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 Even the best intentions will do little to keep you from getting hammered by the "big G" if you are using outdated SEO strategies or, worse, using effective strategies incorrectly.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