10 Old SEO Strategies You Should Stop Using
I am proud to say I have never been responsible for a site that was hammered by a Panda or Penguin update. That being said, I have seen a fair share of sites come across my monitor that have. Usually the whole "Google fallout" theories start to run rampant at this point, and people start to run to the internet to check for any updates to Google's algorithm, usually brought on by a large traffic or ranking loss. Most people don't know why it happened, or more importantly, how to fix it.
With so much information available of how to properly optimize a website, I'm surprised at how often I constantly encounter the same scenarios and mistakes. In almost every single case, it has boiled down to a webmaster using bad SEO, or using SEO tactics that they thought were tried and true but are no longer valid.
Following the quote below from Mark Jackson, as stated in 7 Habits of Highly Effective SEO, we can see that focusing on good marketing and modern marketing from the beginning can stonewall any traffic or position loss regardless of algorithm changes.
"While we must be aware, and understand, things like Google Panda/Penguin and other major changes in the algorithms, if we focus on doing “good marketing”, all other things should fall in line, and major algorithm changes shouldn’t be a concern."
Here are 10 old SEO methods that you should stop using. These are the most common ones that I have came across in the past year, that are still being used by many webmasters today.
1. Article Submissions
If creating articles and submitting to ezinearticles, freearticlesubmission.org or any affiliated sites are your idea of creating great backlinks and SEO, you should take an eraser to that part of your brain. Even before Google's Panda update took effect, mass creation of articles was never the best use of your marketing time or money.
Let me say it like this: Link building is probably the hardest thing to properly import into your SEO strategy. Like all things worth doing, it takes dedication, time, and well thought out effort. Rather than going after easy links that offer no SEO benefits, focus on building relationships through blogging platforms, Google+, Twitter, Facebook, or other related online communities. Writing guest posts on blogs can add value to their site, and position you as an expert in your particular sector. This lets other people want to share your information with others, allowing a quality reference from authoritative sources and people. You can learn more about guest blogging by reading this article from Search Engine Watch, 8 Steps to Guest Blogging Artistry for Free Links, Recognition and Exposure.
2. Press Releases Without Actually Having Newsworthy Content
I know what you are thinking. "So if article submissions are out, I should do press releases instead." My answer would be, if you actually have something newsworthy, GO FOR IT! If you don't, then NO. A lot of businesses use press release sites simply to try and get links from news channels, and get their name out in front of the public by any means necessary. Here's the catch, you run a business, and kudos to your for doing so. According to Dun and Bradstreet there are 23 million and counting small businesses in the US as of 2010. This isn't saying that what you do or that the service you provide isn't newsworthy, I'm saying that merely existing alone doesn't qualify you. If you speak to any public relations agency, they will be quick to point out that there is much more to good PR than just a slew of press releases. Motion PR president Kimberly Eberl states that:
"Public relations is a conversation between a company and all of its different stakeholders. It encourages company transparency and works to the benefit of all parties. PR is about building awareness and leveraging relationships through various channels and markets."
If this sounds familiar, that's because it is. In essence, it's about link building. Creating press releases just for the sake of links alone is not a good practice, and can become expensive if done regularly. A good press release is one that can help other people. Remember, humans are social creatures, and when we find something that helps us, we share it. By having people share your information and providing something that is truly newsworthy and good, this can help your media relations be more effective, and believe me, the links will follow. Think long term, not quick fix. Zach Cutler wrote a good article for The Huffington Post about 8 Tips for Writing a Great Press Release.
3. Don't Destroy Your Message Through Automation
A lot of my programmer friends would disagree with me here, as automated processes are much loved in that world. While automation may work well for some areas of your site, and your social marketing, it can also kill off the sense that your business is "authentic" when viewed by consumers.
Social media is a way for you to build relationships. This can also include your blog, or any other ways you choose to provide your message. Most of us are aware that there are tools available to automate your content or message through all the different social platforms, and some of them are good. A tool for distributing your content is just that, a tool, not an end-all, be-all solution. And, like real tools, they have to be used properly. You wouldn't use a screwdriver to hammer in a nail, just like you shouldn't use content distribution tools to spread all of your message. If using one of these tools can save you time, and streamline marketing the social side of your business, then give it a trial run to see if it can be beneficial.
Automation tools are often abused by companies that know that they are supposed to be social, but don't want to be. They just know for some reason it's important. People that will be the audience of your automated posts and content have most likely seen content from another source, that is real and authentic. Your automated, spun articles look cheap and thin by comparison, and stand out like a sore thumb.
4. Writing Thin Content
For some reason, this one just doesn't want to die. I mean Google flat out tells you not to do this in their Webmaster Guidelines! While thin keyword-heavy content used to work about 2-3 years ago, Google has caught on, and if you are still using this technique your ranking shows it. Here's the thing: great content can promote great links. Getting the links you desire from the audience you desire doesn't have to be difficult. Having good content that can benefit a person or a large group of people can be all it takes to get people interested in sharing your website with others. You should think of the following items when thinking about your content creation:
Who are you writing for, and why? Are you creating content solely for the search engines, or to build an audience? Neither one of these should be an exclusive. Finding a good balance of both will ultimately work out the best. Look at what you have, and see what is best for being on your site for SEO and SERP position, and what is right for sharing.
Ever feel like you are writing the same subject or keywords over and over again, and it's driving you insane? True, there are only so many ways that the product or service that you offer can be described. The issue is, if you can't stand what you are typing, or stand to type it, what are the chances that someone else will want to link to it?
Is your content development handled in-house, or outsourced? One question that should be asked in every office involved in web design in the world: Is the person you have writing your information the most qualified person available to build strong, link worthy content? You may be surprised at the answer.
5. Ignoring Social Signals and Their Importance
So you finally took the time to write that great article, that was full of awesome content that everyone can relate to, and is sure to get the word out. Good for you! Now what is the next step to get it in front of people? Most blog platforms or even CMS sites have a built in sharing system of one form or another. Paying attention to what these social signals are, and what their importance is, is highly relevant to helping you to succeed.
To help me explain this, I would like to quote an article from Larry Page, CEO of Google. In a recent Google earnings call, Larry was asked, “If you think of the future of Internet search three or four years out, how important will the social signal be and how important (will) personalization be?”
His response was him explaining how he might search on the internet for one of his friends, that had a very common name.
“For the first time, the search box isn’t really searching a string...it’s actually searching for that person that I know. Having real feedback from users...is very useful for search...we have a lot of those signals already, but we can always use more...we can always use better relevance and we can always use more data to generate that.”
If it came from the mouth of Google's CEO, you better believe social signals are alive and kicking. You can read more about this in my other blog post, Guide to Online Marketing and SEO for 2014. This post highlights the importance of social signals going forward, and how they will impact the position of the little blue links you see in the SERP.
6. Mutual Linking and Link Exchanging
This is one the oldest and lamest ways to get a link. Using link exchanges is a lazy excuse to not gain real, valuable links, that are from trusted sources. Why am I so harsh on link exchanges? Can you think of a more clear signal to a search engine that you are trying to get cheap, useless links? Having other sites link to you is good, when it is a trusted, directly related source. When you exchange links with another site, there are a few important questions you should be asking. What is the domain authority? What is the page authority of the url your link will be placed on? Has the person who posted your link enabled a "external no-follow" tag, that passes no page weight from their site to yours? Has the linking domain ever been blacklisted with any search engine? Most business owners who agree to do link exchanges, rarely ever think beyond the initial thought of "Oh boy! Free link to my site!"
Think of a link to your site as a an endorsement, that should only be used when it makes sense and can provide value to the visitor by pointing then to additional resources. If you find a site that provides value and benefit to your readers, then you should have no hesitation to link to it. Of course, that works the other way around too. hint hint ;)
7. Using the Same Old Tactics, Without a New Strategy
This is more of a broad statement, than an actual step, but one that can be beneficial. Using the exact same tactics for your new client that you did for your last one may work in some areas, but not in all. Most SEO's get caught into "patterns", and begin to use the same tactics over and over again once they have seen it work (or in some cases, have seen something work for a competitor). This can cause issues further down the line, as some of your old tactics may not work anymore, or may have the adverse effect. Having to clean up one site can be quite a task, but what if you have the same issues on 100?
This is one of the biggest reasons why so many people struggle with marketing, as they let their past mistakes carry into their latest builds. Avoid this by planning out your full strategy in advance, and seeing what the best current trends are within webmaster guidelines.
8. Focusing on Just Google
Even though Google accounts for a large percentage of searches done on the web, it's not the only place that people look for information. Think of optimizing for search engines like an investment fund. If you were investing money in the market, chances are you wouldn't put all your investments in one place and call it a day.
One of the best tools out there (and it's free!) is Google analytics. Google's analytics tool allows you to view traffic to your site, and from what operating system, what browser, and what region. For this part we will only focus on what browser. When looking at your analytics report, what is the largest source of traffic to your site. Surprisingly, most will see that Internet Explorer accounts for around 30-40% of all incoming traffic. You will also see Google Chrome and Firefox account for a large portion of the rest.
IE is still one of the mainstream browsers available, simply because it is installed by default on all new Windows PC's. For the general public, having a built in web browser is sufficient enough, and they won't download additional internet programs unless they have to. The reason I bring this up is that IE does not use Google as it's default search engine, it uses Bing. See where I'm going with this? Having a diverse traffic portfolio can help you to not just focus on any one area or search engine, and ultimately return the best results.
9. Ignoring the Importance of Design
Best advice I can give you? Hire a designer that is worth his/her salt. Quality web designers are up to date on the latest techniques for creating a visually compelling design, that renders fast in browsers, while retaining a modern look and user friendly profile. You are good at your business, because it's what you do every day. The same can be said about web designers. Designing is what they do every day. One important fact to remember is that there are a lot of websites out there that offer similar services that you do, and if a user doesn't like the look and feel of your site, it only takes one click to hit the back button.
Second part is to hire a skilled SEO to work closely with your designer, so that the parts that are well optimized are not blatantly obvious to your users. An easier way to describe the collaboration is this: Web designers create what you see once your visitors arrive. SEO's design is what gets them there in the first place.
10. Focus on Rankings, Not Pretty Reports
Having had the benefit of speaking to another SEO company in St Louis, I have seen my fair share of this. The SEO I spoke to had a long list of keywords and key-phrases that their client was ranking for. This was often the first thing that was checked, whenever a client would call in to complain about rankings or a lack of leads. I asked how this correlated with their analytics and traffic, and what was being done to bring them more business and leads. The other SEO responded by saying "As long as their ranking report looks good, there isn't really much else we should do for them at this point. They get sent the reports, the reports look good, and that makes them really happy. I don't think anyone has reviewed their analytics in about 2 months." TRUE STORY.
Hey, I get it. Ranking reports are nice to have, to show off all the work you do. Either to your boss, or to your client, these can be an easy way of saying you show up number 1 for "Super Awesome Widget Salesman in St Louis MO!"
It's just as important to show up for all the things you don't track, as you don't really have a way of predicting what a user will type in to find your site. Sure there are tools like Google's Keyword Planner, but that only shows you a more closely matched result of what to target. With search terms getting more long tailed, and people using more conversational ways of looking for information, it's important to remember what you are actually trying to show up for as a whole, rather than just a set of keyword choices.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I did writing it. If you found any of this information helpful, please don't forget to share. ;). You can also add me on Google+ to stay up to date with our latest posts.