There are several bad SEO tactics that need to be avoided completely, though some people still use them. We’ll talk about six of them here so that you can avoid them and/or avoid anyone who suggests any of these SEO tactics. You definitely want to make sure that if someone is offering you any SEO services or says that they’re an SEO expert, you’ll want to look for these and politely decline to have them touch your website. Understand that many of these bad tactics may seem obvious, but you may be surprised at how many people still don’t know these are bad or just haven’t caught up to where things have progressed in the last two decades.
1. Keyword stuffing – Not for Thanksgiving
This is number one because it is such a bad idea. You never want to stuff your content continuously with the same terms over and over again. This used to be something that worked a really long time ago; though in today’s SEO space, you just write respectable content. Putting keywords or phrases throughout your content is fine, though requiring it to be some specific, magical number is simply ridiculous. As with most SEO tactics that started several years ago, things have changed, and this tactic is definitely one that needs to be discarded quickly and without any reservation.
2. Spam – Not found in a can
Not everyone likes to eat Spam, and when it comes to the internet, no one likes spam. This is a practice generally used by people trying to harm a website through hacking in and spamming keywords throughout the website. If someone is suggesting the use of spam, though likely not using that word, they’re not going to do you any favors. Google and other search engines will absolutely hammer your website for doing this as they have done a fantastic job developing various methodologies that are very intelligent and scalable in an effort to fight against spam. Google is constantly updating their algorithm to fight against any new spam tactics that show up. Avoid this like the plague.
3. Cloaking – Not a fashion choice
Make sure that your website is not blocking search engine crawlers from seeing everything on your website that users would see. This doesn’t mean you have to let them see what is behind a login screen, just that the rest of your site needs to be open to them. This means not only allowing them to see the various pages, but also the content on those pages. There are ways to use a code on a site to block, mask, or alter what is seen depending on whom is looking. This is something that hackers can do to your site to inject harmful information. A black hat tactic is to only show this injected information to search engine crawlers and not to everyone else including you! Understand that there are some acceptable uses of cloaking, such as switching phone numbers on your website in order to track them properly through call tracking software. The point to “good cloaking” is that the search engines can crawl the code and see what you’re doing. They are often accepting if you just show what you’re trying to do.
5. Link manipulation – When linking goes wrong
External linking has been something that has been debated for many years as to what is the right practice. This is one bad SEO tactic that you’ll want to watch out for as it can slip under your radar if you’re not careful. The search engines have been working for many years figuring out the best way to analyze external linking structures, and they are continuously perfecting them. As a result, they are able to identify bad linking structures.
- Link Farms: You want to watch out for link farms, which are sites that are made specifically to create links to your website even though these websites may have nothing to do with what your business is about or only vaguely appropriate. These link farms are often also called private blog networks, or PBNs for short.
- Directory Links: Specifically, links to low-quality directories. Some directories make sense, and they are there to make it easier for your website to be found by potential customers. The low-quality directories are there just to look legitimate to offer links. Consider these to be similar to link farms, though they needed to be brought up since there are some good directories.
- Exchanging Links: Some people want to set up a link exchange, which is often called reciprocal linking. This means that you create pages that link to another website in exchange for them creating a page that links back to you. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t create links to other websites or that you must watch out for them creating a link to you. There are specific patterns that search engines look for, so the best practice is to create external links if it makes sense to do so, not for the sake of building links to get links.
- Paying for Links: This is worse than exchanging links because you’re only getting a link from a site because you’re paying for it. Search engines are working hard to identify such sites and networks that are part of these schemes. They will likely severely punish websites that have bought links.
6. Using Paid Search to boost SEO – Spend money to make money
This one just isn’t true. Paid search can be very beneficial if it both fits within your budget and makes sense for your marketing efforts. However, it is a completely different creature to SEO and doesn’t help SEO one bit. In fact, Google, Bing, and Yahoo! have all separated their organic search and their paid search so that there isn’t any crossover and therefore can’t be sued for requiring people to pay for a boost to their organic rankings. If you’re being told that paid search will help, it doesn’t. That doesn’t mean that changes made on your website to help your paid search account won’t also be an SEO benefit. It’s simply that using paid advertising itself doesn’t help SEO.
I’m not using any of these tactics; what now?
If you’re not using any of these bad SEO tactics, then congratulations are in order. There are still other bad SEO tactics out there as we only covered six of them here, though these are probably some of the most important ones to avoid. Other bad tactics will likely just result in a wasted effort for no benefit. If you think you or your SEO “guru” is using one or more of these tactics, you’ll want to get them addressed immediately. If they are from the links, have them removed or disavowed immediately. If you’re hiding things from search engines, stop doing that by fixing the reason you’re hiding things. Spam? Just stop. Keyword stuffing is easy to spot if you just read through the content. If you’re stumbling over the same words or phrases, use synonyms to replace some, restructure sentences to remove them for other instances, or just completely rewrite the content so that it can flow more naturally. Just remember to keep these in mind when dealing with people who say they can help you with your SEO.