There are a lot of SEO strategies going about and many of them don’t actually work. Some are outdated. Others have simply been made up and are in common use because they sound good. Both of those categories can end up hurting your ranking. Be it because you can only use so many strategies or because Google and the other search engines now actually penalize you for using them.
For that reason, it always helps to take a look at the common strategies that are being used out there and which ones might actually end up being counterproductive. After all, we don’t want all that hard work we’ve put in to be rendered useless because of a few small mistakes!
To that end, here we’ll explore the things you shouldn’t do. In that way, the effective strategies you’ve already embraced will be rendered more effective and you can twist that tap of organic traffic open that little bit more.
Focusing exclusively on getting them to your page
Yes, of course, if people aren’t coming to your page then you’re not going to be able to keep them there. At the same time, once you’re drawing traffic to your website it becomes important to make sure that you actually keep them on your page as best you can. After all, though Google hasn’t admitted it as such there is some evidence that engagement rate matters.
Even if it didn’t, people bouncing from your site is ultimately no use to you as you can’t sell anything to people who don’t stick around.
For that reason, it’s important that we spend time making sure people stick around as long as possible. There are a lot of strategies that will help you with that, but some are more effective than others:
- The inverted pyramid. This style was originally developed for newspaper articles. The idea is that you start with the information people actually want to know. Then you give them the important details and caveats and only at the end do you give the background information and the nitty-gritty details that those who are deeply interested care about.
- Reader-friendly formatting. The layouts you see online have a very little resemblance to that of long-form published writing such as books and magazines. There’s a good reason for that. According to Amy Griggs, senior SEO specialist at Essay Supply, “Audiences scan much more than they read online. This tendency increases greatly on mobile. SEO-optimized pages use bullet points, have highly readable fonts, and make use of positive and negative space.” Give visitors the information they can use at a glance.
- Clear call to actions. The great thing about well-designed calls to action isn’t just that they pull people deeper into the website, but also that they reduce the bounce rate by getting people to click on.
Really, these are just the tip of the iceberg. Any strategy that keeps people on your page for longer is going to help the bottom line as well as your SEO ranking.
Focusing exclusively on high-traffic keywords
It’s an easy rule of thumb. The more traffic a keyword gets, the more interesting it is for your company. Perhaps at some level that is indeed true. But the relationship between those two points is weak at best.
Jared Rolloff is an experienced SEO Analyst at Resumes Centre. He says, “High-traffic keywords are often too competitive to be worthwhile. Worse, they don’t draw quality traffic to your site. By focusing on long tail keywords you eliminate that problem. Better yet, you tend to draw traffic that progresses through the funnel at a faster rate.”
Even if we ignore that and you manage to get lucky and find keywords which have very little competition, that still doesn’t mean they’re going to be the best keywords for you.
There are a number of reasons why keywords might not be useful:
- They’re not actually strongly related to what you’re trying to sell or promote. Some search terms might seem related to what you’re doing but aren’t for most people. As this means you’ll get lower engagement from those people who were looking for something else and engagement matters for ranking, that’s something you’ll want to avoid.
- They catch people at the wrong part in their sales cycle. If people are still gathering information, for example, and your page goes straight to pushing one specific product at them, this will be ineffective. Sure, you might be able to convince some people to jump straight to a purchasing decision but most are just going to click away.
A much better strategy is to go for more specific keywords which match more closely with what you’re actually selling. Not only will there be less competition here, which means you’ll be able to get to that coveted first page more easily and you’ll also have a higher likelihood that customers actually convert as the page you’ve sent them to is more likely to match what they’re looking for.
Aligning existing pages with trending keywords
Another common strategy is to find a new keyword that is suddenly getting a big boost in traffic and then going all in for that keyword and leaving other phrases that you previously managed to rank for in the dust.
The most common way this is done is to reconfigure pages that already existed to more closely match the new keyword that you’ve discovered. The problem with this strategy is that in so doing, whatever keywords the page was already ranking for end up getting left behind.
Senior Content Specialist Michael Evans of Flash Essay says, “It simply doesn’t make sense to sacrifice keywords that are working for you with one that happens to be trending. It’s also a risky bet to hyperfocus on keywords at all. Focus on creating relevant content that your audience needs. Then think about keywords.”
Really, that whole keyword thing
The truth is that keywords are really a proxy. They’re not really what people are after when they search for information. What they’re after is an answer to the question that they’re posing. Google and websites just use keywords as they get pretty close to giving people what they’re after. But they’re far from perfect.
And so, Google is in the process of moving beyond individual words. Instead, they’re working on inferring meaning from the searches that people make and then offering them websites that satisfy that meaning.
And so, it is becoming more and more important that we don’t focus on including individual keywords but instead focus on actual topics. In effect, this is already what we’re doing when we talk about semantically related keywords. But it’s bigger than that. As Google’s AIs get better at understanding what we’re talking about, focusing on individual keywords will become less and less important. Instead, what will matter is that the topic is dealt with well, clearly and effectively.
Link outreach programs
Ever since 2012 and Google created the Penguin update, traditional link building has been rendered ineffective as a strategy for SEO. That’s because since then Google has been hard at work ferreting out which links ended up coming into existence organically and which ones are the result of link buying or link outreach programs. And with each new update, they’ve become more effective at figuring out what the tell-tale signs are.
There are a lot of links that hurt SEO. Some examples include:
- Links from low-quality websites. Google cares far more about quality than quantity now. There are even some pretty good indicators that low-quality links hurt your rating if they occur often enough as you’ll get assigned to a ‘bad neighborhood’.
- Paid links. Through statistical analysis, it is very easy to analyze who will put up links for pay. Even websites who will put up links in exchange for social media mention are going to be pretty easy to figure out. And as these are specific strategies that try to game the system, they will, therefore, be punished.
“Link building may seem like a slow process. It should be! The best way forward is to simply create the kind of content that deserves to be linked to. Then, build good relationships with influencers. You simply cannot rush this process. You most certainly can’t buy your way out of it.” – Christopher Mercer, digital marketer and founder of Citatior.
Focusing all your attention on the next page or post
The relationship between ranking and attention is non-linear, with an increase of quality for a post which is already ranking well creating a far greater traffic flow than when a post is taken from mediocre to good. And as we can never know beforehand what posts will do exceptionally well and which won’t, this means that to spend all of your attention on your next post is generally self-defeating. After all, there is a far greater likelihood that it will only be rated as decent or good and therefore only get you a trickle of new traffic.
“A much better strategy is to take pages that have already demonstrated value and then to make these even better. The reason this works is that they’ve already won a part of the race and are already being ranked. To make them rank even more highly will be a cakewalk compared to making a new page do just as well,” – Erica Logan, a content strategist at Online Writers Rating explains.
As an extra bonus, by making sure that you keep updating your page you show Google that you’re keeping your content relevant. This, in turn, will make it more likely that you’ll continue to rank highly with that same page. That’s two birds with one stone.
The SEO of the future
As time moves on Google is working to align its algorithms more and more closely with what people are actually looking for. And so, it only makes sense to for us who work in SEO to care more and more about what people actually want and how we can satisfy it. The better we become at that, the more closely we’ll align with what Google’s underlying mission.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that we can simply abandon the strategies that we know and love. After all, we don’t yet fully know what people actually want. We haven’t known for most of our history and Google isn’t going to figure it out overnight.
Still, it will pay dividends to always keep that idea in the back of your mind and to always be working towards satisfying your audience’s needs. Because though we can’t look all that closely at the black box which Google has created around its search, we can know what that black box is trying to achieve. And by focusing our attention there, we’re more likely to be aligned with whatever changes have come and will come through the pipeline.
Author’s bio: Jessica Fender is a professional writer, independent blogger, and passionate trend explorer. Featured on Trust Radius and Addicted2Success. You can follow her on Twitter @fender_jess to never miss a new post.