Let’s face it. What worked in 2005 doesn’t work anymore.
That includes your VCR, your bubblemint green iPod Mini, and that Motorola Razr V3.
The same is true for your website code and SEO. Today we’re going to review some outdated practices that need to be struck from your website immediately.
1. Ignoring Mobile
That’s the mantra of the year.
These days, most sites are mobile-first indexing, and for good reason. Research from App Annie suggests that Android users will spend more than a billion hours on their phone in the fourth quarter.
If this tells you anything, it’s that you should prioritize mobile. Your mobile pages will determine your rankings for both mobile and desktop, so it really does you favors.
You can prioritize mobile-first indexing by improving mobile page speed and load times. You’ll also want to ensure your mobile page versions have full content and structured data markup.
2. Keyword Stuffing
I can’t tell you how many creative ways I’ve seen keywords stuffed onto a website.
Fifty-seven zipcodes in a footer, numerous variations of the main keyword in white text on a white background, or endlessly repetitive text that is hidden with a CSS display:none attribute (also known as invisible text) – it’s all bad.
If you have any elements like this on your site, remove them immediately. Not only does it look bad (and improves precisely no one’s reading experience) but it’s firmly delegated to the Black Hat SEO category. These days, Google calls the practice irrelevant keywords.
3. SEO Tactics to Retire: Pages With No Text
At it’s core, the internet is a giant library of information.
When you start to provide images or videos on a page with little to zero text to curate those elements, those pages are viewed as relatively meaningless and can drag down your entire website.
You’ll see this happen sometimes on WordPress. Basically, when you upload an image to WordPress, it will automatically generate a separate attachment URL for that photo.
Thing is, that URL doesn’t actually contain any relevant content. And when you’re uploading multiple images a day, you’ll end up with a pile of URLs without the content to justify them.
I probably don’t have to tell you that’s pretty bad for your SEO.
Luckily, you can turn off this feature using the Yoast SEO plugin’s Media & Attachments URL Redirect.
Make sure it’s toggled to “Yes,” and you’re good to go.
4. Automated Link Building
Automated link building is outdated.
There, I said it.
When I think of automated link building, I think of mass links that are often irrelevant and maybe even a little spammy.
While you may see quick results, they won’t be long lasting. Ultimately, these old SEO tactics are ones you’ll want to leave in the dust.
A personalized link building approach is a much more effective SEO tactic, which is why PR and outreach programs are so effective at helping businesses rank.
5. Link Exchanging and Reciprocal Links
No. Just, no.
People still think this is a viable source of link building.
For example, how many emails have you received with a request to swap links? Again, no.
At it’s core, link exchange isn’t a terrible theory. In fact, when done correctly with related, relevant content and websites it can have a positive effect on your traffic and rankings.
The problem is that all too often, it’s not done correctly. And the risk here really isn’t worth the reward.
You’ll often find link exchange offers from sites unrelated to yours, ones with tons of existing outbound links (likely to other link exchanges), or from sites with poor user experience.
And in the end, exhanged links don’t pass along as much link juice as one-way links.
Which means in most cases, link exchanges shouldn’t be a part of your strategy.
If you do have links to other sites that you are not directly referencing as a source of information and related content, then be sure to rel=”nofollow” those links.
6. Duplicate Content
Yes, it really matters.
Don’t copy content from other websites and then post it on your own. Don’t copy content on your own website and post it on multiple pages. And don’t copy content from other sources and rearrange the words a little bit so it doesn’t match exactly but it’s still kind of the same thing.
School rules apply to the internet: no copying, ever. This also applies to title tags of your website pages, product descriptions on e-commerce sites, and any place where a grouping of words may appear.
Again, this applies even to your own content.
See, search engines have a lot of trouble with duplicate content. For one, they just don’t which version to index – which means they don’t which one should they should be ranking for trust and authority.
And the thing is, most sites aren’t producing duplicate content on purpose. Often times, it’s a simple error like a URL variation that creates the issue.
The easiest way to deal with this is through a rel canonical, which tells search engines which version should be indexed.
7. Exact Match Domains
Back in the day, exact match domains were a dime a dozen.
Type in a search for “dentist in san diego” and your results might look something like this:
And for a while, it made sense. The keywords from the query were right there in the domain, and that was A-Okay with Google. In fact, it an exact match domain usually came with a free ride to the top of the search results.
But Google changed its mind.
In 2012, Google released an algorithm update that lowered the rank of low-quality exact match domains.
So, while it’s still possible to rank with an exact match, it doesn’t increase your odds.
The problem is that many exact match domains are associated with spam (hence the low quality end of the update), which can serve as a red flag for Google.
And in most cases, it will provide little benefit in the end.
Unless your brand name happens to be that exact search query (which isn’t a great strategy either), it’s not giving you a branding benefit.
8. SEO Tactics to Retire: Focusing Too Much on the Top Ranking
You may have noticed search results look a little different these days.
Up until a few years ago, the number one ranking was the prime spot on the search page.
These days, the number one sport is often overshadowed by a plethora of ads and SERP features.
But some marketers still make the mistake of focusing solely on that #1 slot.
Those marketers haven’t met position 0, also known as the Featured Snippet.
For most brands, optimizing content for this position may be their best bet at hitting the new number one.
Beyond that, the way search engines rank content has changed. It no longer revolves solely around keywords.
Instead, it has to do with the overall relevance of your content to a given query (think RankBrain, neural matching), and how natural it sounds…not how often you throw the main keyword in there.
9. Directory Listing Websites
You know the ones.
Web directories have been used years to help people quickly find content. And for many publishers, submitting content to one of these directories provided them with a boost in rankings and traffic.
But as time’s passed, those directories have become far less reliable, as many instead became a breeding ground for link schemes.
And, though directories weren’t necessarily doing them any favors, many marketers still relied on directories as a rankings boost, without checking on the reliability or reputation of them.
As we know, Google’s no fan of non-reputable links unnatural links, and will issue penalties for those it finds.
There are some exceptions to the rule – local directories like Google My Business being the most notable.
But as a general rule, avoid most directories unless they’re known to be reputable (think Moz).
10. Syndicated Articles
In the good ol’ days, it used to be the case that you could publish a post on your site, and republish that same post to various other sites around the web.
That kind of triple and quadruple exposure obviously lead to a serious spike in awareness for many brands.
But today, that strategy won’t get you very far.
An exact copy of your article runs the risk of landing you in hot water with Google due to duplicate content issues. And most reputable sites want original articles by third-party authors.
Here’s the good news: it’s still possible to syndicate your content the right way.
My specific strategy works like this: first, come up with a killer topic and write the best, most in-depth piece of content for your site (think long-form, evergreen, and extra awesome).
Then, take that same topic and write a new, shorter piece (along the lines of 800 words – cover the main topic points and include a link back to the original article).
Finally, reach out to relevant websites to publish your syndicated copy.
For a more in-depth overview of the process, read my full article on content syndication here.
11. SEO Tactics to Retire: Private Blog Networks
Here’s another one that’s really just not worth it.
A private blog network (PBN) is a network of sites built, primarily, to send link juice (build links and pass authority) to one single website.
And yeah, it’s as shady as it sounds.
Again, this is the type of thing that was common years ago – and produced some pretty noteworthy results – but has since been cracked down on by Google.
Generally, PBNs are classified in the grey hat SEO category, and overall are too risky to be participating in.
12. Focusing Too Much on Quantity
The more content you produce, the higher you’ll rank in the SERPs, right?
True, sites that consistently produce quality content tend to see higher rankings. But the key here is ‘quality.’
Simply churning out short, 500 word overviews on the daily won’t cut it anymore, due in part to Google’s crackdown on spam and low-quality content in its 2012 Panda update.
Now, your best bet is to focus far more on quality.
So, what makes it ‘quality’ in Google’s eyes?
It’s content written to serve users, not search engines.
It’s content that’s useful and informative to your readers, covers a topic in-depth, and sets itself above that of your competitors. And it’s content that helps establish your authority and trustworthiness, both to Google and your readers.
Typically, it’s long-form (1500-4000 words), though some topics will require less.
And another thing? Not all of this content needs to be brand new.
In almost all cases, you’ll find that just a fraction of your content is producing the most traffic and contains some of your most prized information.
So instead of focusing solely on producing new posts, turn some of that attention to your existing content. Make sure that it’s optimized and consistently updated with new, innovative information.
13. Creating Different Pages for Keyword Variations
This one won’t necessarily get you penalized, but it will waste a lot of time.
It used to be the case that websites would create separate pages for all (or at least, a lot) of variations of their main keyword.
For example, you might have found one website with a page for social media marketing, social media management, and social media consulting.
But that was when search engines were less sophisticated.
Now, we have innovations like RankBrain and neural matching.
Remember, these are really good at picking up keyword variations and implied meaning.
Basically, you don’t have to spell it out for them. Instead, you can consolidate your site and combine those variations into one overarching page.
And that’s not jut good for search engines.
And easier to navigate site with easier to find information makes for a better user experience, and I promise, your readers will thank you for it.
14. Building Too Many Links to the Homepage Only
Internal linking is crucial, but you have to do it right.
Linking back to your homepage every once in awhile is a smart move, but overdoing it is harmful to your SEO.
You want to spread the wealth across your internal sitemap. Why? So Wikipedia doesn’t rank for the terms you’re after, for one.
And also so every link serves a purpose and provides value. Otherwise, Google will catch on with that “what’s the point?” mentality.
Wrapping Up the Top SEO Tactics to Retire
It’s safe to say there’s been a lot of changes in the SEO world.
And with those changes, many SEO tactics have become irrelevant, unnecessary, or even harmful to your site.
So if you find yourself still using any of the tactics above, it’s time to jump ship and adopt some of the newer strategies this year and next.