09 Jun 13 Fatal SEO Mistakes (What Not To Do)
Everybody is out to be number 1. There’s no one stopping you from putting out your awesome content or website.
It literally feels like the wild wild west. You put out content in a structure that you think is best. You study content marketing and understand why things get ranked better. After a while, there are a lot of factors that get you ranked higher and faster.
However, these methods don’t help you get ranked as fast as you want.
You begin to think that its not fair. Why should you wait as long as other people? Why not rank faster than other websites?
Let’s tweak some of the methods that helped you get better rankings shall we? Sure, it might feel a bit weird at first to tweak some SEO methods at first. But who’s really going to care?
We’re not breaking the law here, right? It’s not like you’re running a money-laundering operation online. In the land of Google’s search engine, anything goes.
But there’s one complication. Nothing is as good as it seems in the land of opportunity. Everything may be up for grabs in the wild west, however there is still law and order. Google has their own sheriffs to snoop around and find lawbreakers.
Your website is like a brick and mortar store. If it wants to survive, it needs to abide by Google’s laws.
So if you’re doing something wrong, you can be sure that Google will eventually find out.
Some of you may even think you might be able to evade these sheriffs, but that’s not possible. In fact, its Google’s mission to find people who think they can break the law.
This might seem a little dramatic for you, but there are actual consequences here.
We’re talking about the ultimate penalty that there is: your website being banned from Google forever. Can you believe your website won’t appear on any of Google’s results at all?
And just like that, your website has become only a memory.
Listen, we get that you’re ambitious and want the best for your website. However, we’re here to tell you the real deal. There’s SEO tactics that you definitely should stay away from, and in this article, we’ll be covering 13 of them in depth.
But before we do that, let’s understand how Google thinks and operates. Let us show you how this huge monolith decides what is right and wrong.
Operating in the Land of Opportunity
Google knows that it’s a huge land of opportunity. Because of this, they want everyone to play by their own rules. In fact, they hate it when people cheat their system.
- If you engage in something that hacks their algorithm, this will incur their wrath.
The visitors that come to your website are expecting something good. Your website is like a brick-and-mortar business set up in Google’s land. Google rewards websites that give visitors a great user experience. The better the user experience, the higher the Google ranking.
- If you do anything that compromises or leverages user experience (one of the reasons may be boosting your search rankings), Google will have enough reason to burn your website into the ground.
So here are the two main things you should always keep in mind. Never cheat or game the Google algorithm. And never compromise user experience on your website.
If you can understand the reason behind these 2 principles, then we’re confident you’ll be able to stay away from bad SEO practices that get you penalized.
Let’s jump into the most obvious bad practices that we think you should know about first.
If you know anything about good SEO tactics and practices. You’ll know that keyword stuffing is not one of them. If you’re a smart SEO person that we think you are, you will have heard of this for sure.
Keyword stuffing is an old tactic that is now condemned by Google. Back when the amount of keywords were not monitored properly by Google, keywords became the next gold rush.
People would stuff keywords all over their content obsessively. The content would read and look extremely unnatural!
“ Keyword: Sustainable
In order to be sustainable, you need to think about what sustainable means. Sustainable thinking is not a natural mindset. In fact, sustainable thinking requires you to study the word sustainable over and over again. Learning to be sustainable takes a long time, and it’s unrealistic to be sustainable overnight, especially when society hasn’t taught you to be sustainable.”
In this example here, we see the keyword sustainable being used in a paragraph. The word sustainable is used over and over again.
The message may be understood, however the number of times the keyword is used is unnecessary. The writing style of the paragraph can also be cut down to something way shorter.
Keep your writing simple and compelling. This will give your readers a much better user experience. If you don’t have to use your keyword to convey your message, don’t use it!
You got your brick and mortar store up and running pretty well. Customers walk in and start browsing what you have to offer. But they start to see products that are out of place.
Why is your store’s fresh produce section selling guns and bullets? Now these might be valuable resources in demand in the wild west, however, it’s not what your customers are looking for.
Your customers find this very odd and start to leave.
When it comes to traffic users browsing your website, they want to see content that makes sense to them. One huge turnoff for visitors will be unrelated keywords popping up within your content.
Can you imagine reading about jewelry and suddenly having random mentions of guns and bullets? We definitely can’t.
What’s the big no-no here? Do not place irrelevant keywords in your content just to get more traffic.
It may seem harmless to add in a couple of irrelevant keywords. I mean after all, you’re not keyword stuffing like a crazy man.
That is true but just because you’re not committing one sin, it doesn’t mean that Google can’t catch you for another.
Make no mistake, Irrelevant keywords in your content can massively backfire on your for sure. Not only will your visitors be turned off, but they’ll also leave your website asap.
This could result in a very high bounce rate which will tell Google one thing: your website has crappy user experience. And a crappy website will not rank high on Google’s results.
Keep a watch over your links
When Googles sheriffs ride into your store to do an impromptu inspection, you won’t be ready for it! This is what Google does. They send web crawlers to monitor the status of your website.
This is for them to check the user experience, content and working quality of your pages. One thing that Google will pick up on are the links on your website.
These web crawlers will be checking for many things.
Where are these links pointing to? More importantly, are these links even healthy? In SEO, for links that don’t lead to anywhere, we call them 404 errors.
Don’t run off to check your links yet! You need to know why your links need to be healthy.
If a visitor comes to your website to find something. They click on a link that they’re interested in, and the link doesn’t go anywhere. Now what? Well, you’ve probably lost this visitor’s attention.
The key thing to remember here is to always maintain a healthy user experience for visitors. Broken links create bad user experience.
Can you imagine clicking on a bunch of interesting links within an article only to find out all of them don’t work at all?
Having one broken link is fine. Google will understand. However having several on one page is a total disaster.
Your job is to make sure that all your links are healthy. How can you do this? You can check out Ubersuggest or Screaming Frog as options to see how many broken links there are on your website.
If you’re a person that wants to keep a close watch 24/7 over your website. Try Google Search Console. Check out this article on how to find your broken links.
Spamming Comments and Links
Every brick and mortar store has its own right to advertise in Google Land. However, if you start pasting promotional posters on other people’s stores and buildings, the sheriffs will definitely come after you.
What are we trying to teach you here? Do not spam links that lead to your website on other websites or social platforms.
This just seems like some small level of self promotion doesn’t it? Its not.
First of all, everybody hates spammy comments and links. And we’re not even talking about Google. We’re talking about normal day to day web users.
Do you want your website to have the reputation of being a spammer of links? This tells users that your website has very little authority. It shows viewers that your website is so crappy that you had to resort to link spamming to get traffic.
That’s not the kind of reputation you want. Take a look at this comment this freelancer made on facebook.
Do you want to be this guy? We hope you don’t! Because these comments make us cringe!
When you see a service that guarantees you more traffic and better rankings, do you say yes? Absolutely not.
Imagine a snake-oil salesman promising to use their snake oil to direct more loyal customers to your brick and mortar store. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.
We know you might be tempted to say yes, but that’s why we’re here to tell you no.
There are many websites that will sell you backlinks that promise to improve your domain authority, and skyrocket your website’s rankings.
They also might promise that Google will never find out that you bought a backlink. Once again, never game the system. But in this case let us rephrase: never trust anyone who says they can outsmart the system.
Look at blackhatlinks.com for example.
They have a nicely designed website and compelling statistics to back their service up. But remember, no matter how good the numbers look, never trust anybody selling links to you.
Also besides gaming the system you are also compromising user experience again. The backlink you bought might be attracting customers that have no idea what webpage they’re being directed to.
Here’s word straight out from Google regarding links that are bought.
If you’re someone that has bought links in the past, we suggest you learn how to disavow those links immediately. Learn how to do that here.
If you’re hesitating on removing your bought links, here’s our final warning. Google is out to remove all websites that have unnatural links. They’re constantly finding quicker and faster ways to sniff out paid links.
Are you willing to wait until you’re caught?
Setting Up Anchor Text Links
The struggle of obtaining links is real. In the wild wild west of Google, that’s almost like paying for or manipulating how other people are promoting your brick and mortar store. This is extremely illegal!
You cannot manipulate the way people are linking to you. In any way whatsoever!
One so-called harmless tactic is asking websites that link to you, to use a specific keyword. For example, you’re trying to rank for the word “shiny gold necklace.”.
You then make sure all incoming backlinks pointing to your website use the text of “shiny gold necklace”.
Example of html text : <a>shiny gold necklace</a>
This is how the link structure would look like for all incoming links.
This tactic might actually help you to rank better for “shiny gold necklace” in the short term. However, that’s all you’re going to get.
These links may seem relevant to you, but for Google, they will look highly criminal.
In what universe are websites going to be all using the same exact keyword or text to link to your website? None.
Google knows, and Google will find you.
By now you should have learned something about links and what not to do. Don’t pay for them, and certainly do not try to manipulate links in any way. Unnatural links will get you in deep trouble!
With that said, there are still those in the Google wild west that will tempt you. These outlaws have been kept quite far from the fringes of Google’s search results.
They’ve been around for a long time, and Google has found a way to bury them deep in their search results.
This particular outlaw is called a link farm. Link farms are another service that offers multiple links pointing to your website.
One way this outlaw will tempt you is justifying the relevance of the websites pointing to you. If you’re blogging about jewelry, no worries, they’ll have a list of websites that are also about jewelry.
If the websites pointing to you are relevant, no problem right?!
Well not exactly.
Besides the sad obvious fact that you’re paying for links, these so-called relevant websites pointing to you are low-quality. It is highly likely that they are crap. Google knows it and has given these websites a low domain score.
So what happens when Google sees that you have a bunch of low-quality backlinks? They’ll see low quality websites talking about your website. Based on that, you’re a low quality website as well.
You’re guilty by association.
The rule of thumb here is to just stay away from any link farms that offer you any kind of backlinks for a price.
If you’re wondering how to check the quality of a website, you may use Moz’s Domain authority checker tool.
This tool is free, and you may use it to vet websites you plan on getting natural backlinks from! You’re welcome!
Private Blog Networks
Part of surviving in Google’s wild west is to avoid an outlaw mindset. Like we’ve said before, do not try to game the system!
Outlaws are good at one thing, and that’s cutting corners. One really smart way that people have tried to get better rankings is through private blog networks.
You buy an expired domain with a high domain score. You then continue to generate high quality content relevant to that domain. Within this content, you place relevant links to your original website.
This almost seems legitimate, except it’s not. In this example, you’re creating links to your own website through other websites that you control.
You haven’t found a legal way to generate links, you’ve just found a smarter way of generating unnatural links.
There are many websites that sell expired domains to people. One of them is expireddomains.com.
Don’t let us catch you on a website like this shopping for website domains with high domain scores!
Write Guest Posts about your Website
Every outlaw thinks they can talk their way out of a crime. That’s a horrible approach!
We don’t know what you’ve heard about guest posts, but we’re here to tell you not to abuse the use of it!
You might have read somewhere that guest posts help boost your site’s rankings! They absolutely do! And because of this, outlaws have found a way to manipulate this strategy in Google’s wild west.
Imagine you offer to write a guest post about jewelry on someone’s website.
Within this guest post, you post many links to websites that have nothing to do with jewelry at all. This is the behavior of a scam artist!
People who click on the link will be lead to a website they were not expecting at all. They read about jewelry and click a link. Afterwards, they see a website about guns.
Traffic users will immediately click away from a website they’re not interested in. What do you get? A high bounce rate.
This is bad user experience and the sheriffs of Google will definitely pick up on unusual activity with your guest post.
Bait and Switch
Imagine your brick and mortar store earning a good reputation in Google’s wild west. You’ve done every legal thing you know to bring in more customers.
You’re getting lots of customers and business seems good. So all of a sudden you start selling guns and bullets in your jewelry store.
Who’s going to notice right? Google already gave you a good reputation for promoting your store well. They know you’re good at playing by their rules. So what’s the harm in doing something a bit different for yourself?
We call this move the bait and switch. You pump up your website’s rankings by engaging in good SEO practices.
However, once you got a good ranking for a specific page, you add in content that is irrelevant to the original content.
Let’s say you’re searching for jewelry for men on Google.
You click on the first link to go to davidyurman.com
You enter david yurman’s website to expect to buy jewelry. However, you’re welcomed with a sad product display of a pistol.
This is extremely misleading and Google will definitely penalize david yurman’s website for this. After all, this is putting irrelevant content in front of customers.
Always put relevant and engaging content in front of your readers or customers.
Writing good articles is tough. We get it. It takes a lot of time to put together a long piece of content. It takes even longer for such a piece of content to climb up the ranks of Google!
That’s just the way Google made it. And you’ll just have to do it like everybody else.
Well, except for some people. Some people think the rules don’t apply to them. Some people don’t want to wait for their results. In fact, they want to game the system.
The sinful deed here is using one piece of content and creating several variations. And using these variations for content marketing.
We know what some people are thinking. Hang on, this isn’t manipulating links or putting irrelevant content out there at all. So what’s the deal?
Well, the deal is simple. Google hates duplicate content. In fact they don’t believe in it at all. They hate it even more when people try to create many variations of the same content.
Look at these two example articles below. The headers and subheaders mostly look different. However, all of the article sections are basically talking about the same exact thing.
As people find smarter ways to try to escape from being caught for recycling similar content, Google gets smarter as well.
The sheriffs know how to sniff out the try-hards who think they can outsmart justice. If you’re someone that has been recycling content, now is the time to remove them from your website.
One extremely legal practice you can do to your content is updating them. Google absolutely loves websites that update their content to keep it relevant. Read more about updating content here.
In the land of Google wild west there are different kind of outlaws. One specific outlaw is a spy with deep knowledge about Google’s sheriffs. They know exactly how Google’s sheriffs think. And because of this, they try to deceive Google’s sheriffs.
We know that you won’t try this yourself. But we have to warn you about this extremely shameless tactic.
Cloaking is the tactic of showing content to search engines that is different to what you show to users.
E.g. User A arrives at your home page, and the server loads mostly images for user A to see. However when search engines crawl your home page, the server loads html text for the spiders to crawl.
Why is this bad? First of all its deceptive, and it’s meant to trick search engines into allowing your pages to rank better for certain keywords.
You may not be giving your traffic users spammy or misleading information. However, you are intentionally misleading Google’s search engine spiders.
There are not many people who know how to execute this tactic well. But for those that do, they will claim that they can get away with it forever.
Beware of SEO agencies or web developers who promise fast rankings for certain keywords. Any strategies that involve code in order to boost your rankings should be an instant red flag!
By now you already know that you shouldn’t be using irrelevant keywords or overusing them. These are some of the more obvious SEO crimes..
Beneath the obvious crimes however, lies some clandestine SEO activity. After all, this is the internet. Secretive, shady stuff happens all the time.
One of these things involves hiding text, keywords or links on a webpage. You might not carry out this crime, however some web developers might.
Those that love using this method will use code to hide keywords and links. Through this method they hope to boost the rankings of the website.
This is an extremely annoying thing to deal with. Trust us, we know!
According to Google Webmaster, these are the top 3 things that are illegal to do.
- Hiding text by using the same color as the background.
- Hiding text or links by using css techniques that is visible only to Google.
- Using links on one character (e.g. using a link on a hyphen.).
One of the best ways to check what keywords you’re ranking for on each page is to use Google Search Console.
If you learn Google Search Console properly, you can easily find out if there is anything unusual going on your website.
Google Search Console allows you to track what keywords your page is ranking for, and also what kind of outgoing or incoming links there are.
Despite the huge number of SEO mistakes out there that you can make, many websites go on to do well without making any of them.
Some websites remain patient and trust their process of SEO growth. These websites generally do better.
Other websites want to skip the queue, and find something that will boost their rankings. Don’t be one of these websites.
We find that there is no “get-rich-quick” process when it comes to SEO. If you really want to boost your SEO and web authority, you should be focused on increasing user experience.
This might mean better content marketing, better landing pages, or maybe planning your keyword research better.
Google wants to honor and reward websites who put in the effort of serving their users the best stuff. If you want to reach the top of Google’s search results, this is exactly what you should do.
Be patient, work hard and smart, and wait for the payoffs to come.