SEO’s ever-changing environment can be difficult to keep up with, which commonly results in outdated or misunderstood information. Even those who are experts in the space can provide misinformation if they’re not constantly on their toes.
As an SEO professional, one of the most important functions of the job is to identify and explain changes in search engine result page, or SERP, positions. Whether it’s an algorithm update, a new penalty introduced by Google, or simply a shift in user behavior, it’s important to always be on the watch.
To help guide you toward a better SEO future, avoid these so-called “helpful SEO tips.”
False Tip #1: Acquire Back Links as Frequently as Possible
Back in the old days of SEO, having every site you possibly could link to pages on your website was a good practice. Search engines would deem these links as valuable and begin to rank your website higher in the search engine results. This resulted in link farming; people would create entire sites just to sell links to companies so that they would rank higher in search engines. Google picked up on these “unfair” practices quickly and started penalizing websites for taking part in these ranking schemes. The first major link building penalty was introduced in 2012, with an update Google referred to as Penguin.
Since the Penguin algorithm update, search engines have been continuously getting more intelligent when identifying poor link practices. In 2018, it is detrimental to your SEO program, rather than helpful, to do any sort of link outreach that might not be considered natural. Some examples of black hat link tactics include:
- Paid Links
- Links to Low Value Websites
- Links from Duplicate Articles or Websites
- Links from Press Releases
Today, it can be more harmful to create a link strategy than it is to just let things happen naturally. If you present high-quality and relevant content, people will naturally share it on social channels and link to the page from their own websites, with no outreach program at all. This may be the best “link building strategy” in 2018.
False Tip #2: The More Searches a Keyword Gets, the Better it Is
There’s an assumption within the industry that the more search volume a keyword gets, the better off you are targeting that keyword. Though this can be the case, it’s more often not. Most of the time highly searched for terms are not achievable due to established competition.
It’s easy to sell, “Let’s target the keyword ‘hat.’ It gets 201,000 monthly searches!” To those that aren’t familiar with SEO, this sounds great. Who wouldn’t want 201,000 monthly searches? Additionally, a month or two later, the same person or agency that sold you on that strategy might say “Good news! We’re ranking for ‘hat.’” Little do they ever let you know, you’re ranking for “hats” in position 80, where no one will ever find you.
A better case scenario? Think of something more relevant and realistic. Maybe you’re selling a black Liquid Interactive hat – target that whole phrase. This will allow people to find you more specifically, which in turn will increase conversion. At the same time, there’s still a chance (very unlikely) you’ll rank for that ‘hat’ term. A general rule of thumb: be realistic, relevant and specific when targeting keywords. It’ll drastically increase organic performance when you target both highly searched for terms and more specific terms.
False Tip #3: Perform Keyword Research and Choose the Terms to Target
Working with multiple agencies, there is one near universal truth: SEOs like to reach for the stars. It’s easy to perform some keyword research and find a term that is within the realm of competition and also highly searched for. This is a term that makes sense to target, so let’s change all the meta data and content to target this term to begin ranking for it.
Not so fast.
Ranking for new terms is great, but what about the page’s current rankings? If the page ranked for either a term or multiple terms that were driving traffic and you shift the strategy to no longer include those terms, you’re in trouble.
It happens way too often. There’s a new, trending term that everyone wants to go after. Rather than looking at the data for the page, they look at the search volume and current position of the term. That page that was once thriving organically is now never found.
Before going after new terms or strategies, make sure you maintain your current rankings!
False Tip #4: Redirect Implementation Is Optional
Redirect implementation is one of the most common SEO slip-ups there are, yet also one of the most important tasks to complete. A redirect should be used any time a page is being removed from the site to maintain rankings and the flow of traffic.
When an indexed page is “killed,” it is imperative to make sure redirects are not only put in place, but also implemented properly. Far too often, redirects are regarded as an unnecessary component – and something that can be skipped to save time – or a slew of errors are made during redirect implementation.
The most common mistake is not using a status code 301. A 301 redirect signals to search engines that the new version of the page is permanent and should be returned in the results of the same queries as the old page. It is general best practice to use status code 301s, but commonly, status code 302 redirects are used. The problem is 302 redirects will never pass any value onto the new page, as search engines will think the old page is coming back. Only use a 302 implementation if the old page is returning and you don’t want Google to rank the new page.
If you don’t properly redirect traffic as pages become 404, you are essentially giving search engines the signal that you no longer have a page that is worth returning in the SERPs for that specific query. By providing a proper redirect, Google will treat the new page as if it has the same authority as the old page and rank it accordingly.
False Tip #5: Invest as Much Money as Possible in Your Keyword Targets
Other than the time and energy it takes to create and maintain an SEO program, it’s entirely free visibility. That’s one of the best parts about it! Don’t let all that effort and time go to waste by cannibalizing your own hard-earned positioning. A good paid strategy is a great companion to SEO traffic and should be just that.
Avoid spending advertising budget on pages or terms that can be found organically. It’s inevitable that there will be some crossover, but if you are seeing paid ads take over your organic space, it may be time to alter your paid or organic strategy.
For example, what if you worked super hard, day in and day out, to get your hat page ranking on the first page of a “hats” search? But then you also bid a ton of money on the term ‘hat’ in AdWords and put it on a third-party ad network that has a higher domain authority to get more visibility? Now your paid ads will appear more often and be more likely to get clicked on, while your high-ranking page is just buried in the organic search results.
Be wary of how much you invest on every page! Whether it’s a time investment organically or dollar investment in paid advertising, there needs to be a balance. Despite the myth that the more you pay, the higher you’ll rank organically, it’s not true. Create a solid and balanced advertising and SEO strategy around what you want to be seen for.
What you see in Google today will not be the same thing you see in Google tomorrow. This is exactly why you need professionals that stay on top of the changing times. Avoid those that provide outdated or misinformation. When a change is made that could affect your business, you need to be at the front of the competition to maintain and grow your visibility.
Let Liquid help you stay ahead of the SEO curve, and help you stay informed with the proper SEO information. We’re just a click away.
About Michael Novak
As a Search Engine Optimization Specialist, Mike creates SEO strategies and monitors and analyzes all activities within organic search programs for local and global clients.