Google is constantly updating the way they rank websites in their search results. If you’re not keeping up with those changes, you could be using SEO techniques that haven’t worked since 2010.
In this article I’ll discuss five SEO techniques that are still commonly used, but are completely outdated.
1. Creating content with only keywords in mind
Gone are the days when you could write content — for no purpose other than SEO — and see it on the first page of search results.
Back in the old days, it was normal to write individual articles for every single keyword variation out there. And you could have some great success this way. Google caught on to this tactic a while ago. They created a program called Panda specifically to prevent low-quality content from ranking high in their search results.
Your web pages might have perfect keyword placement and ideal keyword density, but if that page just has 300 words of fluff, you aren’t going to get ranked. This is not to say that you cannot create pages with SEO in mind, but you have to take the time to create good quality content.
For instance, if you own a recording studio and want to optimize your website, don’t just create a blog post called “Boston Recording Studios.” Instead, write a blog post sharing meaningful advice about how to start a music career, and include some keywords within the post. It’s all about coming up with unique blog ideas and giving the users something great.
2. Stuffing headlines with keywords
In an effort to get ranked, many online marketers make the mistake of writing unappealing headlines that are basically just a list of keywords. But remember that you don’t just have to rank in the search results; you also have to get people to click on your article.
A headline full of keywords is often awkward and clunky; meanwhile people gravitate towards headlines that are effortless and conversational. The former type of headline might get you to the top of the search results, but when nobody clicks on it, you will plummet right back down.
If you want to improve your search engine rankings, you have to write more appealing headlines. That isn’t to say you shouldn’t include a keyword in your headline. But the priority should be to write a compelling, natural-sounding headline that seamlessly integrates your target keyword.
3. Going overboard on internal links
Here’s what I mean by this: You write an article about cranberry sauce, and you really want it to perform well, so you go to 10 other pages on your site and find a place to insert the phrase “cranberry sauce” along with a link to that article.
A lot of people still like using this SEO technique because it’s easy. You have complete control over your own website, so why not stuff it with as many internal links as possible?
The problem with this strategy is that Google knows you’re doing it. If they determine your internal links are all awkward, spammy, or useless, they will penalize you for too much internal linking, and you’ll be dropped down in the search results.
Internal linking needs to be done thoughtfully. The links have to fit well with whatever page you’re inserting them into.
4. Aggressive guest blogging
I’ll start this one off by saying that guest blogging is not universally bad. In fact, I’m doing it right now. A guest post on a reputable website that regularly posts content relevant to your own industry (or ideal client) is a great way to build links and grow your readership.
But if you’re publishing five guest posts a week on sketchy websites that don’t really have anything to do with your own content, Google will notice. A backlink from a disreputable website can actually hurt your SEO rankings, not help them.
5. Using paid links and link networks
There are a lot of questionable businesses on the internet that will offer to create more backlinks for you, for a price. They will claim that their services will improve your rankings, but Google can pretty easily find out that you’re doing this and penalize you for it.
Google actually has a tool called Penguin designed to apprehend sites that buy links and use link building networks to spam Google search results. If you want to build links, you’re going to have to do it the hard way: by writing quality content that reputable websites actually want to link to.
Quality over quantity gets results
As you’ve probably already figured out, all of these outdated techniques emphasize quantity (of links, keywords, etc.) over quality. But Google’s latest ranking tools emphasize quality over quantity. If you want to get ranked, you have to take the time to create good content. There’s no way around that anymore.
This article has been edited.
Eric Brantner is a blog entrepreneur who owns several popular, high-traffic websites in various niches. His sites reach millions of visitors every month. You can read more of his thoughts on marketing and entrepreneurship at Scribblrs.com. Connect with @Eric_Scribblrs on Twitter.
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