SEO done right takes patience, persistence, and thorough research. It takes dedication to put great quality content out there on a consistent basis. Basically, it takes time and effort – and anything that takes time and effort tends to inspire people to look for shortcuts!
The truth is that there simply aren’t any shortcuts or loopholes for SEO that are going to pay off in the long run. Break the rules consistently, and you can end up getting your site penalized by search engines to the point you can’t realistically undo the damage you’ve done.
Most of the time, however, site owners are not setting out to ‘beat the system’, but are making minor SEO mistakes entirely by accident. It might be through following outdated SEO advice, outsourcing to a less-than-reputable third party, or simply because they’re not aware they’re stepping on Google’s toes!
We take a look at some of the most common major and minor infractions websites to commit, and how to rectify them.
There are some ‘blackhat’ SEO techniques that are virtually guaranteed to land your site with a Google penalty:
- Keyword stuffing
In an effort to have their target keywords appear as many times as possible on the page they want to rank, site owners may resort to cramming them in all over the place – whether it makes grammatical sense or not. This is obvious to humans and search engines and can negatively affect your rankings.
- Hidden text
This tactic takes keyword stuffing to a new level, most commonly by hiding white text on a white background. Newsflash – search engines don’t like this.
- Buying lots of spammy backlinks
Building a solid organic backlink profile to your website from authoritative sites is a great SEO strategy, but suddenly acquiring hundreds of links from spammy sites or questionable sources is definitely not.
Skimping on your keyword research
To get the most of a digital marketing campaign, you need a well-considered strategy – and you can’t formulate a strategy without data. From an SEO perspective, this means knowing what search terms your potential customers are using, and more importantly, what the intent behind their query was. If you can answer the underlying question, search engines will reward you.
For those new to SEO or launching their first website, the process can be a little daunting. As a result, they guess at keywords without considering how much competition they’re up against – making ranking for these terms a lot harder. They might also miss out on the chance to spot highly relevant semantic keywords that have less competition and could help them get a foot in the door, or spend too much time focusing on irrelevant keywords.
All this can be avoided by doing keyword research properly from the start. If you don’t have the time or skill to give this critical aspect of your digital marketing campaign the attention it deserves, then get a reputable SEO company to help you out.
Duplicate content, whether intentional or unintentional, is confusing to search engines, as they have to weigh several factors (like site authority and relevance) against the original content source when deciding which to rank – they don’t want to offer users the same content several times over in results. You can avoid this by helping them identify the ‘correct’ content through the use of the canonical attribute, 301 redirects, or via the parameter handling tool in Google Search Console.
At the simplest level, of course, always make sure any new content you post is actually new and unique and isn’t live on your site elsewhere already.
Not optimizing for mobile and load speed
Pages which aren’t mobile-friendly, and load slowly don’t exactly provide great user experience, and this can harm your rankings in two ways. Google’s mobile-first search index actively gives preference to websites with mobile responsive design in search results, and impatient web users who click away within seconds of reaching your site because the page is taking too long to load leads to a higher bounce rate.
Placing obtrusive popups on your site
Do you enjoy having to find and click on all those little X’s to close popups on a site before you can even see whether the page you’ve landed on is what you were looking for? Didn’t think so. Use them wisely for desktop and laptop users, and ideally not at all (or at least with great care) for mobile users.
Posting thin or shallow content
Like duplicate content, pages which don’t offer any real value to users aren’t going to rank well. What it all boils down to is making sure everything you place on your website is relevant to the rest of the site, offers a comprehensive answer to the user’s question, and is well-edited, researched, and backed up by outside sources.