For anyone seeking insight into the ever-changing world of SEO, the all-knowing Internet is a vital repository of knowledge and wisdom. But digital truth-seekers should tread with caution, says Octos MD Nital Shah, because for all of its riches, the Internet can also be a dicey hive of SEO misinformation.
Online, so-called experts say lots of things about search engine optimization. Some of it rings true, and some of it sounds more like a thinly veiled, misguided sales pitch.
To set the record straight, I’ve compiled this hit list of the seven dodgiest SEO tips in circulation. If anyone tries to sell you one of these lemons, steer clear.
1. The Empty Promise of Overnight Success
Any offer of infinite SEO guarantees or the promise to deliver top ranking overnight should be taken with a grain of salt. A closer look at those lofty SEO promises usually reveals fine print that is riddled with disclaimers – there’s always a catch.
Some SEO companies guarantee rankings by promising a certain number of keywords that they reserve the right to choose. By selecting obscure, non-competitive or irrelevant terms, they might deliver on their promise.
But there’s no proof to suggest that those cunning keyword rankings create any kind of meaningful traffic.
As we know, there are numerous reasons why no SEO company can honestly offer a results-based guarantee. Beware the SEO consultant who brags about ‘amazing’ results and promises the world.
2. Content is King
It’s an oft-repeated refrain in SEO circles – ‘content is king’. But no matter how many times they say it, the rhetoric is flimsy. While it’s true that quality content is an important piece of the SEO puzzle, content alone is not a categorical shortcut to SERP glory.
The content-is-king myth relies on a particularly unreliable logic of ‘if we build it they will come’. But the act of creating great content isn’t enough. The content must be supported by sound site architecture and robust on-page optimisation.
It’s a bit like turning a song into a hit. No matter how spine tingling a song may be, if it’s only ever performed at home alone in the shower, it will never enjoy commercial success.
To turn a song into a hit, you need an audience, a marketing strategy, a stage, speakers, and so on. Similarly, online content also needs a supporting framework – a platform from which it can be seen, heard and valued.
3. Just Stuff It With Keywords
Keyword stuffing is a lazy, problematic SEO practice that tends to do more harm than good. The SEO consultant who advises squeezing in keywords at every opportunity is really clutching at straws.
This is not to discount the importance of key search terms – just a warning to use them naturally and sparingly.
Don’t jam them into every URL, every page title, every meta description, every image tag, every H1, every paragraph, every anchor link text – you get the picture.
Sure, keywords help the search engines find you and classify you. But they can identify what kind of site you are without the keyword force-feeding. In fact, when you overdo it with keyword stuffing, it leaves such a bad taste in Google’s metaphorical mouth that you might incur over-optimisation penalties.
The only way to create truly algorithm-resistant content, is to write in an authentic, honest, and essentially human voice. Using plain, natural speech, share valuable information in an accessible and compelling way.
Whatever you do, don’t cram your content with jargon and keywords.
4. Go Batshit Crazy With Backlinks
When an SEO company tell you that the websites with the most backlinks wins, they’re lying. Backlinks are just one slice of the SEO pie.
Link building does not and should not happen in a vacuum – it should be concurrent with actual relationship building. For backlinks to have any meaningful value, they must be achieved alongside a suite of sustainable strategies that focus on relevance and community.
As brand awareness, authority, and visibility gradually increase, so too does the number of backlinks. Links are a by-product of solid marketing – there’s no backlink ‘quick fix’.
Effective online marketing requires clever ideas, time, research, relationships, and perseverance.
5. Duplication Doesn’t Matter
Never believe an SEO ‘expert’ who tells you not to worry about duplication. Many websites contain multiple similar versions of the same content and it’s no secret that the search engines don’t like duplicate content.
If you think about the gazillions of pages of content that they have to trawl through for every search, it’s no wonder. Duplication slows down the crawlers, making it harder for the search engines to do their job.
For that very reason, websites with duplicated content can be penalised with lower search rankings.
Now, sometimes duplication is unavoidable and essential to the function of a website – particularly for e-commerce sites. But don’t fret – there are a range of SEO tactics that can ease the burden of duplication for the search engines and help you avoid ranking penalties.
6. Dodgy Detour: 301 Redirect Entire Domains
If your SEO consultant advises you to buy abandoned domains and 301 redirect them to your website for SERP success, think again. Not only does this practice constitute an ethically shaky use of a domain, it’s also a bum steer for the unsuspecting users who land on your website.
Think about it – do you just want hits? Or are you hoping to generate meaningful leads? 301 trickery is a waste of time and resources.
If the old domain has no content, why not create valuable, legitimate content for it and then use it to direct traffic to your other website.
Instead of redirecting an entire domain, you can also consider strategically redirecting pages from that domain to the pages on your website that are actually relevant to that content.
7. Traffic for Traffic’s Sake
Don’t trust an SEO strategy that rattles on ad nauseum about building traffic for the sake of traffic. Sure, it’s great to boost your brand’s visibility but, unless you have an exhaustive budget, projects launched purely for brand visibility carry too much risk and are too intangible with their deliverables.
Yes, search engine traffic is a significant metric for measuring SEO campaigns but the calibre of that traffic is even more important – it’s about quality, not quantity.
Your main ambition should be to attract qualified, engaged visitors to your website – visitors who will be inclined to do what you want them to on your site (such as subscribe to a mailing list). With all the emphasis on traffic, conversion rates are often overlooked.