Five outdated SEO practices you really need to ditch
On the surface, search engine optimisation (SEO) is simple: it’s a set of processes and practices that a brand or individual uses to try to shoot their website to the top of the Google search results page (SERP) for certain keywords. The difference between whether your business ranks first, second, third (or lower) for certain search queries is huge: research suggests that sites ranked in position one get 33% of the traffic, compared with 18% in position two and 11% in position three. You don’t want your competitors to be ranked above you!
Sadly, many brands still see SEO as a dark art that’s either incomprehensible or incredibly expensive to pursue – with no guaranteed results. The next time a marketing company or SEO agency approach you with a tempting SEO offering, make sure they aren’t using outdated methods! These old methods are no longer effective – and might even see your site penalised by Google…
#1 Keyword stuffing
‘If you’re after a builder in Norwich, contractor in North Norfolk or a trusted local builder near Norwich, you can trust North Norfolk Building Services…’
That sentence isn’t pretty to read, is it? It’s clear to readers that this sentence isn’t entirely natural. It’s been filled with keywords: ‘builder in Norwich’, ‘contractor in North Norfolk’, and ‘trusted local builder near Norwich’. This is an example of keyword stuffing. These keywords aren’t being used for the benefit of the reader, but in an attempt to trick Google into ranking the page highly.
This tactic used to work, but now search engines are better at spotting keyword spam. Don’t overdo your keywords. Feature them a couple of times on each page in the first paragraph and header, but only if you can fit them naturally into the copy.
#2 Pages for all keyword variants
Your site may have a page focused on each keyword you want to target. Maybe you’ll have a page titled ‘tool hire in York’, another called ‘tool rental in York’ and another titled ‘tool hire and rental in North Yorkshire’. In the past, you could justify this because Googled understood these as separate keywords – you wanted a page for each so that you didn’t stuff a single page with all these keyword variants.
However, Google is now smarter at recognising similar keywords based on what the user’s actually searching for. Google knows that tool hire and tool rental are pretty much identical, so there’s no need to have a page for each variant.
#3 Keywords in domain name
Once upon time it was seen as an SEO bonus to have a keyword in your domain name – something like ‘specialist-tool-hire.com’. These days, any benefits associated with these domains are outweighed by the negatives.
Increasingly, users see these ‘keywordy’ domains as spammy and untrustworthy – so users are less likely to click through to the site compared with domains of familiar brands or family businesses. A ‘spammy’ domain name can also cause your marketing team to struggle to build partnerships and get attention on social media.
#4 Irrelevant high quality content
Content marketing is an important part of every site’s SEO strategy. It works like this: regularly publish high quality, useful content; promote it, and build up reputation and brand awareness. Make your site the destination for helpful content in your sector whilst building up traffic through Google searches. It helps if your content is ‘shareable’ and can generate attention in the press or on social media.
Some sites have created incredible content that’s ‘gone viral’ – but ultimately it doesn’t bring long term traffic gains. The main reason for this is that the content isn’t relevant to the brand. Visitors looking at the viral content find nothing interesting in the rest of the site. Instead, we recommend aiming to ‘go viral’ with a smaller, more specific audience, and link to other pages within your top-notch content. This’ll increase your chances of boosting your reputation and traffic in the long term.
#5 Joining link networks
Google views links to your site on other websites as votes or endorsements. A site should link to your site if it thinks there’s something worthwhile (and relevant) to point readers towards. In the early days of SEO, webmasters exploited Google’s algorithm by creating link networks and link farms where participants gained links from other participants. Webmasters could also use multiple domains to link back to the brand’s main domain for an extra boost.
Google doesn’t approve of this tactic and has taken significant steps to identify link farms and penalise sites which use them. You can still try link farming, but it’s now incredibly risky.
Being penalised by Google for dodgy SEO practices can be hugely damaging to your brand if your business involves plenty of one-off transactions or short contracts. Businesses that benefit from referrals and longer term projects will be less affected by a penalty from Google, but we’d argue that all businesses should update their SEO methods. Search queries will continue to rise, and more and more business will be secured online.
If you need a hand improving SEO and your wider marketing strategy, get in touch!