyword stuffing includes adding multiple strings of your targeted keywords in your content and metas, resulting in nonsensical, unnatural looking content on your pages. It doesn’t matter how many times your exact match keyword is repeated in content, if it doesn’t make sense to a user, it’s not going to make sense for the search engine.
    • Instead: Include natural sounding content that makes sense to your readers about the keyword you’re targeting.
  • Targeting generic and irrelevant keywords.Targeting broad, generic terms is just not smart. They aren’t going to give you the quality traffic you’re aiming for, unless you are the absolute dominant authority in that broad, generic topic. Irrelevant terms are just dishonest, and you’re better than that. Plus they lead to poor traffic behavior on your site.
    • Instead: Include natural sounding content that makes sense to your readers about the keyword you’re targeting.
  • Title stacking. Please only use one <title> tag per page. More title tags aren’t going to earn you any more points with search engines, and will only get you flagged.
    • Instead: Just use one ridiculously awesome title tag per page that is unique, keyword rich, and descriptive of what the page has to offer, in 70 characters or less.
  • Doorway pages. Not to be confused with legitimate landing pages, doorway pages are poor quality pages which really have no value other than to rank for a specific keyword then direct the user to a completely different page or site.
    • Instead: It’s okay to build landing pages about your keyword topic, but it’s not okay to do it with the intention of manipulating users or search engines. As said before, content should be created to satisfy both users and search engines.
  • Footer content. Below the fold content is spammy enough, but in the site footer?! Now that’s just asking for Google to hit you with a penalty.
    • Instead: Although you might think it doesn’t look appealing on your shiny new website design, you need content. Consider who you’re writing for. If it’s users, they’re not going to be looking for useful information in your site footer (if it’s even visible). Put relevant, useful information where they’ll be looking for it, and your site won’t be harmed by Google penalties.
  • Abusive footer links. Overwhelming lists of keyword stuffed links and links with differing anchor text than your navigation that exist in your site footer look awfully suspicious and search engines don’t like it. Most of these links lead to those poor quality doorway pages we mentioned earlier, and don’t help your page build and retain value.
    • Instead: Use the footer properly and with care. Remove these abusive links and in their place provide helpful links for the users who scroll all the way to the bottom of your page. Chances are, these are the people that read all of your content and should be given direction as to where to find more useful information on your site.
  • Meta keywords. Today’s search engines are more cautious with meta keywords, and most don’t even consider them in their ranking algorithms but to flag as suspicious behavior.
    • Instead: Take that group of contextually relevant keywords you researched, and make good use out of them in the content.
  • Building bad back links. Paying for links or targeting poor quality links is guaranteed to get you into trouble with search engines.
    • Instead: Do some damage control and change your ways. Link remediation is possible for most, however many who were hit by Penguin in 2012 haven’t been so lucky. Paying for links is like buying friends, they’re mostly for appearances and provide no value. Instead of trading links or requesting links from just anybody, you should aspire for endorsements from quality sources.

Think you recognize any of these practices in play on your site? It’s time you talk with your SEO providers about halting any malicious behavior and demand they correct these actions and comply with search engine standards.

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