The work of SEO has changed a lot since I started doing it in 1998. In those days, the task was to use tricks to portray the content of the site as being more narrowly focused on certain terms than it actually was, in order to rank high on those terms. Since those days, search engines have become a lot more sophisticated, so the old methods to trick them aren’t as useful anymore. However, I’m surprised that I still see some of these techniques being used, so it’s useful to lay out methods that you shouldn’t try (anymore) because they’re more likely to give you low rankings in search results than high rankings!
To understand the whole business of SEO, it’s best to think of search engines as businesses. Their customers are the people who are searching; they want to satisfy those customers so that they’ll come back and search again, so that the search engines can offer them ads to read. How do they satisfy their customers? They want their customers to get good results from search! They want to give high ranking to sites that have lots of up-to-date, in-depth content that’s relevant to the search being conducted.
The ultimate method for keyword stuffing used to be putting lists of desirable keywords at the bottom of each page, with the text in the same color as the background. Site visitors couldn’t see it, but the search engines could, and potentially give high ranking because of the presence of these important keywords. That particular technique was especially easy for search engines to detect and ignore. Or, having detected this egregious form of keyword stuffing, the search engine might even reduce the site’s ranking below where it would be without any keyword stuffing, on the principle that a deceptive practice is being used, and other, undetected deceptions may also have been used.
You also see lists of keywords at the top of a page or at the bottom of a page. Understand that this is the oldest trick in the SEO book, one that search engines learned about long ago. It won’t help, and may actually hurt.
Writing for the Googlebot
The old idea was to settle on a single keyword for a Web page, and use it at the start, again and again through the text, and once more at the end. In addition, be sure to provide all the variations such as singular and plural, so that the search engines, and Google in particular, will see all the words.
This is not only no longer necessary, but unnecessarily stilted writing for the bots will be detected and may actually hurt your ranking in search results.
About five years ago, article directories were popular for SEO. The idea was that you’d write articles for directories, including your URL, and the posted article would give you a link from a site with a lot of content. A lot of people did this, because it worked. However, these days this technique simply doesn’t work and may even harm your ranking in search results.
The first problem with article directories is duplication. Google wants to present a searcher with different content in the different sites that it summarizes in search results, so it abhors duplicate content. This means that placement of the same article in many directories won’t be helpful. There is “spinning” software available to substitute words in articles so that they look different, but these days Google can detect spinning as well, so even spun articles can get you into trouble.
Another problem with article directories is that they are often repositories of poor quality content. They’ll have articles that are full of spelling and grammatical errors, that are also easy for Google to detect as poor quality. Some sites using article directories may hire writers to produce low-cost, “unique” articles, often getting very poor quality results that get posted in article directories.
If you’re writing articles in your field, the best place for them is on your own site! Start a blog and write for it regularly. That’ll provide a steady flow of relevant, fresh content, just what Google loves to deliver to their customers, the searchers, those people we want to have as our customers too. In addition, you can be a guest blogger in other influential sites, and link back to your own site.
Article directories just don’t have a place in your SEO strategy today.
Occasionally you’ll see ads for software to spin articles. They will exclaim that a new level of AI is being used to produce really intelligent spins, new articles from old that don’t look like the old ones at all but read beautifully.
Now you can have it all, they’ll say. Copy content from authoritative sites, spin it and put it onto your own site–it’ll never be detected as a copy, and you’ll have new, quality content. Or take your own content spin it and put it on other sites that you build that link to your site. Now your site will be seen as authoritative!
Don’t believe it. Computer programs do not write as well as people do–you’re most likely to have just a jumble of barely readable copy. And given Google’s growing ability to detect spinning, you’re just getting yourself into trouble, either now or down the road.
Stay away from article spinners. This will save you a lot of time because they are usually considerably more work to set up and get working than the advertising tells you.
Google’s big innovation was to measure the importance of a site by the importance and number of links to it from other sites, and the importance of those sites. A logical way to be seen as more important, then, is to get links from important sites.
Clever entrepreneurs noticed this also, and launched various schemes for selling links from high-authority sites. You pay your money, and you get a link to your site. As you can guess, this directly undermines Google’s most basic method for measuring the importance of a site, so they have been very concerned about link buying for a long time. They’ve put great effort into detecting sites that sell links, so if you deal with them you’re at risk.
Google is always interested in learning about sites that are selling links. They don’t tell us, but I’d guess that one of their important methods for detecting link selling is through voluntary reporting. If I’m offered links for sale, I’ll be sure to check my clients’ competitors’ incoming links for any signs of these purchased links, so that I can report them to Google! I’m not the only SEO professional who does this, I’m sure.
Don’t buy links! It’s a waste of your money.
Multiple Redirected URLs
Yes, we know that Google tends to give a site high ranking on the words that make up the URL. I’m reading in search engine blogs that this is less important than it once was. However, in the domain of small business where I work, your site will tend to rank better on the terms in your URL. Yes, for large businesses brands are important; but for a business that’s too small to build a huge brand, those terms in the domain name are still helpful.
But there’s another practice I still see that’s not helpful: the purchase of multiple domain names, redirecting them to the principal domain name. The idea is that Google will be so stupid that you’ll get ranked better on terms in those alternate domain names. You won’t; all you’ll do is waste the money that you’ve spent on those domain names. And, similarly, don’t consider building a site full of low-quality content on those domain names and including lots of links to your primary site; that won’t help either. Instead of building junk sites, build one really good site with a lot of high-quality content.
One domain name is all you need.
The Bottom Line
Instead of trying to trick Google, give them what they want–a steady stream of fresh, quality content that’s relevant to the main topic of your site. And you may want to get help–like me–to be sure that Google will recognize the good quality content that you’re providing.