Worst SEO Practices – How to Piss Google Off

Worse SEO Practices

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


Over optimizing content

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


Building a backlink profile ethically


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


Too many adsSelling 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

Bored girl

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.

Why Isn’t My Page Ranking for Google Searches?

There’s nothing easy about getting your content noticed in a place where literally everyone is creating something new every week. Your competitors seldom take a day off, and every single day you have to get your content out there and get your page ranking higher in Google searches.


The internet is basically just a big claw machine, with a rotation of players with an attention span shorter than a goldfish’s. If what you’re offering doesn’t attract their attention right away – bounce – they’re gone, and on to the better-looking things in the pile.


What happens when you put the content out there, diligently and consistently, and your site still doesn’t rank? There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve been spinning your tires and never gaining any traction.


Why High Page Ranking on Google is So Critical


Google search engine result pages


While Google rankings aren’t everything, search engine users are a major driver of traffic. With over 3.5 billion searches per day, Google has become the driving force behind audience growth and revenue potential for everything from e-commerce sites to blogs.


If your page isn’t ranking well in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages), then you’re missing out on a massive chunk of audience that could absolutely be a game-changer.


If people can’t find your website with a Google search, you’re going to be forever relegated to building your audience the hard way – through networking, advertising, and cross promotion. It’s labor-intensive, it’s often very expensive, and it’s not going to pay off nearly as much as just being on the first page of the search engine results.


Why Your Site Isn’t Ranking


So what’s the deal – why isn’t your site ranking?


The answer is never simple, but the culprit is usually a combination of SEO errors and poor content. Content is king,  but even high quality, organic content is a massive factor in good SEO practices.


If you’re not paying attention to the basics, keeping your content focused, or engaging in good linking practices, your site won’t just stay off the SERPs – it might even get penalized by Google’s algorithms.


Bringing Your Site’s SERP Rankings Up



It’s time to stop just mindlessly posting content, crossing your fingers, and hoping for the best. Your competition is going to try harder than that, so you can bet you’re going to have to as well. Don’t be a punk and rig the game, but don’t count on the raw awesomeness of your content landing you on the top SERPs either.


Here are some basic SEO practices that you can start incorporating into your strategy TODAY, and make that editorial calendar of yours actually work.


#1 – Make Your Content Relevant to Your Target Audience


All too often, we get so caught up in the brainstorming and content creation aspect of running our sites, that we forget who we’re talking to. If you’re not tailoring your tone and content for your target audience, they’re not going to stick around.


Spend some time getting to know your target audience and their interests. What kinds of problems do they have? How do they typically speak? What is their age range?


Just like you likely wouldn’t speak to a college professor the same way you’d speak to a friend in a bar, you need to customize your voice and subject matter for the people you’re trying to reach. It’ll keep them around, and keep them engaged with your site.


#2 – Create Actionable Content


Creating actionable content

All too often, blogs are publishing content that really doesn’t do anything for the reader. In the content creation community, we know what’s up – those people are just writing for the sake of their posting frequency, and not actually to add value for their readers.
Whenever you write something for your blog, ask yourself:


What problem is this article solving for my readers?


If it’s not providing content that readers can take and apply to their own lives to solve a problem, then it’s not going to do anything for your traffic.


Remember: subscribers = sustained traffic, and without the traffic, your page isn’t going to rank in the SERPs.


As you put together blog posts, structure them like this:


  1. Who is my target audience?
  2. What is a problem they have in common?
  3. How will this article help them solve that problem?
  4. Offer the solution, and include a firm call to action to keep them engaged.


People notice when a blog is providing more than just filler. If you build it, they will come.

#3 – Plan Time-Sensitive Content Ahead of Time


I’ve written for a lot of agencies over the years, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve gotten some last minute, urgent, top-of-the-stack article request because the editor just realized a big event was approaching that we had to cover.


The bottom line is, current events get a lot of search traffic, and it’s a great way to bring in fresh readers to your blog. Get a feel for the events that your niche audience is interested in, and then orchestrate plenty of content around that to stick in your editorial calendar.


Keep in mind too that most events have something to do with most niches, so even if the spin isn’t apparently obvious from the beginning, just put yourself in their shoes for a moment and consider what the event might mean to you.


Boom – you have your angle. Now put it in your calendar.

#4 – Only Post Well-Written Content


Check spelling with Grammarly

As a writer, it is insane to me what counts for passable writing on the interwebs these days (and hey, some of you may be thinking the same about me).


The bottom line is, poorly written content can and does affect your page rankings and SEO, so don’t allow guest posts on your site that are written in garbled, broken English, and always hold your own language skills to the highest standard.


The Yoast SEO tool has a readability function that you can either choose to take or leave, but it’s a good way to gauge how well your content is flowing.


Here are some common problems with content I see:


  • Wandering topics
  • Long, dense blocks of text
  • Improper punctuation
  • Sentence fragments


Keep it on topic, use some tools and extensions to check for basic grammar and punctuation, and be sure to keep your article easy to read. You’ll notice readers sticking around longer, and your rankings improve as your bounce rate goes down.


#5 – Keep the Number of Links Within Reason


Including links in your posts is helpful to readers because it provides them with in-text references. When you talk about something and feel like an explanation of the topic would be an article on its own, or like someone else would be a better authority on the subject, that’s when it’s time to use a link.


You can have links flow naturally within the text without devoting any attention to explaining it, like this:


The architecture in Sydney is world-renowned for its elegance and modernism.


, or you can try for something more direct, to encourage your readers to check out a resource that you value and trust. It’s a healthy link to have on your page, and definitely a great way to build a relationship with another site (link exchange anyone?):


To learn more about architecture in Sydney, check out the Sydney Architecture Walks.


What raises red flags for Google is when an article has several outbound links. Avoid these mistakes when adding links to your content:


  • Linking to spammy sites
  • Using links that aren’t relevant to your content
  • Using paid links
  • Using more than one or two per paragraph


Can you link internally to one of your own pages or posts? Absolutely, and it’s a great way to help the Google crawler index your site. If you’ve already written something that’s relevant to what you’re posting, or have a product that may help your readers solve a problem referenced in your article, link away!


#6 – Don’t Over-Optimize Your Anchor Text



In addition to sourcing quality, relevant links for your content, make sure you’re using anchor text that flows naturally. It’s fine to use anchor text optimization to improve your SEO to a certain extent, but doing so over and over again will set off alarms for Google that you’re trying to inorganically rank your pages.


Diversify your anchor text to keep the content flowing naturally.


#7 – Using Keywords in H1 Text


This one is pretty important. If you’re trying to boost your site’s rankings for a particular search term, then you need to make sure that you naturally work that term into as much of your H1 text as possible (headers).


While Google’s algorithms are generally pretty good at overlooking common stop words (at, the, a, etc.), it’s always best to avoid letting them break up your target keywords too much in your H1 text.


Again, make it flow naturally, but make sure it’s in there.


#8 – Include Target Keywords in Your Meta Descriptions


Meta descriptions in SERPs


Your meta descriptions are the text that shows up underneath your listing in the SERPs. While not necessarily a factor in rankings, meta descriptions play a huge role in your CTR on the SERPs.


These descriptions are typically 155 characters in length, and describe the content of your page in enough detail that a user can decide if it’s the result they’re searching for.


While including your target keywords definitely can’t hurt, it’s important to make sure that the meta description accurately depicts the content that the user is going to get. If it’s misleading for the sake of keyword stuffing, your bounce rate will go up, and this can negatively impact your page rankings.


#9 – Include Target Keywords in Alt Text for Image


Alt text, or alternative text, is basically a description for the images on your site. Besides the title you choose for your image, this detailed information tells Google what your image is about, and helps your pages rank higher for your target keywords in the SERPs.


Always make sure the alt text you write is accurate and relevant, and include crucial keywords. Keep in mind that in cases in which the image doesn’t render, or the user is visually impaired, the alt text will be all that the viewer sees, so make it relevant and well-written. Usually three to five words is sufficient.


#10 – Use Relevant Titles for Images



As you’ve probably guessed, the same goes for image title text. This is another piece of the information puzzle that Google will use to help searchers find your images, so make sure you optimize them for easy identification on your site and make them easy to find for searches.


Use your target keywords in the titles of your images (where relevant), and opt for hyphens (-) over spaces and underscores (_) to make it easier for Google to find your image.


#11 – Create a Natural Backlink Profile


High-quality backlinks are extremely sought after in the SEO world, and for good reason. Getting an unpaid link on a high authority site will not only help to send more traffic your way, but will tell Google that your site is associating well with other reputable sites. We call this ‘good neighborhood linking’, or ‘white hat link-building’, and it’s a fantastic way to ascend the ranks of the SERPs.


Here are a few ways you can ethically source backlinks:


  • Create fantastic content that people want to share
  • Use plugins to make it easy for other sites to share and link to your content
  • Provide useful information with backlinks in forums and Q & A sites
  • Guest post on other sites
  • Use social media (Pinterest, LinkedIn, Google+,etc.)
  • Put together an expert roundup, and encourage participants to share the link


In every case of sourcing a backlink, to keep the practice ethical, the link must be relevant. Guest posting for backlinks is a bit of a grey area in the SEO community, but when done openly and honestly with relevant links to the audience, it can be a powerful aid to your rankings.


Don’t go into it rubbing your hands together like a greedy little link-farming creton, and generally the outcome will be a positive, natural backlink profile that creates an organic network of links all of the web to your content.

#12 – Include Semantically Related Keywords


In the content creation industry, there is definitely such a thing as niching down too much. All too often, there are websites that miss out on massive traffic potential because they refuse to operate even one iota outside of their niche, and it’s hurting their rankings.


Using a semantic keyword tool like Text Tools, you can pull together data from your competitors that shows you what other topics they’re incorporating into their content that are semantically related to yours.


For example, maybe your blog is focused on architecture. When you do a little bit of playing around with Text Tools, you can see that your competitor pages are also ranking high for keywords like ‘design’ and ‘art’, so maybe focusing all of your content on architecture is actually narrowing your audience too much.


The results of a TF-IDF semantic keyword analysis


Chances are, a great deal of your readers work with other related industry professionals, so keep the core of your content niche focused, and then let your editorial calendar branch into these related topics to diversify, build your traffic, and scale the Google page rankings.

#13 – No Keyword Stuffing


Optimizing your content for your target keywords is one thing, but replacing every pronoun with that keyword (and then some) is not only going to make the copy painful to read – it’s going to set off alarms with Google.


Keyword stuffing takes optimization to the extreme and produces content that is robotic and clearly written for SEO, not for readers. At the most, the usual recommendation for keyword density in a page is 2-3%. Focus on using keywords in title text and where it flows the most naturally. If you can’t quite hit that 2-3% range without your copy suffering, don’t sweat it.


Remember: people first, SEO second.

#14 – Use Accurate Headlines


Frustration at the computer

Misleading headlines and title text is some of the worst SEO around, so don’t let your drive to optimize turn people off from actually getting what they want from their searches. It’s wonderful if your site is turning up in the first page of the SERPs, but if people are expecting one thing from your headline and getting another when they actually click, your bounce rate is going to go sky-high, and your rankings will suffer.


If your target keywords don’t fit in with the actual content of your page, just leave it out, and focus on making your title text relevant for searchers. Don’t stew on it – the traffic will come.


Honest, Ethical SEO + Great Content is the Best Way to Raise Your Rankings


When it comes right down to it, great SEO isn’t really that complicated:


  • Create fantastic content that solves a problem for your target audience.
  • Plan your editorial calendar well.
  • Include links within reason.
  • Make sure that it’s searchable by including target keywords in the copy.
  • Give images sensible names and accurate alt text.
  • Don’t leave your meta descriptions blank.
  • Facilitate healthy relationships with other sites to naturally build your backlink profile.
  • Create content for people, not search engines.


If you take this advice to heart, your pages will climb the ranks of the search engine results, and people will start finding you more. More importantly though, they’ll stick around, because what you’ll have on your site will actually be of value to them.

Ethical SEO practices


The internet can be a sleazy place, but Google is certainly doing its part to reward creators of helpful, actionable content, and keeping spammers at bay with algorithms that shut down cheap SEO tactics.


Climbing the SERPs takes time, and any SEO ‘expert’ that promises you a result in a set time frame is likely blowing smoke with false claims. The simple truth of ranking higher comes down to hard work, great content, and being a good networker. Get your name out there, and build that name on the quality of the content you deliver, and your rankings will come.


Looking for fresh ideas for your editorial calendar? Get Text Tools here, and start reaching a broader audience today.

Too Much SEO? Where to Draw the Line


If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the years in engineering content that goes beyond the written word, it’s that there is definitely such a thing as too much SEO. At first it was easy:


Do a little keyword research, stuff a mess of keywords into your content, and create a massive network of incoming and outgoing links to your pages – done. Your page showed up, and regardless of the quality of your content, you ranked – you ruled.


These days, Google is smarter than ever, and true to the nature of their quality control practices, they’re working hard to ensure that searchers are getting the results they want. That means content created for humans, and pages with actual value to lend to their readers.


The past several years has seen a massive shift in just how much SEO Google is willing to tolerate before it penalizes sites, so the question is now, how much is too much SEO?


Keyword Density


While it’s important to optimize your content for target keywords, it’s important to remember that density isn’t everything, and that over-enriching your content with keywords will send Google’s algorithms a red flag that you’re trying to rig the game.


Don’t focus too much on how many times your keyword is appearing in your content – usually between four and six times per 1,000 words is more than sufficient. Focus instead on ensuring those target keywords have relevance, and put them in the places that weigh heavily on your page’s ranking, including your H1 text and meta descriptions.


Keyword Stuffing


Let’s get this clear from the start – Google hates keyword stuffing, and it will absolutely penalize you for doing it to try to outrank your competitors. Sure, you want to reach a broad audience, and you want a lot of searches to pull up your page, but over-optimizing your content with blatant keyword stuffing not only dilutes the relevance of your copy, but sets off alarms to Google that your content is engineered for SEO, not people.


By all means, use handy tools like Text Tools to identify semantically related keywords for your topics, and make your content relevant and indexable, but don’t let the focus of your content be on keyword optimization – always make it about the reader.


Anchor Text Over-Optimization


While putting some thought into your anchor text certainly makes sense from the user-end of things, it can also hurt your rankings to over-optimize it. Branded link anchor text is generally safe to optimize like crazy, but it makes more sense to keep your anchor text more topically relevant than keyword-focused for better rankings.


Moz recommends a 7:3 ratio of non-targeted:targeted anchor text, with the majority of the anchor text you use being selected based on concepts rather than keywords. Google will love you for it, and your readers won’t feel bombarded by what is obviously SEO-focused, link-heavy content.


‘Bad Neighborhood’ Linking


black hat link building SEO practices

This is a rather interesting concept, but one that makes a lot of sense when you think of it like you would in real-life relationships. Just as you can be penalized in life for consorting with unsavory characters, such is the same for link-building.


If spammy sites are the source of many of your incoming and outgoing links, it can and will affect your rankings, and Google’s algorithms will punish you accordingly. Sites that are blatant link-farms, or are using unethical SEO practices are going to negatively affect you, so make sure that every link you build is on a site you’re happy to associate with.


Likewise, make sure you’re a good influence friend to have around. Keep your link-building strategies ethical and productive for the sake of your content – not just your link profile.


Stop Posting Fluff – Publish Real, Valuable Content


Content frequency is a big part of keeping your site relevant and ranked, but a lot of site owners take this one too far, publishing content as frequently as possible, regardless of its topical relevance or value.


The problem with this is, you wind up with a lot of really short, keyword dense articles that are low on information, and more often than not, your bounce rate goes up. Aside from it just being a negative experience for your user, Google also takes note of excessive, light content, and takes it as a red flag that you’re just trying to populate your site, and not deliver valuable content to your audience.


If you’re running out of ideas, don’t publish fluff that’s devoid of valuable information. Instead, focus on optimizing the content you already have in place, and use advanced keyword tools to create content that’s more relevant to your target audience. You’ll build traffic to those pages, and ultimately rank higher for your target keywords.


Don’t Create an Army of Sites Just to Link to Yourself


This is generally pretty common knowledge among some of the worst things you can do for your own SEO, and for good reason. Building links between sites is time-consuming enough, without having to own and manage them all yourself.


Aside from the time input from this kind of link-building, it’s also deeply frowned upon by Google, and you absolutely will be penalized for it.


Not only is it unethical, but it’s ineffectual as well. Since most of these sites are created around the same time, the sites themselves aren’t old enough to be valuable sources of backlinks anyway. The age of sites plays a huge role in the trust they’ve garnered with Google, and if you have a bunch of backlinks from several young sites, it’s not going to do much to boost your rankings or traffic anyway.


The golden rule of SEO? Craft sites and content for people, not SEO. Remember folks, it’s search engine OPTIMIZATION, not search engine manipulation. Google is smarter than you, I promise, and you will absolutely feel the sting if you decide to try to engineer your way to the top of the SERPs, instead of earning your spot there with organically ranking content.


Make it relevant, make it authentic, and don’t count on the SEO shortcuts to make your traffic increase on its own.