In the media world, it’s sometimes said that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity.” While this might be true for some people, it definitely doesn’t apply to SEO! There certainly is such a thing as bad SEO, and frankly, many small businesses are still engaged in SEO practices that are likely to hurt more than they help.
At Tech-Critic, we encounter bad SEO strategies frequently, especially when speaking with new clients. One story we hear all the time is that a small business will have hired an SEO agency, and after a few months found that their rankings had actually gotten worse!
How does this happen? In the SEO world, there are techniques known as “black hat” SEO, which usually involve taking advantage of Google’s rankings systems for short-term gains. However, Google has become very effective and aggressive at finding and punishing black hat SEO, leading many small businesses with penalized websites that actually rank worse than they did prior to doing any SEO at all!
For small business owners, this whole issue can feel complex and confusing. How do you know if your SEO agency is following Google’s rules and doing SEO the right way? In this post, we’ll cover 3 terrible SEO strategies that are likely to hurt your website. If you or your SEO agency is engaging in these strategies currently, you should stop immediately and refocus on quality, ethical SEO.
Building Spammy Links
Link building is one of the most important, and most difficult, aspects of SEO. Basically link building works by creating links from other websites back to yours. Google treats inbound links as quality signals, and therefore ranks websites with many links higher in search.
However, not all links are equally good. In the old days of SEO, link building was much simpler – you could pretty much just add links from anywhere and expect to see some rankings improvements. These days however, Google has become very sophisticated at analyzing links and judging their quality.
Google wants all links to be “natural” – honest votes and indicators of quality from other websites. Links that have been built simply to improve SEO are generally considered spam. Websites with many links that have been built cheaply and purely for SEO will likely be punished heavily by Google.
To avoid these problems, business owners need to adjust the way they think about links. People without much SEO background might generally think “more is better” in terms of link building, and then choose to work with agencies that promise large amounts of links built each month. Don’t think this way! A few high quality links will be much more effective than thousands of spammy links.
Business owners should also understand that more and more, link building is becoming reliant on content. It’s often not possible for an SEO agency to just “do” link building without client involvement. Before you hire someone to do link building for your business, be sure that you’re ready to support their efforts with content, connections, and useful information from your business.
Keyword Stuffing & Spamming
Anyone who knows anything about SEO will understand that the process is still heavily reliant on keywords. To rank well for any given search term, you have to use that keyword and similar ones in a few key places on your website.
However, although keyword targeting is critical for SEO, you have to be careful not to take this strategy too far. More isn’t better – you don’t need to repeat your target keywords over and over again. In fact, using too much unnatural keyword repetition is another factor which could also lead to a search engine penalty.
Even worse is attempting to “trick” Google with various keyword-insertion tricks, like hiding small font text in your footer, hiding text behind images, and so forth. These hidden text strategies are strictly against Google’s guidelines and should always be avoided.
Remember that in the modern SEO landscape, Google is analyzing text at a very sophisticated level. Rather than stuffing in the same keywords over and over, instead focus on well written content which is detailed, authoritative, and helpful. Using a range of semantically relevant terms will always be better than repeating keywords needlessly.
Microsites and Keyword-Based Domains
Another ancient SEO strategy is buying keyword stuffed domains like Dallas-Texas-Best-Locksmith.info and trying to build out mutliple sites like this to target different keywords. Much like spam links and hidden text, this just doesn’t work anymore and should be avoided.
In determining search engine rankings, Google looks at something called “domain authority”, basically how popular and trusted your website is overall. This is why Wikipedia and similar websites rank so well for so many topics. To maximize your domain authority, you should always be investing in one single strong website, rather than trying to split your marketing efforts up across multiple domains.
You should also be aware that owning multiple websites and linking them all together could be perceived by Google as black hat SEO. Of course, if you have 2 distinct businesses or a very unique product that really needs a unique domain, that’s fine. But trying to build out new websites just for SEO purposes is almost always a bad idea.
We hope these tips will help keep you on the right track doing quality SEO! Remember that as the SEO landscape matures, tricks and hacks are fading away in favor of more substantial strategies like content development, user experience, social marketing, and branding. If you’re interesting in learning more about quality, Google-approved SEO strategies, the Tech-Critic team is here to help. Contact us today for a free SEO consultation.