Times have changed, search engine algorithms have improved and it’s time to revamp your strategy. Ever wondered how and what it takes to be ranked at the top? SEO takes time, but apart from that, you need to make sure you don’t overdo it and stray away from the norm.
When it comes to search engine optimization, the margin of error is so tiny. If you get it right, the search engines will reward you. But if you get it wrong, the very same search engines will penalize you, which in turn crumbles your hope of making it to the SERP.
In order to avoid the latter, we will take a look at the search engine practices that you need to avoid and also take a quick glance at SEO and its benefits.
What is SEO?
SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and almost everyone’s heard of it. Basically, it involves on-page and off-page optimization and also technical aspects to make your website rank better than the competition on SERP.
The on-page optimization refers to everything that has got to do with the concerned content. From the right use of keywords, both short and long-tail keywords, the headings, meta descriptions, URLs, and so on.
The off-page optimization, on the other hand, includes backlinks and everything that takes place outside your website. Off-page search engine optimization efforts are essential, as it tells the search engine crawlers that your website is providing valuable content since it is being referred to by others. But then again, this can backfire if the website that is referring to your website.
The technical side refers to how well your website is optimized for speed, schema, robots.txt, and so on.
Search engine crawlers take into consideration a lot of factors before ranking your page. That is why it is essential to focus on all three areas. Now all the results that you see on the SERP, have absolutely nailed all three aspects.
How Crucial and Beneficial is Search Engine Optimization?
Really crucial because SEO is what is going to drive the majority of the traffic to your website and bring in more users. Let’s take a moment and consider this situation where you are providing services or selling products and so on. How do you plan to reach a wider audience? Surely you can use marketing strategies and place ads on social media and print. But then again, that doesn’t guarantee any promising results. When the users see the advertisement, they may or may not visit your website.
When the users see the advertisement, if what is being put forth is not relevant to them at that particular moment, they will simply forget about it. But then, in the future, when the need arises, they are not going to remember the advertisement or the name of the website, at least, the majority won’t.
It is here where SEO is helpful. When the time and need arise, where do the users turn to? They all end up taking the help of search engines. Let’s take the example where a user is searching for “lawn movers in Texas“. Now, what do search engines do? They generate the results and showcase what seems to be the most relevant websites. You might be offering the same services in the same region, but you are nowhere to be found.
Why is that? Because your competition took SEO seriously and you didn’t. They optimized their content with the right keywords, the relevant ones that tell the search engines everything needed to rank them, focused on link building and thereby bringing in more traffic.
What does more traffic mean? More users lead to better engagement and revenue and also recognition. Apart from bringing in more traffic, ranking higher on SERP also tells the users that you are trusted and credible. The users are more likely to take up the services of products and companies that are seen on the first couple of pages on SERP as compared to the rest.
It can also give you an idea of how well the user experience on your website is. As we have mentioned, search engines consider a lot of factors to rank a page. One such factor is how much time the user spends on the website and how quickly they go back or commonly referred to as bounce rate. Once the user lands on the concerned page, and if they don’t find what they are looking for they are going to go back. Grabbing their attention with search engine optimization is only a part of the task. Delivering the content they are looking for is even more critical.
This is where UI/UX is important. The higher the bounce rate, the lesser the ranking. Just like how you convey information to search engines with keywords, the same applies to the users. It should always be lucid. The goal is to strike a fine balance between the concerned content and how you actually deliver it to the website visitors.
A better way to explain it will be with an example. Suppose a user searches for “ Top things to do in Ohio”. Now search engines can be targeted by placing the relevant keywords in the meta description, URL, and spread across the webpage. But once the visitor reaches the web page if what he/she sees is a lot of irrelevant content mixed with the search query, this will prompt the user to head back.
So if you see a good amount of traffic, it means that the keyword strategy is working and you are gaining the attention of the search engines. But a higher bounce rate means you are failing to deliver a good user experience. The SEO strategy will give you a better SERP ranking but not for a very long time. Once the search engine crawlers take note of the bounce rate, you will be demoted. So make sure you balance both aspects.
Therefore search engine optimization is important as it drives the majority of the organic traffic, makes you credible, and brings you the exposure you need and want. It can also give you an idea about the user experience.
Top Outdated SEO Practices to Avoid
Now that you know what is search engine optimization and the role it plays, it is important to get it right. We will take a look at the most outdated practices that you need to avoid at any cost.
1. Go easy with the keywords
Search engine optimization is all about keywords, density, and placement. But the majority of the users end up overdoing it. When writing a piece of content, the goal should be to create what appeals to the users and not do it simply for SEO. It is easy to identify content written with users in mind and one written for search engines.
We will explain this with an example.
We are the best lawn movers in Texas. What makes us the best lawn movers is our hard-working team. Our team of highly skilled lawn movers in Texas can handle work of any scale. Be it for residential purposes or corporate needs, we are the best lawn movers in the business.
This is a clear example of keyword stuffing. The term “ lawn movers” has repeated itself too often and the content is written for the search engines and not for the users. This worked in the initial days but not anymore. Now search engine algorithms do penalize websites for the overuse of keywords.
The reason why you need to avoid keyword stuffing is that it never results in content that provides value and leads to a bad user experience. One more thing to note is that using synonyms can also backfire. The goal is to make the content sound natural, keeps tabs on the keyword density, and answer the search intent.
2. Content spinning
Why do the hard work when someone has already done it for you right?
Content spinning is where you copy published content from others and replace words with their synonyms. Well, this can lead to plagiarism, being penalized by search engines, and all other sorts of problems.
This can be done manually as well with the help of software. This type of content is easy to find as they have a strong resemblance to its original source as the tone remains the same. Always use your creative side, yes it takes time, but it will be worth it.
3. Low-quality outbound links
As everyone knows, outbound links redirect you to a different website. This website will someway relate to whatever the visitors are reading or looking for. When you use outbound links, you are saying to the website visitors that the visitors can verify what you are saying and are not making it up and the website that is being linked to is a reputed one.
This is where you have to be careful, the website that you are referring to has to be a reputed one and belong to the same category. If you send the visitors to a shady website that focuses more on ads and less on content, your SERP ranking is going to take a hit. Not only the rankings, but you will also be losing your current website visitors.
Also, you have to ensure that you don’t fall prey to using paid and irrelevant reciprocal links to gain the attention of search engine crawlers.
4. Think twice when it comes to guest posts
Guest blogging is an impressive way to build your consumer base, receive more recognition, and so on. But there are two main points that you should keep in mind and they are
- The guest writers meet and live up to your website’s standards.
- The website where you guest blog is also vital.
If we look at the first scenario, where a guest writer gave you finished work and you published it without a second thought. If that piece of writing is not well researched, is not relevant to your domain, is stuffed with keywords, is over-optimized for anchor texts, and so on can negatively affect your SERP rankings.
Now the second scenario is also crucial. Do not take up guest blogging simply for the sake of gaining the attention of search engines and for link-building purposes. Surely you can take up the help of websites that will happily accept your blog posts when you fulfill certain conditions, but that will cause more harm than good.
The websites where you post your content is really important. Try to guest blog on websites trusted by the users and have been there for a long time. If you post your topics on websites that are irrelevant, outside the concerned domain just to get a backlink, from an optimization perspective, it is useless.
Cloaking is one of the worst SEO practices that you should never take up. Here the search engine crawlers and users are presented with two different content and URLs. The main goal or the end result is to get better SERP rankings.
Search engines will penalize you heavily if you adopt cloaking. There are multiple ways to achieve cloaking by hiding text, especially keywords, IP cloaking, user-agent cloaking, and so on. Cloaking is a clear violation and can possibly even get you banned.
Also read: The Top 3 Ways to Backup a WordPress Website
6. Be careful with anchor text
With the search engine algorithms improving, one overlooked area is the anchor text. When it comes to the anchor text you only have to focus on a few points-
- Sound natural
- Don’t write it to simply link to your other articles.
When you are writing, you don’t always need to use the exact match keyword and in some cases, it won’t sound natural. In such scenarios, you need to know how to craft a sentence that answers the users’ search query and, at the same time, blends in with your SEO efforts.
Also, don’t use this as an opportunity to draw attention to the other articles, that are in no way related to the current one’s category. This can lead to a negative user experience and impact SEO efforts.
7. Exact match domains
EMD or Exact match domain is registering your website with the keyword, the very keyword that users will search for. For example, if you are providing headphone repair services, your domain can be headphonerepairservices.com.
But now, in the current times, EMDs are not as effective as in the old days. Going back to 2012, Google introduced its exact match domain update, where websites that offered invaluable content were pushed down the rankings. So having a domain with the relevant keyword alone won’t fetch you the traffic in the current times. You need to combine with strong content that satisfies the users’ search intent.
8. Not creating value-added content
The end goal should be to satisfy the users’ search queries and not the search engine crawlers. In the long run, only content that is relevant and produces value will prevail and bring in more traffic. The content that is over-optimized for SEO will rank at the top for a short time, before being demoted, as the bounce rate increases.
When you write for search engines you are screaming out, yelling to gain the attention of the search engine crawlers by focusing too much on the keywords. But failing to answer the users’ needs. Always keep the users in mind and write from their perspective, convey what they want to know, and at the same time follow all the SEO practices.
9. Lack of optimization to target mobile users
The more users you can tap into the better it is. For this, you have to take into consideration that not all search queries come from desktop users only. A lot of search queries do originate from mobile users, and if your website is not optimized to serve them, then you are missing out.
In fact, Google does prioritize mobile-optimized websites and pages for better ranking. If you do not have a website optimized for the mobile ecosystem, things like page speed, font size, responsive design, and so on, you can expect a lower ranking. So if you still don’t have your website optimized for mobile, now would be the time to get it done.
10. Focusing on short-tail keywords only
Long-tail keywords when compared to short-tail keywords are low in search volume, but that doesn’t mean you should completely avoid them. The search queries of users vary, and some of them just like to be more descriptive.
The short-tail keywords will drive you a lot of traffic, whereas the long-form ones bring the targeted audience and they also have higher conversion rates. But even then, you should know when and where to place them in your content. Now when you combine both of them, you get to see the desired results. In order to achieve this you need to do extensive keyword research as well as think from the users’ perspective.
The very same practices that get you the desired results can turn against you if you are not careful. Avoid the above-mentioned practices as they can be detrimental to your growth.