As long as we've had search engines, we've had SEOs trying to game the results. For search engine optimizers who have been in the business for a long time, it can be hard to let go of the old techniques in favor of the new ones. Even marketers who know "just enough to be dangerous" are at risk of abusing tactics that Google now punishes or ignores.
We took a look at this great New SEO vs. Old SEO infographic and decided to give you our top 5 list of forgettable SEO techniques. If your site is using any of these, you need to stop (immediately!) and start cleaning up the damage you might have done.
#1. Keyword stuffing.
Remember when you would visit a website only to find a list of phrases, written in an itty-bitty font, stuffed in the header or footer of every page? I remember, because I used to be the one who chose those phrases and added them to my sites. It was ugly, but it worked. Google's less-sophisticated algorithm would assume that my page was an important one for those search terms, and like magic, the page would start ranking.
Today, keyword stuffing isn't just frowned upon. It's a great way to get your site penalized. As Google's algorithm has improved, so has its ability to detect content that actually enhances the user's experience. A list of synonymous phrases does nothing for the user, and it's easily recognized as an outdated attempt at fooling the system.
#2. Building backlinks - any backlinks.
Back in the old days, link building was one of the main things SEOs did to get their sites ranking. A more rudimentary search algorithm would detect backlinks and used each one as an indication of a site's usefulness. Webmasters traded links - one for one - and then began trading in triangles. "If your site A links to my site B, I'll link back to your site A from my site C." It was simple - and it worked!
Despite much controversy, backlinks are still worthwhile indicators of a site's relevance and value. However, modern SEOs have to be extremely careful when they're building links. A good backlink comes from a reputable, related site and uses natural anchor text - like a brand or company name or URL - and it appears on a site with a small number of outbound links. Over-optimizing backlinks is a dated, and risky, practice.
#3. Writing for robots.
Content is king. That's a long-standing SEO rule, and it's as true now as it ever was. But back in the day, the qualities that made good, SEO-friendly content were markedly different than they are today. SEO content used to be stuffed with keywords and practically unreadable for human beings. We wrote for the robots, the search spiders who crawled our pages with no appreciation for proper grammar and spelling. Yes, we actually used to include commonly misspelled words on purpose!
Since then, Google's robots have gotten smarter. They can separate authentic writing from keyword-packed nonsense, and they reward the good stuff with higher rankings. Remember, Google is all about making search better for humans. Your content needs to speak human, too.
#4. Directory and search engine submissions.
NetworkSolutions and Web.com love to advertise their directory and search engine submission services. Once upon a time, submitting your site to the search engines and various online directories, en masse, was a good way to get recognized and grow your traffic. Today, it's s spammy offer meant to take advantage of business owners who don't know any better.
Don't be fooled. Building up an accurate list of citations on sites like Yelp, YellowPages, Manta, and others is useful, especially for getting found on a local level. But submitting your site to hundreds of irrelevant, disreputable directories is a fast way to build a lot of damaging links (links that will cost you time and money to remove or disavow when they inevitably start hurting your rankings).
#5. SEO as a stand-alone service.
In the old days, search engine optimization was something that happened independent of other things. A good SEO would use various techniques to optimize a website, making small changes to the site and going after links on other sites to get the job done.
Today, the entire landscape has changed, and search professionals have to come out of that little box in order to succeed. SEO has to be seen as part of a larger, broader domain - specifically, content marketing. Today, we write, we engage on social platforms, we build citations, and we network with influencers to reap the best rankings. Optimizing for search alone isn't enough. Incorporating SEO into a broader content marketing strategy is the best way to succeed today.
Have you been optimizing websites since the dawn of the internet? What other dated practices have you encountered? Tell us in the comments below!