In my last post on SEO best practices, we covered the SEO techniques that can increase visibility in the search engine results. Now we will take a look at SEO worst practices that must be avoided if you don’t want to end up in the Google penalty box.
What exactly are the Google Panda and Penguin algorithm releases?
Google continues to make changes to its algorithm to fight search spam and eliminate websites that taint the search engine results. The Panda and Penguin releases targeted specific areas:
- Panda – low quality, thin content sites such as content farms
- Penguin – search spam, penalizing sites with unnatural links created specifically to influence the search engines
Google is on a mission to offer the best search experience as possible and will continue to enhance their algorithm to make it nearly impossible to game the system.
SEO worst practices that will hurt your website
The following are areas of SEO that are out-dated and in fact, are more likely to hurt the visibility of your website.
- Lack of unique, quality content – Pages with little to no real content or made up primarily of links can be the kiss of death for your website. Content needs to be both unique – i.e. authentically yours – and it must provide quality information to the visitor. Copying someone’s quality content is not unique. Writing your own content is unique but not necessarily of high quality. You need to combine both. Spend time creating content that gets read. Don’t just create content for the sake of posting regularly. You benefit more from providing a few, high quality authentic pieces of content each month.
- Duplicate content – There are many ways duplicate content can be created, not all of it due to SEO worst practices. Duplicate content is created when you have WordPress date, category, author or tag archives and you allow the search engine to index them. Search engines are trying to serve original, authoritative content and having many pages on your site with the same content, although unintentional, can cause your site to lose rank. Install and use the WordPress SEO plugin and set the archives to “no-index, follow”, telling the search engines to not index the archives but follow any links.
- Over optimization – One of the areas that is a warning signal to the search engines is using your keywords too frequently and unnaturally. Write for your human audience and use your keywords in your content where it makes sense. If you create links back to your site, make sure your anchor text is created naturally as well. For example, don’t have all your inbound links look like you forced your keywords into the anchor text.
- Keyword stuffing – At one time, keyword stuffing was reserved for the meta keyword tag. Most search engines no longer use the meta keyword tags, but that didn’t stop the abuse. Keyword stuffing moved into the title tags, image alt text, heading tags, anchor text and in the content as well. When you are optimizing your page, use your one focus keyword in the header, title, image alt tag, links and content naturally so that it reads clearly for the human.
- Low quality links pointing to your site – Link popularity is still used by the search engines as a measure of the trustworthiness of a site based on whether these inbound links are coming from other authoritative and trustworthy websites. Buying links is not an option as they are usually made up of low quality directories and article sites, comment spam or link farms.
- Hidden text – This technique was used to add content to a web page specifically for the search engines and invisible to the human reader. Tricks used include putting text in the same color as the background, using CSS to hide the content or setting the pixel size of the font so small that it is unreadable. But just because the human can’t see the text, doesn’t mean the search engines don’t realize that you are trying to fool them. Don’t do it!
- Doorway pages – Ever land on a website that has many links at the bottom of the page with anchor text such as “Electrician Boston MA”, the only difference being the town/city name? SEO companies would create hundreds of pages of duplicate content but change the URL, title and heading to include that one keyword phrase, hoping that these pages will rank and be found by those searching for service in that city or town. And guess what, this poor SEO tactic actually worked for a period of time and in some cases, still does. But it won’t for long and just having them on your site will subject you to issues in the future, including duplicate content. Another example of a doorway page is when exact match domains are purchased (i.e. ElectricianYourTownMA.com) and used for these one-page microsites that effectively steer your visitor back to your main site.
- Exact match domains – Purchasing an exact match domain for the purpose of ranking for that keyword (like the ElectricianYourTownMA.com above) will not help your cause if it is only hosting a website with bad content. I know many companies that bought exact match domains to create one-page websites that basically pointed to their main site, only to be disappointed that this technique was no longer effective. This doesn’t mean having your main keyword in your real domain will hurt you, and in fact will help somewhat, but creating sites using these domains just to redirect people to your main site will not gain you any visibility.
If you suspect that your site has some of these techniques implemented either through an SEO firm or your own work, review your site and remove them now.
Getting and Staying Found
With the constant change in the search engine algorithms, trying to chase the latest trend in SEO is a losing battle. The best thing you can do for your business is to build your expert reputation and authority through the content you write.
- Understand what your target audience needs by looking at what keywords were used to search and find your site
- Write content to address the challenges faced by your target market focusing on these keywords
- Promote your content through social sites to gain visibility and acquire legitimate back links
Build a web presence that are valuable to your human visitors, have compelling content, and are easy to navigate both for the human and the search engine crawlers. If you keep this in mind, you will remain in the game and out of the penalty box.