Posted on: 21 Feb 2017
Even though Google has handed down warning after warning and penalty after penalty, we still see an enormous amount of these outdated, and frankly harmful, SEO tactics circulating out there.
The days where these once “best practices” worked are long gone and if you’re still using these for new pages / campaigns, you’re doing more harm than good. Optimizing for organic search is a tough gig and the landscape keeps changing, but one thing we can all agree on is that you have to keep moving forward and leave the past in the past.
Cut the cord on these dated tactics and bring your marketing efforts into the modern age.
Spinning Content for a Broader Online Presence
Spun content, duplicate content, whatever you want to call it, is when a website has remarkably similar content across multiple pages. At its worst, it’s done in an effort to manipulate your search rankings to get more traffic from a larger number of pages.
This is typically done when a business wants to get more inbound organic traffic, but they’re not willing to spend the time to do it correctly. So, they take a shortcut to save time & money.
Rather than writing completely unique content, they write some unique content and fill the rest up with copy / pasted boilerplate or content from a different website with authoritative content on the subject. Not only does this provide a poor user experience, it’s a deceptive practice that Google has been actively combating for the better part of the last decade and they’ve gotten really good at it.
Sometimes, your website’s duplicate content is purely accidental with a robots file being improperly formatted, a development server being inadvertently published, or having a mobile / printer / international version of your site published alongside the normal version. You will still be hit with a filter, but the clean up is far easier and your recovery should be faster too since you weren’t intentionally trying to manipulate your site’s SERP ranks.
Regardless of why it’s there, the Panda algorithm was specifically engineered to target (and penalize) websites with copious amounts of duplicate content. You can’t hide from it. You can’t trick it. Clean up your site and be sure to not fall into old habits moving forward.
Buying Inbound Links
Even with the Penguin algorithm making link building a dicey affair at times, links are still one of the most important metrics for whether or not a site is an authority in their space. However, they are also more time consuming to actively pursue than ever before. This can make it very tempting to find a paid service that will get you high quality inbound links and throw money at them until you get the rank you want.
The vast majority of those link builders are straight up lying to you about the quality of links they can get you since you can’t just pick up links at the link store. These days, links have to be earned by having high quality content that is informative, valuable, entertaining (to some degree), and that people want to link to.
I won’t fault you for thinking about it. Link building is without a doubt my least favorite part of search engine optimization, but it’s not going away and probably never will. You gotta do it and you gotta do it right. If you don’t, you will get hit by Penguin and it’s one of the toughest algo’s to recover from.
Following a Keyword Targeting Checklist
I’ll be real honest here, the more you use your target keyword on page, the less likely you are to rank for it. Repeating the same phrase each paragraph or every ‘x’ words or having it in every header is a great way to tell both Google and your visitor that you don’t give a damn about on-site experience and that you’re just trying to game the system.
Even though there are a ton of on-page SEO graders that are going to use your keyword repetition and placement (page title, h tags, alt tags, etc.) as part of their grading metrics, Google’s algorithms see through this old SEO tactic because of countless iterations to keep delivering the highest quality content in response to a searcher’s query. Too many websites and SEOs have over-optimized their websites in the past that it has made this tactic more of a liability than a viable practice.
Do you need to have your target keyword on page? Absolutely. Do you need to have > x% keyword density for your target keyword? No, absolutely not! Should it be in the page title and maybe a header in the article body? Yup. Should it be in every header regardless of relevance? No!
Google cares more about how users interact with your content and whether or not they stick around rather than whether you have 16 iterations of your target keyword rather than 15. The latter does not gauge quality, the former does.
As Google has been narrowing search to the local level over the last 5 years, it’s made landing those top spots in the SERP super tough to get especially when there are local businesses that do what you do and have invested in SEO for the same target keyword.
For those of you who don’t know, a doorway page is a page whose sole purpose for existing is to rank highly for a long-tail search query in order to usher people into the rest of your site. 9 times out of 10, these pages have very little valuable content to the user and rank because they’re targeting keywords that no one’s actively trying to rank for. The most common use of doorway pages is to rank geographically for “target keyword + city name” so if you happen to be a company that provides security cameras and you want to drum up more business in Dallas, you might make a doorway page to rank for “security cameras Dallas”.
While this isn’t a bad practice if you actually have a physical location in Dallas and you built the page to serve as a homepage of sorts with relevant information about said location, case studies about jobs that location has completed, events at / near that office, and so on, the problem comes when business makes hundreds of pages like this one.
That is the very definition of a doorway page. It has little to no information about what that company does in that area, it does not provide a valuable user experience, and is meant to serve as an intermediary step between the SERP and the rest of the website while having remarkably similar content to hundreds of other pages just like it.
If you have these on your website (or a client’s) and they aren’t legitimate or providing actual value, get rid of them. You will be nailed by a Panda penalty sooner or later. It’s not a matter of “if”, but of “when”.