Is Your SEO Stuck in the Past?
If SEO were human, it would be approaching its 13th birthday. It's amazing to reflect on how the best practices for optimization have changed over the years. Marketers and bloggers who focus on delivering high-quality content year after year don’t need to fear any future updates to the Google search algorithm. If you’re still spinning articles or posting on forums asking for reciprocal link exchanges, you could be asking for some negative SEO. We’ve curated a list of Pre-Panda tricks and tips that just aren’t what they used to be:
1. Useless Press Releases
If you don’t have anything nice or constructive to say, don’t say anything at all. Unless your company has achieved something or made a difference, don’t spam reporters with pointless press releases just to build a link or two.
2. Deliberate Link Exchanges
Sorry, search engines are going to be on to you pretty quickly if your idea of good SEO begins and ends with a pre-meditated link exchange. There are very few shortcuts to positive SEO, and exchanging emails with other websites can get you caught pretty quickly. If you want to engage in controlled link building, email your peers and offer a well-written guest post. Open up opportunities to others and create good link karma by citing authoritative sources in your content and accepting guest posts from others.
3. Lazy Content Creation
Just showing up on your blog day after day isn’t enough to build an engaged audience, drive leads or become recognized by Google, Bing, and Yahoo search as someone worth ranking. Here are a few ways to tell if you’re taking a Pre-Panda approach to content creation:
Are you outsourcing content creation? Outsourcing isn’t always a bad thing. But your readers can tell the difference between content that’s written by an expert and blog articles that cost $4.00.
Are you writing for Google? If you’re writing for the sole purpose of optimizing around a keyword, there’s a good chance no one’s reading it or giving you the social media shares that are critical to SEO in 2013.
Do you fill your content calendar with fresh ideas and hot topics? If your idea of blogging is sitting down and putting something you’ve written hundreds of times before in a slightly different tone of voice, your blog is probably pretty boring.
4. Ignoring Blog Analytics
Keyword research still matters, but your inbound marketing analytics are the best way to tell what’s working for your buyer personas. Your blog will earn clicks and contribute to your bottom line positively if, and only if, you’re using CTA click-throughs, social media shares, and inbound links as a tool for improvement.
5. Focusing Solely on Search Rankings
I’m going to be honest here and say that our blog would be genuinely awful if we solely blogged for search rankings and used keywords as the primary tool for content creation. While it might improve our organic search rankings, we’d probably find that our leads and social media traffic would suffer more. Don’t just consider keywords as a tool for ranking, but research whether anyone is searching for the term and how website visitors behave once they click through. If you’re ranked #1 for “free kittens,” but your company specializes in pool liners, it’s probably nothing to be proud of.
6. Abusing Tags
Back when many of IMA’s employees were in middle school, keyword tags were a legitimate way to rank for search terms. If you were writing about “marketing in Nashville,” filling your tags with 3,000 variations of this term and others was an effective way to soar to the top of Google. The problem was, search engines caught on really quickly. Not only are your tags ignored by major search, they’re primarily a function of user experience. Your website’s bounce rate will probably soar if people don’t have the patience to look through your archives.
7. Aggressively Utilizing Keyword Density
With the exception of maybe a few black hat SEOs, no one was sad to see aggressive keyword density get added to the list of things that can get website owners hit with negative SEO. A few years ago, many search experts routinely recommended striving for an average density of 4-7%. This tactic typically resulted in repetitive and unnatural language.
Write amazing content using a varied vocabulary. Don’t worry about aggressively using the keyword throughout the content body. If you’re staying on topic, your keyword may turn up every other paragraph or so.
8. Exact Match Domains
Website URLs used to weigh heavily on search results, a phenomenon known as “exact match domains.” If you were searching for “cheap heels for women,” there was a pretty good chance one of the top results would be something like cheapheelsforwomen.com. You can thank marketers once again for ruining this phenomenon again: it was all too easy to purchase domains comprised of a longtail keyword, fill them with a few paragraphs of low-quality content and copious advertisements. As of September 29, 2012, exact match is no longer a major factor in your sites search ranking. Make sure your URL represents who you are, and stop dumping your marketing budget into new and obscure URLs from GoDaddy.
9. Content Spinning
Quantity used to matter to an SEO strategy, a factor which resulted in a terrible practice known as “spinning content.” Using cheap outsourcing websites or online tools, SEOs could simply copy and paste content into a spinning tool and receive back hundreds of very similar articles that just barely escaped most technical definitions of plagiarism. Most of the time, it was unreadable. Search engines have gotten much better at identifying structural similarities that indicate content’s not adding anything of value, and even identifying whether content reads naturally.
Which Old-Fashioned SEO Tactics Has Your Company Stopped Using?