There has always been a lot of confusion in the field of optimization. A fair share of SEO advice is contradictory. For every proposed idea, there’s always someone in the industry who will disagree.
It’s also mostly speculative. There’s no fixed set of answers that are guaranteed to work—or fail—one hundred percent of the time. So marketers have to distill a lot of the information available out there for themselves. Most of the time, SEOs gain knowledge by trial and error. However, by the time they’ve figured something out, the Google algorithm has already changed.
What this means is there are really no best or worst SEO tactics. But there are certainly outdated ones that have the potential to negatively affect your rankings if you don’t steer clear. Despite being tested and proven to fail, some outdated tactics still persist today:
In an attempt to quickly rank for certain phrases, some marketers stuff keywords into their website’s pages no matter how awkward, irrelevant, or unnatural it is. They mistakenly think that for Google to understand what the content is about, the copy should contain a certain percentage of the target keyword, which at worst, could be as much as five percent. That’s roughly once per sentence!
But that’s not how it works now.
While optimizing for keywords is still important, keyword densities and exact match keywords are a thing of the past. Current search algorithms are a lot smarter, taking semantic SEO and search intent into account when ranking websites.
Why is keyword stuffing bad? Aside from the fact that search engines can identify it as a black hat practice and penalize you for it, it also doesn’t provide any real benefit to the user—which is really the most important thing for both users and search engines.
You can also try using the Yoast SEO WordPress plugin to help your site perform better in search engines. It will warn you if you’re going overboard with your keyword density or if you’re not spreading your target keywords across your post enough, among other things.
Most search engines such as Google’s Webmaster Guidelines have clear SEO best practices. So you put all your efforts into sitemaps, outbound links, crawlable links, publishing articles every day purely for the sake of SEO, and all the other technicalities of creating content in a desire to be searchable.
But this approach can diminish the value of your content and ultimately hurt your SEO over time—especially with Google’s 2022 helpful content update. Don’t get too caught up in optimization practices that you forget how to be clear, concise, and helpful. Balance is key.
Work on the technical aspect of SEO while telling a great story. Write with value for your audience and create pieces they can relate to; something you’d want to read yourself.
Focus on answering what your customers are asking and solving their problems. Ultimately, human readers are the ones who will make that purchase, not bots. So create content that resonates with a human audience but without working against SEO guidelines.
You can also inject a bit of your personality into it while still being professional. Because really, if it’s not good for humans, it’s not good for search engines.
In the old days, if you wanted to rank for something, the tactic was very simple: incorporate as much exact match anchor text on your website as you can.
But this could easily be manipulated as what the infamous “Google Bomb”—putting U.S. president George W. Bush at the top results in a search for “miserable failure”—showed. As a result, Google launched the first Penguin algorithm update to punish low-quality and manipulative link-building practices.
Instead of aggressively using keyword-rich anchors, strike a balance between branded anchors, naked anchors, partial matches, long-form anchors, generic, and other types of anchor text.
It was once a viable tactic to create individual website pages for all variations of the high-value keywords your business is targeting. If you were a t-shirt company, think of pages for red shirts, blue shirts, green shirts, etc., trying to attract every user imaginable looking for t-shirts.
Continuing to employ this kind of SEO strategy in 2023 can cause a lot of headaches for you. Not only will it cause severe levels of keyword cannabalization, but it can also create an extremely confusing user experience across your website. If users have to navigate pages and pages of similar content, they’re going to become confused and less likely to convert.
Thankfully, Google can now better understand synonyms or similar variations of a word or phrase all relating to the same topic. It also groups together searches with similar intent behind them, eliminating the need for this specific outdated tactic.
Instead, focusing on creating one page per topic cluster is where your time is better spent. This updated tactic keeps your site’s content concise, mentioning all keyword variations surrounding one topic you want to rank for on a single page rather than spread across multiple.
We’re all looking for ways to create more efficiencies, but if article spinning is one that you’re considering, think again. A black hat SEO tactic, article spinning is usually done using AI software that recreates existing content from online swapping out words and phrases. These kinds of software can even reorganize the way that content is structured.
Producing content at the click of a button sounds pretty enticing, right? Think again. The result you’re typically left with at the end is a jumbled mess of words that doesn’t offer any new value to your site visitors. Therefore, it's not surprising that this SEO tactic doesn't work.
AI is getting better and better, but still, nothing beats a human’s touch. Traditional article spinning—where you’re mostly just swapping words for synonyms—still leaves you with lower quality content with no original point of view added. What will ultimately win in the SERP is content that is helpful, has substance, and targets a user’s intent.
That said, there are smart AI-driven rewriters on the market that can help when you’re out of ideas, or stuck trying to communicate or paraphrase something. Just shy away from using them to write entire articles!
With AI and GPT-3 tools becoming more prevalent in the content space, in 2023 it will be more important than ever to ensure that you're crafting in-depth, high-quality content that covers unique angles and includes rich media assets such as images, videos, and tools.
Google what you're wanting to rank for and see who else is ranking there. Investigate the kind of content they're creating and sharing, and what else they talk about/rank for. Then plan on doing more than what you see.
Entity SEO. Focus on “things, not strings”, which includes relevant schema, entity-based and internal linking, and content authoring that ensures complete topic coverage and search engine understanding.
We've all seen AI tools exploding on the marketing scene in 2022 as well as the evolution of many of our great SEO tools. Empowering your team to strategically leverage these tools is super important for building a process for generating high-value focused content. However, don't stray away from taking a user-focused approach to your content and make sure you're still creating "helpful content". Let your SEO team ensure best practice optimizations are done, but there's a lot of opportunity for brand's to get ahead of the competition creating the content your audience wants and needs!
E-A-T is a very real thing. Make sure you are publishing content that is either written or reviewed by experts. Also remember to add unique insights, data and stats, links to where readers can learn more about key points, and author bios.