Outdated SEO practices you should stop using now

Anastasia Kurmakaeva

Written by Anastasia Kurmakaeva

The SEO landscape changes at a staggering rate all the time. As professionals within the field, it’s important that we always keep up to speed with the constant Google algorithm updates, as well as all the latest news, trends, and discoveries made in the digital marketing world, which are so often shared by other experts in a selfless and altruistic way.

Nowadays we still run into websites that continue to use completely outdated on-page and off-page SEO practices. Some of them have gone out of order more recently, and others lost their relevance years ago. For this article we are going to try and put together the most important ones, so that our readers stop investing their time and effort into carrying out optimisations that won’t bring anything good to their projects –in the best of cases– or that could even harm their positioning in search engines.

1. Use of meta keywords

Let’s start with the meta keywords element, which we may as well say belongs to the Stone Age of SEO. And yet, it’s still something we continue to find implemented in the code of some websites. The undying attachment to this SEO technique beats us. Perhaps it’s simple unawareness, or even laziness of having to go through the hassle of removing it altogether. Regardless of the motive, let’s make something clear: we are not doing ourselves any favours by continuing to use meta keywords on our website. Here’s why:

  • Google hasn’t taken into account the meta keywords element for years.
  • We plainly reveal to our competitors the goals of our SEO strategy.
  • There are elements within our code that serve no other purpose than taking up space.
  • Plus, if there’s a very high number of meta keywords in our code, it could even be detrimental to our rankings, because we’re basically incurring into keyword stuffing, a topic we will cover later in this article.

2. Keyword-rich anchor texts

Practice penalised by Google. It especially affects inbound links, although if you over-optimise the anchor texts of your internal links, your website won’t fare well either. Of course, a properly-developed interlinking strategy is necessary and great for SEO, but using the same keywords repeatedly to optimise anchor texts in a high number of internal links can also be seen as an attempt to manipulate rankings with the unique purpose of getting good positions in the SERPs. Thus, it is not considered a good practice in cases of external and internal links. Using the same anchor text for the same link over and over in a great number of pages is bad, too.

This kind of practices must always be avoided. Remember that Google wants you to provide value to users with your content, more so than anything else, and that’s the end-goal you must keep in mind. Otherwise, it will not deem you worthy of appearing among the top results.

3. Quantity of backlinks > quality of backlinks

If this is your approach to linkbuilding, you are sorely mistaken, and you must switch your mindset as soon as possible.

Just because you get a higher number of backlinks, doesn’t mean your website will reach a higher popularity level. As a matter of fact, this is a highly-penalised technique by Google, with truly negative consequences for a website’s positioning in search engines.

It’s true that many years ago this SEO practice worked as a charm and it was widely used by website owners alike. However, in 2005 the Google Jagger algorithm update started to devalue low-quality links, namely those that were bought and/or originated from link farms. In 2012 Google Penguin put a definitive end to it, given the disproportionate number of spam links that were being generated to fuel better positions in the rankings, using web directories, comments on forums, blogs, reciprocal links…

In the present day, linkbuilding strategies must be focussed on obtaining backlinks in the most natural way possible, that is, they must be quality links, grow at an adequate pace, and come from reliable sources that are related to our own content.

If you think you might have links that are damaging your backlink profile, be sure to clean them up with the help of Google Disavow Tool or by contacting the website owners directly, kindly requesting to correct or delete these links.

4. Keyword stuffing

This SEO practice was discredited by the Google Panda update in 2011, and rightly so. It consisted of using the same term (or a very similar one) on a repetitive basis, achieving a high keyword density in a text, regardless of whether or not it made sense. For example:

Keyword stuffing in SEO

It sounds ridiculously absurd, doesn’t it?

Nowadays Google opts for much more eloquent and natural-sounding content, encouraging correct, structured and coherent writing that makes for a pleasant reading, giving less importance to use of keywords.

Besides using key terms in a much more restrained manner, it is thoroughly encouraged that we take advantage of synonyms, polysemous words, abbreviations, etc., placing a strong emphasis on the promotion of semantic SEO.

The so-called keyword stuffing is poorly regarded in the writing of titles and meta descriptions as well, even though meta descriptions are no longer used by Google to calculate a website’s relevance.

Keyword-stuffed title and meta description

Speaking in general terms, this practice doesn’t get across a good message, neither does it invite a user to click on our result, which is basically our goal. So, using a natural writing style for any kind of text on our website becomes a priority over infusing our content with keywords and more keywords.

5. Exact match domains (EMD)

This term refers to domain names that are an exact match of keywords or search terms for which a website is going to be optimised. For example: onlinemarketingagency.es, seoinalicante.com, web-developers-alicante.com, etc.

In the present day this practice has become kind of obsolete when it comes to business development. This is because in the past it was widely used by bad quality websites with very poor content, but who still managed to get good rankings by using target keywords in their domain name, and by extension, in all of their URL addresses. Evidently, Google also put an end to this practice, prioritising other SEO factors to determine how relevant a website is, and even applied penalties to EMDs that didn’t provide any valuable information to their users, as we can see in this article.

EMDs aren’t usually positive for the marketing strategy of a business for many different reasons, such as:

  • If we want to develop our unique brand, exact match domains are not the way to go, because they don’t look particularly trustworthy in the eyes of our audience, be it potential customers, media outlets within the industry, etc. They can seriously affect our chances of being referenced on other websites for this very reason, as there isn’t a direct correlation between the brand and the business, because the brand, as such, doesn’t exist. In a way, it makes us lose credibility and generates a questionable reputation.
  • They can’t be easily internationalised, if at some point in our business adventure we decide to extend our borders to other countries and markets, so it is advised against using EMDs if growing at an international level is within our plans.

Even though, at a strictly SEO level they can still bring certain advantages, these are scarce. In the long run, they will probably do more harm than good, so their use is not recommended if we want to flourish as a brand.

If we don’t care about being associated to our own brand, EMDs are, of course, still perfectly valid. However, they must also be always complemented with quality content that will prove to be valuable to our visitors.

6. One page = one keyword

Another incorrect approach that used to be rather popular was the creation and optimisation of a single page for a keyword and each of its versions. This is totally okay if we have two separate terms (even if they share certain similarities) and each of them provides value in its own way. However, if we create a separate page on our website for, for example:

  • Digital marketing agency
  • Online marketing agency
  • Online marketing consultancy
  • Marketing consultancy

Or terms with a geographic component:

  • Refurbishment in Alicante
  • Refurbishment in Orihuela
  • Refurbishment in Elche
  • Etc.

It doesn’t make much sense. It’s best to avoid this practice at all costs, creating single pages for specific concepts instead, which we will be able to infuse with quality content, synonym and vocabulary-rich texts, etc.

# Obsessing over rankings [bonus]

We’ve all been through this, and we probably still pay way more attention to our search rankings than we should. Keeping a strict monitoring and checking our positions in search engines in an obsessive and repetitive manner to see if a particular term has gone up or down in the SERPs from one day to another, or even from one hour to another is both counterproductive and foolish, for the following reasons:

  1. We are wasting time that could otherwise be employed in other much more useful tasks, like carrying out further improvements on our website or monitoring and analysing other metrics that could actually provide interesting insights in terms of improving our strategy on the Internet.
  2. Google search rankings tend to fluctuate for certain search terms, and it’s perfectly normal behaviour. This means that we shouldn’t immediately freak out if we go from position 1 to 3, or even slightly lower. If we haven’t changed anything on our website, it’s probably a normal fluctuation, and we will be back on top in no time. The important thing here is, to not jump to rush conclusions, and analyse our website’s evolution in the long term, and investigate if something smells really bad: for example, if we detect a significant drop from which we don’t recover in time, or if we detect that our competition has implemented changes that are working really well. Then it is time to take further measures.
  3. The results we’re seeing are not the same for other users. Search results are tailor-made to suit a great variety of user profiles, based on an infinite number of factors, such as geographic location, device in use, personal configuration, and other personal information. For that reason, we shouldn’t raise an alarm if we notice something’s changed, because it most likely doesn’t affect us all equally.

It’s totally reasonable to regularly monitor our rankings in search engines using tools to this end (SEMRush or Sistrix, to name a few) to keep track of the performance of our strategy, but to invest hours and hours of our time on these checks will only make us waste our time and generate unnecessary stress. Furthermore, it will probably lead us to make impulsive decisions that could be detrimental to our website’s positioning.

Autor: Anastasia
International SEO consultant and translator at the Human Level online marketing agency.

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