Here at Torque, we are big fans of SEO and have already published plenty of material on the topic:
- How to Do an SEO Audit of Your WordPress Website
- 44 of the Best SEO Tools and SEO WordPress Plugins of 2016
- WordPress SEO 101: How To Find The Right Keywords For Your Site
- SEO Copywriting – An In-depth Guide to Rank High and Wow Readers
Are we obsessed? Maybe. But why? Because proper SEO can greatly help you increase traffic, improve your search rankings and overall make your site more successful.
However, it’s also a field that is constantly changing and evolving over time. Many tactics and strategies that used to work are no longer up to snuff in today’s online world. In fact, some of the obsolete SEO techniques still out there can greatly hurt your site.
In order to prevent you from going down that rabbit hole, in this article we will look at a number of SEO techniques to avoid at all costs and what to do instead. So, strap in and let’s get going.
Outdated SEO Strategies That Hurt Your Website and Search Rankings
If you are using any of the strategies below, stop now and follow our alternative advice instead!
Spammy Guest Blogging
In 2014 Matt Cutts announced the end of guest blogging for link building. It threw the online world into shock and caused cries of agony around the blogosphere.
Because (legitimate) guest blogging is a pillar of SEO, especially among bloggers. However, over time it has been turned into a black hat technique by spammers (like all good things — some people just want to see the world burn).
So, does that mean we are back to writing only on our own blogs and hoping people will link to us by chance? Not quite.
You see, guest blogging is not actually dead. After all, Google’s crusade was not so much targeting real guest blogging but spammy link building techniques. As a consequence, the search engine will crack down on:
- low-quality or irrelevant guest post content
- guest post links that have nothing to do with the site they are posted on
- optimized anchor texts (more on that below)
If you avoid the above, guest blogging can still be used for link building and SEO, however, with a few caveats.
What to do instead:
If you only guest blog to pepper in a link to your own site, Google will sooner or later catch on to it. A much better idea is to concentrate on guest blogging for growing your personal brand, reaching a wider audience and cooperating with other bloggers.
When you contribute great content to other websites that is helpful, unique and helps their visitors, the latter will happily come to your site — even through a nofollow link in your author bio.
Don’t worry if that’s not a “real” backlink, with additional eyeballs on your content the chances of someone shooting you a link also increase. Plus, search engines will notice the additional traffic and reward you for it.
Putting exact keywords into anchor texts of both internal and external links (such as those from guest posts) used to be a thing to get your site ahead in the search rankings.
In case you don’t know what exactly I’m talking about, here’s an example: Let’s say you want to rank for the keyword “best health insurance,” then a link with an optimized anchor text would look like this: best health insurance.
Yes, that really used to make a difference in search rankings and people went crazy with it. However, today it’s the complete opposite and using this outdated SEO technique will quickly put you on the business end of a Google penalty.
Why? Because this is what Google considers an “unnatural” link and you best do your darndest to stay away from it.
What to do instead:
Ok, but if using exact keywords gets you banned, what are safe ways to phrase anchor texts? As usual, the best way is to forget about search engines and concentrate on users instead. In the case of anchor texts that means building them into the text naturally.
For example, since this is a blog post on SEO, I would maybe point you to our article about on-page SEO for WordPress. Longer phrases like this are a safe type of anchor text and one that feels more natural.
Other possibilities are using branded links such as TorqueMag or the naked URL like torquemag.io. Again, a good rule of thumb is to see whether the link fits the flow of the content and provides extra value for users.
Link Quantity Over Quality
One of the biggest reasons for spammy link tactics is the myth that more links are always better. Just get enough websites pointing to your page and it will soar in the search rankings. It’s why people used to (and still do) engage in the following link building strategies:
- Link exchanges
- Press releases
- Link buying
- Comment links
- Article spinning
- Forum links
- Link directories
However, especially since the Google’s Penguin update, the search engine cares more about the relevance of your links than the sheer number. Therefore, by concentrating on volume over quality, you might be doing more harm than good, especially if
- the linking site has been penalized or has low Domain Authority
- your site gets a lot of these types of links in a short amount of time
Yet, at the same time, links continue to be one of the strongest ranking signals and link building definitely has its place in the SEO puzzle. So, what is a website owner to do?
What to do instead:
The solution is to concentrate on natural link building and link quality rather than quantity.
First and foremost that means creating something worth linking to. If you want backlinks, make something that others can’t help but share with their own readers (or what’s commonly known as content marketing).
However, there are also more active ways of link building such as developing relationships with high-quality sites in your industry so that they naturally link to you. Another example is doing email outreach and actively asking for links from other such sites (especially if they have link collections). Of course, guest posts are also still an option (despite what some people tell you).
For more ideas, check this awesome article on link building strategies.
Don’t worry, this is not the part where I give you generic advice like “keyword stuffing is bad.” If you are not aware of that yet, your SEO education really needs to start somewhere further down the ladder.
Not that keywords aren’t important. In fact, we recently published an entire article on keyword research and the importance of using them in your content. However, go overboard with it and you will achieve the opposite of what you are trying to do.
What does overdoing it look like?
Well, the classic example is repeating the same (long-tail) keyword over and over again. For readers, that’s the equivalent of talking to a sales representative who keeps repeating the same sentences from their script.
However, some people also opt for stuffing all possible keyword variations in their page title and meta description.
While this might seem like good SEO practice, it is far from a pretty sight, is it?
What to do instead:
So what’s the alternative? Well, here’s some specific advice:
- Use Yoast SEO — The most popular WordPress SEO plugin has a great content analysis tool that will tell you the keyword density of your content and whether it’s too high or low. The team at Yoast know what they are talking about and their plugin is a great tool, so use it. If you are new to Yoast SEO, don’t miss our in-depth tutorial and comparison with All-in-One SEO Pack.
- Concentrate on clicks over keywords — Especially true for titles and meta descriptions. These are not made purely for search engines but primarily for the ones clicking on the links — the users. For that reason concentrate on making them appealing to human visitors. Use proper calls to action and good writing. Google takes clicks into account and a high click-through rate will propel you forward in the search results over time.
- Content quality over keywords — Likewise, when someone does click on your link make sure it’s worth their while. Instead of stuffing keywords, concentrate on more and better content and user friendliness. Write for readers first, deliver value, help them, make their life better and do it in style. Use your energy to become a better writer (especially SEO Copywriting) instead of a better keyword user.
- Use related keywords — Google uses LSI — Latent Semantic Indexing. It basically means that the search engine has a thesaurus and thus understands synonyms. Therefore don’t be shy to use related keywords instead of the same one over and over. Makes for more readable content and gives you a wider range of keywords to rank for.
One Page per Keyword
An SEO technique that was effective for a long time was creating single pages for every possible keyword variation. Think “best health insurance,” “cheap health insurance,” “health insurance for families” etc.
The thinking behind it was solid. You could target each keyword independently, provide search engines with more pages to index and appear more relevant.
However, as you can probably understand, this is a usability nightmare and thus no longer goes unpunished. Today, Google is much more concerned with user intent than pure technical optimization and setting up your site structure like that will no longer have the desired effect.
What to do instead:
It starts to feel like we are repeating ourselves but, again, the solution is to concentrate on what is best for the user. What is the intent behind their search phrase? What kind of result would be most relevant to them? How can you get closest to that result?
In many cases, the intent behind different keyphrase variations is the same and you are best advised to create one in-depth resource that addresses it all at once rather than several pages with thin content. Most of the time, it’s possible to fit keyword variations intelligently into your content (something you should be doing anyway).
Sure, if you have an online shop with different categories, the division might make sense. But again, usability should always be your first and foremost consideration.
Ignoring Social Signals
SEO used to be just links, code, and content. In 2017 that is no longer so. Social networks and social signals now also play a role in search engine rankings as both Google and Bing use their data to determine where to place websites.
Don’t believe me? Neil Patel has posted several case studies on this matter to convince you.
Apart from that, more social followers also means more people who see your content and thus more chances to acquire backlinks. Plus, social networks are great for initial exposure and to gain traction for your content.
For that reason, ignore social networks for SEO at your own peril.
What to do instead:
A better idea is to make social networking part of your SEO efforts together with content marketing, link building, and on-page optimization.
How do you get started? Pick one social network and get educated in how to best use it. There is plenty of excellent material out there:
- 34 Tips and Tactics to Rapidly Grow Your Social Networks
- Growing a Social Following from Nothing: My Social Media Strategy
- The Buffer Social Media Blog
The posts above are just a starting point.
Generally, start by creating a posting schedule and publishing useful content on a regular basis. Then include ways to sign up to your social accounts on your site and in your email newsletter. Plus, don’t forget to share your own content to get people to your site!
In a Nutshell…
Search engine optimization is an essential part of growing a website and attracting organic traffic. However, SEO is neither a trick nor a single technique but a puzzle with many moving parts and a field that is constantly changing.
As a consequence, SEO today is not what it was just a few years ago. Despite that, outdated SEO techniques are still used a lot.
In the article above you have learned a number of SEO tactics to avoid, from spammy guest blogging and links to overuse of keywords and ignoring social signals.
Instead, shift your focus to delivering excellent and user-friendly content and a long-term sustained effort for the success of your site. This will pay off much more than any quick-fix schemes.
Which SEO mistakes have you made or do you see others commit? Anything to add to the above? Let us know in the comment section below.
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