SEO has come a long way since the introduction of search engines. What worked in the beginning didn’t work a year later, and what worked last year doesn’t necessarily work now. Some strategies however, worked so well throughout a period of time that Internet marketers still cling to them hoping they will continue to work today. Other strategies were just so easy to use that some marketers still use them due to a perceived lack of time to work on more efficient, more reliable, strategies. Following is a list of the riskiest SEO practices that should be avoided.
1. Too many links from low value pages
Blasting thousands of links to very low value pages such as forum profiles, link dumps and blog comments does not work as well as it used to. Search engines like Google can easily detect these link building strategies and actively flag them as spam. Building thousands of links from low value pages won’t necessarily hurt your rankings (if so then negative SEO would flourish) but it’s certainly not going to help. It can be damaging to your site however if you only have these low value links. If you only work on building links from these low value sources then you will open yourself up to the potential of not only link devaluations but automated and manual penalties.
2. Obvious link building schemes
Search engines like Google are very good at detecting link building schemes these days. And Google in particular considers link building schemes as an attempt to manipulate their system. This however was of little concern to adult webmasters in years past because despite Google’s disapproval, the schemes still worked. This changed in 2012 with the launch of the Penguin algorithm which specifically targeted linking and over-optimization schemes. Because of this, for the first time in Google’s history you can now receive negative link value through links utilizing obvious schemes, such as link wheels. Link wheels, shown below, create obvious patterns that Google does not consider “natural” and therefore actively devalues any link value passing through them. They may still be useful for link indexing, but are not recommended for linking to your primary sites.
3. Using the same keyword in your anchor text
Google Penguin, mentioned above, also targets anchor text usage within links. If you use the same keyword in the majority of your anchor text it’s going to look unnatural and your links are going to be devalued/penalized because of it. This effect is amplified if these over-optimized links are on very low value pages. To avoid being bit by Penguin you will need to add variety to your anchor text. Here is a formula that works well these days.
- 40% of links using the same exact target keyword
- 50% of links using related keywords
- 10% of links using generic keywords
4. Poorly duplicated content
Google released another big algorithm change in 2011 called Panda. Panda targeted sites using thin or duplicated content. The primary target for Panda was affiliate marketers, since they utilize strategies such as article marketing and automated content creation heavily. Internet marketers were affected as well however, and because of this we have to now follow the same new guidelines on content duplication and usage that affiliate marketers do.
5. Overly optimized pages
There are many old optimization tricks that used to work but don’t anymore, these include:
- Keyword stuffing
- Duplicate content
- Excessive outbound links
- Keyword usage in tags such as HTML comments, noscripts and alt tags in design-related graphics
- Exact keywords used in the anchor tags of internal links
- Content duplicated on pages optimized for different locations
- Link stuffing in sidebars and footers
Search engines have evolved to the point where they no longer need to rely on us to tell them what our pages are about and what keywords we should be ranked for. They now utilize hundreds of different factors when evaluating our sites, many of which are outside of our direct control. Because of this, they now place greater value on sites that are designed and written for humans rather than for search engine bots. They prefer to rank sites that are useful and relevant to a search, something that will provide value to their users, rather than sites that simply meet arbitrary content and keyword metrics.
These five risky SEO practices only list the more common strategies that don’t work well anymore and that can result in page devaluation and possible penalties. There are of course many more strategies that should be avoided than what is listed here. A good way to determine whether a tactic you’re considering is risky or not is to ask yourself how easy the tactic is to accomplish. If it’s very easy, very fast or very cheap then it’s more than likely not going to work and can be potentially damaging to your SEO efforts.