When we click the first link on a search engine results page (SERP), we trust that we'll find what we're looking for. Search engines reward pages that provide value to the user and punish those that don't, which is where search engine optimization (SEO) comes into play. Good and bad SEO practices differentiate the valuable pages from the shady ones.
A complete SEO strategy will focus on four key characteristics:
- Website mechanics
Problems with any of these areas means problems with your SEO. SEO looks out for the reader, so bad SEO practices—like black hat SEO—are generally bad for the user experience as well. Avoid these 18 bad SEO techniques to save your rankings.
If your web page doesn't contain useful, relevant content, search engines have no reason to send users your way. Make sure everything you publish is engaging, original, and well-composed.
1. Creating a Lot of Low-Quality Content
Quality holds more weight than quantity in the world of SEO. Keeping your followers updated is a good thing, but posting lackluster content will only drive people away. Post the pieces you're proud of. If you're not proud of it, that means it needs some reworking.
2. Publishing Bad Guest Posts
A guest post is helpful for both sides of the deal, and it can even create lasting business relationships. Just don't be afraid to speak up if the piece doesn't quite meet your expectations. Low-quality content will bring down your SEO score, whether it was you or an outside party that created it. Put some thought into what you allow on your site.
<div class="tip">Bad guest posts can also affect your site negatively if you use a low-quality guest blogging service that publishes content on a spammy website. Be sure to follow these guest posting tips for optimal results.</div>
3. Not Managing Spam
The spam that ends up on your page might not be your fault, but it's still your responsibility. Comment sections give readers the opportunity to share their input, but they also provide a platform for spammers. Keep an eye on everything you publish so you can remove spam as it comes up.
It also hurts your SEO rating when you get backlinks from untrustworthy websites. If you notice that sketchy websites are linking back to yours, disavow the links and ask them to stop.
4. Duplicating Content and Committing Plagiarism
It's more than possible (even advised) to repurpose content in more than one form, but posting something you've already written for a third-party platform on your own website can still count as plagiarism. It's also a case of duplicate content.
Once you sell your content, you no longer have the rights to it. You can, however, link to your piece on the publisher's website.
Reposting someone else's content is an obvious foul if you don't properly credit the source or have permission to share the piece. Plagiarism is one of the bigger sins in the world of SEO—and writing in general. There's really no excuse for it.
5. Using the Same Type of Content
The same form of content gets stale after a while, so it helps to change your approach from time to time. If you usually post blogs or articles, consider throwing in a video or an infographic now and then. This type of dynamic shift helps you reach a broader audience.
If you're looking to get some extra mileage out of a piece of content you've already posted, consider repurposing it in a different form. For instance, turn a blog into an infographic, or make a video explaining the information. Transforming your content will make it more shareable across different platforms, and it will appeal to different people who tend to absorb information in different ways.
6. Writing for the Search Engine
The point of SEO is to cater to the search engine's rules. The point of the rules is to provide a better experience for the reader. If you write copy for the sake of manipulating search engines exclusively, you run the risk of alienating the actual reader. Include the right keywords in the right places, but make sure everything you publish is engaging and valuable to the reader.
7. Using Clickbait Headlines
Put simply, nobody likes clickbait. People are so tired of it that they've learned how to not fall for it. The ones who do fall for misleading headlines typically get frustrated or annoyed with whoever published the content, so they become less trusting of the brand. Clickbait doesn't build authority or engage readers.
Keyword usage is a crucial component of SEO optimization. It can give you a sizable bonus if you do it right, but it can drag you down if you don't break your bad habits.
8. Keyword Stuffing
The days of ranking higher by overloading your content with keywords are over. There is always some flexibility to keyword density, but stuffing a bunch of keywords in the same paragraph will only be to your detriment. Include enough keywords to contribute to your ranking, but don't add them to the point where it's awkward for the reader.
9. Using Exact-Match Keywords Only
Search engines tend to reward variation, which we can see in the case of keyword usage. If "sedation dentistry" is your primary keyphrase, you should use variations like "sedation dentist" or "anti-anxiety dentistry" in your content. This makes you more visible to more people searching for something you can offer.
Links allow you to direct your readers to other pages on or off your website, and the way you use them can have a huge impact on your SEO ranking. Search engines take note of how you use links in your content as well as which websites link back to yours.
10. Overusing Outbound Links
Linking to trustworthy, credible sites provides readers with helpful resources and can raise your SEO ranking. However, going overboard has its consequences. Don't waste outbound links on pages that don't add credibility to your article.
11. Getting Bad Backlinks
Much like spam, bad backlinks aren't necessarily your fault, but you have to take care of the situation. Backlinks from sites that have sketchy reputations—or have been shut down entirely—are bad for your SEO ranking.
12. Linking to the Homepage Too Much
The homepage is a landing spot that directs you to the content you're looking for. That means the page probably won't be rich with original content, so linking to it isn't very fruitful. Link to the pages that provide valuable information to the reader rather than the directory.
13. Improper Link Building
Search engines get suspicious when a web page suddenly gets an uptick in traffic with no discernible reason. Avoid the following practices so you can build links in a way that SEO favors.
- Paid links: paying someone to link back to your page
- Link exchanges: linking to another website and getting a backlink in return from the other website
- Link farms: groups of websites that link back and forth to each other
Forego these practices in favor of genuine link building by offering guest posts or connecting with influencers in your niche.
14. Optimizing Anchor Text
Not everything needs to be optimized. In fact, optimizing your anchor text can work against you. Using an exact-match keyword or key phrase as anchor text for a link is bad for your SEO campaign—as are imperative phrases like “Click here.” Instead, add your hyperlinks to single keywords or groups of words that relate to the site to which you're linking.
SEO is all about creating a more efficient experience for the user, so it also takes the mechanics and design of a website into consideration. Avoid these website issues so you don't lose points.
15. Running a Slow Website
People expect immediate results, so they'll quickly go elsewhere if they don't find what they're looking for right away. This impatience makes having a slow website detrimental to the user experience as well as your SEO ranking. If your site takes longer than others to load, it's probably not going to get the same amount of attention.
16. Putting Too Many Ads Above the Fold
"Above the fold" means the upper portion of the page that you see before you scroll down, like the top of a folded newspaper. When viewers see a plethora of ads above the fold, they're often turned off from the article as a whole.
17. Using Hidden Text
There's no room for secrets in SEO, so adding hidden text is a bad idea all around. Some people try to manipulate the system by including white text on a white background or text that's simply too small to read. These secret additions are designed to speak exclusively to search engines, but they only take away from the page's SEO ranking.
18. Not Optimizing for Mobile
If you're not optimizing for mobile, you're alienating yourself from a huge chunk of the world's consumers. Even people with the tightest schedules manage to fit in some screen time here and there while they're on the move. Since so many people use their mobile devices to browse the internet, your website should be accessible and intuitive on a smartphone.
Search engine optimization can work wonders for your visibility if you use the best practices, but it can have the opposite effect if you don't. Be aware of these red flags so you can find your fans and build your brand.
This article was written by Compose.ly writer Travis Ryan.