As we enter a new decade, it’s time to say goodbye to some bad SEO habits.
These are SEO tactics that just plain don’t work, or even worse, can get a website penalized.
Below is a list of the top nine habits that need to be kicked to the curb.
1. Creating Pages with Similar Content
Fortunately, this tactic is not as prevalent as it once was, but this issue periodically comes up, even today.
Pages with similar content, which is usually created for the sole purpose of targeting keywords, is not a good strategy.
For example, duplicating city pages within a website with the city name as the only difference can be harmful.
Essentially, you end up with low-quality pages that can pull down the rest of the site.
2. Link Building Using Generic, Templated Emails
We don’t like receiving spam, so why send it?
Link building has become more of a marketing tactic than just an SEO tactic. That means we have to identify and research our audience before creating our “marketing” message.
Sending a generic, templated message to someone asking for a link is not going to get you great results.
Instead, send fewer emails, but take the time to research that person’s website and understand what would interest their users or customers.
Also, don’t use a general salutation, such as “Dear Webmaster” or “Dear Website Owner.” Use the person’s name.
3. Trying to Solve Every Ranking Problem By Getting More Links
Yes, links still matter today, but they are only one of many factors of the ranking algorithm.
Links are a public endorsement and reflect that a website has valuable information.
Where the problems occur, though, is when links are gathered in an unnatural way, such as through link schemes, poor link directories, purchasing links, and other spammy tactics.
As we start the new year, these aggressive link building techniques should be abandoned and the focus should be on a link strategy that is more marketing and user-focused. Check out SEJ’s Link Building Guide for tips that can carry you into 2020.
4. Adding Marginal Content for SEO Purposes
You can’t have SEO without content.
SEO and content are intertwined.
You need content to optimize for search.
If you don’t optimize your content, searchers won’t find you.
So, there is no question that we need content, but there is still a problem.
Marginal content is often added to websites simply for the purpose of “improving SEO.”
However, having just any content isn’t good enough.
Avoid churning out a ton of content just for the sake of increasing the number of pages on a website. Google is constantly preaching quality content and even if the search engine wasn’t preaching it, we still need to focus on our users.
Your content has to be considered high quality, especially when compared to the competition.
5. Skipping Over Fundamental On-Page Optimization Elements
There has been speculation over the years regarding the correlation between title tags and rankings.
Regardless of where you stand on this topic, a good title can convert a searcher into a visitor (and even a customer, if you’re lucky).
Take the time to optimize your titles with keywords, but also be sure to make them compelling.
While you’re at it, optimize your heading tags because we know people scan a page after clicking on it in search results.
Optimized headings show visitors that your page addresses their query.
6. Not Fixing (or Identifying) Harmful Technical Problems
After doing countless technical SEO audits, I can confidently tell you that most websites have some type of issue that hurts their search performance.
Adding content and attracting links is great.
But if your website has underlying technical issues, rankings could still be negatively impacted.
The most common technical problems include:
- Improper redirects (i.e. redirect chains, 302s instead of 301s, non-use of redirects, etc.).
- Slow page load time.
- Mobile errors.
- Duplicate content.
- Unintentional blocked pages.
Check out my technical SEO checklist for help on this one.
7. Forgetting to Optimize Images
One of the often-overlooked SEO opportunities has to do with images.
As SEO professionals, we need to take every opportunity to show up in search results, including optimizing for image search.
When adding images to your website, don’t forget about the image filename and alt attribute.
Instead of an image filename of XYZ123.jpg, consider including a keyword that is descriptive of the image, such as organic-coffee-beans.jpg.
As far as the alt attribute, it should not be keyword stuffed, but should be descriptive of the image.
If the image is in line with the topic of the page, which it should be, then it would be natural to have a keyword in the description.
8. Providing Subpar Reports
I have heard many business owners and marketing directors complain about past experiences with SEO specialists.
The most common issue that is mentioned is not understanding the work done and/or the results. Because so much of what we do in SEO is not tangible, it is critical to create as much transparency as possible.
Instead of making SEO sound like some crazy “magic,” clearly outline your work in monthly reports to your clients or supervisors.
Provide data on the key performance indicators (KPIs) that are associated with your SEO efforts and measure, measure, measure.
That is how you will keep clients – or even your job.
9. Not Staying Current on SEO Best Practices
SEO is a moving target.
The fact that you are reading this article likely means you are someone who keeps up with changes in SEO.
Failing to stay up-to-date on best practices, algorithm changes, and webmaster guidelines is detrimental to your SEO success.
A habit that you should take into 2020 is to spend time weekly (even daily) reading up on the latest in SEO.