SEO That Hurts: 6 Out-dated Tactics That Can Harm Your Website

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I work with a lot of small business owners and solopreneurs and I hear a lot of the same questions so I thought I’d clear up some misconceptions about some of the “SEO tactics” that are often offered to them.

In fact, some of these can damage your standing with the search engines, leading to the traffic tap being shut off and requiring you to go through a process of requesting re-inclusion.

1) Paying Someone To Get Links To Your Website

Do you ever wonder why you see links to various businesses (often written in bad English) in the comment sections of blogs, in online forums and in low quality articles on low quality sites? Well, the reason you see this is because when you pay a firm to get links for your website, they’ll stop at nothing to get you those links.

…and by the way, your company can become associated with comment spam, forum spam and content spam (nonsense articles written just to put keywords and links out there). Read what happened to JC Penney related to link-buying.

2) Doing Link Exchanges With Strangers

We all get requests from people for link exchanges. You put their link on your site and they’ll put their link on yours. Google frowns upon link exchanges and is likely to include components of it’s ranking algorithm to discount two-way links (exchanges) while giving more value to one-way links. Even if you carry out your end of the bargain, often the links they put for your site are one a page full of other links which absolutely discounts their value in Google’s eyes.

Reserve your precious time for other, more substantial marketing efforts… Read more on Link Exchanges here.

3) Generating Lots Of Content (That’s Not Good)

Generating lots of content is a good thing…if it’s high quality. The problem out there is that there are some people who preach a religion of generating massive amounts of “keyword-rich” content, even if it’s not particularly good. In fact, there are some tools that allow people to “spin” content – basically eating and regurgitating an article to change the order of the words, replace some words with synonyms and add in new words. This creates a “new” article for the search engines to find. But is it useful for humans? Not really. If you’ve ever encountered complete gobbledygook online that “looked” okay at first, this is how it was created.

A related animal to the pages filled with “content spun” articles are “Content Farms”. These are sites that create low quality content to address every last topic related to a particular niche (or many niches). Content is farmed out to low quality writers who write mostly unhelpful articles for the purpose of getting lots of pages to rank in search engines and bringing traffic and potential clicks on ads on those pages.

Google especially has been on a rampage about sites that have high volumes of low quality content and has been tweaking their algorithm in big ways to eliminate Content Farms and to push up sites with high quality (as evidenced by things such as links from high trust sites). See this article about Google’s algorithm update called “Panda” – designed to hurt Content Farms.

Conclusion: Strive for quality content that helps your potential customers; use appropriate keywords but don’t over-do it!

4) Keyword Stuffing On Your Site

Your webmaster may be living on the dark side. No, I don’t mean he’s a member of a cult, but he may be using “Black Hat” SEO techniques that you don’t know about. You may even see and approve these techniques without knowing about it. A couple of common and related ones are “keyword stuffing” and “hidden text”. Keyword Stuffing is when lists of important keywords for your business are stuffed in various strategic spots on your site – in view or hidden from view. Hidden text is when very relevant content or keywords for your site are on your pages but are purposely hidden from view (e.g. white text on white background or other methods).

Unfortunately, both of the tactics above can actually help your site rank. The downside is that if Google finds you or someone turns you in, your site could be removed from the index, requiring a “reinclusion request” from you.

See an example of a letter from Google to someone whose site was hacked and hidden text was inserted without them knowing about it.

5) “Borrowing” Other People’s Content Or Pictures

When working with people newer to online marketing, they often tell me – “I saw a cool picture online that I’m going to include in my site” or “The company has a site – I’m going to just take their content and put it on my site”. People take their content and pictures seriously. Use creative commons or stock photo sites to get pictures legally. Use other content after getting approval or write your own! By the way, to find copy stealing online you can google one of your sentences or paragraphs or use copyscape.com.

6) Spending Time Filling In Meta Keywords

Most newbies come to me and tell me they’re doing their SEO right because they filled in the Meta Keywords (sometimes called SEO Keywords) in their content management system (WordPress, Joomla, Weebly, etc.). Both Google and Bing (the most important search engines right now) have officially come out and said they don’t use these fields to rank web pages. This is because Meta Keywords is so easily gamed by spammers that it has become useless as a real tool for the search engines. The biggest impact of this one I feel is wasted time and effort. We’re all busy. So instead of spending time filling in Meta Keywords, create better content, market your content more or fill in your Page Titles and Page Descriptions instead. More on those two later…

What out-dated SEO tactic do you see out there? Fill your favorite ones in below in the comments
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Tom Treanor is the founder of the Right Mix Marketing blog. He’s the author of the Search Engine Boot Camp, the co-author of Online Business Productivity, and regularly speaks at industry and corporate events. His writing has been featured on the Content Marketing Institute, Social Media Examiner, Copyblogger and other leading industry blogs.

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