Over the past decade, SEO has changed dramatically. You used to be able to spam your way to the top easily, and now it won’t get you off the starting blocks.
Times have changed and for the better. Spammers are having a harder time than ever, and legitimate business owners are being rewarded for their efforts. Google has always aimed to rank the pages which give their searchers the best experience. To ensure this, they regularly improve their algorithm to prevent people from gaming it.
Even in the past few years, there have been huge updates that change the way the algorithm works. These updates have forced SEO’s to change their tactics and to adhere to the guidelines that Google always wanted.
The great thing about that is that we are so close to Google’s guidelines that anyone following them will likely never be punished. They’ll be able to rank for years and benefit from the increased traffic.
With such significant changes over the years, it’s important that you avoid most SEO advice from years ago that still sits on old pages. A lot of the tactics they suggest are ancient and can be dangerous. Let’s look at 5 of the worst:
Back in the day, the algorithm was reliant on you telling it what the page was about by including keywords. The system wasn’t smart enough to figure it out on its own.
Some SEO’s realized that by stuffing the keyword in as many times as they could, the algorithm would rank them higher. People were using keyword densities of 10% and even higher. That means that in a 500-word article they might use the keyword “best car” over 50-times!
This keyword stuffing made for a horrible user experience because the content didn’t make any sense and offered no value to anyone but the robots that were deciding the rankings.
Black hat SEO’s quickly figured out that they could game the system by producing a lot of similar documents. Each would have slightly different keywords but were otherwise the same.
Then, they began using ‘keyword spinning’ tools to take a single article and produce thousands of spun articles that didn’t read well or offer any extra value to a reader.
Each of the articles was almost a clone and was only designed to cheat the algorithm into ranking them for different keywords.
Google cracked the whip and began detecting duplicate content. Sites gaming the system were quickly penalized, and duplicate content became worthless.
Blog comment spam
Blog comments can be a valuable tactic when used correctly. They allow you to form a relationship with other bloggers in your industry and direct readers to your website.
The problem was when black hat SEOs used programs to spam hundreds of thousands of blogs. Although a single link from a blog comment offers a slight boost, hundreds of thousands could improve your ranking substantially.
Spammers would use a generic comment, such as; “Great content, love to see more!” and would submit it automatically to every blog they could find.
Google is now able to detect patterns in your backlink profile and can quickly notice spam of this kind. This update made blog comment spam redundant because websites would get penalized instead of seeing a benefit.
Optimized anchor text
SEO’s realized that Google takes into account the anchor text of links pointing to your site. When on-page keyword stuffing stopped working, they started stuffing it into their backlinks instead.
A single page might get 100 links, and all of them would have had the keyword that they wanted to rank. This amount of links is obviously not natural, especially when the keyword is multiple words long.
In April 2012, Google released their ‘penguin’ update which targeted backlink profiles and tried to get rid of spammers. One part of that update was to lower their tolerance for keyword stuffing in anchor text.
Before updates were made to reduce the impacts of keyword stuffing, SEO’s would use invisible text. This invisible text meant that they could include whole paragraphs that only the algorithm would see. This invisible text ensured that the readers would have a good experience and still buy the products, but the SEO could game the system.
There are many other SEO tactics that you should avoid. It might sound daunting, but rather than worrying about what you shouldn’t do, it’s easier to focus on what you should do.
We know that Google wants to rank the content that gives users the best experience. That means that the content needs to be entertaining, informative, easy to read and interactive.
However, the algorithm isn’t perfect. It still takes into account backlinks as a vote of confidence in the page. The safest way to build good backlinks will always be to engage in real marketing efforts. Networking with others, creating newsworthy content and being featured in other reputable publications will always be beneficial.