SEO is a pillar of any inbound strategy. But, overdoing it can lead to more harm than good.
While in the past, marketers have managed to identify some search ranking factors and optimize around them in order to appeal to Google’s algorithm and increase their ranks, the algorithm has been getting smarter and more user focused so those tactics no longer work.
Many recent updates to the algorithm have focused around improving Google’s ability to understand content so that it can best answer search queries. That means new, relevant and helpful content is being prioritized over technically-perfect websites.
Here are four SEO tactics that can be working against you:
1. Focusing Your Entire SEO Strategy on a Single Keyword or Topic
When there’s a keyword or topic that you really want to rank for, it can be tempting to focus your entire strategy around it. You might want to create multiple blogs, website pages and landing pages targeted around one term and apply it wherever possible on your website.
However, when you do that, your pages end up competing with each other. By spreading your efforts across a plethora of pages instead of honing in on one really strong page, you end up reducing your chances of ranking well. This is referred to as keyword cannibalization.
Instead, if there’s a particularly valuable keyword for your buyer personas that you want to own, try to rank for it using a topic cluster and pillar page strategy. Using that strategy, you’ll not only demonstrate thought leadership on your core topic — you’ll also prove your expertise around related sub-topics. Doing so will help you build your authority for that core topic and for related queries, broadening the number of high-fit searchers you can reach.
2. Overusing Your Keyword
Once upon a time, using your target keyword a large number of times on a page increased your ability to rank highly for that term. But eventually search engines caught on to people unnaturally overusing keywords and adjusted their algorithms to penalize instead of prioritize keyword stuffing.
Google explicitly tells users not to use this strategy in their documentation explaining, “Filling pages with keywords or numbers results in a negative user experience, and can harm your site's ranking.”
To avoid keyword stuffing, make sure to use your keywords in a natural way that provides value for the reader. Quality matters more than quantity.
3. Black-Hat Link Building
When done correctly, link building can increase your domain authority and page rankings. However, there are a number of spammy link-building strategies that can harm your website and might violate Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
For example, you’re not allowed to buy or sell links that can improve ranking, use automated programs to create links to your website or place links on other people’s websites without their approval. Google also cautions against “excessive link exchanges.”
A large number of low-authority websites linking to yours can bring down your domain authority, and if those links look spammy to Google, you can get penalized for that too.
During a Google Search Central office hours session, Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller said that the total number of backlinks you have doesn’t impact your ranking as much as the quality of those links.
So, when link building, focus on going after websites that have high relevance to yours.
4. Not Filtering IPs in Google Analytics
It’s likely that internal stakeholders like employees and the vendors you work with spend significant time on your website. If you’re not filtering their IPs in your analytics platform, their searches, visits and interactions with your site will be reported on equally to the activities of your leads.
While this won’t hurt your rankings or traffic directly like some of the other tactics mentioned, it will damage your ability to report accurately on your efforts — causing you to miss issues that arise.
So, it’s important to filter out the IP addresses of internal stakeholders so their actions don’t cause spikes in your traffic that paint a false picture of your content’s performance.
There are no shortcuts in SEO. So, if you see someone talking about a super easy way they drastically improved their rankings, take their advice with a grain of salt.
While there are “quicker” wins, SEO overall is a long-game and Google is smarter than ever. Its algorithms are built to determine when people are trying to pull the wool over its eyes, and the smarter the technology gets, the harder it will be to get traction from anything that isn’t user-driven.
This post was originally published January 13, 2015.
Ellie is an SEO/SEM specialist here at New Breed Marketing.