Google, Bing and other search providers have somewhat of a singular mission: provide the best quality webpages as results when their users enter in a search query. However, for every system created there are ways to beat it, and over the years search providers have engaged in a game of cat-and-mouse with search engine optimizers and spammers alike who are working to promote their webpages to the #1 ranking. Below is a list of fifteen SEO tactics or link building methods that have long been known about and are poisonous to your websites and their health; these should be avoided at all costs. Many of these tactics can cause a long term Google penalty.
‘Onpage’ Tactics That Irritate the Search Engines
Meta Keyword or Description Stuffing – If you’ve read anything about SEO or what not to do on your website, you’ve probably read about meta keyword or description stuffing. These ‘meta tags’ are parts of your website’s code that tell search engines and robots what your website is about and a small description which can be used as a caption. They’re rarely used any longer, so stuffing them full of your SEO keywords waves a huge red flag.
Keyword Stuffing – Similarly, stuffing your webpages full of particular keywords is also toxic to their ranking. Google’s robots that crawl your website are very particular about this; if they find that some words have a far higher ‘density’ on the page than they should, it will be reported and can cause you to suffer a drop in the search results.
Duplicate or Scraped Content – Duplicate content refers to content that has been copied and pasted verbatim from other areas on your website without any good reason to do so. For example, an accountant may have a “Services for Lawyers” page and a “Services for Attorneys” page with the exact same text, thinking that they are gaming the search engines into providing more traffic. Instead, search engine algorithms detect the duplicate content and will likely remove one or both of the pages from the search results.
Excessive Internal 404 Errors – A ‘404’ error is the error code caused when visiting a website address that no longer exists. Having a large number of these errors is a major red flag for search engines like Google, who can no longer trust that the content you put up will be there over the long term. Enough 404 errors can cause your entire website to sink down, including the webpages that are still active.
Hidden Links or Content – A very old tactic, individuals used to ‘hide’ text or links on their webpages by making the text the same color of the background, or making the font incredibly small. The only problem is that the search robots that crawl your page read the actual code – not the text as you or I see it – so all they see is someone trying to appear very out of date with SEO. Don’t try to hide anything in your webpages, as it will get found.
Excessive Advertisements – There isn’t a whole lot to be said here; webpages with too many advertisements are looked upon poorly and won’t be displayed to searchers.
Poor Quality Written Content – Google in particular has implemented a number of quality features to their algorithms (the major one is ‘Panda’) which work to ensure that only the best quality pages are shown for any particular Google search. If the content on your website reads as if it was written by a third-language English speaker, these filters will promptly remove you from the top results. Enough poor quality pages and your website can be removed entirely.
These Link Building Tactics Are Especially Poisonous
Guest Blog Posting – Although previously it was considered ‘okay’ to write blog posts on others’ blogs as a guest author and include a link back to your own website, in early 2014 Google decided to change their mind and went on a rampage penalizing every guest blog post network and website they could find.
However, Google was really punishing the tactic of building guest posts as a businesses’ sole means of generating natural links. Guest posts on highly popular, quality authority websites in your niche that are relevant are still highly valuable for your business, and will help your rankings.
Purchased Links – In the same vein, buying links that point to your website is probably the most significant red flag that you’re trying to game the search engines into ranking you higher. If Google or Bing catch even the smallest whiff of this, they might penalize your website so badly that your only recourse will be to start over with an entirely new domain, website and content. We recommend – just don’t do it. Solid paid directories and associations are good examples of paid listings.
Site wide Links – A ‘site wide’ link refers to a link from another website to you which is included on every page of their website. As a result, you may end up with thousands of links pointing to your website from another website, all of which are using the exact same text to link to you. This doesn’t look natural to the search algorithms and is likely to earn you a penalty at some point.
Links on Low Quality Content Pages – Poor quality SEOs and those who try to go down the ‘cheap’ link building road can sometimes end up having links on very low quality pages. Avoiding junk, and keeping your links relevant is key. A great example of this is blog comment spam, which is when automated robots place a link to your website in the stream of comments on a blog post. If yours can be placed, so can others, and shortly there are thousands of comments to sites of every topic on an original blog post about a young girl’s new shoes. It doesn’t make sense to search algorithms, and it will trip a warning or penalty.
Links in Bad Neighbourhoods – A ‘bad neighbourhood’ is exactly what it sounds like – a place where a link to your website shouldn’t be. Think: if you run a local tire shop, why is your website listed along with a bunch of spam pages selling Viagra or payday loans? That doesn’t make a lot of sense, and is a great way to ensure that you’re sent into the penalty box along with the rest of the spammers.
Thinking About Spam? Think Again
Online Spam Reports – Speaking of spam… if you engage in spam online, you can rest assured that somewhere there is somebody who is raging about being spammed to and will stop at nothing to see you brought to some sort of justice. Google loves destroying spammers and has a small army of employees dedicated solely to this mission. Online spam reports are typically where things begin – although if you’re caught engaging in other practices on this page, you may be picked off sooner.
Automated or Garbage Content – While there are a number of artificial intelligence robots and software programs that can mass produce or ‘spin’ content, the resulting text rarely stands up to scrutiny. Google and Bing have invested heavily in detecting ‘real’ language and in being able to distinguish it from the gibberish that comes from automated programs. Avoid spun content; if it’s detected on enough of your webpages or on those linking to your website, it will cause problems.
‘Free to Post’ Article Directories – Finally it’s worth noting that article directories or websites that allows anyone to sign up and post their own content should be avoided. The signal-to-noise ratio is very high in these areas and while you may have the best of intentions, they are more than likely full of automated spam posts that can contain links to shady websites. If you’re going to develop content, keep it to your own websites and blogs so you can control how it’s used.
While this list might seem exhaustive, we’ve only just scratched the surface of the many violations that you or a poor quality search engine optimization company can trigger which will earn your website a warning, penalty or a complete de-indexing from the major search engines. When you work with an SEO team, you want to work with expert search marketers who have prepared and executed numerous successful campaigns for their clients. Call us today and let the talented team here at Riverbed Marketing show you why we’re your best choice for professional SEO.