SEO has put the internet through the ringer over the last decade. As SEO practices get more advanced in content marketing, strategists are pulling out all the stops to put their pages in the top of the SERPs. We’ve seen the good, the bad, and now it’s time review the worst SEO practices.
Pissing Google Off
Over time, as content creators got more and more savvy with ascending the rankings and capturing that precious search engine traffic, Google started to notice that websites weren’t necessarily creating content for the sake of the visitors. Instead, what was happening was that sites were getting over-optimized, and as a result, the user experience was suffering.
Keyword stuffing created content that was just, well, garbage, and SEO specialists were manipulating page layouts for the sake of ranking, not for the benefit of the navigational experience.
What happened? Google cracked down.
Google may be a search engine, but it’s a service provider first and foremost, and so they took action to save face with their customers. An unhappy searcher was bad for business, so they started implementing new ways to penalize sites for creating content for the wrong reasons.
The algorithms in place were modified and adjusted to look for these shady new SEO practices, and pretty soon, the black hat link builders and keyword stuffers were finally getting their comeuppance. Their rankings fell, and their traffic took a hit – and rightfully so.
Too Much SEO
What happened was, people got so caught up in rankings and traffic, that they forgot the reason they had a website in the first place – to attract real traffic from real people, who were really interested in their content.
Nobody wants to read a page that has nothing to do with what they were searching for, and everybody likes content that feels organic, and flows without seeming engineered.
When Google caught on to SEO practices that were using keyword placement just to bring searchers to their pages, they implemented algorithmic protocols to ensure that these pages did not rank well.
Since then, any SEO strategist worth their salt has upped their game for quality over quantity, in nearly every respect. SEO is still a part of content creation, but it plays a much more subtle role in the process than it used to.
The Worst SEO Practices You Can Stop Implementing TODAY
Let’s get down to it. There are some SEO practices that are definitely going to hurt your reputation with Google, so if any of these have you looking at your feet in shame, it’s time to adjust your strategy and remember why you got into content creation.
#1 – Link Farming
Having relevant links on your pages is definitely a good thing. Strategists all agree that linking between your domain’s pages is helpful with the Google crawlers, and will help to get those pages properly indexed.
Sourcing high-quality external backlinks is also beneficial, so long as the link is relevant to the content. It offers readers an opportunity to enrich their experience on your site by digging deeper into the topic, and it’s a great way to build bridges with other sites.
However, there is such a thing as too many links. A page heavy with links is going to set off alarms to Google that your site is likely engaging in some shady link-building practices, so keep it practical, and don’t go too crazy.
While the perfect number is generally up for debate, generally using only what’s relevant and helpful to the reader is a good rule of thumb – if it feels excessive, it probably is.
Only include links on your pages that are actually relevant to your content, and make sure they go to reputable, secure sites. Linking to spammy sites is going to drag down your rankings, and ultimately deter people from going to your pages, so link with care.
#2 – Over-Optimizing for Keyword Density
If you’re trying to rank high for a certain search term, it definitely makes sense to put that term into your content as much as you can. However, don’t get into the habit of replacing every pronoun with your keywords, or Google is going to pick up on your attempts to manipulate the system and knock you down a peg.
Always focus first and foremost on writing authentic content that flows well for the reader, and then go back and see if you can do a little light optimizing.
It’s like wearing makeup – too little, and you may not get the chance to shine, but too much SEO, and everyone’s going to know you’re a big phony. Remember, if your content’s good, then the readers will come.
#3 – Too Many Ads
Selling advertising is a great way to drive income to your site, but using too many can seriously damage your rankings. If your advertisements are covering a significant portion of the screen, particularly at the top of the page, then you can expect Google is going to ding you for it.
#4 – Duplicating Content Incorrectly
Sometimes, repetitive content is necessary on certain types of sites. If it has to be done, then by all means, create the pages your site needs to function correctly, but keep in mind that Google sees duplicate content as a red flag, and often won’t index those pages correctly.
If you do need to create some duplicate content, be sure to use “no follow” link tags, so that those pages can still function without negatively impacting your site’s SEO.
#5 – Too Many Plugins
I can’t tell you how often I see this one – a site with great content, that I’m desperate to read, and then 30 seconds in, something on the page causes it to crash. Too many plugins are going to slow down your page’s load time, and ultimately make them more likely to crash. Keep your website as streamlined as you can, and only install plugins that are essential to your operation.
Google looks at load times as a factor in ranking pages, so make sure that yours is efficient enough to be passable. If in doubt, just run your URL through a speed check site, and then you can determine if and where you need to trim some fat.
#6 – Stale, Repetitive Content
A lot of bloggers that don’t have time to do their own writing often accept guest posts as a means of bulking up their content, or just wind up writing circles around the same topics over and over again.
Google picks up on low-quality content – if it’s weak, poorly written, and riddled with links, your rankings are going to suffer. If you don’t have any fresh content ideas, use a semantic keyword tool like Text Tools to do some brainstorming, but if that doesn’t work, you’re better off not publishing anything than publishing something lackluster.
Remember, quality over quantity, every single time.
Ultimately, good SEO practices are pretty simple – don’t be a tool, be a content creator. Generate stuff that people want to read, and promote it in ethical, honest ways. So long as you’re upfront and have your head in the space of delivering something of value, you only need a light touch of SEO to send your content to the top of the SERPs.
Dream big, write often, and optimize sparingly.