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Search Engine Optimization, which we will be referring to as SEO from now on, is one of the most important and pivotal factors of every website and every business that’s established their online presence. SEO has always been a mystery we were always trying to solve. And up to this day, the mystery remains partially unsolved.
The mystery remains mainly due to the constant changed and updated that Google performs to keep serving content and information that’s useful to the users. To keep up with the latest updates and regularly made changes in Google some might consider it a sport, it requires time and effort.
Being on the loop with the best practices will help your website perform better. But in the meantime, you should be informed of what SEO tactics you use to harm or damage your brand. Thus, this article aims to help identify some of the worst SEO practices that you must avoid.
Before we get into it, we have previously laid down the best practices on how to rank higher in Google search engine. With this article showing the worst SEO practices, you now have the Ying and the Yang of search engines. That shall help you optimize your website for better performance.
Playing by the Rules: White-Hat SEO
The White Hat SEO concept means that you will be following the rules from the book, no deviating, no loopholes, straight-on following the General Guidelines set out by Google.
White Hat SEO means to comply with any of the SEO practices to improve and proliferate you ranking in search engines, while in the meantime maintaining the integrity and acquiesce with all the rulebook set out by the search engine.
This is a long-term commitment, you can’t be expecting miracles the next day. When playing by the rules, you will be able to contribute to high-quality content and provide useful information for the users. Google appreciates that thus will rank you higher.
Uses of White Hat SEO will include:
- High-quality content will add to better user experience and will offer them in-depth information for their inquiry.
- Using all the right keywords that are sensible and on-brand.
- Fast loading time and mobile-friendly websites to appeal to every device.
- Visually striking websites with clean design and easy navigation display.
The list of the best SEO practices that White Hats use is long and needs more analysis than this, this is simply a sneak preview into the deep dive of search engines.
Taking the shortcut: Black Hat SEO
Black Hat SEO has the same goal as White Hat SEO, ranking on top pages in search engines, but take different approaches. Black Hat SEO means bending the rules and guidelines set by the search engine, finding loopholes, and operating upon them.
Adherents of Black Hat will make use of strategies, techniques, and tactics that are against the rules, to some extend even being plain unethical. Black haters write content for search engines, not for humans. This type of content will be of no value to any inquiry or user, although they are ranked high.
Use of Black Hat SEO will include:
- Disobedience with the General Guidelines
- Provide content that optimized for search engine not human
- Keyword Stuffing
It is intrinsic of this approach to exploit and find algorithm loopholes to operate upon them. Some of these “escapes” will go to the extent where they become unethical. Google constantly keeps an eye open for these types of contravening to punish the behavior.
Worst SEO practices
Now that we got the main concepts covered. We are going to go through the worst SEO practices that could damage your brand or your website. They will include the misguided use of keywords, the creation of two different versions of content, the good old quality vs quantity debate, and erratic posting content.
Keyword optimization is a crucial factor for the google bots to index your page and present it when the right user inquiry is matched.
Your content should be easy-to-read, comprehensible, and should follow a logical path. If it fails to do so, then it will be of no use to the users, and eventually, Google will no longer recommend it as a top solution.
Adding keywords just for the sake of page ranking is by no means a smart move, and it presents a outdated SEO practice that you should not follow. If you overemphasize the keyword and ignore your buyer persona and their solution, it means that people won’t care about the product or content you are trying to push forward.
Your content or product won’t be their solution, thus, you will decrease the chances of them coming back to your site. Cramping your content with keywords is not effective and will not produce quality content, which is a number one rule for Google, which we will go in detail later.
What should you do?
You should focus on staying within the lane, stay within your topic, and create relative content. Use the keyword strategically as a jumping-off point to make your statements clearer. Don’t push it! If the keyword does not come in naturally in a sentence don’t add it.
Watch out for the keyword density, although there is no golden rule to this, try matching 10x times the keyword for 500 words. Use variations and synonyms of the keyword as well, but again do it naturally, only when they don’t risk stringing on the sentences.
If I may refer to our previous article on how to rank high in Google, we have mentioned that content shall be unique and bring some new perspective to the subject. Duplicating content falls far away from that advice.
Copying someone’s content and pose it as yours is cheating, and what some in the academic world would call it plagiarism. Beyond the culturally unethical act, this type of content will be denied by google simply because it already exists once, there is no need for another exact, cheap replica of that content.
To back up that duplicating content will be bad SEO practice for your website, we will introduce you to this study made by SEMRush that analyzed over 100.000 websites, and they mention that one of the most common on-page SEO error is duplicated content.
To make sure you stay on Google’s search engine good side, be aware that your content and meta descriptions should be unique and original.
What should you do
If you wish to quote or include part of the content that is taken elsewhere, then there should be proper credit established. And if you need to duplicate content, because it will be useful to your users, try adding the nofollow and noindex option to these pages, so that it does not hurt your SEO.
In many cases you an even duplicate your own posts and pages, this is especially prevalent in titles and meta descriptions, or in product pages that are very similar.
Although, this should be done reluctantly, only when needed and it is always best practice to change the slug of the duplicated post to differentiate it from the original one.
Clacking in the SEO world means creating and presenting two different versions of content to search engines and humans.
Each version will comprise what the recipient wants to see. It goes against Google’s policies and is considered a bad SEO practice because users will be presented with material other than they expect.
Spamdexing is a concept in digital marketing and in online advertising that refers to premeditated manipulation of search engine indexes. Any type of this kind of behavior is condemned and is considered to be a harmful SEO practice due to Google’s penalties.
If you choose to go down this road the consequences will be harsh accordingly, you could even get a permanent ban from Google. This type of SEO practice is done mainly by those who are more skillful and know their way around code.
What should you do?
Tailoring your content to appeal to different targeted groups is acceptable, as long as you are not changing the content to appeal to search engine crawlers.
For instance, you will need to change the page layouts that will match every device, resize the images, and the content to look beautifully on mobiles and tablets.
You will change the language of your website based on your targeted users, and that is totally fine to do. Alternatively, a published might change the ads content to fit different profiles or fund their website, that too is completely fine.
Just as long as you don’t change the content merely to confuse or deliberately manipulate the search engine bots. That goes against all rules.
Content Quality vs Content Quantity
We will go back to the ever-discussed quality vs quantity debate. Just a heads up Google will require both. Content quality and content quantity go hand in hand. To get ranked higher in search engines, you will need to add value to your content.
The evaluation of content quality is conducted by some search quality evaluators that crawl the page and determine the quality from a human point of view. According to Google’s General Guidelines, characteristics of quality content include:
- A high level of E-A-T ( Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness)
- A satisfying amount of main content
- Reach the intended purpose and more
Qualitative websites also require time for research and to give a fully detailed content that explains the topic from all standpoints. This means your content will get larger, adding to the quantity of content.
Qualitative content will only get you halfway. When combined with a large content that fully completed its intent will give you the best of results. High-qualitative long-form content will be an indicator and a great SEO practice to reserve that number one spot in Google.
BuzzSumo conducted the research and analyzed more than 100 million articles, and among the conclusions was that long-form content was the most shared posts.
What should you do?
Longer content will dive deeper into the topic and will provide a better solution to the user. This type of content will provide a comprehensive answer to the user’s inquiry, something that Google considers as great SEO practice.
Do not compromise the quality of your content, do your research, and never post just for the sake of posting. Engage in your writing and be passionate about it.
Inconsistent and erratic posting is a no-no in SEO. You should maintain professionalism in your content quality as well as content distribution.
If you go back and forth posting every now and then, you are damaging your website’s reputation, and you won’t be able to steadily increase your credibility with fresh and comprehensive content.
Inconsistent posting is a bad SEO tactic because you won’t be providing Google with new, valuable content and will loose on the opportunity to rank higher for more keywords and with more pages indexed.
If you plan on running your marketing strategy around your blog, or if you expect leads from your blog then you should always provide new content and create to the users the habit of expecting content regularly.
What should you do?
You could try and create a schedule for your blog, or content. You could write content daily, twice a week, weekly, monthly. Although posting monthly is not recommended.
This SEO practice falls close to the lane of qualitative content, where you don’t want to bargain content excellence to post regularly.
Stick to a schedule that works for you, where you have the freedom to write the content of value and posting that content to a deadline.
You can create a habit of people expecting your content let’s say Monday, and if you fail to fulfill their expectations, you will lose their trust.
Find the perfect balance where you can write top-notch qualitative content and do it on a consistent basis.
Leaving your Content Unmaintained
I know it might be annoying to go back to your old content, but it is an SEO practice everyone should perform. Things change and updates occur, ideally, your content should be evergreen, ti should provide value over its lifetime.
But not all your content will stand its time, and it is for the best to optimize this type of content that undergoes development. Content that is left unmaintained will be rated the lowest because they will fail to achieve their purpose and become outdated, all due to lack of perpetuation.
Search engines will favor content that’s new and fresh hence the inconsistent posting as a damaging SEO practice. Alternatively, the failure of a post could be attributed to wrongfully executed content.
It could be that your older content did not fulfill your buyer persona, not your targeted group, or it was simply badly written, thus performing badly. This will risk even your best content because it could drag down the site’s reputation.
What should you do?
You could start off by identifying the content that’s outdated or poorly written and you could either change its status to unpublished. Or you can go back and revise the content entirely.
You must audit your content and divide what that content does for you? Does it help you? Does it harm you? Or it simply does nothing to your website. Evaluate the quality of your content using the E-A-T system. Define whether it provides quality, value, it reaches the targeted audience.
Then decide whether you want to delete that content or you want to update. If you see that certain content is outdated but still brings traffic, a smart move would be to update it.
Every SEO guru knows that backlinks will guide you through that sweet number one spot on search engines. And back then the only limitation was to find other websites that will link to your website. That would include enormous comment spamming by asking others to link or view your website, exchanging money or services for links, or guest posting campaigns with keyword-rich anchor text links.
But search engines are always perfecting their algorithm, and link spamming is considered a bad SEO practice due to the fact that there are real consequences behind it. Google released all the do’s and don’t-s when it comes to link building and backlinks. If search engines intercept that your website has a lot of user-generated spam it could lead to serious penalization.
Besides commenting spamming, private blog networks are included on the list as the worst SEO practices you could follow. You can create a network of websites that will link back to your main source. At first sight, this seems like the perfect crime for raking high on search engines, as you won’t need to spam anyone, ask for anyone’s help or you won’t fall victim to the nofollow attribute.
But, this requires a lot of commitment and resources, and if discovered it could even worse consequences.
What should you do?
We will put the obvious to the world, creating backlinks to your website will translate to search engines that you are an expert of your field, an authority. And the way to gain that authority is to create useful and quality content that actually helps users and makes them link to your website or share your content with others.
Creating good and qualitative content pays off. Content that you produce that reflects your expertise and research will result in creating an authoritative figure in your niche.
To spread the word around on your content you could opt for having a presence in the discussion board as well as having an active social media presence, because we have witnessed that ever websites are becoming somewhat of a search engine where people look for answers on YouTube, Quora, Instagram and others.
Providing bad user-experience
The ultimate goal of your website should be to offer only the best content and deliver outstanding performance for your users. Because when your users are pleased, search engines see this as a positive sign toward a strong and competent website.
Google aims to create a system that will offer all users access to information across all platforms and devices, thus if your website is superior for desktops, but lacks in responsive design, then you are not providing the chance for every user to access your information, and according to recent statistics, the number of mobile users has increased rapidly.
Part of the bad user-experience is also intrusive content like interstitial advertisements or invasive popups. This will have users leave your website, thus experiencing an increase in the bounce rate, it will indicate to search engines that your website either provides poor content or that it doesn’t provide a good user-experience.
What should you do?
User experience is about providing only the best content to the user, and the possibility to access it without a problem. That is why when creating and designing your website, it is important to think of the user and focus on your visitors. It is no secret that we should also optimize our content for search engines as well, but the main priority should be the user.
Google revealed that optimizing your website for mobile is one major component in website assessment. You can read all about it on this guide issued by the search engine on how to provide the best user experience for mobile users.
Besides making your website responsive, one pivotal aspect of user experience is also your site’s performance. Making your website fast will give your users the opportunity to find the relevant information in no time. And nowadays people’s attention span has come to be shortened, and if they don’t find the information they require fast, they will most likely leave your site and look for answers somewhere else.
We are pointing once more to another content-related practice, but this one should be kept an eye on because this is where most people go wrong. Article spinning is essentially searching for highly-ranked content on certain topics and keywords, and then implementing that content into your website with slight changes, in order to create new content that already exists.
This is no way of creating content and most definitely consists of a black hat SEO that should not be used because it serves no one. Content made of computer programs that produce keyword stuffing and synonyms of existent articles will end up being an “all-over-the-place” article. This will reduce the engagement on your website and will leave users with no information whatsoever.
What should you do
The content you put on your website should be written by humans, this way you will provide something that machines can never, a personal touch to your content making your users feel connected to your content. The web is filled with the most diverse topics and it is almost impossible to write about something that hasn’t been written yet. But make sure your content is original.
If you wish to check whether your content resembles any content made on the web or if you have unintentionally duplicated someone else’s content you can try out tools like Siteliner that will help you depict content that is similar to what you have produced. Simply search your keyword or a single sentence and the tool will perform its magic.
Choosing the wrong keyword
Sometimes it’s the small details that we underestimate. It is no wonder that the main component that your SEO strategy should rely on is choosing the right keyword for your website to help you gain traffic and rank right on search engines. But where do most people go wrong with this?
For most parts, many companies or individuals will opt for high-ranking and high volume keywords, which primarily there’s nothing wrong with that, but to get you started on the right, you will need to analyze your audience and research your main keyword.
Instead of going for head keywords like ” WordPress” look out for long-tail keywords like “modern WordPress themes” or “best WordPress plugin to optimize your website”. Statistics show that long-tail keywords will result in a more successful outcome.
This way you will be providing your users with the exact content that they are looking for. Make sure you optimize your content to your keyword and provide users with the right content they are searching for. Imagine what devastation they might feel when they click on your link and end up empty-handed. This too will cause an increase in bounce rate and it is an indicator to search engines that your content is not worthy.
What should you do?
In such a case, as mentioned, try to opt for long-tail keywords that will get you more specific about a subject, because the more specific the subject of your content is the more it can resonate to users looking for similar solutions. Narrow down your content to your niche and from there lookout for keywords that lack information or need a more detailed approach.
One smart move would be to look for your competitors, see what keyword they are ranking high, and find that weak link where they lack success. Analyze their content and see what they are missing, find the gaps in their content and create your content by excelling in exactly these spots.
One tool that will help you is SemRush Keyword Gap that will help you identify what keywords your competitors are outranking you and those that they are lacking in. If you follow this strategy it will help you to steadily position better and rank higher, thus becoming an authority on your niche and taking down your competitors.
SEO is a school in its self, you will need to be constantly updated with the latest issues and launches. It can be easy to lose yourself in these bad habits, just make sure you find time to review regularly your SEO strategy and what’s the best SEO practice you would overpower.
It is of vital importance knowing what will harm and damage your website so that you start improving and stop the destructive habits. It could penalize you and your website, and that would be a downside for your site.
On the other hand, if you continue to follow the tactics you will notice its compound effects and see the growth of your website. Make sure to keep quality and consistency as the best characteristics, stray away from manipulative tactics that will offer fast results, they are proven to be destructive with time.
Follow all the best SEO practices to fuel more traffic and engagement and proliferate your success.