4 SEO Tactics that Should R.I.P

- April 14, 2016

If you’re a seasoned SEO practitioner, move on. You are already well aware of the dubious nature of the tactics below (and if you’re not, well then, you might want to reconsider your day job.) But, if you are a marketing manager, business owner or anyone else who relies heavily on others for SEO advice, please make this post a MUST-read before preparing future SEO strategies.

Why? Because we bet you are being asked about or are considering tactics that were dead and buried years ago. How do we know? Because our own clients ask us about these tactics all the time.

In no particular order, these are the 4 SEO tactics you should not let anyone, even your inner voice, talk you into.


Tactic 1: Buy keyword-rich domain names

There was a time that having keywords in your domain name could, among other factors, help you to rank well in the SERPs (Search Engine Result Pages) for a particular key phrase. It was never the only factor, nor was it ever a very important factor. However, people saw a way to make SEO magic and bought up tens, hundreds, maybe even thousands of domains in an effort to rank well for their target keywords.

How it worked: Let’s say there is a company called Diana’s Decor that provides decorating services and deals on furnishings. In addition to their main site domain dianadecor.com*, they would buy domains such as “bargaintiles.com” or “lowcostwallpaper.com” hoping to rank well and attract traffic for their tile and wall paper offerings.

If they did it right and built out robust sites with a lot of informative content, they could end up with stand-alone sites that might do well on their own while cross promoting their parent brand Diana’s Decor. However, the people at Diana’s Decor opted to do what most people did back in 2009/2010. They bought up 30+ domains and on each site posted some thin duplicative content in an effort to simply drive traffic back to the main site.

And this would have worked somewhat back in the day. In fact there were companies set up to do nothing but locate, purchase and populate domains for you. If they are still in business, they are likely doing something very different now.

Today, thin and duplicative content gets you nowhere and in fact can hurt your chances of getting anywhere in search. If someone tells you that you need to buy up a bunch of keyword domains, run. If someone tells you to buy up a few domains for specific marketing and branding purposes, then listen. There are business cases for using additional domains but you must first develop a good strategy and then plan to provide unique valuable content.


Tactic 2: Optimize content for keyword density

We all loved this tactic. It was easy to understand and fairly easy to follow. Just make sure the keyword you are targeting is mentioned x number of times or as x percentage of all copy on your page. And in the early days there was some necessity for this, as it helped the search engines to understand what the main topic of your page was.

But like everything else, it was abused and people wrote ridiculously long repetitive copy simply to increase the number of times the keyword was mentioned. I knew a guy who did this for a living back in 2004/05. And even though at that time I knew nothing about SEO, the practice (and the guy) seemed incredibly suspect.

Search engines these days are remarkably good at making connections between content and searcher intent. Therefore you will see pages rank for keywords that don’t have the exact key phrase anywhere on the page. The search engines are looking at more than keywords; among other things they are looking at keyword themes, the context in which those keywords appear and relationships between pages.

We still recommend you include your target keyword phrase on the page, but rather than worrying only about reaching a specific keyword density, you should worry about site structure, how on-topic a page’s content is, and how well that page is linked to other related pages.

Make sure your site can be seen as an authority on a number of themes related to your business instead of focusing on creating thin content pages only to target specific keywords you think you should rank for.


Tactic 3: Get (or heaven forbid buy) a large number of links to your site

There was day when the number of links to your site meant something, when one could hire a link builder and get hundreds of links in a few weeks with no cause for concern.

That day is long gone so if you are still doing this and haven’t seen any negative impact on your rankings, consider yourself very lucky indeed and STOP. In fact even if you stopped this tactic a while ago, you should consider having an inbound link audit performed to double check that you don’t have a ticking time bomb.

This tactic also includes links from blog post comments. If you are on a quality blog and a link to your content is actually germane to the post and likely helpful to the readers, then by all means include the link. A good quality blog will likely make your link nofollow (meaning it won’t pass any link value) to deter link trolls. But don’t make comments with links on just any blog or forum. To be honest this type of spammy linking was never a best practice; now it’s just dangerous.


Tactic 4: Obsess over keyword rankings

Yes, you still want to monitor your rankings but the key here is to stop obsessing and running your digital marketing as if where your site ranks is the only thing that mattered.

While it is true that you are likely to receive more traffic, the higher you rank; it is also true that people use many different variations on the keywords you are targeting to arrive at your site and you aren’t monitoring them all. What you should do is monitor the organic traffic you are getting to the pages that align with your valuable keywords. If that traffic is going up, then does it really matter if keyword A or B slipped a few positions?

The point is to look at your site and your keywords in terms of topics or themes and ensure you have visibility for those by looking at how you rank for a collection of related keywords and how much organic traffic is coming to pages that relate to those topics.


*At the time of this post, no such sites exist—all domain names are for demonstration purposes only and have no connection to any real company or any future owner of such domains.


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