Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is “the practice of increasing both the quality and quantity of website traffic, as well as exposure to your brand, through non-paid (also known as “organic”) search-engine results,” as defined by Moz, a pioneer search optimization company.
The goal? To increase the chance you show up in search results when someone goes looking for your product or service.
The higher your website ranks on search engine results pages (SERPs), the more visitors you generally will see on your site, thus increasing your chances of converting those visitors to customers.
In a field that is ever-changing, like most of digital marketing, you can’t sit back after implementing an SEO tactic and think “that’s done.” Or if you outsourced your SEO, you may have thought, “I brought someone in a few years back to ‘SEO’ my website and that should do me right for another few years.” This is far from the case and in some instances, you could even be hurting your website’s ranking by employing strategies and tactics that are no longer “approved” by Google and other search engines.
Earlier this year, we covered some of the “New Rules of SEO in 2018” and highlighted several of the top trends in SEO.
It’s also imperative to be aware of SEO tactics and strategies that are no longer worth your time and effort. Let’s take a look at five old rules of SEO that you should retire from your toolkit:
1. Keyword Stuffing
Long gone are the days when you could convince a search engine that your website was the most relevant and interesting choice for searchers by jamming as many keywords as possible into your website’s title tag <title> or description tag <meta description>. As far back as 2007, the then-Head of the WebSpam Team at Google, Matt Cutts, referenced Google’s webmaster guidelines in several blogs and forums and recommended that we avoid loading pages with irrelevant keywords. Irrelevant in this context is also extended to the overuse or unnatural repetition of keywords or phrases.
Here is Google’s example of a page description that falls under the category of “keyword stuffing”:
We sell custom cigar humidors. Our custom cigar humidors are handmade. If you’re thinking of buying a custom cigar humidor, please contact our custom cigar humidor specialists at [email protected].
I often notice keyword stuffing in page titles, particularly those that use the pipe symbol, “|”. For example, “Auto Insurance | Best Car Insurance Rates | Cheap Car Insurance.”
Google’s bots are far smarter now than they were in 2007 so make sure you craft your pages’ title tags and descriptions with your potential visitors in mind. Write for humans. Write for the click. Of course, do your keyword research and incorporate target phrases but don’t overdo it! Your page’s title tag and meta description are your golden opportunity to convince a potential visitor (and customer) why your webpage will answer his question; why your webpage will be a solution to whatever challenge he is facing. Describe your page thoughtfully and naturally and you’ll have much better chance of enticing the visitor to click.
2. Worrying about the Keyword Meta Tag
This is an easy one to delete from your list of things to do. In 2009, Google posted on their official blog that they do not use the keywords meta tag in their web searching ranking. Google ignores them. Bing actually uses that tag as a spam signal so if you have keywords in that tag that don’t accurately represent the content on your page, you may be risking a penalty.
Another reason to forgo populating your meta keywords tags is that you are making it really easy for your competitors to see what keywords you’re trying to rank for.
Save yourself the cutting and pasting time and stop worrying about filling in the meta keywords tag.
3. Overdoing It with Internal Linking
Continuing along with the keyword theme, it’s time to stop over-linking on your webpages. Certainly, you want to make natural connections to related content and referenced sources on your webpages. You want to support the user in their journey on your website. Adding in relevant, internal links makes for a great user experience and helps crawlers better understand your entire website. Remember that search engines crawl and index unique pages – so anything you can do to connect the dots for a crawler is worthwhile.
That being said, if you are overdoing it with keyword-rich anchor text in the body of your pages or, even more risky, stuffing keyword-rich links into your footers or sidebars just to boost page rank, it’s time to let that habit go.
4. Using Potentially Dangerous Link-Building Techniques
Link building is by far one of the most time-consuming and challenging aspects of SEO. A website with high trust and authority generally will have many external links pointing to it. Ideally, you are generating/amassing backlinks on other websites because you have high-quality content that is worth referring users to.
Link-building techniques that cross over the line and need to be avoided include submitting your webpages to article directories or linkfarms, creating microsites or subdomains just for backlink building and spamming comment sections on forums and blogs with self-promoting links.
The Penguin release in 2012 is part of Google’s current algorithm and works in real-time to monitor websites and their backlink profiles. Don’t risk tanking your website’s rankings with any of these dated ways of acquiring backlinks.
Have a question about an SEO tactic? Share in the comments below and let’s discuss!