Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is already far more complex than most of us would like it to be. So, once you’ve found something that works, you should stick with it, right? Not so much! SEO is an evolving field, with search engines updating their algorithms all of the time. Much of what you learnt a year ago will be redundant by now. To get ahead, you always need to be on the lookout for what’s new and what’s simply old-hat.

In this blog, I’ll discuss five aging SEO tactics and why you need to stop using them today.

Keyword stuffing
This is the number-one redundant technique in SEO. Yes, it used to be the case that you could stuff a page full of keywords and rank near the top, but search engines have evolved. The job of a search engine is, essentially, to know what the person using them wants. Their algorithms try to understand the behaviour of human users so they can show them the most relevant links. While keywords do matter, their importance comes second to user behaviour such as click-through rate, time spent on page, bounce rate, pogo-sticking and so on. So, by all means, add a few instances of your target keywords into a piece of content, but above all else, make sure that content is easy and enjoyable to read, relevant to the user and actually useful.

What should you do? Stop focusing on drawing clicks and start thinking about how to keep people on the page. Add keywords in for good measure, but don’t make it your focal point.

Paying for links
We’re talking press release websites, non-editorial guest posts and SEO directories. Having your links ‘somewhere’ used to matter for your rankings. But, over the last few years, Google has recognised many of these tactics and either discounted their effects or penalised them. What this means is that, now, having links in the wrong place actively moves your site down the search results. You can even be de-indexed entirely if you’re a serial offender.

What should you do? Stay away from the tactics mentioned above, as well as comment links, reciprocal link pages, forum link buys and link networks. Instead:

  • Write genuine guest posts of high value to both the website it is hosted on and their readership
  • Periodically conduct a link audit to find your least effective/damaging backlinks and remove them
  • Write content for your own site that people want to share and link to

Using ‘linkbait’ content
Content is important. In fact, SEO doesn’t really exist without it. But, linkbait content is a no-go if you want to rank well. Linkbait articles are those that are written specifically to encourage links back to a site, with not a single care given as to why they’re being linked to. If you look at the very bottom, or even the sidebar, of a lot of websites, you’ll see a mass of full-blown linkbait like “Lose weight with this one super cheap product” or “Three child actors who grew up to be ugly.” These links often have little to nothing to do with the focus of the site they’re hosted on and are deliberately controversial. Their purpose is to drive others to link to the piece and it doesn’t matter if it’s to criticise. This might drive traffic to a site, but will also increase its bounce rate, reduce time-spent-on-page and damage other SEO metrics. So it’s like giving with one hand to take away with the other. Don’t do it!

What should you do? Find out what your readers actually want and write that.

Microsite domains
It used to be commonplace to set up multiple, highly-targeted microsites to service a single business. The thinking being that multiple sites mean multiple chances to rank and more opportunities to reach more customers. This may have been great back when all of the half-baked tactics already mentioned here also worked. But, nowadays, with advanced search engine algorithms and the heavy focus on content, all it does is split a business’s resources. Make no mistake, every additional site you manage is at least as much times the amount of work as you had with one.

What should you do? Focus all of your time, resources and energy on making your one domain seriously awesome. If you really need a quick SEO win for your website, upgrade your web host to speed up your site and reduce your downtime.

Ignoring social signals
Strictly speaking, this is the avoidance of a new tactic, rather than the use of the old. But, it used to be the case that links were more important than most other signals. However, since so many questionable link-building practices have popped up, search engines have had to find other ways to assess the reliability of individuals and their websites. One of the fundamental ways they do this is by looking at the social signals of website owners/web-managers, e.g. their social media presence, other mentions of them on the web. For example, if someone is listed on their website as having a PhD, search engines will use other sources to establish whether that’s actually the case. By cross-checking social signals, search engines can bypass dodgy link-building and get at the truth behind who and how popular a person and their work is.

What should you do? Make sure information about you and any other prominent figure on your website is consistent across the web. Take advantage of all relevant and free personal profiles (e.g. LinkedIn).

Jodie MannersAuthor bio: Jodie is a professional writer and editor working with UK Web Host Review. She translates dense topics into accessible information to help everyone from small and niche business owners to budding webmasters to reach their goals. She explores design, brand psychology, marketing and tech. You can connect with Jodie through LinkedIn.