Search Engine Optimization can be a valuable tool if you know how to use it. By optimizing your website, you can get it to appear on the first page of Google results whenever someone types in the right keyword, which means more traffic and a bigger audience for you. However, a poor SEO strategy can get your website blacklisted by Google and remove it from search results.
One day, you’re getting a few dozen visits, and everything seems to be going fine; but at one point, it simply stops. You just can’t be found through Google anymore.
Google and SEO
Google is constantly evolving. They tweak their algorithms every day to filter out spammers, and roll out major updates every year or two, updates that cause big shifts in search engine rankings for everyone on the Internet. This means that what works today may not work tomorrow. People used to make mistakes before, but Google didn’t penalize anyone by making them disappear or reducing their ranking.
Today, making a small mistake can cause your search engine results to drop down by dozens of pages overnight. But, why does this happen? Which SEO strategies are so bad that you’ll get punished for them?
1. Article marketing
About ten years ago, article marketing used to work as an SEO strategy. You write an article, then ‘spin’ several versions of it by making small adjustments to the style and wording, and send it to different websites. They publish your free article in exchange for a link that leads back to your website. People still do article marketing, but Google is getting smarter, so the technique is dying slowly.
Google would see the different variations of one article as different, so there were no penalties for duplicating content. However, Google’s algorithm has gotten better at sniffing this kind of articles out, and started recognizing them as spam. Don’t get us wrong, guest blogging is still a valid SEO strategy if you write unique content for a popular and trusted blog or website. But duplicating content is now a big no-no.
2. Broken links
Broken links get accumulate over time. Websites restructure or die all the time, so the links become invalid at some point. But, why should we get penalized by Google if broken links are such a natural occurrence? From their perspective, an up-to-date page is the one with no broken links, and it provides a much better user experience. However, there’s no need to worry because this is just a small factor, next to all other algorithm variables. Just make sure to correct all the broken links by using Google Webmaster Tools.
3. Buying links
The best policy regarding buying links is – don’t do it. You’ve probably noticed ads or got an offer from so-called SEO firms that claim they can get you a first page ranking and hundreds of links for a small amount of money. These links come from social networking accounts and disreputable websites, and it will just hurt your ranking. These companies claim that their links point to an intermediary page, creating a “link pyramid”, which is supposed to be a protection. This might work for a while, but Google is learning and evolving, and will catch you at some point. You can do wonders with just a good domain name, quality and relevant content, and by making proper SEO tweaks to your website.
4. Keyword stuffing
Keyword stuffing can harm your site’s ranking. It means using a keyword too many times in your content, hoping that it will get you a better ranking. Keyword stuffing, however, makes a content seem unnatural and unreadable, “but it’s optimized, so who cares”. You may not know it, but keyword density is just a small part of Google’s algorithm (less than 5%), and it’s almost irrelevant next to important factors such as trusted links and domain authority. So, there’s no reason to take it too far, because it can hurt you.
If keyword stuffing was considered OK, everyone would do it and make their articles unreadable. As Google’s primary concern is the user experience, they don’t allow it and penalize users who stuff their content with keywords. Instead, focus on creating the best possible content and build your site’s authority. Once you do that, go back to your most popular posts and tweak the keywords in them (but don’t make them sound unnatural).
Going unnatural and trying to trick Google usually ends in a disaster, and you risk losing hundreds of hours invested in building your site. There are no deathtraps or fields of landmines, so no need to worry. You’re safe if you’re doing nothing more than building true relationships with your readers, publishing awesome content, getting influencers to talk about it. Google will catch up eventually.