SEO: Wondering What Just Happened?
If you stand still too long in the SEO profession, you’re going to get left in the dust. Things seem to be changing at a mile a minute, and there are a lot of practices that aren’t nearly as effective as they used to be. Anyone who has witnessed the enormity of the Penguin and Panda updates to the Google algorithm knows that they need to adopt a flexible and agile approach to stay current with SEO.
Today, we’re going to take a look at the top SEO practices that have changed and are less effective than they used to be.
Prioritizing Keywords Over Clicks
What’s the whole point of SEO, anyway?
Oh, that’s right - you want people to follow your links and actually visit your website.
But sometimes people take their keyword planning and research miles further than it needs to go. Essentially, they get sidetracked and miss site of the big picture. For instance, in this video SEO Moz's own Rand Fishkin introduces the example of a website selling smoking commodities that might target tobacco and pipe related keywords.
But Rand points out that the problem here is people aren’t going to click on these links, even if they do include keywords and phrases.
Sure, you might get marginal SEO value from these links, but who’s going to want to click on them? From Google’s perspective, this practice looks a little spammy and might very well get you penalized.
Abusing Anchor Text
Anchor text used to be much more strongly weighted than it is today. However, not only has Google downplayed how much SEO value websites get from anchor text, but they have even gone as far as to punish sites who used poor judgement and overused and abused anchor text. Rand gives the following criteria to help spot internal links and anchor text that won’t likely offend Google:
- Contained in a navigation menu
- Located in the footer or sidebar
- Located inside relevant and well-written content
- The content and link are highly usable
On the other hand, watch out for the following qualities:
- Low usability
- Looks “sketchy”
- The font is not easily readable by humans or the text is too small
Building Multiple Pages for Keyword Variants
For some reason, some people still feel that they need to create a separate page for each of their keyword variants. But this is a poor tactic for several reasons, chiefly among them the fact that they are basically spinning their own articles and creating duplicate content. But this technique even still held some marginal value just a few years ago.
Today, however, that doesn’t seem to be the case and the ever increasingly sophisticated Google algorithm has newer updates like Hummingbird and RankBrain (it may very well eventually become the first sentient computing device). For the modern era of SEO, however, make sure that you include related keywords on the same page and make darn sure that you only use them organically.
Submitting to Directories and Purchasing Links
It shouldn’t be news that the old scammy and spammy back-kinking practices have long since bit the dust. Most of them have been included in a Google update to thwart people who would try to find ranking shortcuts instead of focusing on creating a great user experience.
As such, you should avoid these practices like the plague.
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Most directories, with rare exception, generally aren’t going to do you any favors.
Firstly, it isn’t likely that the directory has high amounts of traffic to send your way. And even if they do, you will likely get an SEO penalty from Google. In addition, press releases and links from article spinning sites are something to avoid as well. Though press releases won’t generally harm your rankings, they just aren’t as effective as they once were.
Buying & Publishing Multiple Domains
Back in the day, plenty of people adopted the strategy of throwing up as many microsites as they could (I wrote that in 2010). Usually this was possible because there were still a wealth of exact match and partial match domains available for their specific keywords, so each site would focus on a slight variation of targeted keywords. However, the content would generally be identical, and they would try to cross-link traffic between the two sites.
Today, however, this really isn’t an option. Not only are most of the keyword-rich domains taken long ago, but this practice isn’t as effective as it once was. Instead of half-doing two or three domains, you need to throw all of your efforts into one website to increase ranking signals instead of splitting your efforts.
Exact and Partial Match Keywords and Phrases in Domains
Alright, so this technique does still hold some value. But not near as much as it used to.
In years past, this was a much larger ranking signal that had niche marketers scrambling to claim the hottest new domain names for new products and markets. Yet again, Google has nerfed this practice and these types of domains don’t necessarily build trust with your visitors.
Using Competition Metrics as an Indicator of Ranking Possibilities
Adwords is a whole different animal than ranking for keywords. Though competition metrics can be used to make judgement calls on advertising in certain industries, it shouldn’t be used as a way to clearly understand whether or not you can rank for a given keyword or phrase.
Instead of using the antiquated tactic, you are much better of doing your homework by performing the Google searches and seeing who is ranking in the top ten.
If the first five to ten results are industry giants and mega-corporations (and it's very possible that they are), you might have a hard time conquering that keyword all by your lonesome. On the other hand, if you notice that only a couple of other small websites are ranking in the top slots, you can expect to have a fighting chance.
Lack of Strategy Concerning Link-Bait
We’ve all seen unfocused link-bait campaigns flood through our social media channels. Usually these pieces of content are lists that are littered with ads, and they don’t necessarily focus on providing value (or even entertainment) to a select group of people. Remember, advertising to everyone is the same as advertising to no one. Instead, develop a strategy and hone your efforts to provide value for the ideal user.
Keeping Up and Keeping Relevant in SEO is Tough
I run into a lot of business owners that, unfortunately, get their SEO advice and knowledge second-hand from other business owners.
It's the blind leading the blind.
Luckily, you're smart enough to be reading articles like this, so you're now accountable and can't make these mistakes any more. Bummer, huh?!