20 Worthless SEO Tactics to Avoid, Plus 7 Ways to Dominate the SERPs

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:: By Travis Bliffen, Stellar SEO ::

SEO is a fast changing game. Even the best intentions will do little to keep you from getting hammered by the "big G" if you are using outdated SEO strategies or, worse, using effective strategies incorrectly.

Let's review some of the most widespread link building strategies and on-page SEO practices that no longer work in 2014.

On Page SEO Strategies That No Longer Work

1. Writing Short Content - Once upon a time, you could churn out 300-word articles and rank them all day long in Google. A recent study by Moz showed that the pages ranking on the first page in their study all have more than 2,000 words of content. 

2. Stuffing Keywords Into Your Title – Until recently, I was under the impression that everyone knew this was a no-no, but that is not the case. Those of you stuffing keywords into your title tag, stop it!

3. Listing a Ton of Meta Keywords - This is like the fifth time I have mentioned this in a post in Website Magazine, but I bet some of you guys are still doing it. The ONLY purpose of adding these keywords it to tell your competitors exactly what your keywords are without them having to plug your URL into the Keyword Planner.

4. Keyword Focused Content - Remember when you would read a page stuffed with variations of keywords at five percent density? That is thankfully no more. You should keep your keyword density around three percent or less for best results, but never sacrifice quality to get more keywords.

5. Leaving Images Un-Optimized - For a long time, you could neglect the images on your site and still rank without using the alt text and image file names to boost your page relevancy. On-page SEO is more important than ever so leaving images blank just won’t cut it anymore.

6. Haphazard Internal Linking - Internal links are still a strong signal for SEO. If you are just randomly linking pages and creating circles through your website, you need to stop and create a clear internal linking strategy.

7. Keyword Rich Site wide Footer Links - Once upon a time, you could funnel internal page rank and boost a keyword from page three to page one using this approach. Now, you are likely to see a drop in rankings with a keyword rich site wide anchor.

8. Cloaking - In case you are not familiar, cloaking is a black hat SEO technique used to deliver a different set of content to users and search engines in order to game the rankings of the site. Long story short, this does not work very well in 2014.

9. Invisible Text - This is another black hat technique. The general premise is to add a ton of spun keyword rich text or a keyword list to a site. The text is made the same color as the background or marked invisible using a line of code so the reader does not see the text but the search engine does. Again, this just isn’t working like it used to.

10. Doorway Pages - This is when a page is created, stuffed with spam content to rank for a term, and not seen by the user. This is done using a redirect and the reason for it is to fool search engines. Like the other black hat tactics above, this technique has passed its prime as well.

Now that you know what not to do on your site, let’s take a look at what you shouldn't be doing off your site

Link Building Strategies That Do Not Work

1. Spam - Sorry, the days of hammering your money website with spam links and ranking are over. This includes all types of spam ranging from forum profiles to garbage blog comments. 

2. Low-Quality Guest Posting - Notice I said low quality, high-quality guest posts will never be a bad strategy as they generate referral traffic and powerful links when done on authority sites.

3. Using My Blog Guest - While you may have heard about Ann Smarty’s site getting hammered by Google, there are many like it. You should not get links from a public exchange as they are in the crosshairs of Google. Private Blog networks are much safer.

4. Low-Quality Directories - Contrary to what many say, directory links can still be very useful. What you should no longer do is get a ton of links from low-quality directories without any editorial control, instead focus on niche relevant directories with strict standards.

5. Link Wheels - A link wheel is when you create a few similar sites and link them together and then to your main site. These worked pretty well in early 2013 but that's no longer the case.

6. Article Submissions - Just yesterday I got an email to download a free e-book from an “SEO Guru” and in the book he promotes submitting articles to sites like Article Beach. This is a complete waste of time and has been for the past couple of years.

7. Rich Anchor Text Links - This applies to any types of links you build. I have found that keeping keyword rich anchors to around one percent is best. Targeting keywords directly in higher percentages is no longer very effective and it is likely to get you penalized.

8. Non Relevant Links - Not so long ago, you could get some high PR links and smash the SERPs even if the sites linking to you had little or nothing to do with your niche. Today, links need to come from relevant sites.

9. Inbound Site-Wide Links - You used to be able to get a site-wide link from other websites to boost your rankings. As with on-page SEO, this technique will hurt your rankings, not help in 2014.

10. Social Bookmarking - The days of getting a ton of social bookmark links and ranking are over. You can still get some links from social bookmarks, but as with directories, the focus should be on high quality, not high quantity.

Now that you know what not to do on your pages and off, you can spend your time working on strategies that will actually help your website rank better, generate more traffic and make money for your business.

Future-Proof SEO Strategies 

1. Make sure your on page SEO is solid. Check for thin content pages, eliminate pages that offer little or no value to users, and identify and fix any coding issues on your site to ensure faster load times.

2. Write a great piece of content and then focus on marketing that content for a few weeks. Use email outreach, social networks and try to reach niche influencers with your content. You can also look for similar content and let people who linked to that know about your new post.

3. Find quality sites that are relevant to your site and submit stellar content to them for publication. Once you have a post published on an authority site, link to that post from other guest posts. This will allow you to build extremely powerful and white hat tiered links to your website.

4. Get social. For a while, social media was heavily debated over its ability to influence rankings. A recent study by Quicksprout showed a correlation between social and improved rankings. If you have been waiting, now is the time to act. Start with Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

5. Do your homework on directories; there are still several very good ones that can help your site. You should look at the quality of sites being linked out to, the age of the directory and their editorial requirements. Remember, in SEO you can be guilty by association so steer clear of bad neighborhoods.

6. Quality, quality, quality! Whenever you post on your blog, write for another site, or leave a comment, that could be the first impression a potential client will have of your business. Sharing only high-quality content is certain to make it a good one.

7. Be creative. If you are not looking for new ways to improve your site and rankings, you are always going to be playing catch up. Take your specialized knowledge of your industry and use it to solve common problems, answer common questions and provide a better way of doing things.

While we have only scraped the surface of what does work, if you take the time to master the tips above, you will already see a significant increase in traffic and leads to your website. 

If you have any questions or comments, I would love to hear them below.

Author Bio: Travis Bliffen is the founder of Stellar SEO, a search marketing and design agency located near St. Louis Mo. Travis loves researching and writing about SEO strategies and implementing innovative strategies for his clients. Connect on Twitter @theseoproz.

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BenW 04-29-2014 2:37 PM

I tried to get through this article but the Website Web Design advertising in the upper right corner kept distracting me with its moving graphics.  It's like the ad was screaming at me to get my attention so concentrating on reading the article was impossible.

Ken Glick (EEI) 04-29-2014 2:44 PM

"7. Keyword Rich Site wide Footer Links - Once upon a time, you could funnel internal page rank and boost a keyword from page three to page one using this approach. Now, you are likely to see a drop in rankings with a keyword rich site wide anchor."


Would you consider a keyword-rich site map to be the same type of SEO strategy as building site wide footer links? Would you be penalized for using such a tactic on your website?

JasmineP 04-29-2014 2:51 PM

I love that this encourages high quality, well written, non-spammy, keyword-light content. Recently, I also read (here I think) that optimizing one really good page on your site helps. Its worth it to invest the time creating killer content and great images and marketing these, as you suggest, than to create a bunch of hogwash that does nothing for your rank.

MichaelV 04-29-2014 2:54 PM


PeterO 04-29-2014 3:02 PM

Love it!  Great tips.  2014 and all recent google updates has thrown this topic into a spin

GaryJ 04-29-2014 3:09 PM

I agree with your comment about getting social (#4). I've noticed that my site's position has drastically improved since we implemented our SM efforts about six months ago. It takes a while to show up. Compared to advertising, it has a broader reach, is a little less expensive and has better staying power, at least the way we are doing it. Thanks for the comprehensive report.

GloriaR 04-29-2014 3:11 PM

Moz may be an SEO authority, but I take issue with their contention that the sites on the first page all have 2,000 words. I'd love to see what keywords they were using for their queries. I deal with local businesses, and the sites on page one for the keywords my clients want to rank for rarely have anywhere close to 2,000 words.

MitchR 04-29-2014 3:16 PM

Matt Cutts said as recently as last month Google isn't taking Facebook or Twitter into consideration - how do you respond to that?

MikeH 04-29-2014 3:31 PM

I still subscribe to the theory that Google (Matt Cutts) is using scare tactics. It's time for search engines to explain what to do for proper SEO and take the guess work out of it

CarrieL 04-29-2014 3:46 PM

Thank you Travis. This is very useful information. With all the self-proclaimed "experts" in this field it is hard to keep up with what information is most effective compared to old news that is re-written for content's sake.

EdwinA 04-29-2014 3:51 PM

In the final analysis, it's all about three things: be natural, be quality, be persistent. Thanks "Stellar" Travis!

Mary McAvoy 04-29-2014 4:38 PM

A comprehensive article. I'll be focusing on the Future-Proof SEO Strategies. Thanks, Travis.

Mary McAVoy

JennyC 04-29-2014 4:58 PM

What about getting ranked in smaller search engines like yahoo, ask.com, etc. Or do those just not really matter any longer?

Eric 04-29-2014 5:27 PM

AWESOME stuff.  Nice to actually see that which I've been blathering about for a while in print (so to speak).  I get hold of a lot of clients who've been put through the wringer by SEOs trying various old, old techniques and doing more harm than good. Good article.

RonaldN 04-29-2014 6:20 PM

There are a lot of "gurus" teaching SEO and promised to get you on the front page in 24 hours! Just hand over the money via PayPal and ride into the sunset!

RobertH 04-29-2014 6:38 PM

This article is so true! You can actually get up to page on if you strive to make good clean title, good clean content, good clean links, and good clean social media with the websites that you design. I know that what I have done with my companies website has put me on top of Google Search Engine when you are looking for...

Affordable Web Designers

Professional but affordable web designers

Reliable web developers in San Antonio

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develop reliable quality web design

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The skies the limit when it comes to good titles, content, and links.

EmmanuelR 04-29-2014 7:50 PM

SEO is getting harder nowadays. One strategy to future proof your SEO campaign is to create evergreen content that will stand-out in time. I prefer quality content over quantity. Brian Dean also suggests that the great way to earn backlink from your content is through constant content promotion.


LanauzeDesigns.com 04-29-2014 8:14 PM

Thanks Travis,

Yet another great article, so many great points, and high quality consistency is a key.  I use a great saying for my clients when telling them about their online marketing efforts, "If you can't say anything good about it, then don't say anything at all." Even if they hate something, saying nothing. Prevents hot headed discussions that usually are bad for publicity and are sometimes very hard to remove. They should be adding to the web, not taking it away.

Travis B 04-29-2014 9:31 PM

@ Ken,

The keyword rich site map is more similar to using keyword rich navigation labels on your site that it is to using site wide footers. Chances are, your sitemap will not have much authority to funnel so you should be safe as long as you are not stuffing multiple keywords into a single link.


Local SEO is an exception to many rules, including the length of content. The study by MOZ looks at more competitive keywords and it is only a starting point, not the definitive answer for all sites.

@Jenny C

You can certainly try to rank in smaller search engines, but as a professional, I go for the highest possible ROI for clients with is Google.

@Mitch R.

Matt Cutts is full of it most of the time. Think about it, is it easier to build an advanced algorithm to deter certain methods or to scare people into believing that something is bad or will not work?


Sorry to hear that.

P Gupta 04-29-2014 10:32 PM

Hi Travis,

With Google updates killing traditional SEO practices, its very important that we as SEO's stay updated on Google's recommendations and guidelines for promoting websites on search engines. A few SEO's we hired were very good at their work a few years back. But after the updates they were lost. Not sure what would work. We gave training to them about how SEO has changed, how can you win Google,s trust without crazy linkbuilding.

Got some really good points Travis, will share this with my team.

For us one thing that works 100% is on page optimization and keeping websites fresh. We integrated blogs in all our clients website's and do weekly post usually very relevant to our main keywords. I feel keeping websites fresh with high quality content is the new SEO secret.

Philip Polaski 04-30-2014 1:10 AM

Thanks for a solid article on SEO strategy.  It's great to read a well written article to keep current with the latest trends in SEO.  It looks like a long term strategy is to provide quality content that will enhance the visitors experience.

Maneuver Up Web Design 04-30-2014 9:13 AM

SEO is now just marketing on the internet.  You have to be good at marketing to get rankings and web traffic.  I think social media and creating content and websites that are built for people not search engines will always be future proof.

LorenMckechnie 04-30-2014 11:30 AM

I would agree for the US markets, #3 on the list, The "keywords tag" is absolutely of no positive value, except to your competitors.

If you put on an "international SEO hat" there is value for secondary search engines, which are primary search engines in Korea and Russia, such as Naiver of Yandex.

Sincerely, Loren McKechnie

Ken Lewis 04-30-2014 12:57 PM

Great advice.  Analytics show that pages with solid articles offering value to the world are the ones that drive traffic month after month.  I'd say the trick for many SEOs is finding the time to prioritize content creation as opposed to the constant demands on our time from clients and in managing our operations.  Sometimes we become jack-of-all-trades and thus don't have the time to invest in the activities that yield the greatest results.

Tommy Landry 04-30-2014 3:54 PM

Solid list of SEO basics. After the whole guest blogging fiasco earlier this year, it seems a lot of clients come to us afraid to do much of anything. And they also tend to underestimate the time and effort required to do it right. Ken nailed it - content creation (and promotion I might add) are the key to success. Inbound Marketing basically.

Uncle Bada 04-30-2014 9:07 PM

I just simply want to say "thanks so much" for such a good read.

NathanP 05-01-2014 8:45 AM

What do you mean by keyword stuffing on title tags?

MichaelF 05-01-2014 9:17 PM

Awesome stuff! Well done.

Travis B 05-02-2014 5:29 PM

@Nathan P.

Stuffing title tags would be like this.

Say you sell vintage tee shirts. Your title would be like Vintage Tees| T-shirts| Buy Vintage Tees

Instead, your title tag should be Buy Vintage T-Shirts Online with Our Community Driven Platform.

Hope that clarifies for you.

BellaisaF 05-12-2014 4:21 PM

I think it is really interesting that everytime I click on Google, I was taken to your tag page for Google. I honestly thought that I was being taken to something relevant about the topic. For instance, when I read, "1. Writing Short Content - Once upon a time, you could churn out 300-word articles and rank them all day long in Google," and I clicked on the linked Google, I thought I was going to be taken to a page about writing short content and how it has been involved in Google.

My question: Is having three links in one post to your tags on Google is a good thing? How does it benefit your page?

NaufS 07-25-2014 10:40 AM

Great tips in here.I will be surely using them in my next project. here's one more tip: Improve upon existing infographics and get high quality backlinks through infographic directories.

JaniceM 10-25-2014 10:17 AM

Thanks for the great tips.Will be sharing these with my clients. I am a fan.

Imobiliária em Vinhedo 03-09-2015 6:25 PM

After I started doing SEO on our site, our leads have increased. Contacts are with high quality and that helped us a lot in real estate sales .

MaraX 03-09-2015 6:28 PM

With the increase of smartphone users especially those who do not think to adapt the site dies before their competitors.

AdventD 05-11-2015 11:47 AM

Thanks for the Info. Hope it would help me.

Kind Regards

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